Parents in New Zealand and Australia are embracing the idea that video games can serve as great tools to engage and educate children, according to new research commissioned by the Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (iGEA).
A New Zealand Court has lightened some of the restrictions on Megaupload founders Kim Dotcom, Mathias Ortmann, Bram van der Kolk and Finn Batato. Noting the four had "behaved commendably" since their release from jail, North Shore District Court Judge David Harvey granted Dotcom access to the Internet, limited access to a swimming pool near his home (that he owns) and two trips each week to Roundhead Studios in Auckland to finish an album. Yes, Dotcom is making a music album. Dotcom was released from jail in March, but had a number of heavy restrictions put on him.
Dulles, Virginia-based hosting firm Carpathia Hosting is tired of storing 25 petabytes of Megaupload data on more than 1,000 servers in North America because of the government's shutdown of the file-sharing site in January, and is asking a federal court to relieve them of their obligations and any liability.
According to New Zealand's High Court, Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom may get all of the assets that police seized when they took him into custody in January (thanks to Bear-Dogg-X for the tip). On Friday, High Court Justice Judith Potter declared that the order used to seize Dotcom’s property was "null and void" after finding out that police filed for the wrong kind of court order - an order the High Court says should never been granted in the first place.
It's official: the U.S. government wants to extradite four members of Megaupload to the United States for a litany of charges including racketeering, copyright infringement and money laundering. On Friday U.S. prosecutors filed extradition requests against four New Zealand-based defendants - including founder Kim Dotcom.
MegaUpload founder Kim Dotcom has been given bail by a New Zealand court, with some restrictions of course. Dotcom was awarded bail after a judge determined that he wasn't a flight risk.
"I am relieved to go home to see my family, my three little kids and my pregnant wife,” Dotcom told reporters outside court. "And I hope you understand that that is all I want to say right now."
The New Zealand video game development industry grew by 46 percent, offering 359 equivalent full-time jobs in the 12 months to September 2011, according to the New Zealand Game Developers Association (NZGDA). The NZGDA surveyed 21 NZ game studios in September. Of those surveyed, the vast majority of these New Zealand studios were owned by people or companies that are from the region too, according to NZGDA chairman Stephen Knightly.
New research looking into the gaming habits of New Zealanders found that nine out of ten households in the country own a game playing device of some sort and nearly four in five parents with children ages 18 and under play games. In households that use video games, 38 percent said they used a mobile phone and 9 percent said they used a tablet device to play games. Around 51 percent of gaming households said that they owned a traditional game console.
The Nintendo 3DS game Dead or Alive: Dimensions has had its rating changed in New Zealand from a "PG" rating to "M" by New Zealand's chief censor Andrew Jack. Jack decided to re-classify the game last month after the Waikato Times newspaper alerted his office to its content. He subsequently issued an order that copies must carry an "M" label and a note indicating it contains violence and nudity.
Jack said the game had not passed through his office because the law does not require films and games already classified in the UK or Australia with an equivalent rating of G, PG or M to be reclassified in New Zealand.
The game was temporarily banned in Australia before receiving a higher rating.
An M rating in New Zealand does not restrict sales to minors because it is an "only an advisory," according to Stuff.
According to TorrentFreak, New Zealand’s government is in a huge rush to push through legislation that will target citizens who share copyrighted material online without rightsholder permission over the internet. The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill, which unanimously passed its first reading in Parliament in April 2010, will put in place a 3 strikes-style rule, where Internet service providers will be required to send warning letters to alleged infringers at the request of rights holders.
According to Gameplanet.co.nz Mortal Kombat will be available in New Zealand. Australians are no doubt envious of the fact that NZ has a ratings system that goes beyond the 15+ age limit. The reboot of the Mortal Kombat series received a rating of R18: Graphic Violence in New Zealand, ensuring that the game will be released in the region in April.
Mortal Kombat will be available on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on the April 21. The game releases here in the United States on April 19, 2011.
So far, Australia is the only country to refuse classification of the game (to my knowledge). We do not know why other than the tired mantra of "protect the children" being at play on some level. If you want to protect children MP's of Australia, give the games rating system the proper adult classification it needs: R18+, please.
A recent tip to Boing Boing from Michael Geist reveals some new leaks related from the New Zealand government about their skepticism of international copyright laws being pushed by a certain country. Specifically, the leaked documents reveal the NZ government’s doubts about the U.S.'s push to change the level of protection the country affords "technical protection measures" (TPMs, DRM, or digital locks).
The U.S. wants NZ to make jailbreaking illegal. Interestingly enough, while the U.S. pushes for new jailbreaking rules in other countries around the world, at home the U.S. copyright office recently suspended the restriction on jailbreaking iPhones for three years..
New Zealand’s “Hobbit Bill,” legislation designed to keep production of two Warner Bros. films based on The Hobbit in the country, also has language pertaining to videogame makers.
Amendments to the Employment Relations Act 2000 states that workers involved with film production work “will be independent contractors rather than employees, unless they choose to be employees by entering into an agreement that provides that they are employees.”
The legislation came about, according to the New York Times, in response to a small actors’ union, the New Zealand Actors Equity, demanding that “producers bargain collectively with actors on the films.”
TechDirt points us towards a New Zealand man that was issued a cease-and-desist letter from Square Enix for his work on an open source version of the old game Carmageddon.
1am Studios Jeff posted about the c&d order on his blog, stating that Square Enix claimed to hold the copyright to his project’s “underlying code, text, audio and visual aspects of the game [Carmageddon]…”
Jeff wrote, "Obviously this is all a bit silly given we're talking about a game thats 13 years old and you can't buy anymore, but still, its a cease-and-desist letter."
A Kiwi psychologist who specializes in new media has been backed with a $405,000 grant from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s Mardsen Fund to “assess the experience of play.”
Dr. Gareth Schott is a Senior Lecturer at Waikato University’s school of Screen and Media Studies. The funding covers three-years of research, which Schott will kick off next year. His research could impact the way games are rated in New Zealand, as his grant was awarded under a “videogame classification” header.
According to the Waikato Times, the research will involve 60 gamers, 20 for each of the three years, who will don biofeedback gear while playing several newly released action-adventure games. Their brain activity will be monitored and they will be videotaped in order to record non-verbal reactions as well. Subjects will also undergo interviews and have to keep a diary.
Expect sales of Electronic Arts’ Medal of Honor to do a little better in New Zealand after that country’s Defense Minister Wayne Mapp (pictured) joined his UK counterpart in condemning the title.
Mapp, who is also New Zealand’s Minister of Research, Science and Technology, spoke out against the game because, presumably, of its multiplayer component, where gamers will have the ability to fight as Taliban forces.
In comments carried by GamePlanet, Mapp stated that, “Terrorist acts have caused the deaths of several New Zealanders.” He continued, “This game undermines the values of our nation, and the dedicated service of our men and women in uniform.”
The Interactive Software Association of New Zealand (ISANZ) has merged with Australia’s Interactive Games & Entertainment Association (iGEA).
ISANZ will adopt iGEA’s name, resulting in a single trade organization that now totals 22 companies, including the seven new additions from New Zealand. Citing research from GfK Retail and Technology, iGEA claimed that the 2009 videogame market cracked $2 billion in Australia and reached a record $170 million—an increase of 12 percent—in New Zealand.
iGEA Chairman Edward Fong stated, “There is great opportunity to collaborate and share our knowledge, insights and resources with our New Zealand team and we are very excited to have them on board.”
Former ISANZ president Mark Goodacre, now a Director for iGEA, added, “This strategic partnership will help ensure we remain relevant to our members on a local and international level.”
A promotion for the release of Splinter Cell: Conviction in New Zealand, complete with an armed “Sam Fisher,” went awry, causing members of the public to dive for cover after someone screamed “He’s got a gun!”
According to the New Zealand Herald, a man dressed as Fisher, with bandages wrapped around his hands and a fake gun, pointed his weapon at bar goers in Auckland’s Viaduct Basin. Someone thought the weapon was real and yelled a warning, causing the people in the bar to take cover. Police were called, and even though they thought the gun was real, they managed to diffuse the situation without hurting anyone.
Regional distributor Monaco Corporation had hired an unnamed marketing agency to setup the stunt and claimed to know nothing about a gun being involved.
Monaco Marketing Manager Duane Mutu apologized for the stunt, saying, “This was by no means an attempt to get cops down there and get this sort of exposure. It was just marketing gone wrong."
While Internet filtering went live for some New Zealand web surfers in February, the enactment was only recently announced to the general public.
The filtering technology is currently in use by two New Zealand ISPs, Maxnet and Watchdog reports ComputerWorld. Tech Liberty, a New Zealand-based digital rights group expects that the ISPs Telstra Clear, Telecom and Vodafone will also add the filter in the future, while Orcon, Slingshot and Natcom have expressed no desire to add the Internet sieve.
A New Zealand anti-piracy measure that includes a “three-strikes” plan of attack against copyright infringers was introduced to Parliament yesterday.
The Copyright (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Bill (PDF), detailed earlier here, proposes an amendment to the Copyright Act of 1994 by repealing section 92A, which would have allowed the termination of infringer’s ISP accounts with no court action.
The new legislation would require ISP’s to provide three warnings to infringers before copyright holders are able to bring the matter before a Copyright Tribunal, which would have the power fine an infringer up to $15,000. Copyright owners will also have the ability to request that a District Court terminate an infringer’s ISP account for up to six months.
The bill’s main backer, Commerce Minister Simon Power, said that the legislation “… puts in place a fair and balanced process to deal with online copyright infringements occurring via file sharing.” He added, “It's important that account holders are given a reasonable time to stop infringing before enforcement takes place.”
In a Q&A it was stated that, before suspension, “The Bill requires a court to consider factors like the account holder's reliance on access to the Internet.”
Power hopes that the bill can be passed into law sometime this year.
Jordan Carter of the non-profit group InternetNZ backed the measure, but expressed concern to PC World over the possible suspension of ISP accounts:
The only major flaw remaining in the legislation is its provision for the suspension of people’s internet accounts. Internet users would simply start a new account at another ISP. While suspension would require an order of the District Court, it is still unworkable and unnecessary. InternetNZ will argue strongly that suspension be deleted by the Select Committee.
New Zealand will introduce new legislation to Parliament in 2010 seeking to address the illegal downloading and sharing of copyrighted material over the Internet.
Commerce Minister Simon Power indicated that his government favored a three-strike process for infringers, which is outlined in a Cabinet paper (PDF). The new proposal adds in full court hearings and possible fines, replacing a previously proposed measure, which drew criticism, that would have allowed suspected infringers to have their Internet connections terminated without any court oversight.
The new and reworked plan, which usurps the earlier proposed legislation, consists of first allowing rights holders to request that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) give alleged infringers notice to stop their illegal activity. A first notice would warn of infringement and could be followed by up to two more notices.
Following the third notice, the right holder could seek penalties of up to $15,000 at a Copyright Tribunal. If “serious and continued” infringement is continued, rights holders could request a court hearing that might include a six-month Internet account suspension. Those accused can issue counter notices and can also request a hearing.
Powers said that he was, “confident we now have a workable solution.” He added, “A great deal of work has gone into finding a fair, effective, and credible process for the enforcement of copyright against illegal peer-to-peer file-sharers.”
As part of the proposed plan, ISPs will be required to identify an IP address and match it to an account holder, retain subscriber Internet use data for 20 working days and retain data on infringements for a minimum of 12 months.
Openly gay New Zealand Chief Censor Bill Hastings is the recipient of personal attacks from a radio host for allowing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 into the country.
Radio Live host Michael Laws (pictured left), who is also Mayor of Wanganui, bashed Hastings on a recent radio show reports GayNZ.com. Laws made sure to mention the censor’s sexual preference, stating, “I know the gay guy we've got at the moment who is the Chief Censor Bill Hastings is a liberal sort of guy.”
He continued, “I don't care if he lets gay sex through because, well, that's what he enjoys watching in a darkened room somewhere and thinks everybody else of his ilk should be able to do so as well.”
Just last month, Laws made headlines for proposing that New Zealand’s poor be offered money in return for undergoing sterilization.
Hastings has been New Zealand’s Chief Censor since 1999.
Update: Laws' entire show is available online (thanks Andrew). Even worse than his attacks on Hastings, comes this bit on gamers:
…it’s a graphic and violent came called Call of Duty: Modern Wafare 2 and it was released in stores on Tuesday, a couple of days ago, and it’s proved extraordinarily popular with gamers, a very unusual group of people, and just the kind of people, if mass murder was ever to be committed in this country, it would be committed by a gamer.
One in 12 gamers shows signs of addiction, according to a study being presented this week at the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists Congress.
Prof. Vladan Starcevic (left) of the University of Sydney told New Zealand's NZTV that his team reached that conclusion after conducting an online survey of nearly 2,000 worldwide respondents:
Their whole lives revolve around this activity and there certainly seems to be a problem there - there is an addiction. And it seems to us that these people seem to... have other mental health issues, and it seems excessive video game playing is a manifestation of these underlying problems.
Problem gamers identified by the researchers were more prone to being socially isolated, at increased risk of depression and more likely to engage in compulsive behavior. Most seemed to play four or more hours per day and preferred MMOs like World of Warcraft. On the other hand, Starcevic noted that 92% of gamers displayed no problems with their gaming:
Most people who play video games are not problem video game players, to put it in simple terms, they're not addicted to video games. It is a minority of people who seem to have a problem.
As GameCulture notes, the 8% figure arrived at by Starcevic is remarkably close to the 8.5% game addiction rate Iowa State Prof. Douglas Gentile reported in a study released jointly with the National Institute on Media and the Family last month. As GamePolitics has reported, Gentile's research was criticized by ABC News Polling Director Gary Langer and Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson, author of Grand Theft Childhood.
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?
In July GamePolitics reported that the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards, a watchdog group based in New Zealand had petitioned the government to reconsider its R18 rating for Grand Theft Auto IV. The SPCS hoped to see the controversial game banned, instead.
Kiwi game site Button Masher is now reporting that the group's effort has failed and that GTA IV will remain available to gamers in New Zealand:
In a victory for personal freedom (and common sense), the Film and Literature Board of Review has reconfirmed the earlier decision of the Office of Film and Literature Classification to grant the "uncut" version of GTA IV an R18 classification in New Zealand (contains violence, offensive language, and sex scenes). The Society for the Promotion of Community Standards had earlier this year applied for a review of the classification.
Nearly 90 days post-launch, Grand Theft Auto IV is still raising the ire of watchdog groups.
The New Zealand Herald reports that the Society for the Promotion of Community Standards has been granted permission to appeal GTA IV's R18 rating. The group notes on its website that the appeal will be made to New Zealand's Office of Film & Literature Classification.
The SPCS quotes from a decision issued yesterday by Brendan Boyle (left), New Zealand's Secretary of Internal Affairs:
I found no evidence in the [SPCS] application to suggest that it was vexatious... I then considered whether the application for leave was frivolous (trivial, needless or unfounded, or so untenable that it could not succeed) under the Guidelines... I found that the application for leave from the SPCS appeared to be tenable in that it could possibly succeed. The application was therefore not frivolous. It is also my view that the SPCS has established an arguable prima facie case for the application to be considered by the Board.
Since R18 is New Zealand's most stringent rating, a successful appeal by the SPCS would result in a national ban of the exceedingly popular game.
GP: Thanks to GamePolitics reader Solufien for the tip!