The Westboro Baptist Church pretends that it supports morality, but it's hard to take anything away from what the group does other than to draw the conclusion that they are in it for publicity and controversy. If you need an example of this, then I refer you a recent tweet by top church member Margie J Phelps. This morning she tweeted via her iPhone that the church planned to protest Apple founder Steve Jobs' funeral:
If you are a member of Sony's PlayStation Network, chances are you were greeted with an email from the company this morning telling you that that the terms of service for the network are about to change. The big change, in case you haven't received that email yet, relates to your ability to sue them. From section 15 comes this wonderful new clause:
Australian Content Industry Group spokeswoman Sabiene Heindl pens an editorial in The Australian praising the recent deal between Internet Service providers and content creators in the United States (you know the deal that has basically turned ISP's into Internet traffic cops). Heindl starts out by calling the deal "good news for anyone who has released an album, made a movie, developed a video game or software, or written a book anywhere in the world."
According to a survey conducted by video game price comparison site Playr2.com, gamers age 18 - 40 may end up dedicating almost two years of their lives playing video games. The company conducted a survey of 1,452 of its members, asking a variety of questions about their gaming habits. The survey found that the average gamer will spend about 1.8 years of their life playing games on various platforms.
The average starting age of gamers was around 9.1 years. Most said they spend an average of 9.2 hours a week playing games. Most surveyed said they planned on giving up gaming when they turned 45 years old.
A bill that proposes a felony charge to anyone that "illegally streams copyrighted content online" has been approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee today and will head to the full Senate for a vote. The bill, S. 978 (or "Commercial Felony Streaming Act"), brings the penalties for illegal streaming in line with the penalties for illegal downloading. What used to be a misdemeanor will now become a serious crime if the law gets passed. In other words, illegal streaming could get you a five year sentence in jail. Websites that offer illegally streams of copyrighted content 10 or more times during an 180-day period can be prosecuted if the bill becomes law, although it is unclear how the bill deals with individual streamers.
How do you give money to politicians without actually giving them a big fat check directly? Write a check to a charity they are closely associated with. That is just what AT&T has been doing, and it is getting the attention of the public and media outlets.
AT&T has given a substantial amount of money to charities connected to several lawmakers including Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-West Virginia), who just happens to be the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which has direct jurisdiction over the Federal Communications Commission. A charity associated with Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Mississippi), who just happens to be on the Senate Appropriations Committee. AT&T also gave a generous contribution to a charity associated with Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), the No. 3 House Democrat. His daughter, Mignon Clyburn also happens to be a member of the Federal Communications Commission.
A British tabloid report of record returns on 3DS units to retailers are apparently grossly overblown, according to Nintendo. British tabloid The Sun reported that the 3DS "left thousands with dizziness and headaches", leading to a record number of returns. But all parties involved - from retailers to Nintendo, say that the report is erroneous.
For example, retailer GAME told Eurogamer that they have had five consumers complain about the 3DS:
"We've had less than five people complain that they feel sick and want to return [the 3DS]," a GAME rep. told the publication.
Retail chain HMV thinks that The Sun may have become confused over figures for trade-ins for games and hardware, which retailers used to reduce the cost of the new 3DS. The retailer added that they are not "refunding fully" the price of the 3DS as The sun has claimed.
Nintendo also denied the claims:
An episode of The People's Court litigates a case involving Wii copyright infringement, piracy, and mod chips. But the case isn't really about all that - it's about a guy that wants a couple of hundred bucks over a modding deal gone sour. The judge, the plaintiff and the defendant never grasp the fact that something very illegal is going on here. Luckily for Nintendo, everyone's name is splashed on the screen for more dramatic litigation down the road - should they find out. We have a feeling they probably will..
And frankly, these two guys get what they deserve for going on a nationally syndicated show to fight each other over both committing multiple DMCA violations. Watch the video, be amazed at the stupidity. Thanks to Andrew Eisen's nameless friend who passed this hilarious video along.
This Valentine’s Day, a girl gave me something I honestly wasn’t expecting. Granted, she also gave it to everyone else in her address book but hey, I’m not jealous.
Yes, yesterday, Carole Lieberman finally provided the blogosphere with “examples of research linking video games to real life violence (including rape).” Do the various studies, papers, and opinion pieces she provided actually back up her claims? I’ll leave that to you.
-American Psychological Association’s Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media
-How Fantasy Becomes Reality (Karen Dill)
-Attorney General's Commission on Pornography (1986)
World of Warcraft gold sellers using PayPal as their preferred method of payment are getting a surprise from the wholly-owned eBay subsidiary: a threatening letter.
Last week Blizzard sent out complaints to PayPal, accusing gold and virtual property resellers of " intellectual property." This week PayPal jumped on a number of companies, issuing the following letter:
"You were reported to PayPal as an Intellectual Properties violation by Blizzard Entertainment Inc. for the sale of World of Warcraft Merchandise.
If you feel your sales do not infringe upon the intellectual property rights of the Reporting Party, please complete the attached Objection to Infringement Report by January 21, 2011."
Companies can certainly appeal the ruling (to what end we do not know), but to be compliant they have to cease their activities and remove all incidents of "intellectual property violations. "
According to Boing Boing, 115 leaked diplomatic cables from the latest Wikileaks document dump were related to the upcoming intellectual property law in Spain.
El Pais, a Spanish newspaper that has all of the 115 documents from the US Embassy in Madrid, has released 35 of them. The first batch of documents confirms what has been widely believed to be true: that the U.S. trade representative (working in conjunction with U.S. trade groups) wrote the country's upcoming copyright/Internet law.
Spain's new copyright law is being put to a vote this month. Boing Boing has some text in Spanish released from El Pais. Admittedly, trying to translate it via various online services (I’m looking at you Google), doesn't do the text justice.
A unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has published a pair of North Korean-developed mobile games, causing some pundits to wonder about the legality of such dealings.
As detailed by Bloomberg, North Korea’s General Federation of Science and Technology developed the games: a 2007 bowling game named Big Lebowski Bowling and another based on the Men in Black movies. Both games were sourced through the Nosotek Joint Venture Company, which is billed as the “first western IT venture” in North Korea, and offers to provide invoices through “a Hong Kong or Chinese company.”
It’s the game that has enraged populaces around the world and now Italy has apparently noticed that Rapelay can indeed be found on the Internet.
Italian newspaper Il Corriere (translation here) has a story up which features an assemblage of important types screaming about the game being just a series of tubes away from common citizens.
Giorgia Meloni, Minister of Youth, said that he would speak to Postal and Communications Police to get the game removed from the Net, while the Mayor of Rome himself, Gianni Alemanno, called for the game to be banned.
Gabriella Moscatelli, President of Telefono Rosa, a group that fights violence against women, also came out against the availability of Rapelay, saying that it was an “incitement to commit a crime.”
Also joining in the condemnation of Rapelay were Barbara Saltamartini from the People of Freedom (PDL) party and Dorina Bianchi of the Union of Christian and Centre Democrats (UDC), who said something along the lines of “while spending commitment and energy to propose and promote policies to support women, we discover that the creators of a video game put the same amount of commitment to train a generation of rapists. I drop my arms.
GP: Just to clarify, the premise for the game is sick, there’s no doubt about that. The furor that continually crops over it each time a country “discovers” it however is bizarre, as are the subsequent attempts to scrub it from the Internet. Rapelay is definitely a uniter, in that it has virtually zero backers (other than Penn Jillette perhaps), making it the ultimate safe target for attack."
Thanks to reader ItaliAnon for the link and translation assistance!
Jo Frost, best known stateside as the principal in the show Supernanny, has a new show airing in the UK and in its debut episode she attempted to tackle the issue of violent videogames.
The Guardian has a run down of the program (Jo Frost: Extreme Parental Guidance), in which Frost, with the assistance of Iowa State University’s Dr. Douglas Gentile, conducted an experiment on 40 boys.
In one experiment, the boys were split in half, with 20 playing a football game for 20 minutes while the other 20 played a first-person shooter for the same amount of time. Following their game play session, all 40 boys watched violent news footage and had their heart rate monitored. Boys who played the FPS were found to have slower heart rates while watching the violent on-screen reports versus those who played the sports game, leading to a voice over that declared, “Shockingly, just twenty minutes of violent gameplay was enough to densensitise the boys.”
Author Keith Stuart took the methodology to task, writing, “I'm no neuroscientist, but with the biological stress response recently engaged, surely it's no surprise that in the few minutes after violent gameplay, test subjects react differently to violent stimuli?”
So really, what does this all say about the long-term effects of exposure to violent videogames? I would suggest very, very little.
An additional experiment, in which Gentile knocked over a can of pencils in front of each boy individually, was supposed to measure empathy. Reportedly only 40.0 percent of the boys who played the FPS helped to pick up the pencils, versus 80.0 percent of those who played the football game.
The combination of the two tests, and the resulting conclusions, were a bit too much for Stuart to take:
Cognitive neuroscience is a complex field - it is perhaps not something to be prodded and poked at during a piece of realty TV voyeurism masquerading as documentary material.
…if just 20 minutes of exposure is enough to turn normal boys into desensitized monsters, our streets should be filled with violence. They're not.
In deference to games from the same genre as RapeLay, a title so controversial even the United Nations urged it be banned, a new Japanese erotic game sends up Japanese restrictions on games that contain content simulating forced sex.
Shinobiryuu, a Softhouse developed PC game of the eroge variety, revolves around several Japanese warrior clans that end up having consensual sex with members of the opposite sex, as described by the website Canned Dogs. The consensual part of the description is key, especially in light of a ban of games featuring rape by Japan’s Ethics Organization of Computer Software (EOCS).
Before even beginning Shinobiryuu, users are presented with the following declaration:
This is a declaration made with the consensus of all the characters that appear in this story.
All the characters appearing in this game have gone through special training and all actions carried out are done on the basis of mutual agreement.
Even if you’re a inhuman person who believes that fictional characters in creative works do not have human rights, please do not ignore this.
We also thank all the kind people who see a character in the story saying phrases such as “help me” and take it as a real call for help.
However, even though you are worrying for the characters in the story, these are all lines spoken from a script.
They are not saying all this from the bottom of their hearts. We are sorry that they have put in so much effort into their acting that some people will confuse it as something that is really happening.
This game is a fictional story.
Playing Wii Sports in a suspected drug house following a raid is probably not the best way for police officers to ingratiate themselves with their superiors, especially if the house, as part of the investigation, was previously wired with a video camera.
The Associated Press reports that police in a Polk County, Florida were caught doing exactly that however, with one participant “furiously jumping up and down in celebration” while playing Wii Bowling. Another detective was also witnessed taking “several breaks” from cataloging evidence in order to bowl a few frames.
Some of the officers “could be disciplined.”
Is this better or worse than playing Solitaire while in session?
We’ve heard video games blamed for a lot of crazy things over the years but the “death of our planet”?
Well, that’s a new one.
Yoshiyuki Tomino (left), creator of the long-running Mobile Suit Gundam series, delivered the keynote at Japan’s CEDEC 2009 game developers’ conference and offered a rather strong negative opinion on the subject of video games and how they affect our lives.
I think that video games are evil. [Gaming] is not a type of activity that provides any support to our daily lives, and all these consoles are just consuming electricity! Let's say we have about three billion people on this planet wasting their time, bringing no productivity at all. Add 10 billion more people, and what would happen to our planet? Video games are assisting the death of our planet!
Those are some pretty surprising comments coming from a man whose franchise has spawned more than 100 video games over the last couple decades. Tomino, who thinks nothing’s bested Tetris since it came out over 20 years ago, offered the attending developers advice on how to proceed from here on out.
You have to find the median -- that games are not evil, perhaps not necessarily good either, but something that can be considered a pastime…
This is what I want to tell you: I want you to create a game that does not negatively affect our daily lives and is something that is considered more productive.
AE: I can’t help but imagine a slack-jawed look of disbelief from the game developers in attendance.
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Senior Correspondent Andrew Eisen…
There, a UK man writing under the name "mayhem" describes sending his 8-year-old daughter out on a secret shopper mission to see whether she could purchase video game magazines containing such ads:
My 8 year old daughter walked in... On the lower shelf she picked out several magazines including Play (a Sony PlayStation 3 Magazine) and 360 (a Microsoft Xbox 360 magazine) both of which are published by Imagine Publishing. Neither of these titles had an 18 or 15 certificate on them. She also picked up several Future Publishing magazines and Dennis Publishing magazines.
She then proceeded to the check out were a young girl of about 19 years old had a quick look at the magazines and then scanned them in. My daughter then handed over the money and then walked out after saying thank you, and handed the magazines to me.
After a quick look through all the magazine I found that only Imagine Publishing had any sort of pornography contained within them...
So over all its been a interesting day finding out that such a major publisher (Imagine Publishing) has no morals when it comes to making money, even if it means serving up pornographic content to children that may read their magazines...
Should video gamers be allowed to bet real money on their gaming skills (or lack thereof)?
BringIt says that the service it provides is not a form of gambling because its outcomes are based on skill, not chance. From the AP report:
It's free to sign up, provided you are at least 18. The site makes money by taking a 10 percent cut from people's wagers and a $4 fee from winners when they withdraw their loot.
Founder and CEO Woody Levin, 30, said most of the players on BringIt play for small amounts of money, $5 or $10...
BringIt supports the PlayStation 2, the PS3, the Xbox 360 and the Wii. Players challenge each other on the site, but play on their consoles. BringIt holds players' entry fees until the game is finished. After the game is done, it verifies the results and credits the winner, minus the service fee.
Arizona is one of 11 states in which BringIt is illegal, but the Phoenix New Times suggests - with tongue in cheek - that it could be a potential source of tax revenue:
Who knows? Maybe Levin and BringIt will someday steer as much money toward Arizona politicians as the racing industry does, and then Arizona video nuts can clean out each other's bank accounts -- with the state taking its cut, natch.
ESPN The Magazine has an in-depth interview with BringIt's Levin, who mentions that bets can be as high as $100,000.
Numerous World of Warcraft gamers have found their accounts unexpectedly suspended, apparently through no fault of their own.
Ars Technica reports that chargebacks were filed against the accounts by PaymentOne; however, many of the WoW players affected insist that they have never used PaymentOne's services to cover the game's $14.99 monthy fee.
Mike Thompson of Ars Technica explains:
Chargebacks are normally used as a method of consumer protection—a last line of defense against shady retailers... Exactly why and how these chargebacks were applied to the aforementioned accounts has yet to be determined, but they've caused the accounts to have negative balances with Blizzard, which has led to their suspension until the issue is resolved...
Posts in the forum thread show that Blizzard is willing to discuss the unauthorized charges, but there haven't been any definite results from pursuing this course of action yet... A quick Google search shows this isn't the first time that allegations of fraud and unexpected charges have been leveled against the company.
Electronic Art has apparently backed off a Comic Con promotion which encouraged attendees to "Commit an act of lust" with booth babes hired for the event.
Negative Gamer reports on EA's mea culpa:
Costumed reps are a tradition at Comic-Con. In the spirit of both the Circle of Lust and Comic-Con, we are encouraging attendees to Tweet photos of themselves with any of the costumed reps[...]
We apologize for any confusion and offense that resulted from our choice of wording, and want to assure you that we take your concerns and sentiments seriously.
It's all by way of promoting the publisher's upcoming Dante's Inferno. GamePolitics readers will recall an earlier controversy around the game when EA hired fake Christian protesters to march outside the Los Angeles Convention Center during E3.
If you're a Swede who has unloaded an unwanted MMO account for a few extra Kronas, the taxman would like a word.
On the other hand, if you're an American who has sold your account to a Swede, the taxman would still like a word.
GameCulture points out a Stockholm News report detailing efforts by Swedish tax officials to come to grips with e-commerce. To that end, the Skatteverket is even taking a look at small fish like gamers:
The Swedish Tax Agency hold that you have to pay tax for selling an avatar from a computer game. The agency has investigated the trading in avatars during a 14 month period and found the advertised sum of avatars for sale by Swedes to be 662 million SEK. But no one has ever declared any income for trading in avatars to the Tax Agency.
But even U.S. citizens could be subject to Swedish taxation on such virtual transactions, according to the Economics of Virtual Worlds blog:
[Note that] a sale has taken place in Sweden if the seller is a Swedish trader who sells [to]... a private person in Sweden or another EC [European Community] country. A sale from a foreign trader to a Swedish trader has also [legally] taken place in Sweden. The same applies if a trader from outside the EC sells services to Swedish private persons.
Thus, even U.S. citizens are subject to Swedish taxes in virtual worlds, as long as one of the participants is Swedish. The implication is that if similar tax rules are adopted around the globe, U.S. citizens could end up owing taxes to Sweden, Japan, South Korea, and other nations (depending on which and how many worlds they are part of) – all because they played some games...
Skatteverket states that gamers should send invoices to each other. It’s unreasonable stuff they’re talking about. The [game] users [typically] don’t know who they’re interacting with...
Here on GamePolitics we have - by design - ignored issues relating to electronic gambling games.
That's because, as a form of entertainment, video games are quite distinct from gambling. But that line may be blurred a bit by a new generation of tavern games which appear to require video game-like skills to win, rather than mere luck.
The Omaha World-Herald reports on one such game, a billiards affair called Bank Shot. While games of chance are considered illegal gambling under laws in Nebraska and many other states, Bank Shot seems to require skill:
The makers of the machine [say] that it is a game of skill that is no different from a game of Trivial Pursuit or a dart tournament sponsored by a bar or tavern. They also argue that the video game was carefully constructed to comply with Nebraska law...
The difficulty for law enforcement is in determining when a game requires more chance than skill, or more skill than chance.
Players can bet from $0.25 to $4 per game. To date, the largest jackpot has been $17,000:
The game centers on nine pool balls arranged in a grid formation. The player pushes a button that starts the balls flashing quickly in various formations. The player then pushes “stop” on a particular pattern, which helps to determine whether or not a player wins.
There are 30,000 patterns of pool balls built into the game. About 27 patterns flash in a given minute... players become more skillful at spotting the winning patterns after playing the game for a period of time...
Nebraska law enforcement officials are hoping that the state legislature will provide guidance on the issue.
The video game industry continues to find new and creative ways to stick it to PC gamers.
In the latest example, EA has announced that the much-anticipated Command & Conquer 4 will require players to constantly be connected to the Internet, even for single-player campaigns.
That requirement, however, violates one of the basic tenets of the Gamer's Bill of Rights, a document released at PAX 08 by Stardock CEO Brad Wardell and Gas Powered Games CEO Chris Taylor. EA, however, is not a signatory to the Bill of Rights. No surprise there.
Specifically, the C&C4 requirement violates this point:
Gamers shall have the right to demand that a single-player game not force them to be connected to the Internet every time they wish to play.
Ars Technica reports comments on the connection requirement made by EA Community Leader "APOC":
As of right now, you need to be online all the time to play C&C 4. This is primarily due to our 'player progression' feature so everything can be tracked. C&C 4 is not an MMO in the sense of World of Warcraft, but conceptually it has similar principles for being online all the time.
While some may be taken aback by this, we've been testing this feature internally with all of our world-wide markets. We wanted to make sure it wouldn't take away any significant market or territory from playing the game. We have not found or seen any results that have made us think otherwise...
GP: This smells like backdoor DRM from here. Even if it's not, what if you're on a laptop? What if you're on an airplane? What if your Internet connection is down?
As a longtime PC gamer who has owned every version of the C&C and Red Alert games, this just sucks.
There is perhaps a glimmer of hope in APOC's comments. We note that he starts off with "As of right now..." Does that mean that this gamer-unfriendly policy is subject to change?
It's time for PC gamers to make some noise about this nonsense.
Michael Cherry, a 38-year-old Ontario man in court to plead guilty to possessing child pornography, offered a unique explanation for his crime.
The London Free Press reports:
Admitting he possessed child pornography, a London man said yesterday he lived "in a closed box" of friendless fantasy fuelled by video games, his computer and comic books.
"I'd work, come home . . . lock myself in my apartment..."
After a difficult childhood in foster care, separated from his siblings, his client became a truck driver who lived by himself in squalor and clinical depression, Squire said. "He was in a black hole . . . a strange sort of world his computer created."
Via: Graphic Policy
If you illegally download software or music, your mom will be wrestled to the ground and arrested by a SWAT team - for cooking pasta.
That's just one of the apparent messages in a modern-day update of 1992's Don't Copy That Floppy.
The Software & Information Industry Association, which created the video, explains (sort of) in its YouTube description of the video:
Check out the trailer...anti-piracy hero MC Double Def DP will return in the summer of 2009 to drop some more knowledge on would-be pirates in the sequel to 1992's "Don't Copy That Floppy! Brought to you by SIIA (formerly SPA)
Here are a few more lists of allegedly patriotic games for your July 4th weekend perusal. Some choices seem spot-on, others a bit of a stretch.
1up (2008): Top 5 Insanely Patriotic Video Games
RipTen (2008): Top Five Patriotic Games of All Time
GamesRadar (2008): 20 Most Rabidly Patriotic Video Games
GP: If we spot new lists, we'll update.
It's unclear whether a member of Britain's Parliament may have purchased a PlayStation game with his tax-funded expense account, reports Eurogamer.
A number of MPs have been found to have used public funds for questionable expenses in recent months. Eurogamer spotted the Labour Party's Nigel Griffiths (left) among a list of MP with oddball expenditures published by The Guardian. Griffiths strongly denied that he bought a game, however, and Eurogamer can't find one with the title as given:
According to a list of the stranger expense claims... Nigel Griffiths, Labour MP for Edinburgh South and former deputy leader of the House of Commons, expensed "GBP 29.99 for a PlayStation computer game, Premiership Arsenal".
Griffiths disputes the report, however, telling The Sun that the Dixons receipt in question is misleading. "It's not a game, it's a branded memory stick," said the beleaguered MP. "I'm well past playing video games."
We certainly don't recall a game called Premiership Arsenal and can't find any reference to one, either, although it's possible the title refers to Codemasters' PS2 offering, Club Football: Arsenal 2005.
Under somewhat more of a microscope than Griffiths is frequent video game critic Keith Vaz, also of the Labour Party. Bruce on Games cites a BBC report detailing Vaz's questionable use of public funds:
[Vaz] claimed more than £75,000 to fund a second home in Westminster, even though his family home is just 12 miles away in Stanmore. The Telegraph also suggested he changed his designated second home for a single year to property in his Leicester constituency, before claiming more than £4,000 on furnishings.