Gamers' Voice Calls for UK Govt. Investigation into Black Ops Problems

January 21, 2011 -

UK gamer advocacy group Gamers' Voice is taking the kid gloves off and reporting Activision to the Office of Fair Trading over Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer on PC and PS3. The move follows an open letter sent to Activision on December 22 informing the publisher that the group had been "inundated with complaints from people who have bought copies of Call of Duty: Black Ops."

The letter asked Activision if they planned to compensate consumers that bought the game in the UK and gave them one month to respond. This week the group took action by asking the government agency to look into the matter.

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Parliamentary Games Day a Success, Says Gamers' Voice

January 13, 2011 -

UK-based game player lobby group Gamers' Voice held its first "Parliamentary Games Day" with Ministers of Parliament and video game industry representatives at the House of Commons. The group describes the event as "a real success" with politicians of all three main political parties attending to play video games with Gamers' Voice on the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Wii.

A total of 16 MPs attended the event. John Whittingdale, Ed Vaizey, Luciana Berger, Clive Betts, Pete Davison, Don Foster, Dr Julian Huppert, Karen Lumley, Jason McCartney, Nigel Mills, Stephen Mosley, Andy Nuttal, David Cairns, Simon Kirby, David Hanson and Keith Vaz all made appearances at the event.

A highlight of the event was when MPs John Whittingdale and Don Foster traded punches through the Kinect Sports boxing game.

Report: Activision Won't Rule Out Leaving UK

January 3, 2011 -

According to a report in UK publication The Telegraph, Activision is so upset over not getting the promised tax breaks that it may shut down a 600 employee-staffed facility. The United Kingdom's rollback of promised tax breaks for video game development was killed in June as part of cost cutting measures that the government had to enact in order to get the budget in order.

Bobby Kotick, Activision's chief executive, called the decision "a terrible mistake."

"There are so many other places that are encouraging the video games industry," he said, according to The Telegraph.

The Activision satellite office is in Slough, Berkshire.

Here is the quote from The Telegraph:

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TIGA Urges UK Government to Support Game Industry With Various Initiatives

December 20, 2010 -

UK game industry trade group TIGA is urging the government to introduce a package of measures including "Games Tax Relief," enhanced research and development tax credits, a lottery-financed prototype fund for the game development industry, more investment in higher education, incentives to study STEM subjects at the college level, tax relief on training related to the industry, a more flexible migration policy, an expansion of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and high speed broadband comparable in speeds to our main competitors.

"For too long the Coalition Government has acted like a one club golfer: it has had a strategy for reducing the deficit but little to say about growth," said Dr. Richard Wilson, TIGA CEO in a lengthy statement issued this morning. "The Government’s Growth Review is long overdue – not least because strong economic growth is crucial to reducing the deficit."

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Report: ESLPA Expressed Concern During Tax Break Talk with UK Government

December 8, 2010 -

A four-page expose put together by GameIndustry.biz reveals that ELSPA -- the trade group representing the interactive entertainment industry in the UK -- may have quietly been working against tax breaks. While it sounds like a nefarious, under-handed scenario - and one that may have inadvertently sent a mixed signal to the government at the time - the group had its reasons.

While the industry continually lobbied the government last year to provide tax breaks and other business support, ELSPA aired a number of concerns it had with the government over "cultural tax breaks." ELSPA apparently warned the government against such tax breaks, instead urging them to offer the industry 'software' tax breaks.

The difference between the two is vast:

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TIGA Applauds UK Government Corporate Tax Reduction, But Wants More

November 30, 2010 -

UK-based trade organization TIGA issued a statement this morning about the government's announcements on corporate tax reform, and its plan to introduce a "Patent Box." The UK government announced that it will introduce a Patent Box in April 2013 – a 10 percent CT rate on profits from patents. The UK government also announced a "Corporation Tax Road Map" and timetable to deliver a reduction in corporate tax for large and small businesses. The plan calls for a reduction in the rate from 28 to 24 percent over the next 4 years and a reduction in the small profits rate from 21 to 20 percent from April 2011.

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UK Labour Leader Blames Tory-Liberal Coalition for Realtime Worlds Failure

August 20, 2010 -

UK Labour party leadership candidate Ed Balls recently made a stop at Dundee and, in the wake of Realtime World’s administration, has blamed the cancellelation of planned tax breaks for the UK games industry are the "cause of the company’s failure."

In a post on his personal blog, Balls reminded readers that the tax breaks by the "previous Labour government" were cut by his colleagues in the Tory and Liberal coalition.

 

Balls also highlighted the stiff competition his country faces from places like Canada, where government support for the industry coupled with aggressive recruitment tactics of UK companies has made the country look like a shining beacon to developers who are looking for ways to make games and save some money.

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ELSPA to Host Political Q&A

March 17, 2010 -

In advance of the looming general elections, UK Trade organization ELSPA has organized a videogame-related question and answer session with three MPs.

Scheduled for March 29, the talk will include pro-gaming Labour MP Tom Watson, Conservative MP Ed Vaizey and Liberal Democratic MP Don Foster. Sadly, anti-game MP Keith Vaz will not be a part of the proceedings. Along with presenting each group’s vision for the game industry, the Q&A will put forth issues such as tax incentives; investment in skilled graduates; Intellectual Property theft; and the impact of the Digital Economy Bill.

Daily Telegraph Consumer Technology Editor Matt Warman will moderate the session.

Watson commented, “Videogames have become an intrinsic part of the UK economy and culture, I’m delighted to be participating in this debate, to put forward my ideas on how government can best influence the future direction of the industry.”

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MP Simon Stepping Down

February 3, 2010 -

The U.K.’s Digital Economy Bill may have been dealt a setback as one of the reports main backers and authors has announced his intention to resign from Parliament.

 Labour MP Sion Simon (pictured), Junior Minister for the Department of Culture, Media and Sport will leave his post during next week's February recess according to the Financial Times.

Simon plans to become a city councilor in Birmingham and hopes to eventually run for Mayor reports the Birmingham Post, if he can convince the town to adopt an elected mayor system. He stated, "It has become clear to me that the answers to Birmingham’s problems do not lie in Westminster and Whitehall. We need to take back control of our own city."

The videogame industry may also be losing a supporter within Parliament, as Simon has often demonstrated a level-headed approach to dealing with game critics like Keith Vaz. Simon had also endorsed fellow MP Tom Watson’s pro-gamer Facebook group (Gamer’s Voice),  leaving the following message for the group:

The government understands the importance of video games. we make games better and play games more in this country than anywhere else in the world. It’s an important industry and an important part of millions of people's lives. But it's a very young industry which is still finding its voice. I think this group is an important step in that process, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

The Digital Economy Bill proposed adopting the PEGI system as the sole means of classifying games in the U.K., and was also designed to strengthen the region’s digital backbone, thorough programs such as universal broadband. The bill also proposes a tough three-strikes law to deal with Internet pirates.

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Vaz Bails on Debate with Game Biz Foes

January 21, 2010 -

Outspoken anti-game MP Keith Vaz pulled out of a scheduled debate with game industry luminaries and politicians at the last minute, much to the chagrin of everyone involved.

Vaz was scheduled to appear at the Westiminster eForum debate, reports MCVUK, alongside Electronic Arts’ Keith Ramsdale, TIGA CEO Richard Wilson, Eidos’ Ian Livingstone and fellow politicians Tom Watson and Ed Vaizey, but did not show, leaving organizers to explain to the assembled crowd that Vaz could not make it.

Vaz then became a subject of ridicule, with just about everyone in the room taking pot shots at the AWOL MP.

Livingstone attempted to fill in for Vaz, mouthing phrases like “Games are evil, games are terrible, games are turning children into killers,” while Vaizey added that perhaps Vaz should now be known as “Keith Chavez” in deference to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Vaizey added that he thought Vaz’s stance on games was “totally wrong,” noting that a game currently appears on the Parliament website and “no one has been killed yet.”

Ramsdale lamented Vaz's absence, saying, "You want to understand where his head is now after being so negative about the videogame industry."

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Try Your Hand at Being an MP for a Week

January 12, 2010 -

Tired of UK politicians? Think you could do a better job? An online game from the UK government allows players to take on the role of a backbench MP for a week.

The game, which is very well produced, begins by allowing players to choose a level of play, a party affiliation, an area of the UK to represent and a focus (local issues, world issues or money & finance). No focus on the games industry though sorry.

The game is aimed at 11-14 year olds and features eight types of activities—votes, questions, debates, speech editing, press conferences, messages and meetings. Players are charged with surviving the week without party or voter support dropping too low.

The game drew the support of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA). ELSPA Director General Mike Rawlinson said about the game, “We are pleased to see Parliament embracing videogames in this way and finally appreciating the relevance of videogames in many areas of work and play.“

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Vaz Continues Anti-Game Rhetoric

January 7, 2010 -

Anti-game crusading MP Keith Vaz once again took to the House of Commons floor to harangue videogames.

NegativeGamer reports on the debate, which took place in the House yesterday as part of a discussion over the invalid 1984 Video Recordings Act. Vaz once again called for cigarette style health warnings to be affixed to the front of videogames, justifying the need for special warnings because the interactive nature of games sets them apart from movies:

A film with inappropriate content is not interactive. The point about video games, which is backed up by research from America, is that the player is part of the process. Players shoot and stab people in a videogame, and that is different. I accept that inappropriate content is wrong, wherever it is found, but videogames are different.

Vaz attempted to bolster his claims by mentioning the “No Russian” Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 level and the 2004 Manhunt murder case that dominated British tabloids in 2004.

Head over to NegativeGamer for more on Vaz’s remarks.

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MP Watson Dishes on FB Group and Politics

December 8, 2009 -

Tom Watson, the videogame backing Labour MP from West Bromwich East, linked up with GamesIndustry.biz for a wide-ranging interview that discusses what’s going on behind the scenes of the UK government and what we might expect from his pro-gaming Facebook group.

Membership in Watson’s Gamers’ Voice group is now approaching almost 16,000 members. A first meeting of the loose-knit organization is scheduled for December 9 at the House of Commons.

Watson was asked what the group could hope to achieve:

Well, in political terms it's already had a big impact. There're a lot of MPs who've already talked to me about how they can go about talking to gamers, what the issues are, because of course they only read the papers as well, and if the only things you read in the papers is that games are bad and they're turning our children into monsters then it's going to cloud their view.

Next, the MP was asked about the adoption of the PEGI system in the UK as the sole means to rate games:

It's not the PEGI system that people remember from a few years ago. They've really upped their game on this and I think the labelling and classification is better, simpler, easier to understand and I think the industry is pretty committed as well that once this ratings system goes through they're going to invest in a public education campaign so that people actually know what the ratings mean and they're aware when they can make choices in retail outlets.

What about tax breaks for UK-based videogame developers?

Tax breaks are part of that but there's a much wider piece of work to do that perhaps the industry should start thinking a little bit more about. What kind of a games industry do we want in 10 years' time? Where are platform games going? What are we doing with social gaming? Where are we at with games-based learning? How do we tie all these strands of work together so that we can have a really deep, strategic approach to the industry rather than these piecemeal issues that flare up like sunspots and die down again. There needs to be an institution that deals with that.

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Is Britain Readying a Supremely Armed Pirate Hunter?

November 20, 2009 -

An story on BoingBoing cites a British Labour Government source that such a move may be underway.

The article, noticed by GPer DarkSaber, reports that changes could be introduced to the Digital Economy Bill, which would enable the Secretary of State to introduce legislation without debate in order to amend the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act and to introduce a Pirate-Finder General.

Current Secretary of State Peter Mandelson's is behind the proposal, which would feature the following measures:

1. The Secretary of State would get the power to create new remedies for online infringements.

2. The Secretary of State would get the power to create procedures to "confer rights" for the purposes of protecting rightsholders from online infringement.

3. The Secretary of State would get the power to "impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement."

The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) was equally alarmed at the news and has introduced a form of action that urges UK citizens to call their MP.

The EFF labels the ability to to introduce legislation without debate “dangerous,” adding “This bill would grant the Secretary of State sweeping powers to mess with the very fundamentals of the UK copyright system law, ignoring the voices of UK citizens to meet the needs of one set of interest holders.”

The EFF further notes that Mandelson may also target “Cyberlocker” services like Amazon’s S3, Dropbox and YouSendIt, which allow users to swap and share large files.

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Age Ratings, Anti-Piracy Subject of UK Digital Economy Bill

November 18, 2009 -

A few details regarding Britain’s Digital Economy Bill were touched on this morning as part of the Queen’s Speech to Parliament, in which the monarch outlines the coming legislative agenda.

Among the forthcoming actions will be a mandatory age rating on all videogames aimed at children ages 12 and above, reports the Guardian. The Bill calls for the adoption of the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) system as the method of classifying games in the UK, replacing the current practice of using both PEGI and British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) ratings.

The Digital Economy Bill would also tackle piracy, proposing a tough policy much like France’s three-strike Hadopi Law. Those caught committing piracy will receive a warning letter, followed by a second, more stern letter that will caution the user that “technical measures” could be implemented in order to stop them from stealing files.

Failing the second warning, a pirate would be placed on a “serious infringers list” which would allow ISPs to disconnect them from the Internet. Those about to be disconnected will have 20 days to appeal their case before an independent body. They will also be able to appeal the case if they lose, again within 20 days. The Guardian has a flow chart that illustrates the full process (PDF).

First Secretary Lord Mandelson does not expect widespread disconnections as a result of the pending legislation:

Technical measures will be a last resort and I have no expectation of mass suspensions resulting. The British government's view is that taking people's work without due payment is wrong and that, as an economy based on creativity, we cannot sit back and do nothing as this happens.

The government hopes to cut piracy by 70% before April 2011.

The Open Rights Group believes the proposed disconnect laws to be illegal, adding that “Evidence cannot show who may have infringed copyright, only what connection was used.” They urge people to contact their MP to oppose “these draconian proposals.”

The Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) applauded the outline of the Bill, stating:

ELSPA believes the proposed UK adoption of the Pan-European Games Information (PEGI) classification system to be an important step in ensuring child safety when gaming. The video games industry offers its full support to the Government in this.

On the other side of the fence, while noting that the Digital Britain report was announced with “grand ambition,” the Guardian calls the Digital Economy Bill “more plumbing than poetry, in many places little more than a series of disconnected tweaks to existing legislation.”

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Labour MP Vaz: Games Should Have Health Warnings

November 17, 2009 -

In a recent radio interview, Labour MP Keith Vaz again took videogames to task.

Vaz thinks that rating information on the front of games should be larger, reports GI.biz, and also adopt health warnings currently found on packs of smokes:

If you look to the packaging of an 18-rated videogame, it's [the size of] a tiny 10p coin. What it should be is the same as cigarettes - it should be splashed across the front: 'This has the potential to damage your health' - and that is not happening.

Vaz indicated that he would like to see 18+ rated games sectioned off at retail and put in their own section. Parents who buy games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare for their kids who are under the age of 18 are “psychologically damaging” their children added Vaz.

When it comes to keeping violent games out of the hands of children, Vaz put the onus on parents, before noting that he didn’t really know what games his own 14-year old son was playing, “I have a son who is 14 years of age - I don't know what games he looks at, but I shall ensure that in future I will look at the covers, to make sure that these games are not over the age of 18.”

The full interview is available on SubCity’s website.

At least as a partial response to Vaz’s continued anti-game rhetoric, fellow Labour MP Tom Watson recently set up the Facebook group Gamer’s Voice, an advocacy assemblage designed to promote the rights of UK gamers.

Watson recently penned a column for The Guardian, inviting other MPs to play a game with him.  From Watson’s article:

British politicians should stop whingeing and learn to love video games. Whether the political classes like it or not, video games have changed the cultural landscape of the nation.


Thanks Andrew

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MPs Facebook Group Gains Support of Additional UK Pols

November 12, 2009 -

Gamers’ Voice, the pro-gaming Facebook group set up by West Bromwich East Labour MP Tom Watson, has drawn support from another pair of UK politicians.

Watson, who setup the group in response to comments made by Leicester East Labour MP Keith Vaz, invited Sion Simon, Minister for Creative Industries, and Shadow Minister Ed Vaizey to check out the online group, which they both did. Both left messages of support for Watson and the group.

Vaizey wrote, “Tom, congratulations on setting up the group. It's about time gamers had a voice to represent the huge success of the UK video games industry. We spend too much time attacking games and not enough time celebrating their huge success and contribution to the economy.”

Simon added, “The government understands the importance of video games. we make games better and play games more in this country than anywhere else in the world. It’s an important industry and an important part of millions of people's lives. But it's a very young industry which is still finding its voice. I think this group is an important step in that process, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

The group is also now fielding questions that Watson hopes to direct towards Vaizey and Simon for responses.

Watson wrote of the pair, "Sion and Ed are a little bit different to other MPs though. They both have responsibilities in Labour and the Conservatives for policies towards the Games Industry. And I think they're both genuine in wanting to help.”

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MP Showdown Transcript and Video

November 10, 2009 -

In a follow up to yesterday’s news of a brewing Boss battle between Labour MPs Keith Vaz and Tom Watson over Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the BBC has a short video online which captures the exchange between the two in Parliament yesterday.

A GP transcription of the video follows:


Keith Vaz: At midnight tonight, a new and violent videogame called Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is to be released. It contains such scenes of brutality that even the manufacturers have put in warnings within the game telling people how they can skip particularly scenes. Given the recommendations of the Byron Review, specifically paragraphs 32 and 33, what steps is the government proposing to take in order to ensure that these violent games do not fall into the hands of children and young people. It’s not about censorship; it’s about protecting our children.

Sion Simon (Minister for Creative Industries): The clearest recommendation of the Byron Review is that content suitable for adults should be labeled as such and sold as such, that it should be an offense to sell such content to children. That’s the case under current law. It will be the case under the law when it changes in the Digital Economy bill. This game the honorable gentleman refers to is a certificate 18 game. It should not be sold to children and the governments job is to make sure that adults clearly labeled can get what adults should be able to and that children are not in danger of being subjected to adult content.

Tom Watson: I’ve seen the content in this video game… it is unpleasant, though no worse than in many films and books. It carries a content warning; it is an 18+ game and carries a BBFC 18+ rating as well. Does the Minister agree that it would be better for members of this house to support the many thousands of games designers and coders and the many millions of games users rather than collaborating with the Daily Mail to create morale panic over the use of videogames.

Sion Simon: I was in Dundee last week visiting the videogames industry. I can certainly agree with him that videogames is an industry…  a very large…  a very important industry, in which we have a national competitive advantage in this country, which it’s important that all members of this house and he government continue to support.


In response to Vaz’s public comments about the game, Watson set up a Facebook group called Gamer’s Voice, as we noted yesterday. That group has grown from 478 yesterday to almost 9,500 at the time this story was written.

GP: It appears Vaz’s comments about paragraphs 32 and 33 from the Byron Review reference the following two bits from the report’s executive summary:

32: There are some possible negative effects of violent content in games, but these only become ‘harmful’ when children present other risk factors…

33: However, we need to approach unequivocal claims of direct causes with caution – there is a strong body of ethnographic research which argues that context and the characteristics of each child will mediate the effects of playing video games. This means considering the media effects evidence in light of what we know about child development. We can use this to hypothesise about potential risks to children from playing some games….

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British MPs Battle Over Modern Warfare 2

November 9, 2009 -

Noted anti-game politician Keith Vaz is up in arms over Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

The Leicester East Labour MP made comments to the Daily Mail about the title, saying, “'I am absolutely shocked by the level of violence in this game and am particularly concerned about how realistic the game itself looks.” Vaz said he would let his concerns be known in Parliament this morning.

Meanwhile, West Bromwich East Labour MP Tom Watson told the BBC that Vaz’s remarks had pushed him over the edge. Watson responded by setting up a Facebook group called Gamer’s Voice, which is billed as “unashamedly pro-video games.” In recruiting people to join, the group asks, “Are you sick of UK newspapers and (my fellow) politicians beating up on gaming? So am I. The truth is, UK gamers need their own pressure group. I want to help you start one up.” 478 members have already joined. Watson writes on Twitter that he’s looking for a logo for the group.

In regards to Vaz, Watson stated:

Everything that comes out of Parliament in relation to video games is relentlessly negative. There are thousands of people employed in this industry, there are 26 million people playing games. We should have a much more balanced view of the industry, indeed we should be supporting them through difficult times.

While noting that he found the MW2 content in question “deeply repulsive,” and that he would not play it himself, Watson thinks that as long as a classification is in place and policed, there is no issue.

Thanks wardrox

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UK Conservatives Scored on Game Issues

November 4, 2009 -

A piece up on The Sixth Axis website poses the question, “What if: The Tories Win” and goes about breaking down what a Conservative Party win might mean for the UK developers and gamers.

The article kicks off by describing the ways politicians can shape gaming, including tax breaks for developers, deciding how games are rated and influencing the speed of Internet connections.

Ed Vaizey, Shadow Culture Minister is the focus of most of the piece, with the author offering “WIN” or “FAIL” grades for Vaizey’s inferred stances or public remarks on topics ranging from integration of videogames into the UK Film Council (a “WIN”), ways to help grow UK game development (a “FAIL”), developments in broadband (a “WIN” and a “FAIL”) and Internet piracy (a “WIN”).

Details on the “WIN” grade for involving the UK Film Council in games:

One of the best ideas from the Conservatives is to integrate video games in to the UK Film Council, a body that looks after the economic, cultural and educational aspects of the UK film industry both here and abroad. The council also distributes Lottery money to finance new independent UK films and I would assume they would to the same for games. This could lead to a more PSN and XBLA games.

The author finishes with an overview of the Shadow Culture Minister:

He appears to be enthusiastic about gaming and he does not assume that anyone who plays GTA IV will go and chainsaw a nearby prostitute – this is a very good thing. The bit where he understands gaming does not turn you in to a psycho, not the chainsawing of prostitutes.


|Image via LOLMart|

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Wife of Former British PM Gets Media Heat for Joining eSports Firm

August 30, 2009 -

The wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is back in the video game news thanks to her involvement with an obscure firm by the name of Magnitude Gaming. Although we were unable to locate a website, Magnitude is described by the Daily Mail as "one of a new breed of companies which manage semi-professional teams in the growing ‘e-sport’ world."

According to the Daily Mail, Blair, an attorney by profession, and her 23-year old son Nicky have accepted positions on the board of the fledgling company.

So why is this an issue? The Daily Mail sees hypocrisy in Blair's involvement with a firm connected - at least peripherally - to violent video games, given that she previously signed on to a report linking violent games to a wave of stabbings in the UK:

The company has run a team playing the Counter-Strike combat game... There have been claims that perpetrators of massacres in the US and Germany have been fans of the game.

Only last year, Mrs Blair... chaired a major inquiry into the growth of knife and gun crime on Britain’s streets which acknowledged the ‘dire consequences on some young people’ of the video games and films they watched.

The resulting report stated: ‘The broader cultural context in which young people live – the music they listen to, the films they watch, the video games and sports they play – are important in articulating values, defining what is 'cool' and fashionable, and legitimising social norms.’

Magnitude founder Gabriel Moraes, who is Nicky Blair's housemate, issued a statement on the flap:

Magnitude has never been involved with games containing any kind of street violence. We had one game involving soldiers in military combat but it had a rating of 18-plus and was a team game. We stopped involvement with that game some months ago.

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Oops! UK Game Ratings Haven't Been Enforceable Since 1984

August 25, 2009 -

In the UK, 25 years worth of government enforcement of content ratings for video games and films has been found to lack the required legal basis.

As reported by politics.co.uk, the Maggie Thatcher regime failed to notify the European Commission regarding the 1984 Video Recordings Act, thus invalidating the law.

In the UK, unlike the United States, content ratings have the force of law and those who sell adult-rated games or movies to minors can be charged with an offense. The oversight was discovered recently by the British government's Department for Culture Media and Sport.

A representative of the UK's Entertainment Retailers Association expressed amazement at the news:

This is extraordinary. For 25 years retailers have been faithfully administering the system and now this happens.

Meanhwile, Liberal Democrat Don Foster seized the opportunity to criticize Conservative Party leader David Cameron:

This must be a massive embarrassment to the Tories, especially as David Cameron was the special advisor to the Home Secretary in 1993 when the law was amended.

However, Conservative Jeremy Hunt pointed the finger of blame back at the Labor Government:

Much of the problem would have been avoided if they had sorted out the classification of video games earlier, as we and many others in the industry have been urging them to do.

Game publishers lobbying group ELSPA has counseled its members to proceed normally and offered to help the government fix the mistake. As reported by gamesindustry.biz, ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson said:

The discovery that the Video Recordings Act is not enforceable is obviously very surprising. In the interest of child safety it is essential that this loophole is closed as soon as possible.

In this respect the videogames industry will do all it can to support and assist the government to that effect. ELSPA will therefore advise our members to continue to forward games to be rated as per the current agreement while the legal issues are being resolved.

Theoretically, at least, unscrupulous sellers have a 90-day window to peddle adult content to children. It will take the government at least that long to push through a revision to the VRA.

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On Holiday, British PM Plans to Spend Gaming Time with Sons

July 28, 2009 -

Beleagured British Prime Minister Gordon Brown plans to spend part of his upcoming holiday enjoying games with his two young sons, reports the Mirror:

The workaholic PM is determined to enjoy his holiday in the Lake District with wife Sarah and his sons, five-year-old John and three-year old Fraser.

He is well aware - partly because his Church of Scotland minister father had long absences overseas on missionary work - of the need to spend quality time with his boys. "I think for all fathers the challenge is finding the time to spend with your children," he admits...

He plans to do more "re-winning" of their interest as he watches the boys' favourite TV shows and plays computer games over the next few weeks at the couple's home in Scotland and on their holiday.

No particular games or systems were specified in the report, but last year Brown admitted that his son - then four - beat him at Wii Sports Tennis.

Partially Via: MCVUK

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Game Critic Keith Vaz Supports PEGI Ratings, Says ELSPA Head

July 24, 2009 -

Labour MP Keith Vaz (left), a longstanding critic of the video game industry, is apparently lending his support to the use of PEGI as the UK's sole rating system.

At least, that's the word from ELSPA. A press release issued today by the UK game publishers group reports on a "quick meeting" between ELSPA boss Michael Rawlinson and Vaz:

London, United Kingdom – 24 July, 2009: ELSPA’s Director General, Michael Rawlinson, met with Keith Vaz MP this week. During the meeting the Home Affairs Select Committee Chairman made it clear he supports the single rating system being introduced for videogames and also commended the improvements to PEGI.
 
“We had a quick meeting with Mr Vaz and he made it apparent that he believes it is important to have a single, rather than a confusing dual, rating system in the UK,” said Michael Rawlinson. “Mr Vaz added that he was keen to see the changes being made to the PEGI system and acknowledged the UK games industry’s commitment to an advertising and education campaign around the new age symbols and content descriptors when they are introduced to further protect players.”

"Quick meeting" leaves a lot to the imagination: Hallway? Elevator? Men's room? We've asked ELSPA for clarification and whether we can expect any type of announcement in which Vaz states his position for himself.

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In Parliament, Suggestion of "Global Regulatory Future" For Video Games

July 21, 2009 -

In Parliament yesterday, longtime video game industry critic Keith Vaz (Labour) quizzed Siôn Simon (left), Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for Culture, Media & Sport about PEGI ratings and the controversial Japanese game RapeLay.

Conservative Mark Field jumped in on the topic, appearing to suggest the pursuit of a global content rating system for video games. Surprisingly, Simon said that the UK's recent adoption of the European PEGI system was viewed by the Gordon Brown government as "the building block to moving towards a global regulatory future."

The conversation went something like this:

Keith Vaz: What recent discussions has [Simon] had with pan-European game information on the age classification of video games?

Siôn Simon:
I have spoken to the Video Standards Council—the current UK agents for the PEGI system—about the classification of video games and have another meeting scheduled with it very soon. I have also had discussions with the British Board of Film Classification. Both organisations are working hard to ensure the success of the new system.

Keith Vaz:
I thank the Minister for his answer and welcome the steps that the Government are taking on this issue. However, it is still a matter of concern that a game such as "RapeLay", which shows extreme violence against women, can be downloaded from the internet. What steps are the Government taking to ensure that such games are not accessed from the internet, so that children and young people are properly protected?

Siôn Simon: We should be clear that [RapeLay] was not classified, but was briefly available on Amazon and then was banned. The point that my right hon. Friend is making is about games that, like other brutal, unpleasant, illegal content, can be available on the internet. All steps that apply to any other content on the internet will apply to games. Specifically, as part of the Byron review we set up the UK Council for Child Internet Safety to work with content providers, internet service providers and all aspects of Government to make sure that such content cannot be accessed, particularly by children.

Mark Field: The Minister will know that Britain is a great leader in video and computer games, and while I take on board many of the concerns expressed by Keith Vaz, will the Minister recognise that this is a global industry, not simply a European one, and in so far as we are going to have the safeguards to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, we will clearly also need to have global regulation along those lines?

Siôn Simon: The system of regulation for which we have opted—the PEGI system—is pan-European, and as such, we see it as the building block to moving towards a global regulatory future. The key principle is that the markings on games should make it clear to parents which games are suitable for adults and which are suitable and unsuitable for children and young children. Adults should be allowed to access adult content; children most certainly should not.

GP: Readers, what do you think of the idea of a global content rating system? Is it even possible? If so, is it desirable?

Source: They Work For You

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Did MP Buy a PlayStation Game with Taxpayer Money?

June 19, 2009 -

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.

9 comments

Labour Govt. Can't Say How Much Money It's Given to Game Biz

April 3, 2009 -

The Labour Government of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has given financial assistance to the video game industry, but it doesn't know how much, according to gamesindustry.biz.

Conservative MP Philip Davies (left) addressed the question to the government's Department of Culture, Media and Sports earlier this week. Parliamentary under-secretary Barbara Follett provided the response:

The information requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost. We do not have the specific figures broken down by sector or year.

Richard Wilson, CEO of U.K. game developers group Tiga, criticized the government's confusion:

The government needs good quality information if it is to implement plans that benefit economic sectors. However, the government's admission today that it supports the videogames sector but doesn't record the amount of financial support means that it cannot effectively measure its impact.

This is a great shame - the government needs to record and assess its financial assessments in order to make better policy in the future.

In Parliament, Lively Debate on Video Game Ratings & Green Cross Man

November 14, 2008 -

The House of Commons had a lengthy and entertaining debate on video game issues yesterday. Also under discussion was the issue of Internet safety for children. Both topics, of course, were the focus of the well-known Byron Review.

MPs, including Labour Party game critic Keith Vaz argued about game ratings, game violence and whether the government does enough to support the British game biz.

The session had to be gaveled to order at a couple of points and Vaz made reference to a "secret tea" attended by Conservative MP Edward Vaizey and game industry execs. And, as if the ongoing turf war between PEGI and BBFC for U.K. ratings dominance wasn't complex enough, yesterday's debate also featured the light-hearted suggestion that British road safety icon the Green Cross Man (left) somehow be tied into the game rating system.

In this report, we've omitted the Internet bits to focus on the video game debate. Here's our abridged transcript:

John Whittingdale (Conservative): ...If one looks for empirical, hard, factual evidence that viewing a particular video or playing a video game has led someone to go out and commit a crime such as a rape or an act of violence, there is very little. Our view was therefore... that we should act on the probability of risk. Where there is a probable risk that someone would be influenced by exposure to such material, that is sufficient cause for intervention...

Tanya Byron did a great deal of work on that. Her other conclusion, which was shared strongly by the Committee, was that we cannot completely insulate children from material that might pose a risk. Part of educating children involves teaching them how to deal with risks. If we insulate them to the extent that they never encounter risks, they will not know how to deal with them...

Providers such as Microsoft told us about the parental controls that they have installed into products such as the Xbox... We were impressed by the commitment that almost every major industry body, including internet service providers, social networking sites and hardware manufacturers, has shown regarding the protection of young people, but there is no commonality...

I want to talk about video games in the final part of my remarks. I know that Keith Vaz... has several concerns about this issue, so he has arrived [late] at just the right moment.

Part of the problem with video games... is that there is no hard evidence to prove that playing a game will lead someone to go out and commit a crime or physical attack. Nevertheless, we agree that there is a probability that it could occur, and there is anecdotal evidence to support that view. The Video Recordings Act 1984 provided that games should be classified, that it is necessary to restrict certain games to people over a certain age... and that there would be games that should be banned entirely. That system has been generally successful since then, although there is often controversy about individual games...

Edward Vaizey (Conservative): I invite my hon. Friend, in the tone of his remarks, to make the point that when we talk about harmful video games and films, we are talking about a small minority. Does he agree that it is incumbent on hon. Members to remind the House as often as possible, when they talk about video games, that we have a most successful video games industry in this country, which employs thousands of people?

John Whittingdale (Conservative): My hon. Friend is entirely right. The video games industry is increasingly important and generates more money than the film industry. It is something that we are very good at. We are a creative nation, and many of the most successful games were developed here. We strongly support the games industry's efforts to ensure that it remains strong in this country and is not poached by other countries such as Canada, which is attempting to attract it there.

Keith Vaz (Labour): ...The fact remains that some of those games, even though they are a minority, are very violent. The hon. Gentleman and I have both commented on the video internet game "Kaboom" in which people replicate the activities of a suicide bomber. It cannot be right that the makers of those games should choose such storylines to provide entertainment, especially on the internet, where our children and under-18s can access them more easily than if they were going into a shop to buy them, as with non-internet games?

John Whittingdale (Conservative): This is a very difficult area and "Kaboom", which has been around for a little while, is an interesting example. It is a remarkably crude, cartoon-type game and is not in the least realistic, as many games now are. It is undoubtedly tasteless and might be offensive to a large number of people. I suspect that it is probably distressing to anyone who has suffered a bereavement as the result of a suicide bombing. Does that mean that it should be banned? I am not convinced that it should, because it is so crude, and other games pose greater concerns.

Edward Vaizey (Conservative): May I make a point to my hon. Friend? In his response to Keith Vaz, he has implied that "Kaboom" is somehow a legitimate video game that breaches the boundaries of taste, but it is not. It was created by an individual in his bedroom. To say that we should ban "Kaboom" is, with the greatest respect to my hon. Friend, slightly missing the point."Kaboom" is not subject to any legal constraints. It cannot be submitted to a regulator to be classified, because it is made by an individual, effectively illegally, outside the mainstream... It is not at all part of the mainstream video games industry. (more after the jump)

Video Games Linked to Rape in Parliament Debate

March 3, 2008 -

Although we can't think of a single commercial video game with an interactive rape scene, British MP - and frequent game critic - Keith Vaz (left) made sexual violence sound like a gaming staple in a debate on Friday.

As reported by Spong, the issue under consideration was Conservative MP Julian Brazier's bill to bring additional censorship to games in the U.K. Although Brazier's attempt ultimately failed, Vaz, not surprisingly, was a supporter:

Someone sitting at a computer playing a video game, or someone with one of those small devices that young people have these days, the name of which I forget - PlayStations or PSPs, something of that kind...

Well, whatever they are called, when people play these things, they can interact. They can shoot people; they can kill people. As the honourable Gentleman said, they can rape women.


Conservative MP Edward Vaizey, speaking later, questioned Vaz's rape assertion:

...the right honourable Member for Leicester, East (Keith Vaz), who chairs the Home Affairs Committee, mentioned that some video games allow the participant to engage in a rape act... I checked the point with the BBFC and found it to be completely unaware of any such video game.

 

Is the honourable Gentleman aware of any video game that has as its intention the carrying out of rape or that allows the game player to carry out such an act? The BBFC and I are unaware of any such game.


Vaz, however, was not present to respond to Vaizey. But the frequent game critic also took time to paint the U.K.'s video game industry and gaming press as malign forces:

The industry is one of the strongest and most powerful in the media today, and London is the centre of that industry.

 

Whenever those of us who raise the issue of video games have done so positively in relation to concerns about violence, we have been pilloried in the press that is sponsored by the video games industry for trying in some way to destroy it.


Link to full debate here...

 
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MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/09/01/icewind-dale-enhanced-edition-now-available-for-pre-order/ Third time's the charm, right guys? Right? Surely Icewind Dale EE can't suck as much as Baldur's Gate 1 and 2 EEs can, right?09/01/2014 - 1:37pm
Sleaker@AE I don't even know what you're trying to say in that tweet.09/01/2014 - 1:28pm
Andrew EisenBy far the most retweeted tweet I've ever tweeted. https://twitter.com/AndrewEisen/status/50617593365333196809/01/2014 - 11:15am
Thomas RiordanNo, certainly not. Anything to prevent that kinda crap.09/01/2014 - 8:18am
SleakerAlthough.. I don't think it hurts anyone if kids think the report is true :P09/01/2014 - 3:26am
Sleakerand just for future reference. National Reports is a fake news site, they decided to remove their disclaimers a while back apparently...09/01/2014 - 3:25am
Thomas RiordanDon't feel bad. I posted the same thing last night and deleted it once I realized it wasn't real.08/31/2014 - 11:13pm
E. Zachary KnightAh. The report actually read serious to me. Oh well. At least it didn't happen.08/31/2014 - 7:46pm
ConsterAlthough apparently someone who was in a swatting ring in Texas took a plea for up to 5 years in July.08/31/2014 - 7:14pm
ConsterProbably because it's a satire site.08/31/2014 - 7:13pm
E. Zachary KnightI agree that the kid should be punished, but the charge and sentence seem a bit overboard to me. http://nationalreport.net/15-year-old-swatted-domestic-terrorism/08/31/2014 - 6:56pm
Andrew EisenI get a "page doesn't exist."08/31/2014 - 11:50am
MaskedPixelantehttps://twitter.com/Nevelets/status/506076879309508608 What we're currently supposed to be offended by, or whatever.08/31/2014 - 10:10am
MechaTama31AE: Probably snarky commentary on this: http://www.gamepolitics.com/2014/08/29/principle-player-leland-yee-arms-trading-case-dies08/30/2014 - 8:43pm
Andrew EisenConster - Don't know. Got a link to whatever you're referring to?08/30/2014 - 7:04pm
ConsterWait, what's this about Leland Yee eliminating witnesses?08/30/2014 - 5:50pm
IanCBroke my EA boycott to pick up Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare. Loving it. Still hate EA though. But i like Popcap. Gah.08/30/2014 - 6:01am
MaskedPixelantehttp://m.tickld.com/x/something-you-never-realized-about-guardians-of-the-galaxy Right in the feels.08/29/2014 - 6:56pm
AvalongodAgain I think we're conflating the issue of whether Sarkeesian's claims are beyond critique (no they're not) and whether its ever appropriate to use sexist language, let alone physical threats on a woman to intimidate her (no it isn't)08/29/2014 - 5:04pm
prh99Trolling her or trying to assail her integrity just draws more attention (Streisand effect?). Which is really not what the trolls want, so the only way to win (if there is a win to be had) is not to play/troll.08/29/2014 - 5:02pm
 

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