Leeland Yee: Parents should be able to control what kids watch

December 20, 2010 -

An editorial penned by California State Senator and anti-game crusader Leeland Yee says that parents should be able to control what kids watch, but how parents come to that conclusion is the probably a sticky subject for many of our readers.

In the editorial Yee says that California has "been hard at work trying to protect children from the harmful effects of excessively violent video games. In the Legislature, we have attempted to give greater authority to parents in determining which video games are appropriate for their children."

He is of course speaking of the law they passed five years ago that was ultimately struck down by the courts shortly thereafter:

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Games That Tried to Tackle Political Themes in 2010

December 17, 2010 -

PopMatters highlights two things we love here at GamePolitics (gaming and politics, of course) in a year-end feature called Gaming and Politics in 2010." The feature details three games that tried to tackle serious political situations this year. Sadly - as the author points out in the lead-in- only one managed to pull it off.

The games highlighted in the feature include Medal of Honor, Fable 3, and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I do not want to spoil which game got it right, but below is an excerpt about Fable 3 to give you an idea of this feature's angle:

"As I’ve written before, the end of Fable 3 asked you how you want to spend your kingdom’s money and the choices boiled down to two options: social services or military defense.

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Entertainment Industry Trade Groups: Lawsuits Don't Protect Property

December 13, 2010 -

Trade groups including the Recording Industry Association of America, American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Motion Picture Association of America say that currently copyright law gives too many excuses to service providers to do nothing about copyright protection. The statement is part of a response to a Notice of Information on copyright policy issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce. A Notice of Information is a request for information from interested parties and anyone else that wants to make comments about a particular issue. That request garnered responses from nine trade groups.

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Net Neutrality and the Netflix Effect

December 10, 2010 -

While Net Neutrality is headed to the next FCC meeting on December 21 for a vote, commentators are talking about the negative and positive effects of new regulations. One such commentator is ZDNet's John Carroll, who sees services like Netflix as a big problem for both pro- and anti-net neutrality camps.

On the one hand, Carroll believes that regulation is important because it keeps service providers from controlling content it does not own and prioritizing content it has a vested interest in. This argument has been made against companies like Comcast, who wants to buy up NBC Universal. Net Neutrality advocates point out that there would be nothing stopping the new mega-company from prioritizing the content it owns - even if it does not actually slow down or block services out of its control.

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Acting, Kinect and Protected Speech

December 10, 2010 -

Is acting protected speech, and if so, is acting in a video game - especially in the age of motion sensing console devices - protected speech as well? This is the theory thrown out in a thought provoking post called "Is Playing a Video Game Conduct or Speech? Lessons from Microsoft Kinect" over at Law Law Land Blog.

Steven Smith kicks that idea around a bit, comparing the acting kids do in video games to the actions in a school play. The idea begins at GameStop, where Smith is buying a game for his daughter:

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RPS Editorial on Panorama Game Addiction Show

December 7, 2010 -

Rock, Paper, Shotgun's John Walker responds to the Panorama TV episode on game addiction (it aired on BBC 1 in the UK last night) with an editorial of his own. While acknowledging that he does not "possess the evidence that gaming does not cause addiction," Walker lays into the Panorama episode and its host for producing a slapdash expose on gaming addiction, leading viewers to conclusions without providing any real evidence.

For example, the show promised to provide details on the secret mechanics that keep gamers "coming back for more," but that secret gaming sauce was never revealed during the program. Likewise, while the host talked a lot about studies that claimed to make a connection between gaming and addiction, no proof was ever provided.

Here is a sample from Walker's editorial:

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Pretension +1: Don't Get Mad About Year-End Lists

December 3, 2010 -

It is that time of the year where everyone and their moms have a year-end list of the best and worst games. Some will accept these lists and "agree to disagree" on some picks, but some gamers will take to the comments of these articles and call the author(s) every name in the book. The latest Pretension +1 column from Gus Mastrapa over at Joystick Division asks angry gamers everywhere to just take a chill pill.

Here is a bit on why many gamers seem hell-bent on a fight after reading a year-end list:

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Reason TV on George Will Column

December 3, 2010 -

Reason TV takes a crack at conservative columnist George Will's recent editorial in the Washington Post about the the parallels between current the concerns about violent video games before the Supreme Court and the controversy over comic books in the 1950s. In the column Will also mentions past crusades against media that would turn our children into all manner of depraved deviants including ragtime music, 'penny dreadful' novels, jazz, 'penny theatres,' radio, movies, rock 'n' roll, rap, TV, and the Internet.

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LA Times Editorial: Fighting the Terminator on video games

December 1, 2010 -

An editorial in the Los Angeles Times penned by Gail Markels (attorney, former general counsel to the ESA, and a shaper of the industry's video-game rating system) and George Rose (executive vice president and chief public policy officer for Activision Blizzard) points out that the California video game law before the Supreme Court (penned by child psychologist, California State Senator, and possibly future San Francisco Mayorial candidate Leeland Yee; and signed into law in 2005 by soon-to-be former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger) is trying to accomplish a task that has already been completed.

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Opinion: Industry to Blame for Schwarzenegger v. EMA

November 29, 2010 -

In an opinion piece written by John Teti for Eurogamer, the former Crispy Gamer staff writer gives his opinion on Schwarzenegger v. Entertainment Merchants Association and why it is the industry's fault that games are not seen as the "art" that many developers claim that it is in the eyes of the political class.

"My biggest fear is that the EMA will lose this case. My second biggest fear is that they will win. "

In their celebration, they're liable to miss the real lesson: they brought this near-disaster on themselves. It's the studios' own craven, short-sighted management of their image that makes it possible for opportunistic politicians to bring the heat.

In an astute opinion piece last month, Rob Fahey argued that the stated intent of the law - to keep kids from buying games meant for adults - did not seem so onerous, even if the actual language of the California statute was "hasty" and "ill-considered."

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Why Video Games Are Stuck at The Thanksgiving Kids' Table

November 29, 2010 -

A column in the Iowa State Daily explains why politicians continue to think of video games as nothing more than kids' stuff, comparing the perception of the pasttime to a college student returning home for Thanksgiving:

"Thanksgiving break is over, and I am sure a few of you were met with the surprise, upon your arrival home, that you would be relegated to the children's table. Despite your learned knowledge as a college student, you were still deemed unfit to sit next to your elders and discuss body scanners, Obama's approval rating and corn prices — opting instead to challenge your cousin to a deviled-egg eating contest.

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Video Game Editorial vs. Editorial

November 15, 2010 -

In a response to a recent Tampa Tribune Editorial Board editorial backing California's efforts to ban the sale of violent video games to minors (called "Videos kids shouldn't play"), psychologist (and associate professor in the Department of Behavioral Sciences at Texas A&M International University) Christopher Ferguson pens a strong series of counter-points.

Among the litany of valid points made by Ferguson, is the emphasis on the fact that science just does not support what the state of California is trying to prove; a conclusive correlation between playing violent video games and violent behavior.

Instead of running down all of Ferguson's points, here are a few samples from the article:

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When Journalists Attack: Gizmodo

November 12, 2010 -

Everyone loves a good rant, but Gizmodo writer Joel Johnson delivers a particularly scathing rebuke to readers and commenters who are often a little self righteous and overly personal when disagreeing with an article. The colorful verbal lashing from Johnson might be considered beyond the pale by some, though. Here's a bit from a section entitled "You Don't Get To Call Us Unprofessional," where the writer questions the readers' intelligence:

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Young Voices Speak Out About Video Game Violence

November 9, 2010 -

The Charlotte Observer offers a regular feature called Young Voices, that polls the youth of the wonderful North Carolina city on the hot button issues of the day. The latest column asks teens age 14 - 18 if violent videogames should be sold or prohibited from people under the age of 18. The answers may surprise you. Some kids think that it's okay for kids to play mature-rated games, others think they should have to wait until they are 18, and some think it is up to the parents.

First here is the question that was asked of these young people:

Q. The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing arguments about whether selling violent video games to anyone under age 18 should be prohibited by law. What do you think? Should persons younger than 18 have the right to buy video games? Why or why not? Should restricted such access be left up to parents and not the law?

Now here are some of the answers:

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Your Anti-Game Op-ed of the Day

November 5, 2010 -

The author of an opinion piece appearing in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, a piece ostensibly related to the Schwarzenegger vs. EMA Supreme Court case, takes a hatchet to videogames.

Author Jack Markowitz offers, “grudgingly,” that “the Supreme Court will uphold the precious freedom to sell stupid, overpriced electronic games to children.”

Game Developer Argues for Free Speech in Post Editorial

November 1, 2010 -

Game developer Daniel Greenberg (pictured) has authored a Washington Post opinion piece in which he argues that the Supreme Court should rule that videogames are free speech when it eventually rules on Schwarzenegger vs. EMA.

As a game developer, Greenberg called himself “disheartened and a little perplexed” at seeing games compared to cigarettes and alcohol by California State Senator Leland Yee, and he wondered “how government bureaucrats are supposed to divine the artistic value that a video game has for a 17-year-old.”

In describing newer games such as BioShock, Fable 2 and Fallout 3, Greenberg wrote:

Duke Nukem Dev Says Game Legislators Are "Bullies"

October 23, 2010 -

Duke Nukem Forever is scheduled to launch next year and it’s bringing all the guns, violence, blood, baddies, babes, and boobs it can to make sure the decade-plus wait was worth it.

But what will the various ratings bodies such as the ESRB and PEGI think of Duke?  Will they slap him with a sales crippling rating?

Developer Gearbox Software’s big cheese Randy Pitchford revealed his thoughts to CVG:

15 comments | Read more

Race Politics and First-Person Shooters

October 19, 2010 -

An interesting opinion piece on The Atlantic Wire looks at race politics in video games, focusing on first-person shooters. Author Max Fisher talks about Resident Evil 5, Medal of Honor and Modern Warfare 2, inspired by an essay from Jim Gourley for ForeignPolicy.com.

The thrust of the opinion piece is about the painful transition from conflicts against zombies and fictionalized Nazis to real world conflicts involving real groups of people and how developers portray them. Here's a taste:

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Student Op-ed Labels MOH “Disrespectful”

October 7, 2010 -

A piece appearing on the website of The Heights, Boston College’s student newspaper, says it’s “too soon” for Electronic Arts to base a game in Afghanistan and calls the setting of Medal of Honor “disrespectful.”

The article’s author pulls no punches, labeling game developers “desperate and unoriginal” and “moving in all the wrong directions to please their audiences.”

The ability to play as the Taliban in MOH’s multiplayer component, a component since renamed, was termed, “neither educational nor acceptable and goes against every ounce of American patriotism pumping through the veins of our country's citizens.”

The columnist continues:

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Op-Ed: Opinions on Zynga Suck

September 10, 2010 -

In an opinion piece (which was originally published on GAMEbriefs), Nicholas Lovell takes the author of the recent SF Weekly expose on Zynga’s business practices (FarmVillains) to task for his tone. One passage in the article that really raised Lovell’s ire:

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The Pros and Cons of Jailbreaking

August 18, 2010 -

An interesting IGN Gear article lays out the pros and cons of jailbreaking your favorite mobile phone device, and points out that many of the things that were illegal to use before the Library of Congress ruling, remain just as unlawful. Last month the Library of Congress ruled that it was okay to jailbreak a mobile phone under "fair use." This ruling was a response to digital rights advocacy groups, who urged the Library of Congress to make a determination.

The whole point of this decision was to allow users to install legally obtained software on smartphones whose operating systems might otherwise prevent them from so doing (ahem - iPhone, Android, etc.). But a larger appeal might be with those that want to copy copyrighted materials - aps, music, moves, etc. - to phones. As the article points out, this is still very illegal.

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Games Seen as Culpable in Plumping of America

August 4, 2010 -

Do you live in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, Oklahoma, West Virginia or Mississippi? If you do, odds are you need to go on a diet and, according to one “expert,” cut back on playing videogames.

The population of the states listed above had obesity rates in excess of 30 percent, according to statistics released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An article on Florida’s TCPalm.com, where the obesity rate clocked in at 25.2 percent, discussed the fattening trend with Dr. Jefferson Vaughan, a surgeon based in Jupiter, Florida. Vaughan on the obesity epidemic:

There has been a generational change. When I was a kid, there were three TV channels and they all played Watergate tapes.

Today it's much more convenient to go through the drive-through while your kid plays his Game Boy in the back seat.

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UK Children’s Advocate: Turn off the Games & Movies in Cars

August 3, 2010 -

The UK’s first Communication Champion for kids thinks that long car rides are the perfect chance for children to “double their vocabulary,” but that the proliferation of in-car entertainment devices like games and DVD players, if enacted during a trip, eliminate any chance for growth.

Jean Gross issued the warning, stating that kids from affluent families, who were more likely to be able to outfit their cars with the electronic devices in question, were more at risk.

Gross stated:

I remember [when my children were little] we did spotting games in the car, but with the Nintendo DS and other hand-held video games it's going to be more affluent parents whose children have problems learning to speak, not just those from poorer homes who have less exposure to a wide range of language.

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A Litany of Reasons Why Games Aren’t Permissible Under Islam

July 26, 2010 -

Blogger Ebrahim Saifuddin used his medium to pen an interesting look into why he believes videogames are haram (forbidden) for Muslims.

In his article, posted late last year, the author uses passages from the Qur’an to guide his opinion on whether specific game components are haram or halal (permitted). Ebrahim begins with music in videogames, citing four spots in the Qur’an as indicating that music is haram. Among the passages cited was the following (though it seems a bit wide ranging):

There is a man among the people who buys discourses of distracting amusements, so that he may mislead (people) from the Way of Allah, and make a mockery of it. For such people there is a disgraceful punishment. [31:06]

Next up, the depiction of animate objects in games, such as humans and animals, which includes the author’s claim that, “Many a times the female characters in video games are highly inappropriately dressed.” The author concludes:

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Opinion: Videogames Could End Up Like Comics

July 23, 2010 -

In his latest Pretenstion +1 column, Gus Mastrapa warns videogame fans and creators that, if they are not vigilant, they could suffer the same fate as comic books. Using Comic-Con as the backdrop, Mastrapa points out that the show has become an amalgamation of TV, movies, anime and videogames, with comics mostly taking a backseat. As videogames have made many fans ignore comics, something could come along to do the same to videogames.

So how does Mastrapa suggest that gamers and game creators do to keep the fire alive? Here's an excerpt:

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Not Quite the Great Escape for Chinese Internet Addicts

June 8, 2010 -

Fourteen patients from the Huai’an Internet Addiction Treatment Centre in China decided they had enough and tied an instructor to a bed in order to make their escape from the facility.

The group, which ranged in age from 15 to 22, grabbed a taxi to a nearby town, but their similar garb, and lack of funds, raised the suspicion of their driver, who took them directly to a police station. All the escapees were then quickly returned to the treatment center, according to a story on the Telegraph.

One escapee’s mom broke down in tears at the police station, recounting a story in which her son played online games for 28 hours straight.

The facility makes its charges go to bed at 9:30 PM and requires them to partake in two hours of physical activity per day, as well as take mandatory courses in calligraphy and Chinese philosophy.

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Blame Games for Education's Growing Gender Gap

April 8, 2010 -

Could videogames be responsible for a widening education gap between U.S. men and women?

The author of a piece in the Wichita Eagle seems to think so. Citing a drop in the number of American males earning college degrees, the article claims that women are not forcing males out of the classroom; instead, “Women are taking empty seats as males fall by the wayside.”

While some groups have pinned the fall of man on recent education reforms or the “feminization of the classroom,” the piece’s author notes that, “Males are dropping out of academics in all developed countries,” and, “Whatever is depressing boys' school performance is cutting across cultural and political boundaries and widely disparate educational systems.”

The “whatever” mentioned above does not remain unnamed for long, as the author offers, “This decline in boys' scores coincides with the emergence of video games.”

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Maturity an “Alien Concept to Video Gamers”

February 4, 2010 -

A letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald argues that the lack of an R18+ rating category is not withholding anything other than “graphic gore” from Australian gamers.

The letter, written by Caleb Owens of Woollahra (thanks Kotaku) may invoke memories of the old videogames as art debate. The author writes, “There are no great works of video game art being held back [by a lack of an R18+ rating category].”

Owens continues, noting that when Australian gamers complain about edited games on Internet forums, they refer to the bloody body parts they might be missing, while when these same gamers complain about censorship to authorities, they tend to be less effusive, instead preferring  to couch their protests in a broad “right to enjoy content” context.

Owens finishes his letter with:

It takes a great work of art to advance a ratings scale. When the Lady Chatterley's Lover of video games arrives, all citizens will be rightly concerned if it is withheld. But that seems a long way off.

The full letter can be found about halfway down this page on the Sydney Morning Herald Website.

36 comments

Columnist: War Games Glorify Combat, Manipulate Youth

February 4, 2010 -

War-themed videogames are just one part of “the man’s” plan to promote the glory of war among today’s youth, helping to ensure that young minds are distracted so that the war machine may continue to keep filling the coiffeurs of big government.

This thought process is put forth in an editorial on the Orangeville Citizen website, in a column penned by Constance Scrafield- Danby, who hinges some of her argument on the current popularity of war games, such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (though the author refers to the older Call of Duty: World at War).

She writes:

Other really popular video games are about wars in space, wars in mediaeval times, killing dragons and monsters, killing aliens, killing scary animals, killing.

… the best, most loved, most played video games in the world are the ones about killing.

Scrafield- Danby argues that the U.S. economy cannot afford peace, and that “our leaders make a show of struggling among themselves with their own sticky determination not to change anything.” She expands her thoughts to additional areas were change is fought tooth and nail, concluding that changes biggest enemy is greed.

She asks:

But what if young people suddenly woke up to this? What if they suddenly realised what is actually happening to their world and to them? What if they suddenly started to care? What if they suddenly began to insist on change, on peace, on “going green” and finding other ways to make airplanes fly?

Scrafield- Danby then answers her own question:

The Old Dogs could never let that happen. So, what do they do? They see to it that even WWII is still relevant, that being part of that long nightmare is desirable. It is the most wide spread Machiavellian manipulation of youth in our history. This is not even the promotion of war as something noble, etc.

 

It is the promotion of war, using the full weight of technology, to present the horrors in glowing gore, from a totally unrealistic place of safety.

GP: Obviously this editorial is a little bit out there, but an aversion to "in the box" thinking made it difficult to ignore. While she might be close to the truth on some fronts, it’s probably not the case that videogame publishers are churning out war games at the behest of the government.

36 comments

Opinions on DRM

February 2, 2010 -

In light of Ubisoft’s recent unveiling of its new digital rights management (DRM) technology, Savy Gamer asked a variety of game industry people for their take on the current state of DRM.

The responses were varied, and shockingly, seemed to be formulated based upon what role the person in question has within the game industry.

TIGA CEO Richard Wilson on DRM and game packaging:

I think that it should be made absolutely clear on the packaging if games require constant internet connection. In time, this will probably be the case.

The PC games market will probably come to depend on this type of technology. Most consumers will probably not find this to be a problem but clearly they should be properly informed before purchasing a game.

Wilson when asked if publishers should make some concessions to consumers regarding the fact that DRM makes games difficult or impossible to resell:

No. It is not the responsibility of publishers to sustain a secondary market in games. In fact, some game developers believe that their businesses have been damaged by the secondary market in games.

Direct2Drive UK Product Marketing Manager Nihal de Silva noted that his service is “DRM agnostic” and was “happy to work with publishers/developers whose products carry DRM as well as those with DRM free products.”

de Silva was asked if he thought customers would be happy with Ubisoft’s new DRM initiative. He replied, “no comment.”

Developer Cliff Harris of Positech Games, which releases DRM-free games, was asked if he thought a lack of DRM contributed to piracy of Positech games:

I don’t think it has made much difference at all. Maybe a few of the more honest people now buy the game rather than pirate it, but this sort of thing is impossible to measure.

It seems any game, even if its $0.99 has a five hour demo and is DRM-free and done by a nobel-peace prize winning game design legend, will be cracked and distributed on day one by some self righteous teenager anyway.

StarForce’s Deputy Marketing Director Dmitry Guseff was asked how long it typically takes a cracker to bypass StarForce’s DRM technology:

If we take huge titles like “STALKER Clear Sky”, it took them 3 weeks to bypass which is very good result for AAA class game. For example “Mount and Blade” is still holding since the beginning of December.

So, basically AAA titles hold around a month, less important titles much longer. I have to add that if we hadn’t implemented some consumer friendly features those titles would have been held much longer.

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Is King right? Should all games adopt the free-to-play model?:

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MaskedPixelanteWell, I am officially done with Night Dive Studios. Unless they can bring something worthwhile back, I'm never buying another game from them.04/17/2014 - 2:29pm
PHX Corphttp://www.msnbc.com/ronan-farrow/watch/video-games-continue-to-break-the-mold-229561923638 Ronan Farrow Daily on Video games breaking the mold04/17/2014 - 2:13pm
NeenekoAh yes, because by building something nice they were just asking for people to come push them out. Consequences are protested all the time when other people are implementing them.04/17/2014 - 2:06pm
Matthew Wilsonok than they should not protest when the consequences of that choice occur.04/17/2014 - 1:06pm
NeenekoIf people want tall buildings, plenty of other cities with them. Part of freedom and markets is communities deciding what they do and do not want built in their collective space.04/17/2014 - 12:55pm
Sora-ChanI realize that they have ways getting around it, but one reason might be due to earthquakes.04/17/2014 - 4:42am
Matthew WilsonSF is a tech/ economic/ trade center it should be mostly tail building. this whole problem is because of the lack of tail buildings. How would having tail apartment buildings destroy SF? having tail buildings has not runed other cities around the US/world04/16/2014 - 10:51pm
Matthew WilsonAgain the issue is you can not build upwards anywhere in SF at the moment, and no you would not. You would bring prices to where they should have been before the market distortion. those prices are not economic or socially healthy.04/16/2014 - 10:46pm
ZippyDSMleeYou still wind up pushing people out of the non high rise aeras but tis least damage you can do all things considered.04/16/2014 - 10:26pm
ZippyDSMleeANd by mindlessly building upward you make it like every place else hurting property prices,ect,ect. You'll have to slowly segment the region into aeras where you will never build upward then alow some aeras to build upward.04/16/2014 - 10:25pm
Matthew WilsonSF have to build upwards they have natural growth limits. they can not grow outwards. ps growing outwards is terable just look at Orlando or Austin for that.04/16/2014 - 4:15pm
ZippyDSMleeIf they built upward then it would becoem like every other place making it worthless, if they don't build upward they will price people out making it worthless, what they need to do is a mix of things not just one exstreme or another.04/16/2014 - 4:00pm
Matthew Wilsonyou know the problem in SF was not the free market going wrong right? it was government distortion. by not allowing tall buildings to be build they limited supply. that is not free market.04/16/2014 - 3:48pm
ZippyDSMleeOh gaaa the free market is a lie as its currently leading them to no one living there becuse they can not afford it makign it worthless.04/16/2014 - 3:24pm
Matthew WilsonIf you have not read http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/04/introducing-steam-gauge-ars-reveals-steams-most-popular-games/ you should. It is a bit stats heavy, but worth the read.04/16/2014 - 2:04pm
Matthew Wilsonthe issue is when is doesn't work it can screw over millions in new york city's case. more often than not it is better to let the free market run its course without market distortion.04/16/2014 - 9:36am
NeenekoTrue, and overdone stagnation is a problem. It is a tricky balance. It does not help that when it does work, no one notices. Most people here have benifited from rent controls and not even realized it.04/16/2014 - 9:23am
ZippyDSMleehttp://www.afterdawn.com/news/article.cfm/2014/04/15/riaa_files_civil_suit_against_megaupload04/16/2014 - 8:48am
ZippyDSMleeEither way you get stagnation as people can not afford the prices they set.04/16/2014 - 8:47am
Neenekowell, specifically it helps people already living there and hurts people who want to live there instead. As for 'way more hurt', majorities generally need less legal protection. yes it hurt more people then it helped, it was written for a minority04/16/2014 - 8:30am
 

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