The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has put up a form that interested parties can sign onto concerning some changes that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has planned for the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
The Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) has put up a form that interested parties can sign onto concerning some changes that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has planned for the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Nintendo has scored a rank of "0" from the watchdog group, the Enough Project. Out of the 24 companies on its list, Nintendo was the only one to receive the lowest rank possible. The Enough Project is a watchdog group that follows the money trail of "conflict minerals" from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where warlords are fighting for control of the country.
Open Congress offers some biting commentary on why - even after a myriad of amendments have been offered to make it more palatable to those worried about privacy - the Cybersecurity Act of 2012 is bad news. The non-profit, non-partisan public resource that tracks how political influence is bought with campaign funds says that it cannot support the bill unless one important amendment is made.
While some in the Linux community have lauded the idea of Steam coming to the popular open-source operating system, some like Richard Stallman think it is not a good idea. Richard Stallman is better known as the founder of the Free Software Foundation and the GNU operating system. He has said publicly that charging users for DRM-protected games on an open-source platform is "unethical".
Internet advocacy group Public Knowledge is taking aim at data caps and the companies that love them with the release of a new white paper and letters to several companies asking them to release information about their data capping processes. In a white paper released earlier this week the group called for government oversight of mobile and wired broadband providers who use data caps, noting that these companies should disclose detailed information about data caps. Public Knowledge wants U.S.
A post over at the Better Business Bureau blog by Marjorie Stephens contends that EA may have committed "false advertising" when it was promoting Mass Effect 3. The author of the post says that when EA talked about how the game's ending would work, they may have described it in a way that was misleading to consumers. Marjorie Stephens then list two examples from EA on the ending:
AllOut.org, an online advocacy group representing the LGBT community, issued a press release last week announcing an online petition with over 60,000 signatures supporting Electronic Arts' and BioWare's inclusion of same-sex relationships in its games. Last week EA responded to a flood of letters and emails from two family advocacy groups haranguing them for "exposing children" to same-sex relationships in games like Mass Effect 3 and Star Wars: The Old Republic and accused them of giving in to pressure from LGBT advocacy groups.
The Center for Copyright Information, an organization that was created to oversee a new anti-piracy regime negotiated by content providers and internet service providers last summer, has begun to take shape and some of its key leaders are surprising. The organization announced on Monday that the names of its executive director and several members of its advisory board. At face value, the choices to serve as the architects of the "Copyright Alert" system could strike a balance between the interests of rights holders and the rights of users.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is taking up arms against the PROTECT IP Act in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House and they want your help to do it. The advocacy that supports internet rights and freedom of speech online says that these new bills are "a threatening sequel to last year's COICA Internet censorship bill" and that this legislation "invites Internet security risks, threatens online speech, and hampers Internet innovation."
Whoever said you can't fight city hall has never been to the great state of Wisconsin. State legislators (admittedly a bit more powerful than city hall) found themselves overwhelmed with calls after trying to cut the throat of Wisconsin's state educational Internet system. The public phoned members of Wisconsin’s state Assembly and browbeat them into submission.
The calls were so overwhelming, according to published reports, that lawmakers in the state immediately put together revised legislation for WiscNet that would allow it to receive funding from the University of Wisconsin's Division of Information Technology. The Assembly quickly added provisions to the state budget, with final approval taking place early this morning. WiscNet provides Internet for most of Wisconsin's public schools and libraries, and many citizens in the state think it is a vital and important service.
The French chapter of International human rights organization Amnesty International has released an iOS game called Bulletproof. The goal of the game is to raise awareness about human rights violations around the world and to raise money for the organization. The game, playable on iPhone and iPad, cost a mere 0.99 cents. The group celebrates 50 years of fighting for human rights around the world. It's hard to hate on Amnesty International, unless you're a maniacal dictator that jails and tortures people..
The game was created by Mobigame and is sponsored by French ad agency La Chose. In Bulletproof, players tap the touch screen to stop bullets from a firing squad trying to execute a condemned man. While the design sounds simple, the message is powerful. You can send a powerful message by buying it and supporting the organization. You can buy it here.
The Recording Industry Association of America and its partners at the International Intellectual Property Alliance recently submitted their ‘piracy watchlist’ recommendations to the Office of the US Trade Representative. The RIAA pointed to two countries as being the worst of the worst when it comes to intellectual property theft: Spain and our comrades to the north - Canada.
This is particularly interesting because this week Spain passed a tough new law to combat piracy. The Sinde law (nicknamed for its sponsor) is aimed at shutting down file-sharing sites that traffic in illegal downloads. Even though the public and some in the Spanish movie industry opposed the law, it will become the rule of the land by summer, says TorrentFreak. But the RIAA claims this is just a baby step and that even more needs to be done to combat theft.
According to information gathered by Puffbox, the United Kingdom's Department of Transport has spent £2,785,695 ($4,425,576.95 USD) on a free-to-play educational MMO called Code Of Everand. That number includes costs for the fiscal year 2010 - 2011. The game, developed by U.S.-based Area/Code (Spore Island for Facebook and Drop7 for iOS), was designed to teach kids road safety. The game allegedly has 170,000 users worldwide.
Editor's note: 1 GBP = 1.58868 USD, according to exchange rates at Universal Currency Converter.
After a Fall 2010 update failed to include any videogames, the National Parenting Center’s Seal of Approval awards focused on the 2010 holiday season includes four such entries.
The winners, part of the NPC’s 20th annual incarnation of the awards, were chosen following two months of testing by both parents and kids in the NPC’s test centers. Entries are judged by “a variety of levels including, but not limited to, price, packaging, design, stimulation, desirability, age appropriateness, instructions and more.”
A series of television ads run in the UK for the PlayStation 3 game Heavy Rain rankled a few feathers due to their timing and violence.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) reported receiving 38 complaints in response to four Heavy Rain ads, with viewers criticizing the violence of the ads and a perceived glamorization of violence. The objectors also worried that the ads were run at a time of day when children could view them.
The last complaint about the ads was that they were run around the same time that a shop keeper in Huddersfield was killed in an armed robbery. The Heavy Rain ads all depicted a scene in which a shop keeper was repeatedly threatened by an armed man with Heavy Rain character Scott Shelby watching. The versions differed in how the Shelby reacted to the situation; he either intervened, attacked or negotiated with the armed robber.
A Rhode Island Bill that proposes fines and possible jail time for retail employees that sell Mature(M) or Adults Only (AO) rated games to underage consumers has drawn backing from the Parents Television Council (PTC).
S.2156 (PDF) proposes to label it a misdemeanor to sell “M” rated games to anyone less than seventeen years or “AO” rated games to someone less than eighteen years of age. Fines of up to $1,000 and jail time of “not more” than one year are the bill’s proposed penalties. The bill is sponsored by State Senators Frank Ciccone (D), Paul Jabour (D), Beatrice Lanzi (D) and Michael McCaffrey (D).
In urging the Rhode Island legislature to pass the bill, PTC President Tim Winter stated:
The National Institute on Media and Family (NIMF), which was forced to shutter its doors at the end of last year, has found a taker to carry on some of its programs.
NIMF and MediaWise trademarks, NIMF website content and the NIMF programs Say Yes to No, Switch and through-U will be transitioned to the Search Institute, an independent nonprofit with a mission of providing “leadership, knowledge, and resources to promote healthy children, youth, and communities.”
NIMF founder David Walsh on the changeover:
Search Institute has been a trusted resource for parents, educators and community leaders for 50 years. We are excited that the work of the National Institute on Media and the Family will not just survive. It will thrive.
Search Institute CEO Peter Benson offered:
We are honored to have been selected as the new home for these great resources. We look forward to offering these tools and ideas as part of our efforts to help families, schools, and communities work together to ensure that all children and youth succeed.
We asked a NIMF spokesperson if The Search Institute might also perpetuate NIMF’s annual Video Game Industry Report Card and were told that the “Search Institute is evaluating all of the programs from National Institute on Media and Family over the next 3-6 months and will determine which ones to continue to offer in the future.”
A congressionally-mandated Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report looks into the availability of sexually and violently explicit content in online worlds to minors.
Virtual Worlds and Kids: Mapping the Risks examined 27 virtual online worlds, including Second Life, Build A Bearville, IMVU, Neopets, Runescape, There and YoVille. Selected worlds investigated ran the gamut from those intended for kids to those aimed at adults only.
At least one instance of sexually or violently explicit content was found in 19 of the 27 virtual worlds, with five labeled as having a “heavy” amount of explicit content, four containing a “moderate” amount, while a “low” amount was found in 10 virtual worlds.
Kid-oriented (designed for children ages 13 and under) virtual worlds fared a little better, with seven featuring no explicit content, six featuring a “low” amount and a single world labeled as having “moderate” explicit content.
The report also examined the ways in which virtual worlds designed for older teens or adults kept out younger children. It was found that “most” worlds used an age-screening mechanism tied to a birth date entered in the registration process and half of these worlds did not accept kids who re-registered on the same computer using a modified birth date.
The Commission recommended five steps for virtual world operators to take in order to limit the exposure of kids to explicit content:
What defines explicit? The Commission developed its own factors, looking to Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) rating criteria.
The full report, in PDF form, can be grabbed here.
EuroGamer has an insightful piece up entitled “Killerspiele,” which takes a look at the state of controversial games in Germany.
The article begins by detailing the failed “Killer Game Drive” put on by the Aktionsbündnis Amoklauf Winnenden last month in Stuttgart, noting that Harry Schober (pictured left), a father of one of the German school shooting victims from earlier this year, founded both the organization and the game round up.
Other aspects covered include a detailed look at Germany’s game rating system, which “goes further than any other to ensure that unsuitable videogames don't get into the hands of unsuitable players,” and the positive effect that a gamer-driven, grass-roots effort had upon government.
Where the piece’s author—Simon Parkin—excels though is in his ability to frame perfectly both the anguish of Schober and the outrage of gamers, who feel that their rights are being affected by attempts to limit access to certain games:
We should always be mindful that videogames offer mere fleeting entertainment while life, in contrast, is infinitely precious. The former should never threaten the latter. Hardy Schober's anguish may be misplaced and his tabloid-friendly skip stunt deserving of mockery. But more than that, he deserves a conversation. If gamers cannot afford him that, then in some ways, they really are to blame.
Stopping by your local Dairy Queen over the holiday weekend? If so, here's something to consider:
The Boston-based CCFC turned its attention to DQ Tycoon as part of its ongoing campaign to lobby Scholastic, Inc. to drop non-books items such as toys, make-up and video games from its school flyers. In a press release issued earlier this week, CCFC termed the game "egregious":
CCFC plans to continue to track Scholastic Book club offerings. One of the more egregious recent findings was the Dairy Queen video game, DQ Tycoon, which appears in Scholastic’s June 2009 Arrow flyer.
The Orlando Sentinel's education blog picked up on the theme:
Some might suggest that DQ Tycoon isn't in the same league with a Newbery Medal winner for children's literature, such as Joseph Krumgold's And Now Miguel, my personal favorite. But it apparently gets equal of better billing in the book club fliers. That coming of age book about a Hispanic boy in New Mexico, which won the Newbery in 1954, has been "thinker" literature for kids for 55 years. Will DQ Tycoon meet that test??
While it's true that DQ Tycoon is probably not going to change anyone's life, GamePolitics just had to ask: What's so bad about a game based on ice cream? CCFC spokesman Josh Golin responded.
CCFC: The game is egregious because it's an ad for Dairy Queen masquerading as a video game and ads for Dairy Queen have no place in schools. It is particularly galling that Scholastic is enlisting teachers as a sales force for the game because, at a time of heightened concerns about childhood obesity, many schools are limiting the types of foods that can be sold and marketed on their premises. I think it's safe to say that without Scholastic, DQ would be unable to promote Blizzards (as many as 1,200 calories) in elementary schools.
GP: In my experience the "tycoon" game genre generally would seem to have at least some educational value, forcing players to plan, strategize, allocate resources, etc. Not exactly Manhunt 2. I noticed that the game next to DQ Tycoon in the ad is "1701," which I've played and which also brings a lot of historical flavor as well as the previously mentioned elements to the mix.
CCFC: I don't dispute for a second that some video games can have educational value. Our concerns are a) the highly commercialized nature of so many of Scholastic's offerings (not just the games) and b) the fact that Scholastic sells so many things that are not books in its "book clubs".
The fact of the matter is that books clearly play a special role in schools which is why Scholastic is allowed into classrooms and given the unique opportunity to sell directly to students. Scholastic is exploiting that access by selling so many things that aren't books. I'm sure Game Stop or Toys R' Us would love to have teachers hand out circulars for them every month.
GP: So, why does CCFC hate ice cream? Just kidding...
Media watchdog group the Parents Television Council has applauded Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's decision to petition the U.S. Supreme Court to review a federal court decision striking down California's 2005 violent video game law as unconstitutional.
While video game industry lobbyists and video game consumer group the Entertainment Consumers Association criticized Schwarzenegger's decision, PTC President Tim Winter (left) praised the California appeal in a press release:
There should be no question that unaccompanied minors should be kept from purchasing adult video games that research has shown can be harmful to them, just like there are reasonable restrictions on other products that can cause them harm. This California law was designed to enforce the video game industry’s own voluntary retail guidelines... Our own research found that video game retailers sell M-rated video games to minors 36% of the time. Clearly, this law is needed...
The [video game] industry doesn’t follow its own rules, and they don’t want a consequence for violating them. Video game retailers, developers and publishers actually profit when their age restriction policy is ignored. This creates an inherent and unworkable conflict of interest.
We hope that the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case and rule in favor of the families and children that this California law was intended to protect.
Winter is referring to the PTC's 2008 secret shopper survey, which found that underage buyers were successful at purchasing M-rated games 36% of the time. A survey released by the Federal Trade Commission earlier in 2008 found only a 20% success rate for underage buyers.
FULL DISCLOSURE DEPT: The ECA is the parent company of GamePolitics.
An Australian parents' group is protesting the MA15+ rating assigned to Wii zombie shooter House of the Dead: Overkill.
The gaming industry has been mischievously misrepresenting the classification system on this issue. I feel very distressed that a large number of teenagers and adults would play this game and soak up this amount of sexually aggressive violence and aggressively violent language.
We need to draw a deep breath and look at the research, which will show a need to scale back this level of violence.
Given the increasing amount of knowledge now available of the effects of exposure to intense levels of violence on the adolescent brain, we should be reviewing the level of violence the MA15+ classification now allows.
Conway also called for additional research into the impact of violent games on players. Last year, Conway claimed that violent games would turn troubled kids into "lethal killers."
Sega spokesman Vispi Bhopti defended HOTD:O, however:
House of the Dead: Overkill has been rated as suitable for people over 15. It is not an R-rated game. The swearing in it is very much stylised so it matches the Grindhouse cinema style made famous by director Quentin Tarantino.
In playing the game, players attack zombies or humanoid characters but never humans. This is an important distinction that the classification board makes when it gives a rating.
Over the years, video games have been linked to societal ills ranging from poor academic performance to extreme antisocial behavior. So perhaps it came as no surprise when the game industry reacted poorly to U.K. health group Change4Life’s “Early Death” ad which visually linked the sedentary nature of video game play to dying before one's time.
Several game industry types spoke out against the ad while trade magazine MCV and trade association Tiga (representing UK game developers) went as far as to submit official complaints with U.K. ad watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority.
Less than two weeks later, the ASA has decided not to take any action against the ad. In its ruling the ASA said:
Most readers would understand that the ad was discouraging a sedentary lifestyle and used the example of playing a console game as an illustration of the type of behaviour which might lead to long-term health problems if no exercise were taken alongside more sedentary activities.
Interestingly, the ASA also said that it received a complaint from someone not affiliated with the video game industry:
One parent objected that the ad was offensive and harmful because it frightened her young child who became scared that she would die if she played video games. The ASA Council sympathised with those concerns and understood that the reference to future health might, for some, be upsetting. However, it considered that the ad was unlikely to cause undue fear or distress to parents or children.
You can read the ASA’s entire response at MCV.
-Reporting from San Diego, GamePolitics Correspondent Andrew Eisen...
The National Institute on Media and the Family has taken a swipe at Nintendo over the release of Sega's bloody Madworld for the Wii.
IGN reports on a NIMF press release in which organization founder Dr. David Walsh criticizes Nintendo for licensing Madworld, which has been highly anticipated by many Wii gamers:
[Nintendo has] shed its 'family friendly' reputation with MadWorld's release.
The release of MadWorld for the Wii brings violent videogames to a once family-friendly platform. In MadWorld, gamers use the Wii Remote to make the necessary physical actions to chainsaw an opponent in half, impale an enemy with a signpost or decapitate a victim with a golf club...
In the past, the Wii has successfully sold itself as being the gaming console for the entire family and a way to bring family-game nights back into people's living rooms. Unfortunately, Nintendo opened its doors to the violent videogame genre. The National Institute on Media and the Family hopes that Nintendo does not lose sight of its initial audience and continues to offer quality, family-friendly games.
GP: While Walsh's criticism of Madworld is not unexpected, the idea that Nintendo is pursuing a family friendly policy went by the wayside with the 2007 release of Manhunt 2 for the Wii.
As GamePolitics reported on Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court has upheld a lower court's ruling that California's 2005 video law is unconstitutional.
The Parents Television Council has now weighed in on the decision. The Los Angeles-based watchdog group criticized the 9th Circuit's ruling and called upon PTC members to support State Sen. Leland Yee's call for an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In a press release, PTC President Tim Winter (left) said:
Let’s be clear on what – exactly – is going on here: The video game industry has established a policy to ‘protect’ children from a harmful product, yet they file lawsuit after lawsuit to oppose any enforcement of that same policy... The only motivation for the industry to sue is to keep collecting blood money from kids who aren’t supposed to be able to buy these games without their parents present at the time of purchase.
There are very responsible retailers out there – Wal-Mart and Game Stop come to mind – who take their obligation not to sell these games to kids very seriously. Yet industry representatives claim this law is unfairly biased against them... If the industry actually followed its own rules, then this law would have absolutely no financial impact...
Shockingly, the Court’s ruling claims that there isn’t enough research to support that children are affected by video game violence. Yet countless independent studies confirm what most parents instinctively know to be true: repeated exposure to graphic sexual, violent and profanity-laced video games has a harmful and long-term effect on children...
This federal court decision is a disgrace and should be of great concern to all parents – not just in California but across our nation. We applaud State Sen. Yee’s efforts to see that this decision goes to the U.S. Supreme Court...
The mainstream is beginning to react to the news that GTA IV add-on The Lost and Damned features a moment of full frontal male nudity.
Watchdog group Common Sense Media has now weighed in on the controversy:
It is even more controversial than its predecessors because this game has full frontal male nudity. The game lets you lead a life of crime as part of a motorcycle gang with plenty of gang violence... relentless foul language, drugs and alcohol, and sexual references...
Families can talk about why Rockstar likes to push the envelope and garner controversy over its games? Why did they have to put full-frontal nudity in the game if it's not integral to the story? Do they correlate media outrage with extraordinary game sales? Do players expect Rockstar to stir up controversy with each of its titles, including the Manhunt and Bully series?...
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has targeted Scholastic, Inc. over the bookseller's marketing of items such as video games, jewelry kits and toys to school children.
As reported by the Associated Press, CCFC director Susan Linn was highly critical of Scholastic. The company has been welcomed into schools for decades. Said Linn:
The opportunity to sell directly to children in schools is a privilege and not a right. Scholastic is abusing that privilege by flooding classrooms across the country with ads for toys, trinkets, and electronic media with little or no educational value.
The AP details some of the bookseller's marketing practices which prompted CCFC to act:
Items pitched to elementary school students in the last 14 months include M&M’s Kart Racing Wii video game, an American Idol event planner, the SpongeBob SquarePants Monopoly computer game, lip gloss rings, Nintendo’s Baby Pals video game, Hannah Montana posters and the Spy Master Voice Disguiser.
The campaign said about one-third of the items for sale in Scholastic’s elementary and middle school book clubs were either not books or were books packaged with other items such as jewelry, toys and makeup.
However, Scholastic exec Judy Newman defended her company's offerings to the AP:
We’re losing kids’ interest (in reading). We have to keep them engaged. This (book club) model is 60 years old, and it has to stay relevant to do the work it does. To the extent we put in a few carefully selected non-book items, it’s to keep up the interest... some kids learn through video games.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood has had little to say about video games since joining the 2007 fight against Manhunt 2.
But the Boston-based group has named a popular video game as a finalist in the voting for its first annual TOADY (Toys Oppressive And Destructive to Young Children) Award.
So, which game has drawn CCFC's wrath? Grand Theft Auto IV? Left 4 Dead? Saints Row 2? Blitz: The League II?
Actually, none of the above. The CCFC has targeted LEGO Batman. Here's what the watchdog group says about the E10-rated game on its website:
How do you turn the ultimate creative toy into a symbol of commercialized childhood? Begin by partnering with media companies to sell that toy in branded kits designed for recreating movies like Star Wars, rather than creative construction.
Then, dispense with hands-on building altogether by turning your toy into a video game so that instead of deciding what to build next, children choose which cyber weapons to use to beat up their opponent.
Finally, ignore the fact it was rated suitable for ages 10 & up and partner with McDonald’s for a Happy Meal toy giveaway to simultaneously promote the video game, junk food, and the violent Dark Knight movie series to preschoolers.