Are Jailed Crime Bosses Controlling Empires Via Game Consoles?

May 14, 2009 -

The debate over whether prison inmates should be allowed video game consoles is one that surfaces periodically.

But the head of Britain's Serious Organised Crime Agency offered a new twist this week when SOCA director-general Bill Hughes claimed that jailed crime lords were controlling their illicit empires via Internet-enabled video game consoles. U.K. newspaper the Times reported Hughes's comments:

If you are locked up, how do you communicate with others? And we have been highlighting the fact it is not always with mobile telephones. There is other technology used — people are using PlayStations to charge their mobile phones and are playing games interactively with others, so are able to communicate with them.

The Prison Service is concerned that prisoners are using interactive games to talk to people outside the prison. Communication is the name of the game and criminals are looking to exploit new technologies. Prisoners have rights and they have access to the internet...

U.K. prison officials, however, expressed outrage over Hughes's remarks, which apparently caught them off-guard. A spokesman for the Prison Service told the Times:

Prisoners have never been allowed access to wireless enabled technology such as that used in some games consoles. Nor would they ever be allowed access to such technology.

A decision was taken some years ago that the then-current generation of games consoles should be barred because the capability to send or receive radio signals is an integral part of the equipment.

Although the Times mentions that SOCA chief Hughes later apologized privately to prison boss Phil Wheatley, the newspaper also reports that SOCA is standing by its original claim.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, U.K. prisons allow inmates with good behavior to use game consoles. Potentially suicidal inmates are also permitted to play.

Via: Kotaku

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Texas Bill Requires Sex Offenders to Register Online Game Names, Could Ban Them Completely from Game Venues

May 6, 2009 -

A bill under consideration by the Texas House of Representatives may require convicted sex offenders to register account names at online gaming networks with law enforcement authorities.

As HB 22 is currently written, the measure would seem to encompass online gaming venues such as Xbox Live, PlayStation Home and Second Life. However, no specific reference to online gaming appears in the bill, which has cleared committee but has not yet been taken up on the House floor.

In fact, a stricter interpretation of HB22 might preclude sex offenders from places like XBL and SL entirely. That's because the bill bars sex offenders from using the Internet to access commercial social networking sites. Such a prohibition which might reasonably be extended to encompass the increasingly prominent social aspects of online gaming venues.

With an increasing number of pedophile arrests stemming from contacts made via online gaming venues, expect to see more bills like this going forward.

At this point, HB 22 has passed neither the Texas House or Senate. Its next stop will be the House floor. If it passes there, the Senate will take it under consideration.

Via: G4 by way of GameCulture

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Honolulu Bans Cell Phones, Game Playing While Driving

May 5, 2009 -

Gaming while driving will earn you a ticket in Honolulu soon.

The Star-Times reports that on Thursday Mayor Mufi Hannemann will sign into law a bill that bans the use of all portable electronic devices by motorists. The measure, recently passed by City Council, contains an exception for hands-free devices.

Earlier this year Mayor Hannemann, acting on the advice of his police chief, vetoed a similar bill which would have made texting - but not general mobile phone use - illegal while driving.

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Protesters Arrested at Army's Video Game Recruitment Center

May 3, 2009 -

This video shows anti-war protesters yesterday as they marched with police escort to the Franklin Mills Mall in Philadelphia where they delivered a symbolic "criminal complaint" to U.S. Army recruiters and the mall's management company.

The demonstrators were protesting the Army's use of a high-tech, video game-equipped recruitment center located in the mall.

There was a significant police presence as the protesters arrived. They were permitted to enter the mall and stage their rally at the entrance to the Army Experience Center.

As the rally ended, seven protesters, mostly in white masks, were arrested, presumably for refusing to disperse. The arrests were peaceful and appeared to be scripted by the protesters as a symbolic gesture.

UPDATE: A press release on yesterday's protest has been issued by its organizers.

UPDATE 2: The local Fox outlet has a video report.

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Report: Dad Finds Ecstasy Tablets in Used Copy of Grand Theft Auto

April 8, 2009 -

A British man who purchased a pair of used Grand Theft Auto games discovered what appeared to be ecstasy tablets wrapped in plastic and hidden in one of the game manuals.

The Telegraph reports that Richard Thornhill, 34, bought the second-hand games at a GameStation in Gloucestershire:

When I opened the box up, the cling film wrap fell out. I could not believe it. I have two children and my son plays Xbox all the time. He could easily have opened the box and found them.

I dread to think what the consequences would have been if he had. He is only 12. He could have died. It was a pre-used game, but that should not make a difference. My wife is beside herself over this because she keeps thinking about what could have happened and so do I.

The retailer and local police are investigating.

Police Officials Angered by GTA Mods Featuring Realistic Cop Cars

April 8, 2009 -

A Grand Theft Auto modder's authentic depictions of real police vehicles have angered law enforcement officials in the Washington, D.C. area.

NBC reports that GTA videos of police vehicles from Prince William County, Montgomery County, and Fairfax County are available on YouTube:

Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery. But don't tell that to some local police jurisdictions that are upset over YouTube videos depicting their cruisers in a video game...

One video even shows a digital officer getting out of a Fairfax County Police cruiser to gun down citizens on the street.

The Fairfax County Police Department finds the videos in very poor taste," said spokesperson Don Gotthardt. "One of the reasons we find it in poor taste is because of the way the officers are depicted."

THANKS TO: GamePolitics reader mdo7 for the tip!

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Grand Theft Auto Publisher Coughs Up $3.3M to Settle Old Cases

April 2, 2009 -

Aside from the often controversial nature of its best-selling Grand Theft Auto series, Take-Two Interactive has spruced up its corporate image significantly since Strauss Zelnick and his crew seized control in 2007.

Despite that, some legal baggage lingered from the reigns of past CEOs Ryan Brant and Paul Eibeler.

The New York Times reports that T2 has settled those cases with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Manhattan District Attorney's Office, respectively.

The GTA publisher paid $3M to the SEC in an an investigation of backdated stock options. In 2007 Brant pleaded guilty to criminal charges in the case. SEC attorney Christopher Conte commented on the charges in a statement:

Take-Two’s seven-year backdating scheme was egregious and pervasive, and caused the company to materially misrepresent its financial condition to investors.

The company also paid the $300,000 cost of the Manhattan  D.A.'s investigation into related matters. A Take-Two press release contains a statement from Zelnick:

We are pleased to have reached a settlement with both the SEC and District Attorney with respect to the Company's historical stock option granting practices. Resolving this issue has been a key objective for Take-Two since the current management team took office in early 2007, and we are gratified to have put this matter behind us.

 


Husband Killed Wife, But She Was The GTA Player

March 31, 2009 -

Wait - isn't the Grand Theft Auto player supposed to be the one who turns violent?

It doesn't always work that way, apparently. The Telegraph reports that a British man stabbed his wife to death, in part over her predilection for playing GTA all through the night:

Malcolm Palmer, 62, turned on the mother of his three children after she became hooked on the violent Grand Theft Auto driving game. He was forced to sleep on a sofa in their conservatory as Carol Cannom, 46, stayed up all night with the 37-inch plasma television screen she brought into their room for her all-night gaming sessions...
 
[Their son] would play... until midnight, after which Ms Cannom would take over, regularly staying up until five or six in the morning, Lincoln Crown Court was told.

"Carol quickly became hooked. He was very unhappy about the amount of time she was playing on the PlayStation," said John Pini QC for the prosecution...

Defence lawyer Timothy Spencer QC told the court: "The genesis of this tragedy bizarrely lies with the purchase of the PlayStation."

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Video Games Get the Blame in Colorado Shooting Spree

March 28, 2009 -

A Colorado police officer has suggested that a troubled 22-year old man who went on a random shooting spree last October may have been influenced by violent video games.

The Denver Post reports that the police investigator made the comment in regard to Stefan Martin-Urban (left), who killed two people and wounded two others before turning his gun on himself:

When Stefan Martin-Urban... pulled a pistol from behind his back and methodically shot strangers, his behavior was eerily similar to characters in the video games he played obsessively.

Those games, authorities said Friday... are the closest police and FBI investigators can come to an explanation for Martin-Urban's actions that killed two and injured two.

"It could be that he was simply acting out a part in a video game. Maybe he had interjected himself into a game in his mind," Grand Junction police Sgt. Tony Clayton said.

 

Like the thugs in "Grand Theft Auto" and warlocks in "World of Warcraft," Martin-Urban showed no emotion...

Sgt. Clayton's remarks notwithstanding, there are indications that the killer was, like so many other random shooters, a mentally disturbed person who gained access to a gun. From the story:

He had no criminal record and had not exhibited any psychotic behavior. But unbeknown to anyone who might have been alarmed, Martin-Urban had purchased a 9mm semiautomatic Ruger...

The only other clue that something wasn't right was his computer log: He spent an inordinate amount of time playing games where the object is to kill and steal.

He played the games as many as 12 hours a day during the last few months of his life. He holed up in a hotel room in Europe during a family vacation last summer and played the games while his mother and sister went sightseeing.

"In the last year, he had no friends. No boyfriend. No girlfriend. No pets. He was consumed with the video games. He spent an enormous amount of time playing them," Clayton said...

Martin-Urban lived mostly in isolation...  after enrolling in a state college... He stopped going to classes within two weeks.

His father had committed suicide in Alaska four days before the previous Christmas...

He had a profile on YouTube where he wrote that he lived in a world "that some people choose to call 'reality.' " His favorite videos included a prophecy that a 2,000- mile-long spaceship containing cosmic beings was going to appear in the Earth's atmosphere three days after the shooting.

In regard to the YouTube video, a local TV station speculated that Martin-Urban may have been part of a cult which predicted that the world would end within days of his rampage.

The Denver Post report also notes that Martin-Urban was a Grand Theft Auto player and even theorizes a link between his GTA play and the fact that most of his victims were getting into a BMW at the time of the shooting:

One of the fanciful cars in the game — the silver Blista — has taillights that resemble a BMW's.

The Rocky Mountain News reported last October that Martin-Urban's aunt worried that he may have been suicidal.

GP: Martin-Urban's self-imposed isolation, his retreat into obsessive gaming, his dropping out of school, the trauma of his father's suicide, and his apparent fascination with the bizarre cult video would seem to be red flags that Martin-Urban was a deeply troubled young man.

16-Year Old GTA IV Gamer Charged with Grisly S&M Murder of NYC Newsman

March 25, 2009 -

A 16-year old New York youth has confessed to the stabbing murder of a veteran New York City radio newscaster, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

The suspect is an avid video gamer who lists Rockstar's controversial Grand Theft Auto IV as his favorite title.

The NYPD has charged John Katehis (left) with repeatedly stabbing George Weber, 47, last Friday. The pair met after Weber posted a Craigslist ad offering to pay for violent sex. Katehis was to earn $60 for the sleazy encounter at which alcohol and cocaine were reportedly used. Weber, apparently as part of his sado-masochistic fantasy, supplied the knife with which Katehis eventually killed him.

That's not to say that Katehis was a stranger to edged weapons. The New York Daily News, which refers to Katehis as "emotionally disturbed," displays a picture of the teen posing with his exotic knife and sword collection.

Gawker has posted Katehis's MySpace profile, in which says the suspect wrotes:

I enjoy long conversations, drinking, bike riding, hanging out, roof hopping, hanging off trains, any type of Parkour exercise. Extreme violence (chaos, anarchy, etc.) Video Games, Violent Movies and listening to my ipod...

 

I like to do crazy and wild things. I am like an adrenaline junkie. I'm a big risk taker and like to live life on the edge...

The MySpace profile references an account on ibeatyou.com. At that site, Katehis lists Grand Theft Auto IV as the "Hottest PS3 or Xbox 360 Game You've Ever Played" and includes a picture of himself holding a copy of the PlayStation 3 version. Katehis holds up Far Cry 2 in a separate photo.

Additional coverage: Gawker

GP: There are just so many dysfunctional pieces to this story, but video games will certainly be blamed in some quarters.

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U.K. Prof: Youthful Offenders Have Access to Violent Games in Juvenile Lockups

March 24, 2009 -

A Liverpool University Professor told a committe of Parliament that violent young offenders have access to violent video games and movies within U.K. detention facilities.

As reported by the Fleetwood Weekly News, Professor Kevin Browne made his remarks to the Home Affairs Committee:

If you go into local authority secure units or young offender institutions you will find that they are able to borrow from the library DVDs and computer games that are completely inappropriate given that they have been convicted of a violent offence.

They could borrow films like Rambo and violent video games like Carmageddon despite the fact that we recognise they are some of the most vulnerable people in society.

Browne blamed the problem on "laxity" by corrections officials said that violence caused by video games should be considered a public health issue.

GP: The Home Affairs Committee is chaired by Labour MP Keith Vaz, a longtime critic of violent video games. On the committee's website, Vaz explains Prof. Browne's March 20th appearance:

Throughout our inquiry we have tried to explore the reasons why  young people carry and use weapons. Several witnesses have suggested that exposure to violent entertainment such as films or video games may trigger violent behaviour.  We are therefore pleased to take more detailed evidence from Professor Kevin Browne on research in this area.

 

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In Wake of German Rampage, Harvard Crimson Urges Politicians to Look at Guns, Not Games

March 23, 2009 -

Violent video games have been under fire in Germany following the horrific school shooting carried out by a 17-year old earlier this month.

But while some German political and law enforcement officials have called for bans on violent games, the Harvard Crimson urges the government not to rush a judgment against the medium.

Instead, suggests an editorial, political officials' efforts would be better channeled toward keeping real guns, not virtual ones, away from toubled youth:

Few crimes are more disturbing than violent murders at schools... In the aftermath [of the recent German rampage], a call has gone out to remove violent video games from store shelves. Banning video games or enforcing a blanket social restriction, however, is not the answer.

After a tragedy such as this, video games often receive immediate scrutiny... Studies may have found corollary evidence linking violent games to violent behavior, but... correlation does not equal causation, and there is no convincing evidence of a causal effect here. There are simply too many lurking variables—socially awkward teenagers may play violent video games, but so do many perfectly happy teens. We cannot prove that playing the games somehow morphs teens into serial killers.

Many people are concerned and look to lawmakers to respond. We must be reasonable, however, in our expectations. There will always be sociopaths and oddballs... We cannot hope to make every single person happy or non-violent. Exaggerating the link between video games and teen violence in this case smacks more of political ploy than effective measure...

More of the weight of such crimes must fall on the parents and others who leave such weapons in reach... Stricter penalties and regulations on gun sales could help keep such weapons out of troubled hands, but, as long as licensed guns are available, we must work harder to keep them secure.

Head of German Police Union Calls For Ban on Violent Video Games

March 22, 2009 -

The head of Germany's police union in the state of Hesse has called for a ban on violent video games in the wake of a horrific school shooting earlier this month.

Echo Online cites comments made by Heini Schmitt, head of the Hessen German Police Union (DPolG):

It is known that in every situation in which a violent rampage (Amoklauf) has occurred, the perpetrator has had a remarked addiction to so-called killergames. The manner of the deed is astonishingly similar to virtual examples.

 

For him, the fact that roughly a third of children and youths "regularly and addictively escape into a virtual world" sets off alarm bells. Age restrictions for such games are often ignored.  There is admittedly no proof "that these frequent escapes into virtual killerworlds can contribute to such insane deeds", said Schmitt, "But neither can the role killergames be completely dismissed." 

 

When a chance to remove a probable cause exists, it must be used, insisted the chief of the national police union. "The world would be no poorer if there were no more killergames."

GP: Thanks to GamePolitics Forum mod Hannah for the translation!

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U.K. School Arson Thwarted After Threat Posted on Game Site

March 21, 2009 -

A message (see pic at left) posted on popular game download site Newgrounds has led to the arrest of a 16-year-old British youth.

According to a CBC report, 21-year-old J.P. Neufeld, a college student in Montreal, noticed the teen's message which indicated that he planned to burn down his school:

"I saw this thread started by this guy. It didn't seem serious at first. It said that today at 11:30 a.m. GMT I will commit violence and other forms of arson against my school [in Norfolk]. He had posted a picture of a gas can"...

 

Police were able to track down information about the suspect and school—leading them to an arrest. A 16-year-old male in possession of a knife, matches and canister of flammable liquid was taken into custody outside the school.

Via: Gizmodo

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Cybercop: No Good Reason For Adults to Own Animal Crossing

March 17, 2009 -

Law enforcement is an increasingly challenging job, so GP likes to see police officers well trained and well-informed.

Moreover, with an uptick in the number of incidents in which alleged pedophiles have made contact with their victims through online games, this is clearly a venue that the police need to be able to understand and deal with effectively when the need arises.

That being said, we hope these comments by an investigator with the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force were somehow misquoted or taken out of context:

"There is no reason an adult should have [Animal Crossing: City Folk]," says Andy Anderson, Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.

Anderson says adults playing "Animal Crossing" and similar games are likely doing it for the wrong reasons.

Actually, there are many adults who enjoy the Animal Crossing series.

GP: Personally, I haven't had time to get into AC: City Folk, but I enjoyed the original Animal Crossing on GameCube and once passed an entire Philly-LAX flight playing AC: Wild World on the DS. So, it's kind of disheartening to see adult ownership of Animal Crossing eyed with suspicion by the police.

Thanks to: GamePolitics reader eugaet for the tip!

UPDATE: Crispy Gamer caught up with KMIZ News Director, Curtis Varns, who retreated a bit from the original story:

I think Detective Anderson’s comments did take the story down an unintended path. We decided to do the story to let viewers know children had been contacted inappropriately through the game. It was not intended to be an indictment of the game or a smear piece on any form of interactive entertainment.

 

The point of the story was to make parents aware so they could decide whether or not they needed to keep a watchful eye on their kids’ activities. The reporter even wrapped the story up by stressing police were not putting this information out to make people paranoid rather trying to make them aware. Upon reviewing the story, I fear much of the intent has been lost because of the comments we allowed into the story.

Looks like a case of good intentions, but flawed execution by KMIZ.

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Cops: Suspected Pedophile Targeted 11-year-old Via PlayStation 3

March 16, 2009 -

A 24-year-old Kentucky man is under arrest, charged with persuading an 11-year-old Texas girl to send nude photos of herself through her PlayStation 3.

As reported by Houston's ABC-13, police allege that Anthony Scott O'Shea's manipulation of his victim was managed entirely via the console. Sgt Gary Spurger told ABC-13:

He used the PS3 for everything, checked his email, played on the internet, on his PS3 and of course, played his games on PS3, but had no computer...

 

[O'Shea] asked for pictures of her breasts. She said no. He said friends do things for each other. You're on my friends list. If you don't, I'm gonna remove you, at which point she feels nervous and scared and sent the pictures.

Police say that Shea mailed the girl's pictures to others around the country. The suspect's bail is set at $300,000.

For its part, Sony provided investigators with technical assistance in the case.

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Nasty Prank: Woman's Child Offered for Sale on Xbox Live

March 11, 2009 -

A Florida woman is understandably upset after someone posted a message on Xbox Live advertising that her two-year-old daughter was for sale - and included her home phone number. The offer included free shipping.

As reported by the Charlotte Sun, Christa Manos of Punta Gorda began receiving angry phone calls from Xbox Live users on Saturday night.:

The [first caller] was furious Manos would consider putting a price tag on her child.

At first, it sounded like a prank. But the phone kept ringing, with more and more angry voices from across the United States. Some just cursed at Manos. Others called her a bad mother. She didn't know what they were talking about.

"By the 18th or 19th call, I knew something wasn't right," Manos said.

The Charlotte County Sheriff's Office is investigating.

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New Zealand Censor: Prosecute Parents Who Give Violent Games to Kids

March 7, 2009 -

New Zealand's chief government censor has called for the prosecution of parents who give their children access to violent video games, according to stuff.co.nz.

Bill Hastings (left) hopes that such cases - apparently enabled by Kiwi law - will provide "shock value" to deter other parents from making similar choices in regard to their children's media consumption:

They might think the offence is silly, but it ain't... That's what the law says, but... you're not going to have police officers in every bedroom... There would certainly be some shock value to prosecuting a parent who gives their under-18 child access to a restricted game. It would send out a message that the enforcement agency means business.

I think the word 'game' can mislead people for sure. It's not checkers. For the first time in history, kids are more savvy with technology than parents... parents need to get up to speed on the digital divide. They need to look at what their kids are playing and doing...

 

It should be the pleasure in being able to sleep at night knowing that you have done the right thing by your kids. That should be the motivating factor.

Under the law, parents could be fined up to NZ$10,000 or imprisoned for three months.

GP: But if the parents are in jail, who will monitor the kids then?

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Trial for Pirate Bay Operators Gets Underway in Sweden

February 16, 2009 -

Four Swedish men who founded the popular torrent site The Pirate Bay face criminal accusations today in a Stockholm courtroom.

As reported by afterdawn, Fredrik Neij, Gottfrid Svartholm, Peter Sunde and Carl Lundstroem are charged with "promoting violations by other people of laws protecting royalties." The quartet is also being sued for US$17.6 million by the video game, movie and music industries.

Meanwhile the Guardian reports that The Pirate Bay crew has worked to create a festive air around the court case:

The Pirate Bay team held a press conference on Sunday complete with a small brass band, which they have posted on mobile video site Bambuser. In fact, there is a 'spectrial' channel on Bambuser to follow breaking developments...

While the hashtag is useful, some of the best Twitter coverage is coming from Sofia, a Swede in San Francisco. Due to the 140-character limit on Twitter, she is using a abbreviations, which she explains on her blog. Blogger Zondron also has a good list of links for live audio feeds and blogger coverage of the trial.

However, a lawyer for the film biz isn't buying into the fun. Monique Wadsted said:

It's not a political trial, it's not the trial that has as its purpose to shut down some kind of people's library or to prohibit any file-sharing technique. It's a trial that regards four persons that have conducted the commercial activity, earning a lot of money in providing the possibility for others to make pirate copies of big commercial productions, movies, music and popular computer games.

The operators of The Pirate Bay face up to two years in prison as well as large fines if convicted.

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No Mention of Games in Police Profile of NIU Shooter

February 15, 2009 -

Despite assertions from some quarters that violent video games played a role in the February, 2008 shooting rampage at Northern Illinois University, CNN reports that shooter Steven Kazmierczak had a troubled mental health history and was obsessed with the Saw series of horror films.

Games are not mentioned by CNN, which reports that it was granted access to a copy of the NIU investigative report by an author who claims to have obtained it from a law enforcement source.

GamePolitics readers may recall that, in the days following the shooting, disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson alleged a violent game connection and threatened to sue NIU for records relating to Kazmierczak's supposed use of violent games.

In addition, Illinois legislator Rep. Robert Pritchard (R) blamed violent video games while absolving guns in the rampage.

From the CNN story:

Kazmierczak was known as "strange Steve" to roommates, studied the Virginia Tech and Columbine massacres and idolized the sadistic killer in the "Saw" horror films, according to documents from the year-long investigation into the NIU killings.

The still-unreleased police file on the shootings, which also left 18 students wounded, shows that 27-year-old Kazmierczak had been hospitalized several times as a teenager for psychiatric issues and had a history of suicide attempts...

freshman suitemates recall him as being obsessed with infamous figures such as Adolf Hitler and Ted Bundy...

GP: As we have pointed out in the past, Kazmierczak was 27 at the time of the NIU rampage. Even if he had been a fan of violent games, no age-based content restriction would have applied to him.

But, the fact that games were mentioned in connection with the NIU killer once again reinforces GP's theory that games will invariably come in for blame when mass shooters are under 30 (see: How Old Is Too Old For Game Blame).

UPDATE: Our old pal Jack Thompson writes in to remind us (and call me a "lying son of a bitch" in the process) that there were reports that Kazmierczak played the first-person shooter Counter-strike.

Note to Jack: we've already covered that several times here on GamePolitics.

Today's story, however, is about the CNN coverage of the NIU investigative report which mentions only Kazmierczak's mental health issues and his affinity for horror films.

THANKS TO: GamePolitics reader Jason Bentley for the tip!

90 comments

Honolulu Mayor Vetoes Ban on Gaming, Texting While Driving

February 13, 2009 -

The mayor of Honolulu has vetoed a recently-passed law that would make it illegal to text or play a video game while driving.

As reported by the Honolulu Star, Mayor Mufi Hannemann (left) notified City Council by letter that he was exercising his veto power over concerns about enforcement of the measure. The gaming/texting while driving law was passed by City Council late last month. The Mayor explained his veto in his letter:

I applaud the Council's intent to address this public safety matter. A police officer operating a motor vehicle will only have a second or two to determine if the driver is committing a violation by text messaging or playing a video game.

As GamePolitics has previously reported, Honolulu's police chief also expressed concerns about the ability of his officers to enforce the measure. Mayor Hannemann has indicated that he would support a more generalized ban on cell phone use while driving.

Meanwhile, City Councilman Charles Djou criticized the Mayor's decision:

The facts are as they stood two weeks ago. The Council should override, and the only reason a Council member should change one's mind is politics.

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In Australia, MMOs May Be Target of Police Crackdown

February 4, 2009 -

Could Australian police soon be rounding up retailers who sell World of Warcraft and other massively multiplayer online games?

That's one possible scenario.

As reported by the Syndey Morning Herald, a controversy has arisen Down Under as to whether MMOs need to be rated for content under Australian law.

Government officials believe that - like all other video games - they do. Meanwhile, the Aussie game industry has taken the opposite view. Ron Curry, who heads the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia told the newspaper that MMOs do not fall under content classification requirement because they are hosted outside of Australian territory:

There are different classification requirements for games depending on how they are accessed by consumers. For instance, for a game sold off the shelf, where the media material is stored on a disk in the package, the classification requirements are straight forward and you will see the classification label on the box.

However, in some instances the box sold in a retail outlet contains an access key to the game which can only be accessed online. If such a game is hosted locally it falls under the jurisdiction of the Broadcasting Services Act, but if it is hosted internationally, it’s classified in the country that hosts the game, rather than in Australia.

However, a spokesman for New South Wales Attorney-General John Hatzistergos (left) disagreed:

The NSW [game rating] legislation covers computer games bought online as well as those bought in stores, and treats single, multi-player and online games the same way... If there is any suggestion that any business is trading illegally, police need to know, and it should be reported.

Ditto, said a representative of Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland:

The National Classification Scheme does not distinguish between games based on whether or not they contain a single player component. Online games are computer games within the meaning of the Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Act 1995 and are covered under the existing legislation.

In the North American market, MMOs are rated by the ESRB just as are single-player games. Time and money are involved in that process. Those factors are likely behind the stance adopted by the Australian game publishers.

Feds Say Xbox Live Predator Targeted California Teen

February 3, 2009 -

For the second time in less than a week, authorities have nabbed an alleged pedophile who met his victim on Xbox Live.

In the latest case, federal investigators allege that 27-year-old Edward Stout traveled from Missouri to California, where he engaged in sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl. The two met on Xbox Live more than a year ago.

Last week GamePolitics reported on the arrest of a 19-year-old Ohio man who is accused of sexually assaulting a 12-year-old Ohio boy he met on XBL.

Fresno's CBS-47 has a video report.

41 comments

Police Accuse Gamer of Threatening to Blow Up Bomberman Publisher

February 2, 2009 -

Here at GamePolitics, we love to see game consumer activism. But police in Japan accuse a local gamer of taking the concept way too far.

29-year-old Takao Ike apparently became disenchanted with game offerings from Hudson Entertainment. Ike sent nearly a dozen threatening messages to the Japanese publisher. In one he said that a bomb would kill everyone at the firm. In another he attempted to extort money.

In a confession to police, Ike said:

I did it because I posted my demands concerning the games, but the games didn't improve.

Ironically, Hudson publishes the Bomberman series.

Via: Kotaku

16 comments

Younger Half of Father-son Spy Duo Smuggled Russian $$$ in PlayStation Case

January 30, 2009 -

It's bad enough that rogue CIA agent Harold Nicholson (left) sold out his country for money. But it's simply unconscionable that Nicholson dragged his son into his traitorous world.

The New York Times reports that the FBI has charged Nicholson and his 24-year-old son Nathan with espionage.

From his jail cell, the elder Nicholson allegedly recruited his son to make contact with his former Russian handlers:

Prosecutors said Nathan Nicholson, a former Army paratrooper, had returned from his visits with the Russians with at least $35,000 in cash, some of it in a PlayStation video game case.

 

The money was intended in part to settle a “pension” that Harold Nicholson said was owed him from his days as a C.I.A. spy for the Russians before his arrest in 1996, the prosecutors said.

23 comments

Police Dismiss Video Game Link in Portland Shooting Rampage

January 30, 2009 -

It appears that investigators in Portland, Oregon are not focusing on rampage shooter Erik Ayala's fondness for violent video games.

The Portland Mercury spoke with Detective Mark Slater of Portland P.D., who commented on reports that linked linked the 24-year-old Ayala to Left 4 Dead and Resistance: Fall of Man:

[Local newspaper] The Oregonian prompted controversy on Monday, January 26, when it reported that "one of the things that bought Ayala joy" was playing violent videogames. Slater said a copy of the videogame Grand Theft Auto III was found at Ayala's apartment, but said police were not pursuing a link between videogames and the shooting.

"There were a lot of videogames in the apartment," said Slater. "Of a wide variety of the kind you might find in any 24-year-old's apartment."

In regard to the video game angle, GamePolitics has learned that anti-game violence activist Jack Thompson unsuccessfully attempted to involve himself in the Ayala case. Thompson forwarded GP a copy of a January 26th e-mail in which the disbarred attorney complained to Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer that detectives weren't acting on his theory that video games prompted the rampage:

Dear Chief Sizer:

I have information that would be useful to establish further the apparent causal link between the violent video game play of alleged killer Ayala and the recent incident at the teen club.

Some detective in the Bureau with whom I spoke has been compromised by the video game industry, and he was anticipating my call.

I think your Bureau and you put public safety ahead of the pro-video game bias and gaming activities of this detective.

Please have some responsible detective contact me on this, as these incidents tied to games are popping up all over the place.  Thanks.

As GamePolitics has documented over the years, Thompson characteristically makes contact with law enforcement personnel in the wake of shooting rampages to suggest that violent video games played a role.

Those contacts between Thompson and law enforcement officials have at times become contentious.

In 2007, for example, Thompson sued the Omaha Police Department for information concerning a troubled 18-year-old who opened fire at a local mall. Last year, Thompson threatened to sue the Public Safety Department of Northern Illinois University following a campus shooting spree committed by a 27-year-old man with a history of mental health problems. In both cases, the disbarred attorney sought evidence of video game play on the part of the shooters.

GP: Thanks to GP reader Cabel Sasser for the link to the Mercury story!

162 comments

19-Year-Old Xbox Live Gamer is Alleged Traveling Pedophile

January 27, 2009 -

Police in Ohio have charged a 19-year-old Michigan man with traveling to Parma and raping a 12-year-old boy.

According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Codey Hawks (left) met his victim on Xbox Live where he played an unspecified online game with the boy and his father.

From the newspaper report:

Hawks... called the victim's family when he arrived [in Ohio] and asked if he could stay with them. Hawks said he'd joined the National Guard and was to ship out in February.

At some point, the parents became suspicious and confronted their son about his relationship with Hawks. They called police after learning its nature.

Compton said Parma detectives questioned Hawks and he admitted that he assaulted the boy while staying at the family's home when the parents weren't there. Hawks now is in the county jail.

Police are looking for other victims...

41 comments

Rampage Shooter Willed PlayStation 3 to Roommate in Suicide Note

January 26, 2009 -

Erik Ayala (left), the 24-year-old Oregon man whose weekend shooting rampage  left two dead and seven wounded, willed his PlayStation 3 to a roommate before embarking his murderous mission.

The Oregonian reports that a suicide note found by police in Ayala's apartment even specified how much his roommate might earn by selling his PS3:

And to my friend, (redacted)

I am especially sorry. I know it's not much consolation but as my friend and roommate you are entitled to everything that I own. Maybe these things can bring in a few bucks.

Good luck in this shitty world...

You know my ps3 is special. Similiar USED ps3's go for AT LEAST $450-$500. Our landlord guy wants a ps3 like mine. Let him know that $400 would be a GOOD deal. If he doesn't want it, format the drive by going to Settings>System>Format Utility. You can say it "comes with the latest firmware software" to help market it on the internet. In case you don't know, it's the special "100% backwards compatible" (60 GB) ps3.

I'm sorry to put all this on you buddy, good luck.

As GamePolitics noted earlier today, Ayala, who remains in critical condition after shooting himself in the head, was reportedly a fan of FPS game Resistance: Fall of Man and Left 4 Dead.

UPDATE: Ayala has died, reports The Oregonian.

46 comments

Portland Shooter Played Left 4 Dead, Resistance: Fall of Man

January 26, 2009 -

A man who killed two girls and wounded seven other people at a teen club in Portland, Oregon on Saturday night, was a player of two popular first-person shooter games, according to a report in The Oregonian.

24-year-old Erik Salvador Ayala, who remains in critical condition after shooting himself in the head, is described as quiet with an interest in video games and computers. Acquaintances said that had not previously exhibited violent tendencies and they were unaware that he owned a gun. From the report:

One of the things that brought him joy was playing video games such as "Resistance: Fall of Man," in which an Army Ranger fights an alien race that is trying to take over the world, or "Left 4 Dead," where the object is to slay fighting zombies.

Portland Police Chief Rosie Sizer told the press:

At first blush this incident appears to be a random act of violence of the kind that makes you despair for America.

53 comments

Prison Tycoon Game Gets a Beatdown from Bloggers

January 22, 2009 -

A strategy game which challenges players to create and manage a private prison empire has outraged some observers.

Of ValuSoft's Prison Tycoon 4: Supermax, the Criminal Justice blog writes:

[Building] a private prison? Who would want to spend free time building an elaborate cage, allowing gang wars, drugs and racial violence to fester in an attempt to earn more money? This is the fourth version of the game, so apparently someone is playing it.

I guess there's a video game version of nearly everything one can imagine. But the existence of this game... highlights the disturbing prevalence of prisons in our society. This game takes for granted that prisons are everywhere and that they are simply a tool for profit. That's a sad place to be.

The architecturally-oriented BldgBlog couches its dismay in sarcasm:

The description of Prison Tycoon 4: SuperMax... urges players to experiment in the architectural framing and administrative implementation of prison life.

 

"Build a profitable privately run prison from the ground up... Grow your facility to SuperMax capabilities, housing the most dangerous and diabolical criminals on earth – all for the bottom line."

 

Putting moral limits on our imaginations temporarily aside, perhaps we could even conceive of Prison Tycoon 5: Guantánamo Bay, or Prison Tycoon 6: Austrian Basement Edition. Prison Tycoon 7: Gulag. Prison Tycoon 8: Escape from Abu Ghraib...

Prison Photography takes a more blunt view:

Prison Tycoon is less gratuitous than Grand Theft Auto and the like. But I don’t know if this is any comfort. To manipulate a virtual prison population with “friendly interaction and fighting between inmates dependent upon mood and gang affiliation” and to rely on “guards [who] will subdue aggressive prisoners, medical staff to treat injuries, chaplains administer to prisoner’s spiritual needs and therapists talk to prisoners to lift their spirits” seems a bit too sinister and calculated for an evening of gaming...

Really, why does this game exist? I suppose it is just completing the loop - the gamer, as a God of Pixels, can create criminals in his other games and then manipulate them in this one.

24 comments

 
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MechaTama31I think there are a significant number of jobs people will do for food that they will not do for an ipad.07/12/2014 - 8:39am
Infophilelabour (primarily among mothers and teens) and some show increased labour. Maybe it's a cultural thing in play that results in different outcomes in different societies.07/12/2014 - 6:53am
InfophileYou also need to take into account just how crappy it would be to only have the basics to live. But with competing forces at play like this, it's impossible to argue to an answer. We have to look to tests of it, and results are mixed. Some show decreased07/12/2014 - 6:51am
MechaTama31to be done, and some people really need jobs.07/11/2014 - 5:41pm
MechaTama31Info, I think you don't really understand just how crappy a lot of the jobs are that provide the "basics" that you assume will just continue to be produced under such a system. There's very little pride or prestige to be had from such jobs, but they need07/11/2014 - 5:40pm
Andrew EisenMaskedPixelante - That's probably because it's now available on the Wii U eShop for $8.07/11/2014 - 5:18pm
InfophileThat's not how human psychology works. It's all about "Keeping up with the Joneses." When everyone around you has a new fancy smartphone and is talking about that cool HBO series, do you want to be the one left out?07/11/2014 - 4:05pm
Matthew WilsonThe issue is most people would settle for the basics and not work. That is why we would need very heavy automation to make a system like that work. Almost all labor intensive tasks would have to be done by robot.07/11/2014 - 2:32pm
InfophileOf course, that's a gross oversimplification. The idea, have a basic safety net that pays for what's needed to live. If people can find a job and are willing to work, they get more money which can be spent on comfort and perks.07/11/2014 - 11:33am
InfophileIt's quite possible to get an economy to work with a basic minimum standard of living. You just need perks for the people who do work. Everyone gets food and a home. Everyone who works also gets an iPhone.07/11/2014 - 11:32am
MaskedPixelanteIn the continuing adventures of "Stuff I figured would be overpriced on eBay but isn't", 15 bucks for a copy of Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga.07/11/2014 - 10:04am
SleakerI didn't gather the same conclusion.. Seems like they are focusing on devices & services still, just not calling it 'devices and services'07/11/2014 - 8:57am
PHX CorpMicrosoft CEO readies big shakeup, drops devices and services focus http://www.theverge.com/2014/7/10/5887143/satya-nadella-microsoft-ceo-employee-email07/11/2014 - 8:45am
MechaTama31declared that everybody should have them. Somebody still has to produce them.07/11/2014 - 7:44am
MechaTama31I do mean the developers/governmet. And money is not the only thing of value. I am including the food, housing, etc that everybody is supposed to get for free under this system. In the real world, those things don't exist merely because an authority has07/11/2014 - 7:43am
InfophileAs automation gets better and better, the number of jobs absolutely required keeps diminishing. How many people these days do you think are actually needed to keep everyone alive? Most people just make our lives more convenient and entertaining.07/11/2014 - 4:43am
Matthew Wilsonthat kind of system only works when most people (around 70 to 80 percent ) do not need to work.07/11/2014 - 1:21am
TechnogeekConjured up by who, though? If by the players, then it's not really "on a whim" since they're kind of putting work into it. If you mean the developers/government, then hello and welcome to monetary sovereignty.07/11/2014 - 12:34am
MechaTama31I'm just saying, when everything of value can be conjured up at a whim, that's not an economy. That's a fantasy.07/11/2014 - 12:15am
TechnogeekHonestly, though, what I find most thought-provoking about the article isn't the guaranteed minimum income aspect at all, but a more fundamental point: that we treat poverty as a moral failing on the individual, rather than a design flaw in the system.07/10/2014 - 11:53pm
 

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