NY State Bans Texting, Gaming, Surfing While Driving

July 17, 2009 -

The New York State Senate has overwhelmingly passed a bill which bans texting, playing video games or surfing the Internet while driving, reports Buffalo Business First.

The measure, which previously was approved by the New York Assembly, now goes to Gov. David Paterson, who is expected to sign it into law. If so, the new regulations will take effect in November.

Newsday offers a comment from bill sponsor Sen. Martin Dilan (D):

This is a long-overdue safety measure for New York. Texting and burgeoning [portable electronic] technologies continue to pose serious, and sometimes fatal, distractions to drivers of all ages.

Violators of the new law will be subject to a $150 fine. However, the ban on portable electronics is considered a secondary offense, which means that it could only be levied if a driver is pulled over for another violation.

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Albany Paper Backs Free Speech Claim in Controversial Game Lawsuit

June 14, 2009 -

In an editorial published this morning the Albany Times-Union offers support for a federal lawsuit filed last week against the city of Troy, New York and its public works commissioner, Robert Mirch (left).

GamePolitics readers will recall that in 2008 inspectors invoked the city's building code to shut down an art gallery which was displaying Virtual Jihadi, Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal's controversial computer game exhibit. From today's Times-Union editorial:

What constitutes free and protected speech in Troy, and what constitutes public safety and unacceptable building code violations, aren't merely matters of fiat. They aren't simply up to the whims of Robert Mirch. They shouldn't be, at least...

 

The public works commissioner, not to mention the majority leader of the Rensselaer County Legislature, had effectively appointed himself arbiter of public morals...

Mr. Mirch, meanwhile, seems to have a new beef with the media... He's bothered that the lawsuit, which after all is a public document, has made it into the hands of the media. Let's hope he doesn't try to use the building code to further retaliate...

Free speech and the building code should be kept separate.

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City Sued Over Shutdown of Controversial Video Game Exhibit

June 9, 2009 -

The New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a federal lawsuit claiming that the city of Troy, New York and its Public Works Commissioner suppressed free speech by shutting down a controversial video game exhibit in March, 2008.

GamePolitics readers may recall our extensive coverage of the politically-charged situation surrounding Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal. His Virtual Jihadi exhibit employed a modded PC game which included a mission to blow up then-President George W. Bush. Bilal said that the exhibit was intended to express his view that U.S. policy in Iraq helped create terrorists.

Bilal, a U.S. citizen and a faculty member at the Art Institute of Chicago, was invited to display his work at Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute in Troy but was abruptly ordered off campus after the school's College Republican Club raised objections to the game. Bilal was then offered space to display Virtual Jihadi at a nearby gallery, the Sanctuary for Independent Media.

The gallery, however, was suddenly shut down for building code violations by Troy's Public Works Commissioner, Robert Mirch (left). Mirch, who is named as a defendant in the suit, had earlier led a demonstration protesting the exhibit. He called the suit politically motivated.

The Albany Times-Union offers comment on the suit from Melanie Trimble of the NYCLU's Capital Region Chapter:

City officials cannot selectively enforce building codes to shut down an art exhibition they find distasteful. Mr. Mirch abused his authority to suppress the free speech rights of people he disagree with, an unconstitutional act that must be challenged.

According to the Times-Union report, the NYCLU seeks a court order to block the city from using its building code to infringe on civil rights. The suit also seeks damages on behalf of the non-profit which owns the Sanctuary for Independent Media as well as for the gallery's executive director. The NYCLU has posted a press release on the suit.

DOCUMENT DUMP: Grab a copy of the complaint from the NYCLU website...

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New York Bill Would Add Fat Tax to Video Games, DVDs, Junk Food

May 14, 2009 -

A bill currently before the New York Assembly would add a one-quarter of one percent tax to the sale or rental of video games and video game hardware.

The measure, A02455, was proposed by Assemblyman Felix Ortiz (D, at left) of Brooklyn. The bill would also tax the sale and rental of movies, admissions to movie theaters and the sale of snack foods and sweet drinks. In addition, corporations would be barred from taking a New York tax deduction for expenses incurred in advertising any of the affected items, including video games and systems.

The proposal is currently before the Assembly's Ways and Means Committee, where it seems likely to remain. This is Ortiz's fourth attempt at similiar legislation since 2003; none have made it out of committee.

Ortiz's proposal is motivated by his desire to address the current obesity epidemic. In the justification for A02455 he writes:

Almost all experts agree that the primary reasons [for the obesity epidemic] are increased consumption of larger quantities of high calorie foods, snacks and sugar sweetened beverages... and lack of physical activity as vigorous play is replaced by sedentary activities such as watching more television, movies and videos and playing video games.

This bill would raise revenues from modest surcharges on the very food products and sedentary activities that are linked to the lifestyle changes involved in the explosion of childhood obesity in the last 20-30 years.

Ortiz estimates that his bill would raise $50 million in revenue which would in turn be used to fund programs designed to counter childhood obesity. Conservative magazine The American Spectator refers to Ortiz as "perhaps the nation’s most prolific author of vice taxes:"

[Ortiz] has a litany of bills before the New York state legislature imposing a $10 tax on visitors to strip clubs, a 25¢-cent tax on bottles of beer and wine, and a fatso tax on soda, sweets, and video games.

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ECA Pleased To See Time Warner Back Down on Price-Gouging Bandwidth Caps

April 17, 2009 -

Consumers won a big victory this week as Time Warner Cable backed down on a plan that would have placed a cap on bandwidth usage for broadband customers, while at the same time charging users a wildly inflated price per gigabyte.

When Time Warner announced recently that it would expand its broadband caps into New York and North Carolina, Ars Technica reports that the plan immediately ran afoul of Rep. Eric Massa (D-NY) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The two lawmakers helped torpedo Time Warner's scheme.

The Entertainment Consumers Association, which also lobbied vigorously against the Time-Warner plan, was delighted with the cable provider's decision to back down. ECA VP and General Counsel Jennifer Mercurio commented on the outcome:

We're pleased that Time Warner has come to their senses on this issue... Having worked against caps and tiered pricing for over a year, and being the leading consumer rights organization to aggressively defend the American public on this issue, we're glad to see our efforts pay off even as we continue to work with Senator Schumer, Congressman Massa, and others to stop this type of consumer price gauging moving forward.

When Mercurio mentions price gouging, she's not kidding. Price comparison done by Nate Anderson of Ars Technica show how blatantly Time Warner planned to rip off its customers:

As TWC expands its test markets for the data caps, it offers plans with 5GB of monthly data transfer for $30. Plans with 40GB of data go for $55... That base rate works out to a truly jaw-dropping $6 per GB per month, and it's so far out of line with competitors' plans as to shock even the most cynical heart.

Take AT&T's DSL, for comparison... AT&T DSL comes out to 9¢ per GB. Verizon's fiber-optic FiOS system... this comes out to $.11 per GB. Upgrading to the much faster 50Mbps service for $144.95 a month still means that the charge per GB is only 36¢.

The situation is similar at other cable operators. Comcast offers Internet service starting at $42.95 per month and has a 250GB cap in place; this works out to 17¢ per GB.

FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.

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Games For Change Festival Registration Opens

March 20, 2009 -

The Games for Change Festival has opened registration for attendees. The 2009 G4C will take place in New York City, May 27-29 at Parsons The New School for Design.

A press release describes the event:

The Annual Games for Change Festival brings together the world's leading foundations, NGOs, game-makers, academics, and journalists to explore this potential and how best to harness games in addressing the most critical issues of our day, from poverty to climate change, global conflicts to human rights... 

Called "the Sundance of video games" for "socially-responsible game-makers" we're promoting a new genre of video game - games to change the world - for the better. 

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times will deliver the keynote. Other speakers include:

  • A fireside chat with leading scholars Jim Gee and Henry Jenkins
  • A conversation between Lucy Bradshaw, Executive Producer, Spore, Electronic Arts and N'Gai Croal, Newsweek
  • Ian Bogost, CEO of Persuasive Games
  • Heather Chaplin, journalist and author of Smartbomb: The Quest for Art, Entertainment, and Big Bucks in the Videogame Revolution.
  • Seth Scheisel, New York Times game critic and technology journalist
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Stimulus Money Convinces New York to Nix Digital Download Tax

March 11, 2009 -

Gamers who live in the state of New York are already experiencing a benefit from President Obama's recently-passed stimulus package.

CNN reports that New York has scrapped a plan to tax digital downloads such as iTunes music and video game DLC.

Instead, Gov. David Paterson and New York legislators will utilize $1.3 billion in stimulus money to help balance the state budget.

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NY Bill Would Require Seizure Warnings by Game Retailers

February 4, 2009 -

As we've said in the past, the New York legislature has something of an infatuation with video game legislation.

New York, of course, passed a largely symbolic video game law in 2008 and GamePolitics has already reported on two new content-related bills which have been submitted in the current Assembly session.

A third Assembly proposal seeks to warn consumers about the risk of game-induced seizures. A.4004, sponsored by Assemblyman Steve Englebright (D, at left), would require video game retailers to display such warnings. Failure to do so would subject retailers to a $50 fine. From the bill:

Around 1 in every 130 people is diagnosed as having epilepsy, whereas only 1 in every 10,000 have Photosensitivity Epilepsy. Among people with epilepsy, only an estimated 3-5% have seizures triggered by lights or patterns. Photosensitivity Epilepsy most commonly affects children.

This Bill would require that a warning be placed upon every video game warning people of the dangers of Photosensitivity Epilepsy.

Englebright has tried unsuccessfully to pass this legislation since 2001. The bill has been referred to the Assembly's Consumer Affairs and Protection Committee.

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Gamer Love Triangle Fuels Off-Broadway Production

January 29, 2009 -

A new off-Broadway production centers around an unusual theme: a romantic triangle involving a pair of gamer pals.

Today's New York Times offers a lukewarm review of When in Disgrace (Haply I Think on Thee). The play revolves around the relationship between teen gamers Ryan and Ben, as well as Caroline, who used to be Ryan's girl but now is with Ben.

Unfortunately, the play appears to evoke the common cultural imagery of gamers as latent powderkegs. From the NYT review:

The play traces Ryan’s spiral into homicidal dementia over Ben’s “betrayal...”

The depiction of Ryan and Ben’s video-game confrontations also overamplifies the conflict. As the boys duel on a sofa, life-size silhouettes battle behind a scrim to twofold effect: thudding as a metaphor for character dynamics, impressive as a glimpse into the role of ultraviolent fantasy in the life of many adolescents. The production is well served by audio snatches of the bands System of a Down and Linkin Park, among others...

 

As the outcast [Ryan] has the juiciest role; he savors his malevolence, maybe too visibly... “When in Disgrace (Haply I Think on Thee)” may falter in its grand designs, but there is something vital in its exploration of generational identity...

A synopsis on Theatermania reports that the production is based on a true story:

Inspired by a true story, When in Disgrace (Haply I Think on Thee) weaves a tale of shattered hope and personal destruction as three close friends are torn apart by jealousy, neglect, guilt, and ultimately, love. Combining rock music, iambic verse, and video games, When In Disgrace explores what leads youngsters to extreme acts of violence, and the eerie similarity between teenage melodrama and classical drama.

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NY Bill Might Keep Nasty Games in a Locked Container

January 28, 2009 -

The New York legislature has a fondness for video game legislation, it would seem.

Last year New York became the first state since 2006 to pass a video game bill and have it signed into law by its Governor. The New York video game statute lacks teeth, however, and the video game industry has not opposed it.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this month, Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright (D) introduced a bill aimed at shielding minors from games containing profanity and racist stereotypes.

In addition, Assemblyman Brian Kolb (R) has submitted A2837, which seeks to block minors from any game that "glamorizes... the commission of a violent crime, suicide, sodomy, rape, incest, bestiality, or sado-masochism..."

Kolb's bill also requires warning labels on such games; violators would be subject to both civil and criminal penalties. Fines of $1,000 are spelled out in the bill.

But Kolb isn't finished - not by a long shot. Retailers would be required to keep such games either in an area "inaccessible by the general public"  or "in a sealed and locked container."

Retailers would also be mandated to make copies of the offending games available for examination by parents.

A similar measure proposed by Kolb in 2007 failed to move out of committee.

GP: While Assemblyman Kolb no doubt has good intentions, his legislation clearly has constitutional issues. For example, deciding whether a game "glamorizes" any of the activities enumerated by Kolb would seem to be a highly subjective endeavor.

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NY Bill Would Shield Minors from Racist Stereotypes and Profanity in Games

January 13, 2009 -

A new legislative proposal to restrict the sale of video games portraying negative racial stereotypes and bad language has been proposed in the New York Assembly.

The measure, A01474, was submitted by Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright, a Democrat from Manhattan. The bill, which has been referred to the Assembly's Consumer Protection and Affairs Committee:

Prohibits the sale to minors of certain rated video games containing a rating that reflects content of various degrees of profanity, racist stereotypes or derogatory language, and/or actions toward a specific group of persons.

A similar bill proposed by Wright in 2007 failed to pass.

GamePolitics readers will recall that New York passed a video game law in 2008 mandating - redundantly - that game packages display ratings and that consoles offer parental control features. The video game industry did not bring a legal challenge, however, since those remedies were already in place and the law did not threaten sales.

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Proposed New York State Budget Would Tax DLC

December 17, 2008 -

If you live in the state of New York, you could find yourself paying sales tax on downloadable content (DLC) for video games, beginning in 2009.

That's because, much like the private sector, state and local governments have been hit hard by the current recession. In New York, Gov. David Paterson (D) has responded by proposing a budget that calls for layoffs, service cutbacks and new taxes, including one that will likely add to the cost of your DLC on Xbox 360, PS3, Wii or PC.

The New York Daily News has coverage of Paterson's budget plan:

Gov. Paterson's proposed $121 billion budget hits New Yorkers in their iPods - and nickels-and-dimes them in lots of other places, too.

Trying to close a $15.4 billion budget gap, Paterson called for 88 new fees and a host of other taxes, including an "iPod tax" that taxes the sale of downloaded music and other "digitally delivered entertainment services."

Indeed, a review of the budget document reveals the details of Paterson's plan to tax all forms of digitally-delivered content:

Close Digital Property Taxation Loophole. Imposes state and local sales tax on purchases of prewritten software, digital audio, audio-visual and text files, digital photographs, games, and other electronically delivered entertainment services to achieve tax parity. For example, with the passage of this bill, a book, song, album, or movie would be subject to sales tax no matter if it was bought at a brick and mortar store or downloaded online.

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Gaming's Biggest Political Hypocrite Will Face No Charges, Say Feds

November 6, 2008 -

Federal prosecutors say that former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer will face no criminal charges for patronizing a high-priced, multi-state prostitution ring.

U.S. Attorney Michael Garcia told CNN:

After a thorough investigation, this office has uncovered no evidence of misuse of public or campaign funds.

 

In light of the policy of the Department of Justice with respect to prostitution offenses and the longstanding practice of this office, as well as Mr. Spitzer's acceptance of responsibility for his conduct, we have concluded that the public interest would not be further advanced by filing criminal charges in this matter.

Theoretically, Spitzer could face local charges lodged by Washington D.C authorities (it's illegal to hire a prostitute), but that seems highly unlikely at this point.

As governor, Spitzer pushed hard for legislation designed to regulate video game sales. Ironically, he claimed to be concerned about the cartoon prostitutes in Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series, saying:

Media content has gotten more graphic, more violent and more sex-based… Currently, nothing under New York State law prohibits a fourteen-year old from walking into a video store and buying… a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ which rewards a player for stealing cars and beating people up. Children can even simulate having sex with a prostitute…

In April GamePolitics readers voted Spitzer Gaming's Biggest Political Hypocrite, beating out the likes of California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and British MP Keith Vaz.

GP: Pictured are Spitzer, a GTA prostitute and 22-year-old Ashley Dupre. It was the disgraced guv's rendezvous with the would-be singer that led to his downfall in March of this year. On the other hand, if Spitzer had stuck with GTA's virtual hookers he'd still be governor.

Thanks to: GP reader seikyo for the heads-up!

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Lone NY Senator to Vote Against Video Game Law Explains Why to GP Reader

July 31, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported last month, Sen. Thomas Duane (D) was the lone member of the New York State Senate to vote against a video game bill that was eventually signed into law by Gov. David Paterson. The measure, sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R) was approved by a 61-1 margin in the New York Senate.

An enterprising GP reader who happens to be a New York resident (and who wishes to remain nameless) wrote to the State Senator regarding his stance on the legislation:

Dear Sen. Duane

 

...I would like to congratulate you on your lone opposition vote on the above referenced bill... As informed citizens are aware, this law addresses none of the issues associated with video games, redundantly mandates provisions that are already in place such as per product industry ratings and console parental controls, establishes yet another toothless advisory committee, and likely constitutes a violation of the First Amendment...
 
I welcome government efforts in the form of education for parents, but do not welcome intrusive government efforts to usurp parents' role as arbiter of their children's exposure to mass media.
 
Sen. Duane's Chief of Staff, Laura Morrison, wrote back:
 
Dear Mr. [GP reader]:

 

...Senator Duane shares many of your concerns about S.6401-A.  He recognizes that there is already an effective, voluntary [ESRB] rating system in place... and that parental controls are available on all current video game consoles.  Parents should determine which games their children have access to and the marketplace should decide which games sell and which do not.  

 

Like you, Senator Duane questions this bill's constitutionality and points to the fact that similar bills have been struck down in other jurisdictions.  He regrets that he was the lone voice in dissent on this matter.

GP: It's great to see gamers involving themselves in the political process and even better to see an elected official who writes back with something more than a form letter.

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TV News Report on NY Video Game Law

July 25, 2008 -

Long Island's Regional News Network has a video report on New York's controversial video game law...

 

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New York Video Game Law: Exclusive FAQ

July 23, 2008 -

Q: Who sponsored New York's video game law?

A: There were two identical versions, one in the NY State Assembly and another in the NY State Senate. The Assembly version (A.11717) was sponsorsed by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D, Brooklyn). The Senate version (S.6401-A) was sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R, Staten Island).

Q. How was it voted on in the legislature?

A. The Assembly version was passed 137-1. The Senate version passed 61-1.

Q. How did the bill get to be law?

A. After approval by the Assembly and Senate, Gov. David Paterson (D) signed it into law on July 22nd.

Q. Is this the same legislation that former Gov. Spitzer was favoring before his hooker incident cost him his job?

A. No. The bill under consideration last year would have made selling an M-rated game to a minor a felony crime. There is no such provision in this law.

Q. What does the law require?

A. The law requires:

  • Video games sold by retailers in New York State which have a "standardized" and "commonly used" (e.g., ESRB)  rating must display that rating on the outside of their packaging.
  • New console systems sold in NY State must have parental controls
  • A 16-member advisory council, appointed by the Governor, will a.) study the relationship between violent media and youth violence b.) evaluate the effectiveness of the ESRB rating system and make recommendations concerning it c.) study the potential of creating a parent-teacher violence awareness program to identify and assist potentially violent student

Q: Does the law apply to games sold online as well as in retail stores?

A: No. Although Sen. Lanza's website initially claimed that it did, a reading of the legislation shows that "mail order" businesses, which under NY law include online retailers, are exempt from the rating requirements. GamePolitics contacted Sen. Lanza's staff, which said that the online comment was a mistake and does NOT apply. The law applies ONLY to so-called "brick and mortar" retailers.

Q: Are the current ESRB ratings & content descriptors sufficient to meet the requirements of the law?

A: Yes. As long as a video game available at retail displays an ESRB rating and its associated content descriptors (and they already do), the retailer is in compliance.

Q. What about small publishers or independently created games which are not submitted for an ESRB rating?

A. As long as they are sold via online, no problem. They aren't required to be rated.

Q. Are used games subject to the law?

TV Debate on New York Video Game Law

July 22, 2008 -

Is New York's video game law necessary?

Is it constitutional?

Dr. Michael Rich, Director of the Center for Media and Child Health at Harvard Medical School, and Adam Thierer, Senior Fellow at the Progress & Freedom Foundation in Washington, D.C., squared off on the Bloomberg network to debate the merits of the New York law signed last night by Gov. David Paterson.

Thierer believes the law is unnecessary and will be struck down as unconstitutional. Dr. Rich worries about the training abilities of games in relation to violence and wants social science injected into the game rating process.

GP: We agree that the New York law is unnecessary. However, if the video game industry doesn't challenge it - and it's not at all clear that they will - then there will be no finding that it is unconstitutional.

So, why wouldn't the game biz challenge the law?

Because it has no effect on their bottom line. The content ratings and parental controls mandated by the law are already in place. While the industry might argue that the state is compelling this sort of speech, it's an argument that exists in a somewhat theoretical realm. In practice, the industry is already meeting the requirements. Game publishers and retailers would rather do business than argue the finer points of constitutional law. Moreover, for the game biz there's a political downside to fighting this part of the law. Doing so would be tantamount to saying, "Yes, we have ratings and parental controls, but we might want to take them away someday." Such a position would not be comforting to parents and would provide ammunition to critics. 

The law's mandated advisory council on video game violence enjoys First Amendment rights of its own. People, government bureaucrats included, are free to study and discuss whatever they like. Besides, the video game publishers and retailers will occupy two of the 16 seats on the advisory council.

As to Dr. Rich, while he may have desire to include social science in game ratings, that is not part of the New York law. The statute gives New York no power whatsoever over the ESRB rating process.

And, we note, the announcer gets it completely wrong in his opening when he says that the law includes "tough fines for retailers who sell adult games to kids." There's nothing like that in the legislation.

Adam Thierer lays out his position in detail at the Technology Liberation Front.

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BREAKING - New York Governor Signs Video Game Bill Into Law

July 22, 2008 -

GamePolitics has confirmed that, last night, New York Gov. David Paterson (left) signed video game legislation passed by the Senate and Assembly into law.

UPDATE: We've obtained a copy of the Governor's press release on the video game bill signing:

Governor David A. Paterson signed a package of bills, many of which are focused on public safety and protecting the rights of New York residents. [One of these will] ensure the State will explore the negative effects of violent video games.

 

“We have the obligation to be constantly vigilant about amending our laws to protect the residents of New York State. Many of these bills will do just that by closing loopholes or creating new laws to enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers,” said Governor Paterson...

 

...other bills signed by Governor Paterson are directly aimed at protecting children... A.11717 / S.6401-A [the video game bill] establishes an advisory council to conduct a study on the connection between interactive media and real-life violence in minors exposed to such media. This bill will also require new video game consoles to have parental lockout features by 2010, and mandate that games sold at retail disclose the ratings obtained from the gaming industry's voluntary rating system.

GamePolitics has received this comment from Richard Taylor, Senior Vice President of Communications and Research for the Entertainment Software Association:

The state has ignored legal precedent, common sense and the wishes of many New Yorkers in enacting this unnecessary bill. This government intrusion will cost taxpayers money and impose unconstitutional mandates for activities and technologies that are already voluntarily in place. It also unfairly singles out the videogame industry over all other forms of media. One wonders where this overreach by government in New York will end. If New York lawmakers feel it is the role of government to convene a government commission on game content, they could next turn to other content such as books, theater and film.

Will there be a court challenge? We've put this question to the ESA; they've told us that they are reviewing their options. For a variety of reasons, the main one being that the bill has no real teeth, it's entirely possible that the industry will just live with it.

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ACLU: NY Video Game Bill Passed by "Flawed Process"

July 22, 2008 -

Rochester, New York public radio station WXXI reports that a representative of the New York Civil Liberties Union has termed the state's video game bill a "flawed process."

Bob Perry of the NYCLU told WXXI:

This bill was adopted in the last minutes of the legislative session, without hearings, without meaningful debate, without an opportunity for members of the public or industry to address the constitutional issues and the media technology issues implicated by the bill.

NY Metro has additional comments from Perry:

The legislation proposes an ambitious state system regulating the way video games are sold in retail stores and viewed at home based on content that the First Amendment protects from regulation.

Meanwhile, the Empire State News reports that NYCLU executive director Donna Lieberman (left) urged that the bill be vetoed:

New Yorkers do not need the state judging which video games are appropriate and which aren’t. Parents, not government committees, should be responsible for making those judgments. If the legislature wants to reduce youth violence, it should fund educational programs to teach students conflict resolution skills.

Bill sponsor Sen. Andrew Lanza (R) countered with:

This [law] does not prohibit the sale of video games based on ... content. This simply requires a labeling. And at the end of the day if a game is rated mature, or violent, this does not preclude or prohibit someone from selling it to a minor. I wish we could do that, but the First Amendment, I believe, protects against that.

Gov. David Paterson must decide by tomorrow whether to sign the bill into law. The measure, which would require that games be rated and console systems have parental controls built in, passed overwhelmingly in the state legislature.

It is unclear whether or not the video game industry will oppose the New York law if the Governor signs it.

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New York Video Game Law Heats Up as Guv Moves Closer to Signing

July 18, 2008 -

There is a good deal of buzz this week surrounding video game-oriented legislation passed overwhelmingly last month by the New York state legislature. New York Gov. David Paterson (left) must decide by July 23rd whether he will sign the bill into law or let it die.

In a story broken by GamePolitics on June 24th, we reported that the NY State Senate passed, by a 61-1 vote, Sen. Andrew Lanza's bill which:

  • requires that games carry a rating
  • requires games consoles to have parental controls
  • establishes a 16-member advisory council on media violence

While the various segments of the video game industry have taken no unified position to date, the Binghampton Press details opposition to the bill from some unusual corners.

Grover Nordquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, said:

This is a feel-good piece of legislation that really doesn't so anything.

GP: That's certainly true (see: NY Video Game Bill Barks, Doesn't Bite)

Robert Perry of the New York chapter of the ACLU, added:

This bill would have the state regulating constitutionally protected speech. The courts will not permit that.

GP: Since the bill doesn't restrict content or sales based on content, we're assuming that the ACLU's Perry is referring to the requirement that games be labeled with a rating, which they already are on a voluntary basis.

Derek Hunter of the Media Freedom Project said:

The bill is unnecessary. The video-game industry is praised as the best at policing itself. They have a great ratings system.

Adam Thierer, writing for the Tech Liberation Front, calls the bill "unnecessary, unworkable, and unconstitutional" in an open letter to Gov. Paterson.

Meanwhile, Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association, has apparently issued an alert to IGDA members based in New York, calling upon them to contact the Guv in opposition to the bill.

The key piece of the puzzle will be whether the ESA decides to challenge the law's constitutionality. The game publishers' trade group, busy with E3 this week, has not said what it plans to do in that regard. Their most likely response will be to wait and see whether the Governor signs the bill into law. In the meantime they have urged VGVN members to write the Governor in opposition.

Comments made by the Entertainment Merchants Association, however, give the impression that video game retailers believe they can live with the law's provisions:

The bill is unnecessary and seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. But we do not anticipate that video game software retailers will have a problem complying with its requirements. (It is important to note that NY law already requires DVD packages to display the rating of the movie.)

 

ESA's VGVN Urges Members to Fight Toothless NY Video Game Bill

July 15, 2008 -

The Video Game Voters Network issued an alert yesterday recommending that its members contact New York Governor David Paterson (left) to urge that he not sign pending video game legislation into law:

This bill would waste NY residents hard earned tax dollars on investigating video games when the facts are already in. We have much higher priorities for our resources and dollars than this kind of crusade.

As GamePolitics reported last month, the New York State Senate overwhelmingly passed a measure sponsored by Sen. Andrew Lanza (R). An identical bill also cleared the State Assembly.

While the VGVN, which is owned and operated by game publishers trade association the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) is opposing the measure, the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), a group which represents game retailers, apparently does not plan to take action. In a statement issued following the bill's passage, the EMA said:

The bill is unnecessary and seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. But we do not anticipate that video game software retailers will have a problem complying with its requirements.

GP: As I pointed out in my Joystiq column, the Lanza bill is largely symbolic (see: NY Video Game Bill Barks, Doesn't Bite.

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GP on Joystiq: NY Video Game Legislation Has Missing Teeth

June 30, 2008 -

...the one in which GP explains why the video game bill passed in New York last week is all bark and no bite.

Catch it only on Joystiq...

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Game Retailers Trade Group Reacts to Passage of New York Video Game Bill

June 26, 2008 -

The Entertainment Merchants Association, the trade group which represents the interests of a large bloc of video game retailers, has issued a statement on Tuesday's passage of video game legislation by the New York State Senate:

The bill is unnecessary and seeks to solve a problem that does not exist. But we do not anticipate that video game software retailers will have a problem complying with its requirements. (It is important to note that NY law already requires DVD packages to display the rating of the movie.)

With passage in both the New York State Senate and Assembly, the measure now proceeds to Gov. David Paterson, who is likely to sign it into law.

7 comments

BREAKING - NY Senate Passes Video Game Bill 61-1

June 24, 2008 -

Moments ago the New York State Senate voted 61-1 to approve a bill proposed by Sen. Andrew Lanza, a Republican from Staten Island.

Sen. Lanza is seen arguing for passage in the photo at left. Sen. Thomas Duane (D) of New York City cast the lone dissenting vote.

The video game bill mirrors that passed yesterday by the State Assembly, a Lanza staffer told GamePolitics that the measure will now go to Gov. David Paterson for consideration. If Paterson signs the bill, it will become law in 2010.

Prior to that, however, the video game industry is likely to sue, arguing that the measure is unconstitutional.

UPDATE: We've got an mp3 of Sen. Lanza's final three minutes of argument in favor of the bill. Here's an excerpt:

If you look closely at this bill, [concerns expressed by Sen. Duane] are not valid. Let's start with speech. There's all kinds of speech. If we take an old-fashioned pinball machine and plunked it down here in the middle of the chamber, no one would call it speech. But when we put that up on a video screen, it does become speech and I acknowledge that. And it deserves protection under the Constitution... There is some confusion with respect to what this bill actually accomplishes... The word prohibition was talked about. I want to be clear. This bill does not prohibit the sale of any video to anyone...

 

This simply says that every video game sold in the state of New York simply should have a rating consistent with what the ESRB does presently in a voluntary way... it does work. But the problem with "voluntary" is that tomorrow someone can change their mind. Someone could decide tomorrow to no longer place ratings on these games. So this is not about prohibiting the sale, this is simply about providing information to parents...

 

Last year's version... that included a provision that would have made it an E-felony to sell these games, we all thought it was wrong. And we took that out. We worked with the [video game] industry. We worked with the Assembly and we do have an agreement here on a piece of legislation that I think will go a long way in allowing parents to make good decisions in regard to what is and what isn't appropriate for their chidlren...

 

127 comments

NY Video Game Bill Moving Towards Passage

June 24, 2008 -

The New York State Assembly unanimously passed a video game bill yesterday. A similar measure is now under consideration in the State Senate.

A11717 was proposed by Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (left), a Brooklyn Democrat. If signed into law it would require new console systems to be equipped with parental controls, would create a 16-member governmental advisory council and would mandate that ESRB ratings be displayed on game packaging.

The proposed advisory council would examine the potential impact of violent media, make recommendations regarding the ESRB rating system, and establish "a parent-teacher violence awareness program to identify and appropriately assist students who  may  have  a  propensity toward violence."

The Senate version is sponsored by Republican Andrew Lanza. Given that the New York legislative calendar wraps up at the close of business today, it's likely that the Senate will pass the bill. If not, it may be revived in a special session.

Should the Senate bill join the Assembly version in passage, the measure will then proceed to New York Gov. David Paterson (D). If the Guv signs the bill into law, it is scheduled to go into effect on September 1, 2010. Of course, if the Governor signs the bill, there is little doubt that the video game industry will file a federal lawsuit to block the law from taking effect on constitutional grounds.

GamePolitics readers may recall that New York seemed destined to adopt a video game law in 2007 but the measure was ultimately derailed by bitter political infighting between then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Senate Republicans.

The ESA, which represents the interests of US video game publishers, has urged New York-based members of its Video Game Voters Network to contact their elected officials in opposition to the bill.

52 comments

GP Readers Choose Spitzer as Gaming's Biggest Political Hypocrite

April 10, 2008 -

When it comes to video games and politicians, disgraced former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer is, by a wide margin, the biggest hypocrite.

Spitzer was the runaway choice of GamePolitics readers in a poll we ran this week, gathering nearly 46% of the vote.

To be fair, his selection should come as no surprise. After all, Spitzer complained about GTA's cartoon hookers (right) in campaign speeches and then get caught paying big bucks for the real thing (left) as governor.

Here are the numbers:

Spitzer: 45.7%

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger: 21.8%

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino: 18.7%

MP Keith Vaz: 9.3%

Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius: 4.6%

29 comments

Grand Theft Auto Critic Spitzer Resigns in Disgrace

March 12, 2008 -

Client 9 has become Disgraced ex-Governor 1.

Eliot Spitzer, the moral crusader who, as GamePolitics reported, was so offended by the interactive prostitution in Grand Theft Auto, has vacated his office following revelations by the New York Times that he was a regular patron of high-priced call girls.

Here's what Spitzer, a rising star in the Democratic party, had to say about GTA during his 2006 election campaign:
 

Media content has gotten more graphic, more violent and more sex-based… Currently, nothing under New York State law prohibits a fourteen-year old from walking into a video store and buying… a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ which rewards a player for stealing cars and beating people up. Children can even simulate having sex with a prostitute…


FBI wiretaps captured him singing a different tune to the managers of the Emporers Club VIP service. Spitzer haggled over payment details as he arranged for a petite brunette named Kristen to rendezvous with him at a Washington, D.C. hotel. Later, Kristen and the escort service manager were overhead discussing Spitzer's proclivities:
 

Manager: [Spitzer] would ask you to do things, that, like you might not think were safe. You know - I mean that - very basic things...

Kristen: I have a way of dealing with that. I'd be like, 'listen, dude, do you really want the sex?"


And, apparently, Spitzer did. We wonder whether he'll be picking up a copy of GTA IV now that he will have plenty of time on his hands...

UPDATE: The NY Times has identified Kristen as 22-year-old Ashley Alexandra Dupre (left), a struggling, would-be singer. You can check out her MySpace page. We're willing to bet that this will be a boost to her career. Expect to see her on Larry King within a few days.

The next revelation will likely be the release of the audio tapes of the Guv's, uh, dickering about the arrangements.

124 comments

BREAKING: Video Game Critic Spitzer Involved in Prostitution Ring

March 10, 2008 -

He may be opposed to violent video games like Hitman: Codename 47, but an FBI document alleges that New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) was known as Client 9 to an upscale, international prostitution ring.

Spitzer is seen at left with Silda, his wife of 21 years.

The New York Times is reporting a breaking story that Spitzer will make some type of announcement this afternoon about the case. (UPDATE: Spitzer briefly apologized, but didn't 'fess up to anything specific...)

Federal prosecutors apparently caught Spitzer on a wiretap arranging for a prostitute to travel from New York to Washington, D.C., where he was visiting on business. It is a federal offense to transport someone across state lines for the purpose of engaging in prostitution.

During his 2006 gubernatorial campaign, Spitzer pledged to regulate video game content and called for a universal rating system. Video game legislation approved by the New York Assembly during his first year in office seemed fast-tracked for passage, but eventually stalled due to a bitter political feud between Spitzer and Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R). The video game bill was expected to be revived in 2008, but that is certainly questionable now, as is Spitzer's future.

During the 2006 campaign Spitzer called out the video game industry for excessive violence and, ironically, sexual content in its products:
 

Like all parents, I know it is increasingly difficult to protect our children from negative influences... we have learned that when self-regulation fails, government must step in... we must do more to protect our children from excessive sex and violence in the media...


 

Media content has gotten more graphic, more violent and more sex-based... Currently, nothing under New York State law prohibits a fourteen-year old from walking into a video store and buying... a game like 'Grand Theft Auto,' which rewards a player for stealing cars and beating people up. Children can even simulate having sex with a prostitute...


GP: The hypocrisy meter is just about off the scale... Check out page 36 of this FBI document for some of the dirty details of Client 9's hotel encounter with a hooker named "Kristen."

UPDATE: Spitzer is a superdelegate for another frequent video game critic, Sen. Hillary Clinton.

RANDOM THOUGHT: Can a homemade Client 9 game be far behind?

 

Following GP Story, NY Officials Remove Hoax Info from Presentation

December 20, 2007 -

GamePolitics revealed yesterday that a New York Division of Criminal Justice Services (DJCS) presentation on video game issues listed a well-known hoax site as a parental resource.

That news has apparently caused a bit of a stir among political types in Albany.

The Staten Island Advance, citing the GP article, reports that state officials will remove the hoax site Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence (mavav.org) from a listing of parental resources which appears at the end of the 24-minute presentation:
 

One story on the hoax site, "Video Game Violence Makes Teens Aggressive," shows a phony brain scan, with the outline of a tiny machine gun superimposed on the image of a brain...


 

John M. Caher, a spokesman for DJCS, said officials are in the process of editing the video to yank the hoax Web site reference...

"We firmly stand by the core, overriding message of the presentation: Parents and guardians need to know the types of games that are available, and use their own good judgment to decide if something is right for their child," Caher said.


Gov. Spitzer's office referred media questions back to DCJS, which prepared the video. Prior to the GP story, however, Spitzer was squarely behind the presentation, saying:
 

I commend the staff of the DCJS...This presentation gives parents and educators the information they need to make smart decisions about the games their children play. 


A representative for State Senator Andrew Lanza, who heads a New York legislative task force on violent games, told the Advance that Lanza had no role in the preparation of the video.

GP: We note that some of our readers mentioned the GamePolitics story in comments to the original Staten Island Advance coverage. That surely helped get the attention of New York state bureaucrats and is an example of grassroots gamer action at its finest - well done!

36 comments

New York Guv's Game Scare Presentation Cites Hoax Site as "Resource"

December 19, 2007 -

In New York, efforts to legislate video game sales have bogged down in the wake of bitter political infighting between Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) and State Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno (R).

While the legislative effort remains stalled, the New York Department of Criminal Justice (!) has produced a 20-minute slide show which, in addition to offering some good advice to parents, dredges up a number of sensationalized stories, presents at least one outright fallacy, and cites a well-known Internet hoax site as a parental resource. 

As reported by the Staten Island Advance, Gov. Spitzer unveiled Video Games and Children: Virtual Playground vs. Danger Zone yesterday, accompanied by representatives from the state's Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS). Said Spitzer of the 20-minute presentation:
 

Protecting our children from violent video games that contain adult themes is a key priority for my administration. I commend the staff of the DCJS and Commissioner Denise O'Donnell for taking a leadership role in this effort by reaching out to parents and educators to engage them in this important dialogue. This presentation gives parents and educators the information they need to make smart decisions about the games their children play.


While the presentation offers some wothwhile - if standard - advice about ratings and other parental issues, it quickly devolves into sensationalism. V-Tech Rampage, for example, gets prominent mention early in the presentation. For those who may not recall that sorry episode, V-Tech Rampage was a crude, non-commercial game created and posted online by an apparently troubled young man from Australia who gained his 15 minutes of fame by exploiting the Virginia Tech massacre. What does it have to do with parents making video game choices for their children?

The presentation also includes clips from a well-known Australian TV video of a supposed teenage World of Warcraft addict. There is also an ominous mention of an unnamed 13-year-old Chinese lad who is said to have thrown himself from the roof of a building in an effort to join his video game heroes.

We were also troubled by the somewhat random selection of games presented as bad examples. For instance, the video makes much of Soldier of Fortune's realistic body damage model. SoF, however, was released seven years ago. Relevance, please?

The presentation also mentions that Virginia Tech killer Seung Hui Cho was reportedly a player of Counter-strike. However, the Virginia Tech Review Panel's report clearly states that no such evidence was found. The only game mentioned by the blue ribbon panel in relation to Cho is Sonic the Hedgehog.

First-person shooters are referred to as "killographic" games. Grand Theft Auto San Andreas is misstated as "Grand Theft San Andreas." How does one botch what is probably - thanks to Hot Coffee - the most infamous game title of all time?

And, as the presentation ends, a resource page lists Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence as one of several places where parents can go for additional information. 

Oops!

MAVAV is a well-documented hoax site, created, ironically, by a student from a New York City design school.

In the end, poor research makes Gov. Spitzer's well-intentioned video look amateurish and out of touch.

UPDATE: Albany's WNYT-13 has a report on the release of the New York video.

 
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ZippyDSMleesocial movement that is bringing most of these issue to the spot light to be nothing but trend mongering white knighting bullies who are not much better than the hateful moronic bullies on the other side.08/28/2014 - 5:20pm
ZippyDSMleereflects the world we live in while the rest is the worst stuff that should be focused on. Leaving whats reflected in the same boat as everything else that's exaggerated and skewed by media/fiction and happliy consumed by current society. I find the socia08/28/2014 - 5:20pm
ZippyDSMleemales live off the power fantasy but once you realize as a male you will never reach what fiction or media calls perfect it demoralizes you just the same. And I would not call female negative stereotypes rampant and out of control not when 70-80% of it re08/28/2014 - 5:19pm
ZippyDSMleeNot saying that there is not a difference in the treatment of males and females in media, but males are begin painted as near perfect superhumans with cliched flaws it dose as much damage to the psyche as how females are treated. Sure you could claim that08/28/2014 - 5:19pm
ZippyDSMleeNeeneko:As I said if you do not 100% belive it then you are a Neanderthal. Theres more gray to everything than black and white.08/28/2014 - 1:27pm
NeenekoMeh, the "PCism" is just trotted out when people do not know their place and dare to complain about things the speakers think are fine. How dare people complain about how they are treated/portrayed, it is not like it bother us, our feelings matter!08/28/2014 - 1:13pm
ZippyDSMleeNeeneko I do not think its against feminism but rather against PCisim’s and that most things are offensive since if you do not believe that you are a Neanderthal that beats women,ect..08/28/2014 - 12:48pm
Neenekocomplete with the standard 'she is a lying and attacking the game industry! threats are wrong but she did it to herself' comments.08/28/2014 - 11:28am
Neenekosad, but not surprising. the backlash against feminism has been growing the last few years.08/28/2014 - 11:25am
PHX Corphttp://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/08/27/feminist-video-game-critic-forced-to-leave-her-home-after-online-rape-and-death-threats/ Feminist video game critic forced to leave her home after online rape and death threats08/28/2014 - 9:43am
Uncharted NEShttp://kotaku.com/once-again-atlus-doesnt-want-you-to-spoil-the-new-pers-162782610808/28/2014 - 5:17am
Uncharted NESOnce Again, Atlus Doesn't Want You to Spoil the New Persona08/28/2014 - 5:16am
lomdrPretty much, Andrew. And hell, it helps that it is a bit reasonably priced too. $8 for 1, $12 for both at once08/28/2014 - 3:43am
Andrew EisenMP - Probably not and for good reason. That term holds a lot of deserved negative baggage.08/27/2014 - 10:02pm
Uncharted NESApprently there is still a classic mode, but...08/27/2014 - 9:34pm
MaskedPixelanteSo, there's been massive positive reception to the Mario Kart 8 DLC bundle. Somehow, I doubt it would have gotten as much positive buzz if they called it a "Season Pass".08/27/2014 - 9:34pm
Uncharted NEShttp://m.pcgamer.com/2014/08/27/quake-live-makes-newbie-friendly-changes-in-latest-update-people-get-mad/08/27/2014 - 9:19pm
Uncharted NESQuake Live makes newbie-friendly changes in latest update, people get mad.08/27/2014 - 9:19pm
Uncharted NESAnd here's another article about it.08/27/2014 - 9:19pm
Uncharted NEShttp://kotaku.com/id-software-lives-dangerously-decides-to-change-classi-162774804308/27/2014 - 9:16pm
 

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