Online Game Lampoons Scandal-ridden Italian Premier

August 28, 2009 -

tell-all book in which the estranged wife of Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi reveals her frustrations with his extra-marital dalliances serves as the basis for a new online game from T-enterprise.

In the game, the Berlusconi character must throw copies of his wife Veronica Lario's book into a furnace while dodging boulders.

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Report: Porn Ads in Game Mags from UK Publisher

August 11, 2009 -

British publisher Imagine routinely includes ads for pornography and sex chat services in the back of their video game magazines, according to a report at Overclock3D.

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...
 

Via: fidgit

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Female Gamer Sees Sexism At Play in MMOs

August 10, 2009 -

Are the virtual worlds portrayed in massively-multiplayer online games inherently sexist?

Although she believes the situation is improving, Jaime, a veteran female gamer, still sees a great deal of sexism in MMOs. In a column for MMOsite she explains her view:

From my own experience, in the early days of MMOs – looking back at Ultima Online and EverQuest – there was a definite attitude that women simply didn't play games... Female players who identified their gender... [were] ignored. Women... [had] their skills and abilities in the game questioned...

Players began to slowly accept that there were women playing MMOs... Nonetheless, the attitude itself was still low and chauvinistic. I can recount at least half a dozen times while playing Dark Age of Camelot... [receiving] requests for pictures, breast size, age, if I was available for dating, and various sexual requests and connotations...

There's also been one constant: the harassing of female characters... whispers soliciting cybersex, of course, but also more innocent gestures such as the use of emotes to flirt at, kiss, poke, tickle, tease, grope, slap, and otherwise virtually sexually harass a female character.

Not surprisingly, Jaime sees the anonymous nature of the online world as a major contributing factor in MMO sexism.

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Report: EA Backs Off Controversial Booth Babe Plan for Comic Con

July 27, 2009 -

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.

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Video Games and the First Amendment

July 10, 2009 -

Over at GameTopius, paralegal-in-training Nikhil Baliga (who also has degrees in Political Science and Psychology) serves up a look at First Amendment issues as they relate to games.

While Baliga does a nice job of tracing some of the major case law, the article's main points could be stated with more clarity. This paragraph, for example, seems to imply that video games are not necessarily constitutionally-protected speech (they are):

What well intentioned, but usually ill informed, video game advocates often assume is that video games are constitutionally protected free speech. While there can be no doubt that video games are speech, the Supreme Court has stated that not all speech is constitutionally protected.

Later, Baliga explains that this is a reference to video games which might be considered legally obscene under the so-called Miller Test. The fact is, however, that the likelihood of that happening in the U.S. market, given the ESRB rating system, console licensing requirements and screening by major retailers, is roughly nil.

While there could be a non-commercial game or import (say, RapeLay) that might - might - meet the Miller obscenity standard, implying that commercial video games are not protected speech is roughly akin to saying that Hollywood movies aren't necessarily protected speech because there are also kiddie porn films.

Still in all, worth a read.

GP: Readers should note that Baliga is not a lawyer and neither is GP. So, take both opinions with the appropriate grain of salt.

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BioWare Will Include Sex Scenes in Games If They Fit the Plot

July 9, 2009 -

Despite taking a bit of a thrashing in the mainstream media, BioWare remains unfazed by the 2008 controversy that Fox News ginned up over the well-known and tenderly played sex scene in best-selling RPG Mass Effect. The noted game developer's upcoming title Dragon Age: Origins is set to feature more of the same.
 
In an interview with CVG, co-founder of BioWare, Greg Zeschuk discusses the inclusion of sexual interactions in video games:

I don't think [games] need to have [sex scenes], I think that in certain types of games it makes sense to have them... That said, I think from our perspective we want to reflect real human relationships... And if that involves some sort of intimate scenes, we want to provide those for the player.
 
It's based on the fact that this is a sophisticated mature experience. The same way that a kid's anime or cartoon will have a different style of content in it than a really serious drama, this is like a serious drama. Really what we're going for in all cases is emotional engagement, some kind of impact.

-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen thinks Microsoft’s Project Natal could make for some interesting sexual interactions in video games...

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GP on CBC

June 24, 2009 -

I just completed an interview on CBC's Q program. Also appearing was Mike Thomsen of IGN.

The show was styled as a debate on sexual violence in games, with a lot of attention paid to RapeLay. I've never held back my contempt for the game and didn't on today's program.

I believe that they archive the previous day's show into a podcast. If you're interested in listening, check out the Q show website.

UPDATE: If you missed the program, CBC has posted the podcast version.

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Louisiana Bill Targeting Sexually Explicit Games Dies in Committee

June 19, 2009 -

Louisiana Senate Bill 152 began life as a clone of Jack Thompson's failed Utah legislation and died quietly this week in the Commerce Committee of the Louisiana House, according to The Old River Road, a blog which tracks Louisiana politics. Although we haven't yet seen a post about SB 152 at TORR, blogger Charlie Buras dropped us a line via Twitter last night to say the bill expired in committee.

Between birth and death SB 152 was completely reworked by its sponsor, Sen. A.G. Crowe (R). As for Thompson, he was nowhere to be seen in the process. The truth in advertising legal theory advocated by the disbarred Miami attorney quietly morphed into proposed civil sanctions against those who would distribute sexually explicit material to minors. The need for such legislation is not entirely clear, since such conduct is already an offense under Louisiana criminal law.

Although Crowe's Senate colleagues passed the bill overwhelmingly, House members seemed less impressed. At a hearing earlier this week the bill was diverted to the Commerce Committee.

UPDATE: The Times-Picayune has more details, including word that the Commerce Committee voted 12-2 to kill the bill. The estimated $1.6 million cost to administer the bill didn't help any. (GP: thanks to longtime reader BearDogg-X for the link!).

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Is Possessing RapeLay a Federal Crime in the United States?

June 19, 2009 -

Much has been written about RapeLay since the controversial Hentai game was discovered for sale on Amazon a few months back.

But while the debate thus far has largely centered around whether Japan, where RapeLay and most similar titles originate, should allow games featuring sexual violence to be published, a recent court ruling suggests that U.S. citizens who possess RapeLay and games of its ilk may be guilty of a federal offense.

Wired's Threat Level blog reports that on Monday the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals refused to consider the appeal of Dwight Whorley, a Virginia man who was convicted in U.S. District Court of possessing actual kiddie porn. But, under what is known as the 2003 Protect Act, prosecutors also charged Whorley with possessing manga which depicted minors having explicit sex. From the relevant section of the Protect Act:

Any person who... knowingly possesses a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, that—

 

(1) (A) depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; and

(B) is obscene; or

(2) (A) depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex; and

(B) lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value... shall be subject to the penalties provided...

(c) Nonrequired Element of Offense.— It is not a required element of any offense under this section that the minor depicted actually exist.

Threat Level also cites a similar conviction against Christopher Handley, a comic book collector who imported sexually explicit manga containing illustrations of child sex abuse and bestiality. Unlike Whorley, Handley possessed no actual child pornography.

So how does this connect to the RapeLay situation? A [NSFW] review of the game posted on Something Awful describes graphic, forced sex with a mother and her two minor daughters, the youngest of whom appears to be about ten years old. Save for the fact that it's interactive, RapeLay is not much different from the type of hardcore manga which earned federal time for Whorley and Handley.

We should note that a single judge on the 4th Circuit dissented from the opinion upholding Whorley's conviction and urged that the case be sent to the U.S. Supreme Court. But for now, at least, owning a copy of RapeLay seems like a risky legal proposition, indeed.

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Evangelical Leader: Some Games Are Okay. Others, Not So Much...

June 13, 2009 -

Rev. James Dobson, the politically influential, conservative evangelical leader of nonprofit group Focus on the Family, has given a green light to some video games while offering warnings about violent an sexual content as well as possible game addiction in regard to others.

Dobson's comments appeared in his newspaper column in response to a question from a parent about their son's video gaming:

Depending on the particular games in question, you may have a valid cause for concern... two University of Michigan researchers concluded in 2007 that violent media, including television, film and video games, pose a significant public health threat...

Furthermore, some video games add unhealthy sexual themes and profanity to the mix, not to mention that the American Medical Association estimates one in 10 video gamers is addicted.

Of course, not all video games are problematic. Certain sports games, for instance, can be loads of fun. Some can even be educational...

I’d advise you to put clear limits on the amount of time your son will be allowed to spend with video games... Insist he avoid the troublesome ones altogether...

GP: Dobson is referring to the 2007 Huesmann-Bushman study.

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Passed By Louisiana Senate, SB 152 Targets Sexually-Explicit Content

June 11, 2009 -

By a 35-0 vote yesteday, the Louisiana Senate passed SB 152, a bill which would make a pattern of distributing sexually explicit material to children a deceptive trade practice under state law.

GamePolitics readers may recall that in its original form, SB 152 was drafted by disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson as a back-door means of enforcing ESRB content ratings. The original SB 152 mirrored Thompson's Utah bill, which was vetoed by Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) in March. However, bill sponsor Sen. A.G. Crowe (R, at left) subsequently gutted Thompson's focus on age ratings from the bill, amending it instead to its new focus on the distribution of sexually explicit material to minors. It should be noted that distributing such material to minors is already an offense under Louisiana's criminal statutes.

Unlike the Utah bill, SB 152 doesn't make reference to video games, advertising, age ratings or any specific product, for that matter. However, Sen. Crowe did mention video games as an example during yesterday's session:

This body has over the years passed numerous laws to protect our children... And with the growth of...  the market of materials that would be considered by most of us here objectionable as it relates to obscenity such as that is found... in video games either rented or purchased, could fall again into the hands of some of our children. So it is a step in the direction of moving, passing legislation that would allow for, again, protecting our children from this type of thing...

Oddly enough, SB 152 specifically excludes the Internet from its provisions. These days the online world would seem the most likely source for a child to stumble upon sexually explicit material. 

The nature of sexually-explicit conduct defined in the bill would seem to exclude any ESRB-rated video game published to date. It seems clear that a game meeting the standard defined in the bill would have already been rated Adults Only (AO) by the ESRB. Curiously, the bill does not relate its provision for sexually-explicit conduct to the legal definition of obscenity. Should the bill eventually be signed into law, this could prove to be a fatal flaw from a constitutional sense.

Now that it has been passed by the Senate, the next stop for SB 152 is the Louisiana House of Representatives.

GamePolitics readers can watch yesterday's debate on SB 152 by clicking here. Scroll down to "Chamber" for June 10th. The SB 152 segment begins at 4:01:39.

UPDATE: A knowledgeable video game industry source criticized SB 152 in comments to GamePolitics:

The bill as passed by the Senate is clearly unconstitutional. It would penalize the sale of sexually oriented material to minors, but does not require that the material be legally obscene for minors, referred to in Louisiana as 'harmful to minors,' or 'obscene,' as U.S. Supreme Court precedents mandate. This was the same flaw that doomed the Illinois 'sexually explicit video games' law.
 
While it might seem that mainstream retailers have little to fear from the amended bill, as they don't carry pornography, the fact that a single depiction in an otherwise unobjectionable video game, DVD, or other material could open a retailer to liability is of grave concern.

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Japanese Industry Group Cracks Down on RapeLay, Similar Games

June 5, 2009 -

A Japanese industry standards group has issued a ban on the controversial RapeLay and games of its ilk, according to Bloomberg.

While reports last week that the Ethics Organization of Computer Software had taken such a step were premature, the ban, which carries no legal authority, has now been confirmed. 233 Japanese software firms belong to EOCS, including 90% of the country's makers of adult software. In issuing the ban EOCS made reference to a February motion in the British Parliament which condemned RapeLay.

Such games are a thriving business in Japan, Bloomberg reports:

The adult software games industry had sales of 34.1 billion yen ($353 million) in 2007...

Computer games containing rape scenes are readily available in Japanese stores. Yodobashi Camera Co., an electronics retailer, sells ‘Rape!Rape!Rape!’... at its store in Akihabara, a shopping area of Tokyo famous for stores popular with fans of the Japanese cartoons known as manga.

With RapeLay requiring players to assault a 12-year-old girl character, Bloomberg notes that possession of real child pornography, much less the virtual kind, is not illegal in Japan. Former U.S. Ambassador Thomas Schieffer criticized Japan over the issue in January of this year:

Only Japan allows people to possess these hideous images without penalty...  Is it not time for Japan to find a way to punish the guilty?

Although the EOCS ban lacks the force of law, Singapore's Straits Times reports that most Japanese retailers will follow the edict.

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Feminists Outraged by Interactive DVD Available on Amazon

May 29, 2009 -

Is this the next RapeLay controversy?

Although interactive DVDs aren't traditionally thought of as video games, they would appear to fall into something of a gray area between movies and games.

That may be an academic argument, but, in lodging a new protest against online retailer Amazon.com, woman-centric website Feministing treats Stockholm: An Exploration of True Love as a video game:

it looks like another game involving violence against women seems to have"slipped" past [Amazon's] radar. "Stockholm: An Exploration of True Love" is a game that allows the user to experience,

    "...a terrifyingly vivid exploration of Stockholm Syndrome, a psychological condition in which a captive falls in love with her kidnapper. And you play the part of the kidnapper. With a limited number of options, you must figure out how to make her fall in love with you."

This includes using poison gas on the victim, sexually assaulting her and using psychological abuse against her in efforts to make her "love" you. Unbelievable.

While RapeLay was offered by a third-party reseller on Amazon, Stockholm appears to shipping direct from the online retailer's inventory.

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Sexy Poker WiiWare Title Banned Down Under

May 26, 2009 -

GameSpot Australia reports that government censors have banned Sexy Poker, a WiiWare title for Nintendo's popular console.

The game is apparently a strip poker affair in which A.I.-controled female opponents shed clothing when the player wins a hand. In refusing the game a rating, Australia's Classification Board said in a statement:

In the Board’s view Sexy Poker offers depictions of nudity as an incentive or reward to interactive game play. In the Board’s view, the general rule in the Guidelines for the Classification of Films and Computer Games prohibiting depictions of nudity as an incentive or reward, applies to the game play described above, as the player is shown increasingly detailed amounts of nudity following successful game-play

In the view of the Board, the impact of the game exceeds strong as except in material restricted to adults, nudity and sexual activity must not be related to incentives or rewards. As such the game cannot be accommodated in a MA15+ classification.

The MA15+ classification is currently Australia's highest, although many Down Under believe an 18+ rating is necessary to accomodate the increase in mature content in games.

Joystiq reported last month that Sexy Poker was originally developed as a mobile phone title but is being readied as downloadable WiiWare. It is unclear which regions will be able to access the game, although GoNintendo reports that the game will be released in the European market.

THANKS TO: Longtime GP reader Ryan...

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Apple Bans "Hot Dog Down a Hallway" Game

May 21, 2009 -

Inexplicable content decisions continue to be made by the people running the iTunes AppStore.

In the latest example, Apple has banned a new version of Metaversal Studio's Hot Dog Down a Hallway game due to sexual innuendo. However, an earlier version was previously approved and remains available - double entendres included - for $0.99.

As reported by the Boston Globe:

In the game, players try to launch a hot dog down a corridor lined with various hazards. Players earn "achievement" awards, which are described using suggestive slang terms.

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Japanese Political Party Targets Rape Games

May 21, 2009 -

In the wake of the controversy generated by RapeLay, one of Japan's political parties has issued a general condemnation against computer games featuring forced sex.

The news comes by way of erotic games site Sankaku Complex (NSFW):

Japan’s Koumeito party, long a member of the ruling coalition, has condemned adult games featuring sexual coercion and violence as being a highly negative influence on Japan’s tiny rates of sex crimes. They are calling for a ban or further restrictions on their sale.

GP: I'll confess to having little knowledge of Japanese politics. Meanwhile, Sankaku Complex veers off into a rant, as one might expect for a site that supports such games, so I'll just leave it there.

Via: Kotaku

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RapeLay Passed Japanese Software Group's Ethics Screening Process

May 15, 2009 -

The controversial Japanese game RapeLay was cleared by a software industry screening board, reports The Yomiuri Shimbun.

According to the newspaper, the Tokyo-based Ethics Organization of Computer Software screened RapeLay without advising its publisher, Illusion, to make any edits. 235 computer game firms belong to the supposedly self-regulating organization. While an unnamed official of the group would not reveal its screening standards, he told the newspaper:

[The organization] follows the Penal Code and the law, which bans child prostitution and child pornography. Also, we ask for self-regulation of games, to ensure stories depicted stay at a permissible level from a social perspective...

 

[Given the RapeLay controversy the organization] should discuss what kind of self-imposed regulations are required to ensure [games] are acceptable to society.

The Yomiuri Shimbun also reports that RapeLay which caused an uproar when it was found to be available on Amazon.com via a third-party reseller, has been pulled from the market. The move comes in the wake of a protest lodged by New York-based women's rights organization Equality Now. Attorney Yukiko Tsunoda, a member of Equality Now,commented:

The problem isn't just about this specific game, but about all similar games still available [in Japan].

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Congress Awaits FTC Report on Explicit Content in Virtual Worlds

May 11, 2009 -

At the behest of Congress, the Federal Trade Commission is looking into children's access to explicit content in virtual worlds.

That word comes by way of Virtual Worlds News which spoke to a pair of FTC attorneys last week. The regulatory agency's report on its findings is scheduled to be presented to Congress in December.

GamePolitics readers may recall that in 2008 Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) called on  the FTC to issue a parental alert about the virtual sex occurring in Second Life:

Sites like Second Life offer no protections to keep kids from virtual "rape rooms," brothels, and drug stores. If sites like Second Life won't protect kids from obviously inappropriate content, the Congress will.

VWN notes that Second Life publisher Linden Lab recently announced a plan to restrict underage SL users from accessing mature content.

Via: Massively

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RapeLay Developer "Bewildered" By Furor Over Game

May 8, 2009 -

The controversy over RapeLay, an obscure but disgusting forced sex simulation, appears to be rekindling. GamePolitics readers will recall that the game sparked a furor earlier this year after it was found to be for sale by a third-party reseller on Amazon.com. In response to complaints the online retailer quickly removed the listing.

This month, New York-based women's group Equality Now has targeted RapeLay and similar games for a letter-writing campaign:

Please write to [developer] Illusion Software asking it to withdraw immediately from sale of all games, including RapeLay, which involve rape, stalking or other forms of sexual violence or which otherwise denigrate women... Please write a similar letter to Amazon Japan.

 

Write also to... Japanese government officials... calling on them to comply with Japan’s obligations under [the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women] and the Japanese Constitution to... ban the sale of computer games such as RapeLay, which normalize and promote sexual violence against women and girls.

Australian news site ABC.net reports that the Japanese developer of RapeLay, Illusion, claims to be "bewildered" by the uproar. Spokesman Makoto Nakaoka told ABC.net:

We are simply bewildered by the [Equality Now protest]. We make the games for the domestic market and abide by laws here. We cannot possibly comment on [the campaign] because we don't sell them overseas.

A Japanese Government spokeswoman to ABC.net:

[The government] realises the problem is there. While we recognise that some sort of measures need to be taken, the office is currently studying what can be done.

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Don't Tase Me, Bro... Second Life Zapped by TASER Lawsuit

April 21, 2009 -

TASER International, which manufactures the controversial electric stun guns that bear its name, has given a jolt to Linden Lab and a number of its corporate executives with a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Arizona.

TASER, which faces numerous lawsuits of its own filed by individuals who have been tased (or, in some cases, their survivors) is concerned that virtual TASER replica items are being sold in Second Life as gear for SL avatars (see pic at left).

TASER also alleges that its brand will be damaged via association with virtual sex and virtual drug use occuring within Second Life. From the 102-page complaint:

All of the defendants that sell virtual property like Plaintiff's real ones, under the mark TASER for use in Second Life programs and grids, also sell adult-only explicit images and scenes... thus attaching such content to the TASER mark... and also sell unlawful drug materials... thus attaching such content to the TASER mark...

TASER 's claims are primarily based on trademark considerations. The company seeks damages in excess of $75,000.

Via: Massively

UPDATE: New World Notes has more...

UPDATE 2: GamesLaw offers a legal analysis of the TASER suit.

UPDATE 3: New World Notes reports that Linden Lab, owner of SL, contacted an in-world vendor of virtual items and requested that "Taser" be replaced with "stun gun."

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16-Year Old GTA IV Gamer Charged with Grisly S&M Murder of NYC Newsman

March 25, 2009 -

A 16-year old New York youth has confessed to the stabbing murder of a veteran New York City radio newscaster, according to a report in the New York Daily News.

The suspect is an avid video gamer who lists Rockstar's controversial Grand Theft Auto IV as his favorite title.

The NYPD has charged John Katehis (left) with repeatedly stabbing George Weber, 47, last Friday. The pair met after Weber posted a Craigslist ad offering to pay for violent sex. Katehis was to earn $60 for the sleazy encounter at which alcohol and cocaine were reportedly used. Weber, apparently as part of his sado-masochistic fantasy, supplied the knife with which Katehis eventually killed him.

That's not to say that Katehis was a stranger to edged weapons. The New York Daily News, which refers to Katehis as "emotionally disturbed," displays a picture of the teen posing with his exotic knife and sword collection.

Gawker has posted Katehis's MySpace profile, in which says the suspect wrotes:

I enjoy long conversations, drinking, bike riding, hanging out, roof hopping, hanging off trains, any type of Parkour exercise. Extreme violence (chaos, anarchy, etc.) Video Games, Violent Movies and listening to my ipod...

 

I like to do crazy and wild things. I am like an adrenaline junkie. I'm a big risk taker and like to live life on the edge...

The MySpace profile references an account on ibeatyou.com. At that site, Katehis lists Grand Theft Auto IV as the "Hottest PS3 or Xbox 360 Game You've Ever Played" and includes a picture of himself holding a copy of the PlayStation 3 version. Katehis holds up Far Cry 2 in a separate photo.

Additional coverage: Gawker

GP: There are just so many dysfunctional pieces to this story, but video games will certainly be blamed in some quarters.

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NY Times: GTA Chinatown Wars One of "Most Important" Games

March 23, 2009 -

The release of GTA Chinatown Wars for the Nintendo DS is a defining moment for video games, writes Seth Schiesel of the New York Times.

While video games have been incorporating more mature themes for at least a decade, the NYT's game critic views the arrival of Grand Theft Auto on the generally kid-centric handheld as a definitive statement that the medium is no longer for children only.

What makes [GTA Chinatown Wars] so significant is the system it has been made for, Nintendo’s hand-held DS... [so far] the DS has found its most fervent customers among children.

Yet like “Scarface,” “Goodfellas” and other gangster movies, Chinatown Wars is definitely not for children. Recent Grand Theft Auto games go quite a bit further in their references to hedonism (some might call it depravity) than almost anything coming out of Hollywood...

With Rockstar making Chinatown Wars exclusively for the DS, and with Nintendo approving the game for its system, the two companies are making a bold and vital statement to the public. Chinatown Wars is likely to force many to realize that just because something is called a video game does not mean it is appropriate for children...

 

This is a crucial moment in the maturation of both the game industry and in the mass public conception of what a game is and can be. In just the last few years games have gone from the whipping boy of politicians to a somewhat grudgingly accepted element of popular culture. But there is still a long way to go...

Cops: Suspected Pedophile Targeted 11-year-old Via PlayStation 3

March 16, 2009 -

A 24-year-old Kentucky man is under arrest, charged with persuading an 11-year-old Texas girl to send nude photos of herself through her PlayStation 3.

As reported by Houston's ABC-13, police allege that Anthony Scott O'Shea's manipulation of his victim was managed entirely via the console. Sgt Gary Spurger told ABC-13:

He used the PS3 for everything, checked his email, played on the internet, on his PS3 and of course, played his games on PS3, but had no computer...

 

[O'Shea] asked for pictures of her breasts. She said no. He said friends do things for each other. You're on my friends list. If you don't, I'm gonna remove you, at which point she feels nervous and scared and sent the pictures.

Police say that Shea mailed the girl's pictures to others around the country. The suspect's bail is set at $300,000.

For its part, Sony provided investigators with technical assistance in the case.

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Conservative Christian Site Slams Same-Sex Couple Option in Game of Life

March 13, 2009 -

The Christian conservative website WorldNetDaily has got its undies in a twist over an option that permits same-sex couples in Hasbro's The Game of Life.

The downloadable PC title is an update of the classic board game of the same name. WND writes:

The online version of a popular board game from many Americans' childhood includes an option for players to choose homosexual marriage and child-rearing as a way of life... even children can download and play a free trial version of The Game of Life, the first game ever created by Mr. Milton Bradley in 1860.

The player's first option in the online version is to choose a persona based on pictures that clearly depict men and women. Shortly thereafter, the game invites players to choose a spouse, regardless of the potential spouse's sex...

But, as WND notes, the modern version of the board game, created in 1960, allowed for gay unions as well:

The board game did not prevent players in any way from placing two pink or two blue pegs in the front seat [of the playing piece representing the family car], thus depicting a homosexual couple.

GP: Got this tip from none other than Jack Thompson during the course of seeking comment on last night's passage of the Utah video game bill.

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L.A. Times: If Japanese Rape Game Was Banned From Amazon.com, Why Did Film with Brutal Rape Scene Get R-rating?

March 12, 2009 -

Just yesterday, Los Angeles Times entertainment columnist Patrick Goldstein suggested that RapeLay, the controversial Japanese hentai game, was sleazier than any Hollywood movie.

Today, he is apparently not so sure.

What happened to change his mind? Goldstein writes that he wasn't aware of the new film The Last House on the Left:

I guess I owe the makers of RapeLay, the vile Japanese rape-simulator video game, an apology... the [Last House on the Left] remake is even more graphic and disturbing than the [original]. The film's rape scene has already aroused widespread critical outrage...

Roger Ebert, the dean of American critics... lamented: "So now my job as a film critic involves grading rape scenes..."

 

How is it possible that the MPAA ratings board could give a film with this much brutal, graphic violence an R rating instead of an NC-17? I mean, what would it take for the clueless MPAA, which is supposed to serve concerned parents, not powerful studios, to ever draw the line and say to a filmmaker: "You've gone too far..."

 

If the MPAA is willing to give an R rating to "The Last House on the Left," which would allow me to take a bunch of kids to see this new film, then why shouldn't Amazon be allowed to sell Japan's RapeLay video game? It sounds to me like the movie and the video game are really playing in the same "How low can you go?" ballpark.

GP: For clarification's sake, there is no regulatory bar to stop Amazon from selling RapeLay. The giant online retailer voluntarily removed the game, which was being offered by an obscure third-party re-seller.

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Leigh Alexander: Controversial Rape Game is a Japanese Problem, Not an American One

March 10, 2009 -

In an opinion piece for Slate, game journo Leigh Alexander ties up the loose ends on the recent controversy surrounding RapeLay, a particularly despicable PC game which migrated from Japan to the retail pages of Amazon.com via a third-party merchant.

After the news broke. Amazon, which almost certainly was unaware of the game in the first place, quickly banished it.

Alexander views RapeLay and its ilk as a largely Japanese problem:

It's an old cliché that the more repressed a society, the more extreme its pornography—but more upsetting than RapeLay is the social environment that birthed it. The premise here is that a wealthy man is out for revenge against the schoolgirl who had him jailed as a chikan, or subway pervert. The epidemic of chikan is an enormous problem in Japan, particularly in major cities...

While the moral outrage from the New York City Council and Web sites... is obviously well-placed, there's little hope that legislation or activism can stem the perversion. Not only is RapeLay rooted in a social illness that's embedded in Japanese society, it's just one game in a niche industry that's more closely related to the porn business than to the video game world.

77 comments

Cops: Owner Used Video Game Store to Meet Molestation Victims

February 26, 2009 -

The owner of an independent video game shop in Missouri has been charged with molesting young men who came to his place of business.

As reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Leland Beasley, 41, operated the Gamestation Section 19 in Lemay:

Beasley... is being held on $250,000 cash-only bond... St. Louis County police believe Beasley had contact with at least 10 different teens at the shop between March 2006 and January...

26 comments

Keith Vaz Moves in Parliament for UK Ban on Rape Game

February 25, 2009 -

Making good on a vow to bring up Japanese PC title RapeLay in Parliament, British Labour MP Keith Vaz has issued a call for the game to be banned in the U.K., reports the Evening Standard:

Mr Vaz, who campaigns against violent computer games, called on the Government to ban [RapeLay] from sale to UK players over the internet.

In a Commons motion, he said he was "appalled that a video game that simulates rape has been readily available for sale on the internet".

He welcomed the decision by Amazon to withdraw the game.

As GamePolitics reported earlier this month, Vaz was one the first to speak out against RapeLay.

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NY City Council Speaker Will Call for Retail Boycott of Rape Game

February 23, 2009 -

The Speaker of the New York City Council is expected to denounce a controversial Japanese rape simulation game this morning on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan.

Councilwoman Christine Quinn (middle left) will hold a news conference in protest of RapeLay at 11:00 A.M. As GamePolitics has reported, the hentai game was recently removed from product listings on Amazon.com where a re-seller had been offering it for sale.

Quinn will be joined by the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. A press release announcing the event includes the following description:

A teenage video "game" simulating brutal gang rape and other horrifying sexual violence — just pulled by Amazon.com — will be the subject of a news conference hosted by [Quinn]... who will call on all U.S. video distributors to refuse its distribution or sale...

 

The "game" is now available in the U.S. market...

We should point out that RapeLay, while despicable, is not a product of the U.S. video game industry and is not rated by the ESRB.

UPDATE: Newsday has the first mainstream media coverage of today's press conference:

Amazon and eBay have already banned the sale of the game... but New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Monday that the game is available on other Web sites...

UPDATE 2: The photo at left is from the news conference. Speaker Quinn is in the middle. At left, holding artwork from RapeLay, is  Harriett Lessel, Executive Director of The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. Of the game, Lessel said:

Video games of this nature are beyond appalling, and people of good conscience need to speak out against them. Sexual violence is a major problem in America and video games like this send the exact wrong message to young people. It tells boys it’s okay to sexually assault girls, and it tells girls they are worthless. The New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault is hopeful that American distributors will reject this game and the aberrant behavior it promotes.

272 comments

Singapore Okays GTA IV Expansion's Full Frontal

February 21, 2009 -

Government censors in Singapore have cleared Grand Theft Auto IV: The Lost and Damned, despite the game's well-publicized snippet of male nudity.

The Straits Times reports that Singapore's Media Development Authority reviewed the game:

Mr Ernest Khoo, head of video games and media content at MDA, said that whether full-frontal male nudity is allowed depends on the context in which it occurs.

In this expansion pack, he said, the depiction is 'non-sexual and can hence fall within the M18 rating', which is also the rating given to the original GTA IV. He added that with the M18 rating, only those 18 years old and above will be buying the game and its expansion pack.

Going by the video game classification system MDA introduced last year, games for online download do not need to be sent for classification before sale here.

Okaying GTA IV L&D is another indication that Singapore has loosened its approach to game content since briefly banning Mass Effect in 2007.

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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
MaskedPixelantehttp://torrentfreak.com/square-enix-drm-boosts-profits-and-its-here-to-stay-140415/ Square proves how incredibly out of touch they are by saying that DRM is the way of the future, and is here to stay.04/16/2014 - 8:29am
james_fudgeUnwinnable Weekly Telethon playing Metal Gear http://www.twitch.tv/rainydayletsplay04/16/2014 - 8:06am
ConsterTo be fair, there's so little left of the middle class that those numbers are skewing.04/16/2014 - 7:42am
Matthew Wilsonyes it help a sub section of the poor, but hurt both the middle and upper class. in the end way more people were hurt than helped. also, it hurt most poor people as well.04/16/2014 - 12:13am
SeanBJust goes to show what I have said for years. Your ability to have sex does not qualify you for parenthood.04/15/2014 - 9:21pm
NeenekoSo "worked" vs "failed" really comes down to who you think is more important and deserving04/15/2014 - 7:04pm
NeenekoThough I am also not sure we can say NYC failed. Rent control helped the people it was intended for and is considered a failure by the people it was designed to protect them from.04/15/2014 - 7:04pm
NeenekoIf they change the rules, demand will plummet. Though yeah, rent control probably would not help much in the SF case. I doubt anything will.04/15/2014 - 1:35pm
TheSmokeyOnline gamer accused of murdering son to keep playing - http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Crime/2014/04/15/21604921.html04/15/2014 - 11:50am
Matthew Wilsonyup, but curent city rules do not allow for that.04/15/2014 - 11:00am
 

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