GTA Chinatown Wars Rated 18 For British Market

January 9, 2009 -

No surprise here.

The British Board of Film Classification has assigned an 18 rating to the upcoming Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars.

No edits to the game were required, although the BBFC issued warnings that GTA Chinatown Wars "contains very strong language and drug references".

The game is scheduled for a March 20th release in the UK.

UPDATE: GameSpot notes that the 18 rating assigned to GTA Chinatown Wars is the first ever assigned to a DS game by the BBFC. The game's rating for the North American market is not yet listed on the website of the ESRB.

PC Version of GTA IV to be Saddled with SecuROM

November 29, 2008 -

Say it ain't so, Houser Bros.

IGN reports that the upcoming PC flavor of Grand Theft Auto IV will install the dreaded SecuROM 7 copy protection on gamers' computers.

On an up note, however, the number of times that the game can be installed will not be subject to a limit. GamePolitics readers will recall that EA's much-awaited Spore came with a three-install limit. At least, it did until a gamer revolt prompted EA to relax the resrtiction.

Regarding GTA IV's SecuROM, an unnamed Rockstar spokesperson told IGN:

Having copy protection allows us to protect the integrity or our titles and future investments, but at the same time we have worked very hard to ensure that our solutions do not persecute the legitimate players of our games. Implemented correctly, SecuROM is the most effective form of disc based copy protection and allows us to manage authenticity on a global level for Grand Theft Auto IV...


GTA IV PC uses SecuROM for protecting our EXE until street date has passed, to ensure the retail disk is in the computer drive... Product Activation is a one time only online authentication when installing the game. GTA IV has no install limits for the retail disc version... and that version can be installed on an unlimited number of PCs by the retail disk owner... All versions of the game will use SecuROM for Product Activation. Downloadable versions of the game will have additional code if the vendor requires it, such as Valve's Steam program.

Rockstar also warned that pirated versions would not function properly:

Aside from the fact that warez are a great place to pick up a Trojan or key logger, using a cracked copy of GTA IV PC will result in varying changes to the game experience. These can range from comical to game-progress-halting changes.


GTA IV Ads Back on Chicago Buses, But Future M-Rated Game Ads Banned

November 19, 2008 -

Shortly before the April 29th Grand Theft Auto IV launch, the Chicago Transit Authority pulled ads for the game from its vehicles and facilities. Prompting the move was a rash of unrelated shootings in Chicago and a Fox News hit piece that linked GTA IV to the violence, even though the game hadn't yet been released.

Just a week later, Take-Two warmed the hearts of censorship opponents by suing the CTA in U.S. District Court for breaching its $300,000 contract. The case dragged on through the summer, but in late September GamePolitics reported that the parties were nearing a settlement.

Chicago Breaking News is now reporting that, as part of that settlement, GTA IV ads will appear on CTA buses for the next six weeks, which should give T2 a little boost for the holiday season. CTA spokesperson Noelle Gaffney explained:

The CTA made the earlier decision to remove the ads from the system following some violence in the city. The CTA felt that, based on the circumstances, it was in the best interest of our customers to remove the ads and further review the circumstances.

But wait - the CTA dropped some discouraging news as well, saying that it will accept no further ads for M-rated games once it works off its GTA IV debt. Here, the agency employs some highly questionable - read: highly political - logic:

Last week, the CTA board voted to ban advertising for video games rated "M" and above. The ordinance, which takes effect Jan. 1, cites a "demonstrable correlation" between intensely violent video games and violent or aggressive behavior.

Thus, Chicago joins Boston among major U.S. cities in which public transit systems will not accept M-rated game ads. Miami also yanked its GTA IV ads after now-disbarred attorney Jack Thompson raised a stink.

GP: Even though many M-rated games are fantastic examples of the creative arts, the transit agencies are essentially equating such games with smut. The industry needs to stand up for itself on this issue. Take-Two was right to sue the CTA over its GTA IV case, but the larger ban on M-rated games in general needs to be addressed by the ESA.


Locked Up, Key Thrown Away for GTA "Teen Sex Fiend"

November 6, 2008 -

The Daily Mail reports that 19-year-old Ryan Chinnery (displaying bling at left) has been sentenced to an indefinite period of incarceration after pleading guilty to a series of sexual assaults in Kent. GamePolitics previously covered the start of Chinnery's trial in September.

As it does so often these days, Grand Theft Auto gets the blame:

[Chinnery] prowled streets in his car targeting innocent women he thought were prostitutes - imitating scenes from the controversial [Grand Theft Auto] game in which a man drives around and attacks call girls...  Officers found a copy of the 18-certificate Grand Theft Auto during a swoop on the home Chinnery shared with his girlfriend - and he initially insisted to detectives that he had been playing on his computer at the time of the attacks.

Prosecutor Eleanor Laws told a jury last month how Chinnery's obsession with Grand Theft Auto, which has sold some 35million copies, 'may go some way to explaining his attitude towards women'. Miss Laws added: 'Prostitutes in it can be exposed to violence. There may be some connection with the defendant admitting spending a lot of time playing that game.'

The judge, on the other hand, seemed to relate Chinnery's crimes to an obsession with porn, but did give GTA a mention. The Kentish Express reports:

Judge Philip Statman said: "What most troubles me is the mirror conduct between pornography and that which he later does. It is as if spurring on comes from the pornographic material.

"I know part of this case referred to something called Grand Theft Auto. While it appears the defendant does not accept it influenced his conduct on that particular evening, it could not have helped him, I would have thought, in all the circumstances of the case."

Anticlimax: Manhunt 2 Released in U.K.

October 6, 2008 -

It was the gaming world's cause celebre of 2007.

Manhunt 2 was reviled by anti-violence activists, banned by the U.K.'s content rating organization, and criticized in Parliament and at No. 10 Downing Street.

After a protracted legal fight, England's High Court overturned the ban early in 2008. But, as Eurogamer reports, Manhunt 2 is just now being readied for sale in the U.K.

The street date is October 31st.

That's appropriate on two counts. Of course, it's Halloween. But it's also the one-year anniversary of the originally-scheduled Manhunt 2 launch.



ELSPA Exec: Game Critic Keith Vaz Helped Sell Manhunt

October 3, 2008 -

An executive with U.K. game publisher association ELSPA has credited violent game critic Keith Vaz (left) with helping to make the original Manhunt successful.

As reported by, ELSPA's Michael Rawlinson said:

Keith Vaz has done more to sell Rockstar's games than Rockstar has. The original Manhunt was released, did diddly squat and fell right off the radar until the Stefan Pakeerah incident came and Vaz started shouting from the rooftops and then everyone went and bought the stuff...


GamePolitics readers may recall that Vaz, a Labour Party member of Parliament, linked - and continues to link - Manhunt to the 2004 Pakeerah murder, despite Scotland Yard's finding to the contrary.


Take-Two Says it Will Remain Independent

October 2, 2008 -

With EA out of the picture, Take-Two has apparently decided to go it alone.

That word comes by way of a press release issued today by the Grand Theft Auto publisher. Citing "detailed discussions with various interested parties over the last five months," T2 has concluded that stockholders will be best served by the company staying its course.

Chairman Strauss Zelnick is quoted in the press release:

Take-Two’s Board of Directors and management have a clear mandate from stockholders to maximize value. We are strongly positioned creatively, financially and competitively to benefit from the opportunities we see in the fastest growing segment of the entertainment industry.

CEO Ben Feder invoked the success of GTA franchise and cited the rest of T2's catalogue:

Take-Two’s recent performance demonstrates our potential to create value for the long term. We have delivered solid financial results and expanded our portfolio of leading titles, which includes the powerful Grand Theft Auto franchise, as well as 15 other wholly owned brands with sales of more than one million units each.


Take-Two Nearing GTA IV Ad Settlement with Chicago Bus Company

September 30, 2008 -

A settlement has apparently been reached between Grand Theft Auto IV publisher Take-Two Interactive and the Chicago Transit Authority over the agency's removal of ads for the controversial game from its vehicles and facilities.

GamePolitics readers may recall that during GTA IV's launch week, the CTA yanked the ads following a Fox News report which sought to relate the popular crime game to a rash of local shootings.

Take-Two filed suit shortly thereafter, accusing the CTA and sales agent Titan Outdoor, LLC with breaching a $300,000 contract. A document filed by the defendants with the U.S. District Court in Manhattan last week indicates that a settlement is imminent, although no details are provided.

Take-Two declined to comment on the case.


New Zealand Govt. Rejects Watchdog Group's GTA IV Ban Bid

September 29, 2008 -

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.



Analyst: Rockstar's Housers Bros. Likely to Remain with T2

September 29, 2008 -

The contracts of Rockstar Games' Sam and Dan Houser expire early next year so many are wondering where the developer of Grand Theft Auto might end up.  Will the Housers stay with Take-Two, go independent, or hook up with another publisher?
According to Janco Partners analyst Mike Hickey, they’ll probably just stay where they are:

We find it unlikely that the Houser brothers would leave Take-Two Interactive for a competitor, as loyalty, compensation, culture and compelling IP should be sufficient in aggregate to leave employment alternatives unappealing.

Still, we’d be surprised if a few big name publishers didn’t make a bid for Rockstar when it becomes available.
AE: And what delicious irony it would be if Rockstar ended up with EA.

Via: Gamasutra

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics correspondent Andrew Eisen...


Outrage Begins over Drug-Dealing in GTA Chinatown Wars

September 25, 2008 -

Given this week's revelations that GTA Chinatown Wars for the Nintendo DS will feature a drug dealing mini-game, it was only a matter of time before criticism began.

Today's edition of British tabloid The Sun covers the story under the headline Fury Over Drug Deal Vid Game and includes a comment by Darren Gold of support group Drugsline:

Anything using drug-dealing as entertainment is sending out the wrong message. Glamorisation doesn’t help our work trying to educate kids of the dangers of substance misuse.

Rockstar, of course, seems to revel in such controversy.


Take-Two Cancelled Previous Drug-Dealing Sim

September 24, 2008 -

Who remembers Snow?

Today's news that GTA Chinatown Wars on the kid-friendly Nintendo DS will contain a drug dealing mini-game reminded us that as recently as June, 2006 GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive put the kibosh on Snow, a drug dealing simulator for the more adult-centric PC platform. The game had been on the show floor at E3 just a month before.

What's different now?

  • In June, 2006 Hot Coffee was still a big issue for T2 and the game biz
  • GTA Chinatown Wars = GTA + the Housers. With their contract expiring in February, T2 is likely to be quite accomodating to the creative urges of the reclusive brothers behind the best-selling GTA series.

Here's correspondent Colin McIness 2006 report on Snow from the old-school GP.


Report: Grand Theft Auto DS to Have Drug Dealing Mini-game

September 24, 2008 -

In a move that is sure to spark controversy, the upcoming Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars for Nintendo's handheld DS will feature a drug-dealing mini-game.

Although many grownups use the DS, it is widely regarded as a kid-friendly system. Citing a print story in Edge magazine, CVG reports:

Here's some news that's surely going to send mainstream newspapers (and Nintendo's PR department) mental. It's emerged that for DS features a full-on drug-dealing mini-game.

Revealed in the latest Edge magazine, the drug-dealing feature lets you flog heroine, cocaine, weed, ecstasy, acid and downers. Selling the six type of drugs makes you a ton of in-game cash and help you gain experience of market conditions, says the mag.

Rockstar exec Dan Houser is also quoted:

We wanted to have a drug-dealing minigame in lots of the GTA games. We played with it a little in Vice City Stories, because it worked really well juxtaposed with the main story. It works well with what GTA is, with driving around the map, and it gives you another thing to think about - another layer or piece of the puzzle to keep you motivated. It does intersect with the main story, and things you learn from it work with the story, but it mostly runs on its own.

GP: In the video at left (sorry for the poor sound quality) Nintendo exec Cammie Dunaway announces GTA Chinatown Wars at this year's E3.

Activision Blizzard's Top Dog Blows Kisses to GTA's Houser Bros.

September 18, 2008 -

As GamePolitics reported earlier this week, Take-Two Interactive's deal with Grand Theft Auto creators Sam and Dan Houser expires in February.

The brothers' free agent status is likely to produce a bidding war for their services, and Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick may have engaged in some advance recruiting, according to Silicon Valley Insider:

A second after telling Goldman Sachs’ Mark Wienkes at the company’s investor conference today that he couldn’t talk about the co-creators of the hit [GTA] franchise, Kotick had this to say:


We (Activision) really embrace the individual studio model. We know how to take studios and talented teams and appropriately incentivize them. We’ve definitely become the destination location for independently minded entrepreneurial talent.


Translation: Housers, come work for us


Report: Houser Bros. Loomed Large in Collapse of EA-T2 Deal

September 15, 2008 - reports that the uncertain status of GTA masterminds Sam and Dan Houser (left) may have played a key role in sinking an EA-T2 merger. The brothers' current contract with Take-Two expires in February.

Moreover, as GP has alluded to in the past, chemistry was lacking between EA and T2 execs. Along that line, reports comments by analyst Doug Creutz of Cowen and Co.:

We think EA's decision to walk was motivated by some combination of the following: a desire to appear fiscally responsible after several years of capital misallocation, concern about EA’s ability to retain the development talent at Rockstar, personality conflicts between the management teams of the two companies, and scepticism about Take-Two's multi-year release lineup.


The main question mark is the status of Rockstar’s key talent [i.e., Dan and Sam Houser], with their contract due to expire in February 2009.

Meanwhile, in a note issued this morning, Wedbush-Morgan analyst Michael Pachter foresees a bidding war for the Housers:

While neither [Houser brother] writes game code, we believe that they are analogous to the director of a Hollywood film, instrumental in determining the final shape of the ultimate games released. We expect a bidding war for the Housers’ services in February 2009, and remain convinced that Take-Two faces two equally unpalatable options: either lose the Housers to another bidder, or pay more to retain them...


Should the Housers depart to Activision, Ubisoft, or even to EA, we think that Take-Two will suffer lower future sales of its GTA games. We draw an analogy to EA’s Medal of Honor brand, which saw sales decline by over 40% following the departure of key members of its development teams in 2003. Those teams produced Activision’s Call of Duty franchise, which has consistently outsold Medal of Honor since the departure...


On the other hand, should the Housers remain at Take-Two, the price of making future Grand Theft Auto games will go up...

Nor does Pachter anticipate any other publishers stepping up to acquire T2 - again, it's the Houser factor:

We do not think that any offers will come in from third parties. The risk of losing key talent is too great, and the Housers’ contract is up for renewal in February. Should a third party (including EA) be interested in an acquisition, we think that the first step is to secure the services of the Housers. Thus, we do not expect competing offers to materialize until after February 2009, when the status of the Housers’ contract is better understood.


In Wake of EA Pullout, T2 Stock in Free-Fall

September 15, 2008 -

Reaction has been swift to yesterday's report that EA was giving up on its quest to acquire Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two Interactive.

As GP predicted yesterday, Reuters is now reporting Take-Two's stock price has plunged. Indeed, from Friday's close just under 22, as I write this the stock [TTWO] has dropped to 16.44. On the other hand, the market as a whole is experiencing a broad sell-off today as shockwaves from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the purchase of Merrill-Lynch ripple through Wall Street. At the same time, EA [ERTS] stock is also down from Friday's closing price of 44.99.

Reuters quotes UBS analyst Benjamin Schacter on the EA-T2 situation:

While (Electronic Arts) will not reveal details about its exact reasons for walking, the fact that it did not make any offer after further due diligence will certainly raise some eyebrows.


In our view, Ubisoft could be a logical buyer, but a deal would not be easy. Traditional media companies as well as Asian video game publishers-operators might also be interested, but we don't believe that these players are likely to even match EA's prior offer given that none would have synergies in the sports genre.


Underage Buyers Score GTA & Knives in U.K. Retail Sting

September 15, 2008 -

16-year-old secret shoppers were able to purchase knives and Grand Theft Auto in a retail sting operation conducted by Trading Standards officials in the U.K. city of Plymouth.

As reported by the Plymouth Evening Herald, five of nine game retailers sold GTA to the undercover buyers while only two of 25 sold them knives. Fair Trading Officer Lynda Braddock commented:

We’re disappointed that the games sellers concerned don’t seem to have taken their training on board or recognised the fact that these games are given a high age rating for a reason.

Councillor Michael Leaves, Cabinet Member for Streetscene and Environmental Regulation, added:

Parents will be worried about these test purchase results. The carrying of knives by some young people seems to be a plague at the moment. It’s vital for shops not to sell youngsters knives and I find it very disappointing that any in Plymouth have done so.


As for violent video games, I believe they must have a detrimental influence on any children who play them and I would not be at all surprised if there was not a connection with the knife crime issue. Everyone who sells these games must take extra care to ensure they only sell them to those who can legally buy them.



GTA IV Radio Station Prompts Music Copyright Lawsuit

September 10, 2008 -

A Jamaican man who claims that he co-wrote a pair of reggae songs featured on one of Grand Theft Auto IV's radio stations filed suit over the issue against Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive in July.

The suit was dropped yesterday in federal court in Manhattan.

In his complaint, Linton White alleged that he co-wrote Last Night with David Brooks, aka Mavado. White also claims co-authorship of Bullet Proof Skin with Rodney Basil Price, who performs as Bounty Killer. Like the plaintiff, Brooks and Price are also from Jamaica.

Both songs named in the suit appear on the playlist of GTA IV's reggae-themed Massive B Sound System 96.9 station, which can be heard as players drive around the game's expansive setting in an assortment of virtual vehicles.

White is listed as a producer on Mavado's 2007 Gangsta for Life album, which contains the disputed Last Night track. According to the suit, White alleges that his co-authorship of the disputed songs was not added to the Liberty City Guidebook which was packaged with GTA IV:

In the... Liberty City Guidebook... [Take-Two and Rockstar] designate D. Brooks and B. Konders as the writers of "Last Night." ...[Take-Two and Rockstar] designate D. Brooks and R. Price as the writers of Bullet Proof Skin." No designation is made of plaintiff as a writer.

Neither Brooks, Price or Konders are named as defendants. In his complaint, White demanded $150,000 plus punitive damages and other fees. In court filings, attorneys for Rockstar and Two-Two argued that White's claims lacked merit. It is unknown what - if anything - White received.

For its part, Take-Two refused to comment on the matter. White's attorney, Anthony Motta of New York, declined to say whether or not there had been a settlement.


Rockstar's Sam Houser: An Honor to Be Hated by Critics

August 14, 2008 -

Develop has a terrific interview with Rockstar Games' co-founder Sam Houser who dishes about the direction of the company and offers his reaction to critics:

I think we probably read most of [the criticism] – if you turn on a computer this stuff reaches you, usually forwarded by an old friend laughing at you. 


No [I don't pay attention to critics] – I think [he and brother Dan] are both depressed at how boring we really are and how unexciting even the worse fabrications and exaggerations are when you read about them. None of it seems very rock and roll...


Most of the people who hate us are people it is truly an honor to be hated by – reactionary creeps with strange agendas – and the Daily Mail.  Most people who know about modern pop culture know about GTA and like or dislike it on its own merits.



Actually, It's Good News: 10% of GTA IV Buyers Under 17, Says Nielsen

August 14, 2008 -

GameDaily reports on data released by Nielsen which holds that 17% of Grand Theft Auto IV buyers were under 17.

But in 39% of those cases someone else - typically a parent - actually purchased the game, which means that the actual number of unassisted underage buyers was about 10%.

While GameDaily and other outlets are finding alarm in these numbers, the 10% figure is actually twice as good as might have been expected.


In April the FTC released data showing that 20% of its underage secret shoppers successfully purchased M-rated content, the game industry's best result ever. The Nielsen data effectively doubles the game industry's ratings enforcement effectiveness. From the Nielsen report:

61% of these younger gamers indicated that they purchased the M-rated game themselves, with 39% of the young gamers responding that someone else bought the game for them," Nielsen said. "Interestingly enough, parents/guardians were pegged as the biggest facilitators for getting the controversial game into the hands of these young respondents, garnering 80% of the response. Friends, siblings and other relatives rounded out the other 20% of the response.

The GTA IV numbers also look pretty good when stacked up against a new Dartmouth study which says that 48% of minors have been exposed to R-rated movies.

GP: Obviously, you'd like to see zero sales to underage buyers, but we don't live in a perfect world. These results are a significant improvement over the 2008 FTC numbers, which were deemed extremely impressive when released.

It is great to see Nielsen providing this kind of data, as it gives context to the ratings enforcement issue. It's the kind of the data the industry ought to be providing on its own, however.



Thai Official: Prosecute Game Makers for Copycat Violence

August 13, 2008 -

Could executves of Take-Two and Rockstar Games be prosecuted for an alleged copycat killing in Thailand?

Following local police assertions that the murder of a Bangkok cab driver was prompted by the killer's play of Grand Theft Auto, a Thai government official has called for prosecution of game publishers for instances of copycat violence.

AsiaOne Digtal quotes Somchai Jaroen-amnuaysuk of the Welfare Promotion, Protection and Empowerment of Vulnerable Groups Office:

When a player copycats a crime he or she sees in the game, the game maker should be prosecuted. Prosecutions will automatically force game makers to act more responsibly.


PC Gamers Get Their Shot at GTA IV

August 6, 2008 -

Why should console gamers be the only ones with the opportunity to be corrupted by Grand Theft Auto IV?

According to a just-issued press release, PC gamers will get their own version of the hugely popular - and hugely controversial - game in November. The PC version of GTA IV will be released in North America on November 18th and in Europe on November 21st.

Rockstar Games founder Sam Houser is quoted in the press release:

We are very excited to be releasing the PC version of Grand Theft Auto IV. The whole team is dedicated to bringing an amazing gaming experience to the PC. The game looks and plays beautifully on PC and we can't wait for people to play it.



Stats: Taxi Murders Peaked Years Before GTA

August 5, 2008 -

Absent speculation that Grand Theft Auto somehow played a role, the murder of a Bangkok cab driver by a 19-year-old-man in some ways appears similar to the typical murder of a cab driver in the United States.

In the U.S., cabbie killings appear to have very little to do with violent video games, given that they peaked in 1990-1993, when crude first-person shooters like Doom were the bloodiest games available and the first Grand Theft Auto was years away.

Statistics on cab driver killings are maintained by Taxi-Library, which also profiles the typical cabbie murder.

  • Two-thirds of such crimes are committed by men under 20. Accused Thai killer Polwat Chinno is 19.
  • 82% of the assaults take place at night. News accounts describe the Bangkok killing as taking place "late on Saturday".
  • nearly half of cabbie killers act alone, as Chinno is alleged to have done



Thai Site Offers Local Perspective on GTA Cabbie Murder

August 5, 2008 -

Frustrated by sketchy and somewhat conflicting English language news accounts of Bangkok's GTA Cabbie murder, GP went looking for local Thai sources and found Asian Sweetheart. The site is mostly pictures of "gorgeous Thai ladies," but the cabbie murder apparently got the owner's attention away from posting glam shots:

The English language news stories left out much of the detail about the victim and the accused murderer. The Thai news had interviews of the families and other people involved.

The story is very sad for many reasons. On the victim's side, they are a poor family and the man was the only person making any income, and not much because driving a taxi does not pay very well. He became the chosen victim because he was older and smaller than the first taxi driver the killer approached.

GP: Based on the fact that the victim was selected by the killer in the belief that he would be an easy mark, this looks like just another premeditated robbery, not some random violent act. Taxi cab robberies have been going on as long as there have been taxi cabs (more on that later).

The killer's family is also poor but the teen had always been known as polite and very nice, even getting the dek dee (good child) award at school. The mother was a house maid and the father a security guard. The kid was alone a lot and the parents never really knew what he was doing all that time he was playing violent video games.

The 18 year old confessed to the killing, which means he won't face the death penalty as some western media incorrectly reported. He gave a detailed account of how he planned for the robbery and chose the victim, although he said the killing was not originally part of the plan but he did it when the victim fought back.



No Surprise Dept: Jack Thompson Wades into Thai GTA Case

August 5, 2008 -

You knew it was only a matter of time.

In the wake of reports that a 19-year-old Thai man murdered a cab driver after playing Grand Theft Auto, embattled Miami attorney Jack Thompson has written a menacing e-mail to the top executives of Take-Two Interactive, publisher of the controversial series.

In the e-mail to T2 chairman Strauss Zelnick and CEO Ben Feder (and copied to dozens of other people, including GamePolitics), Thompson writes:

I warned you both that copycat killings by teens would occur upon the release of Grand Theft Auto IV. Now my prediction has come true...
GP: Except that it's unclear whether the alleged killer was even playing GTA IV. In fact, as we reported, it's not at all clear that GTA IV has even been imported into the Thai market as of yet.
In addition to multiple written warnings, I told you of this coming mayhem in a face-to-face meeting with you, Mr. Zelnick, on Central Park West on May 15, 2007... I am working with authorities now...  as well as other remedies against Take-Two for its reckless worldwide distribution of its murder simulation training products...
This is just the latest killing incident prompted by your murder simulators. I aim to make it the last...
GP: We covered the Central Park meeting which Thompson refers to here. It took place shortly after Zelnick had seized control of T2, ousting Thompson's previous favorite target, CEO Paul Eibeler.
As to "working with authorities," Thompson often makes such claims.
PS: The above latest copycat killing will help fuel federal legislation in the United States because of your company’s chronic marketing and sale of its mature-rated video games to minors. You are selling GTA IV, for example, to anyone of any age via the Internet.


Report: Thai Teen Robs, Kills Cabbie in Effort to Recreate Grand Theft Auto IV

August 4, 2008 -

A story receiving widespread media play this morning details the arrest of a 19-year-old Thai man who allegedly robbed and murdered a Bangkok cab driver. According to police sources, Polwat Chino told investigators he was re-enacting a scene from Grand Theft Auto IV.

Reuters reports that GTA IV has been removed from retail shelves and arcades (we're assuming that in Thailand players can play console games for a fee). From the article:

Police in Bangkok said that the youth "had wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game."


...Chino, described by his parents as polite and diligent... had paid to play the game at a local shop in Bangkok, and said he had needed more cash to continue playing it and that the taxi driver looked like an easy target.

GP: So, was he re-enacting a scene from the game or just looking for someone to rob? Reuters continues:

A senior official at Thailand's Culture Ministry, which has been pursuing tougher regulation of violent games such as Grand Theft Auto, said the murder was a wake-up call for authorities, and urged parents to take note of what their children were playing.


"This time-bomb has already exploded and the situation could get worse," the official was quoted as saying. "Today it is a cab driver but tomorrow it could be a video game shop owner." Thai authorities have been pushing for a rating system on video games, as well as restrictions on how long youths can spend playing games in video arcades.

GP: Given the Thai government's history of censorship, this case will likely not receive the type of media scrutiny and follow-up that it deserves. Not to rush to judgment, but the situation as described in the news report (including the very convenient photo at left of the suspect re-enacting his crime for police) couldn't be more perfect for a government seeking a justification for a video game crackdown.

We also note that the suspect, who reportedly stabbed the victim 10 times, is wearing what appears to be a very clean white shirt (i.e., no blood). Stab someone ten times from arm's length and closer and you're going to get blood on your clothing. And yes, he could have changed clothes, but we don't really know.


Judge Pops a Cap in Hot Coffee Class-Action Settlement

July 31, 2008 -

So you handled all the killing and thuggery in GTA San Andreas but found yourself traumatized by the hidden, pixelated sex?

Don't spend your Hot Coffee lawsuit settlement money just yet.

The New York Times reports that the Hot Coffee class-action lawsuit, which was nearing settlement, has been tossed by a federal judge:

...Judge Shirley Wohl Kram wrote that purchasers of the game could not be lumped together in a class action. The claims of members of the proposed class would be affected by the law in each purchaser’s home state, Judge Kram wrote, and therefore could not be resolved in a single proceeding in federal court in New York.


“Accordingly, the court decertifies the settlement class on the grounds that common issues do not predominate over individualized issues,” the judge wrote.


The judge’s latest decision undermines a settlement agreement reached between lawyers for purchasers of the game who contended they were offended by the hidden scenes, on the one hand, and lawyers for the game’s makers, Take-Two Interactive Software and Rockstar Games.

The NY Times notes that less than 3,000 GTA San Andreas buyers had applied to join the lawsuit. The paper had previously questioned the size of the plaintiffs' legal fees in the case. Meanwhile, attorney Ted Frank of Overlawyered writes:

Take Two spent millions negotiating and administering a settlement because the court refused to rule on its decertification motion last year; that wasted effort demonstrates why it is important for courts to resolve certification questions early in the case. But with no certified class, there can be no class settlement...

Frank, who joined the class and filed objections to the proposed settlement, wonders whether there will be an appeal.

The judge's ruling may be found here...


Conservative Pundit: GTA IV Makes War on Middle-class Values

July 31, 2008 -

When last we visited the conservative-themed, blogger Kevin McCullough was claiming that Mass Effect featured customizable sodomy. McCullough's comments (since deleted) were apparently noticed by Fox News, which led to the even more memorable Cooper Lawrence debacle. has jumped back into the game-bashing business with a post by blogger-author-movie critic Michael Medved who asserts that Grand Theft Auto IV is making war on middle-class values. Whatever they are...

From Medved:

Despite demagogic and alarmist claims that a relentless “War on the Middle Class” has left ordinary Americans pummeled and powerless, middle income people still manage to find enough money to secure most of life’s true necessities – like the grotesquely violent and anti-authoritarian video game Grand Theft Auto IV, which shattered all sales records in its first week of release...


The stunning success of a game that glorifies guerilla warfare, murder, irresponsible driving, prostitution, cop-killing, international conspiracies and, of course, car theft highlights the real threat to the American Way of Life: it’s not the war on the middle class; it’s the war on middle class values... the decision by so many consumers of every age and income group to invest countless hours of time in the dark world of Grand Theft Auto IV nonetheless demonstrates a threat to American values.

As Nate Ralph notes at Wired Game|Life, since when did "anti-authoritarian" become a bad thing? Ultimately, Medved relates GTA IV as a threat to, well, just about everything:

The vibrant economy gives working Americans more choices than ever before. The decline of middle class values – saving, deferred gratification, reliability, self-control, family loyalty, respectability – makes it somewhat less likely that they will make the right choices to promote their health, happiness and long-term prosperity.



In UK, GTA 4 Commercial Avoids Official Censure

July 30, 2008 -

A TV commerical for Grand Theft Auto 4 has dodged the censorship bullet in the U.K.

As reported by, the Advertising Standards Authority declined to act on complaints about the spot, seen at left:

17 viewers took exception of the ad... Ten viewers complained about the violence, while seven took exception to the time of the broadcast...


"Although some viewers may object to the nature of the game, the ad itself did not feature sequences that were likely to have a direct harmful influence on children or young people," said the ASA.

GamePolitics readers may recall that the ASA similarly cleared a TV spot for Bully: Scholarship Edition in a ruling earlier this month.


GTA IV Car Named After Game Violence Researcher

July 21, 2008 -

Last September game-hatin' attorney Jack Thompson claimed in a federal court filing that a corrupt attorney marked for assassination in Grand Theft Auto IV was him. But then, Thompson says a lot of things...

What seems more clear is that a hybrid car (left) available for jacking in GTA IV is named after a well-known game violence researcher, Dr. Karen Dill of North Carolina's Lenoir-Rhyne College.

As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The "Karin Dilettante" is a sporty hybrid sedan that appears in Grand Theft Auto IV, the latest installment in the famously violent and sexualized series of video games. "Chicks love electronic gadgets" is the slogan in fake ads for the car.


Ms. Dill says she couldn't believe that Rockstar Games, the maker of Grand Theft Auto, had taken the trouble to name a car for her: "I was kind of like, whoa, they actually do care about video-game research."

Dill, who has testified on game violence issues before Congress, apparently took the parody good-naturedly. Reportedly, she was simply relieved to find that she was not portrayed as one of the game's hookers.

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