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 2017: Oct-Dec

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  Game makers to self regulate BUT will be effectively banned if they don't do what he says...

US state lawmaker calls for games with loot boxes to be given a 21+ age rating


Link Here 1st December 2017
generic 21Hawaii State Representative Sean Quinlan has advocated for self-regulation of loot boxes by the video game industry whilst also suggesting that such games should carry a 21+ age rating.

He said that ultimately, it's best for the industry to self-police. The ideal solution would be for the game industry to stop having gambling or gambling-like mechanics in games that are marketed to kids... BUT ... he believes games makers should be held accountable. The ESRB would need to enforce higher-grade ratings and other labels to distinguish games that rely on predatory monetization. As an example, he said that the ESRB could say that if a game has loot crates, it gets a 21-plus rating.

The Entertainment Software Association is proving resistant, however. Their response ran along the same lines as many publishers, asserting that loot boxes are a voluntary feature and that the gamer makes the decision in regards to their purchase .

 

  Playing a long game...

Belgium's minister of justice is seeking to ban loot boxes from computer games


Link Here 22nd November 2017
Belgium flagLoot boxes are used to monetise games by allowing gamers to buy items that will prove useful in the game. The games designers seem to favour a lucky dip approach to the goodies that are sold leading to accusations of gambling as some loot boxes may prove better than others.

This week Belgium's Minister of Justice has deemed that the selling of loot boxes should be classed as gambling.

This comment comes after Belgium's Gaming Commission launched an investigation into loot boxes last week stating, The mixing of money and addiction is gambling.

Belgium's Minister of Justice Koen Geens has also weighed in on the issue and said:

Mixing gambling and gaming, especially at a young age, is dangerous for the mental health of the child.

Geens has stressed he is looking to have features such as look boxes banned in Belgium when the user does now know what they are receiving when they purchase. Geens noted that a ban will take time as he will have to proceed with the ban via Europe.

 

  Ruiner release ruined...

US games raters change the rules to require online games to submit to expensive rating fees should they subsequently want to release special editions on physical disks


Link Here 11th November 2017
esrb logoIn the US video games sold on disk have to pay for a rating from the ESRB. The fees are not published but is seems that they are quite expensive and are related to development budgets.

Online games do not require such a rating from the ESRB. However there is a bit of a crossover, as established online games have been creating special edition releases on disk.

However the ESRB has now changed the rules and all games require an ESRB rating no mater how they are sold. Thankfully the ratings for online will be free but game producers will now have to pay for special edition releases of initially online games. The ESRB is offering a discounted price of $3000 for this subsequent rating but this still seems expensive enough to make special edition releases uneconomic.

Sony has announced that it will be enforcing ESRB ratings requirements before allowing games on to its various console platforms.

kotaku.com.au have cited an example where the new ESRB requirements have led to the cancelling of a planned release.

Ruiner, a violent cyberpunk shooter that arrived digitally on PS4 in late September, was originally going to have a physical disc version released in the future. Developed by Reikon Games and published by Devolver Digital, Ruiner had come up on the radar of Special Reserve Games, who had previously put out physical editions of Absolver, Shadow Warrior 2, and Strafe .

These packages often included not just hard copies of the game, but also art books, statues, and other boondoggles. Special Reserve Games planned to do the same with Ruiner until it became apparent that new rules being handed down by Sony would make the project prohibitively expensive.

In a statement on Twitter in late October, Special Reserve wrote:

In late August, the ESRB announced a new mandate for all physical releases across all consoles would soon be required, and shortly after we announced our intention to produce Ruiner , we received word that this mandate would be applied to it and future new game releases.

The process of obtaining this rating comes with a fee that puts the production costs for new releases like Ruiner out of the acceptable range for us to produce physical discs for PS4. This decision was agonizing, and we have tried multiple ways to reach a compromise, but sadly, we have had to change our plans to produce our intended collector edition PS4 discs for Ruiner .

 

  Wolfenstein II de-tached...

Video game cuts detailed for the German release


Link Here 30th October 2017
Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus "Welcome to Amerika" Pack Germany has a bizarre censorship law that bans Nazi references and symbology from use in the media, presumably fearing that it may somehow stir a rebirth of the far right. One suspects that the current resurgence of the far right may be little do with media images, and is perhaps more likely to do with political leaders and their significantly unpopular policies of welcoming mass immigration.

Anyway the law is the law, and the latest video game in the Wolfenstein series has had to be censored in Germany (and probably Austria too). The previous episode, Wolfenstein: The New Order was also cut in 2014 to remove Nazi references.

wolfenstein ii video Wolfenstein II: Welcome to Amerika suffers the following cuts:

  • Hitler is renamed heiler (healer)
  • My fuhrer becomes mein Kanzler (my chancellor)
  • Hitler loses his iconic moustache
  • The swastika is replaced by a stark menacing looking three-pronged symbol
  • polygon.com also speculates that an actor is shot by Hitler for being a spy rather than being jewish.

 

 Extract: Censor Overwatch...

PCGamer calls for more 'toxicity marshals' to police Overwatch gamers


Link Here 28th October 2017
nazi soldiers marching
 
Toxicity marshals form an orderly queue for the job
 

If Blizzard wants Overwatch to be an inclusive shooter, it needs to deal with the game's toxic players.

Just two months after Overwatch's massive launch, Blizzard acknowledged that its game had a toxicity problem. Since Competitive has been live, we've been doing some under the hood tuning and tweaking on [the report function] to be more aggressive about handling toxic behavior, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan said at the time. But [toxicity] is not just in Competitive Play. I think as the game ages a little bit, people's dark sides tend to come out a little bit more. 15 months later, the company's attempts to address the situation have proved painfully slow and ultimately ineffectual.

Blizzard's most recent acknowledgement is a developer update video entitled Play Nice, Play Fair, which celebrated the release of player reporting on consoles, a feature that should have been present from the start. In the 15 months it took to implement, more than 480,000 PC players were hit with disciplinary actions by Blizzard -- 340,000 of those the direct result of player reporting -- more than a thousand per day.

...

Toxicity is a nebulous term, but today it's a container for all the ways that other players can make a multiplayer game a miserable experience. It's hardly an issue unique to Overwatch, but the difference in this case is that from the start Blizzard has consistently presented the game as the inclusive shooter. The game's diverse cast of characters, though certainly not perfect, seems to have succeeded in netting a wider audience than most FPSes -- twice as many women play it than the genre average, for example. Yet it's these marginalized players who are most hurt by Blizzard's failure to stem the flow of bad behavior within its game.

...

It's important to remember that Blizzard has made more than $1 billion in profits from Overwatch alone. The company could, and should, spend money on a hiring a new set of employees for whom toxicity is a specific focus -- Riot established a team of more than 30 scientists and social systems designers to focus on toxic League of Legends player behavior in 2012 -- or the sake of the players and other developers alike. There isn't a magic bullet for toxicity, but adding bodies to the task does help. In any case, toxicity is a problem that shouldn't require the redirection of resources. It's a core issue of all modern competitive games that affects the entire Overwatch experience, and Blizzard should have dedicated resources to it from the start.

...

Blizzard is in the position to dedicate effort and resources into experimenting with ways to make truly inclusive systems. Until the company is willing to shoulder that responsibility, its promises to welcome marginalised players are empty words. Overwatch has long billed itself as an inclusive game. But one needs to play only a few rounds to discover that Blizzard has not succeeded in its intent to create a world where everyone is welcome.

...Read the full article from pcgamer.com

 

  Call of Duty WWII...

Games distributors in Australia made cuts to delete reference to sexual threat from the games censor's advice


Link Here 19th October 2017
Call of DutyŽ: WWII + Animated Zombies Weapon Camo + Zombies Prima Strategy Guide Call of Duty: WWII is a 2017 US combat simulation game from Activision.

On the first submission to the Australian Censorship Board the game was passed R18 uncut for high impact violence and threat of sexual violence.

The distributors didn't want the reference to sexual violence so made cuts to the game and resubmitted it. The game was then duly passed R18+ this time for high impact violence.

kotaku.com.au asked the censor board about the original classification and the cuts.

[ Spoilers! hover or click text below]

According to the Classification Board, the original version contained a reference to sexual violence:

In one section of the game, the player controls Rosseau, a female spy, as she infiltrates a German building. While inside, she witnesses a woman as she is dragged by a Nazi soldier into a closet, against her will, screaming, You're all pigs!

Rosseau opes the closet door, as the soldier says, Leave. This is none of your business. The player is then given the option to kill the soldier or leave.

If the player chooses to leave, the player closes the door, as the soldier is heard unziping his fly and viewed advancing towards the woman. She screams, Ah! Get away from me! as Rosseau leaves.

It is implied that the soldier is going to sexually assault the woman, but at no time is the assault depicted.

The board then described how the cuts made a difference:

In the Board's opinion, the modifications to this game - which include the change of dress for the female prisoner (was in a skirt and top, now in a pants and top) and the removal of audio that implies a soldier is unzipping his pants - do not contain any classifiable elements that alter this classification or exceed a R18+ impact level.

In the Board's opinion, the removal of the audio track means that consumer advice of threat of sexual violence is not required. Therefore, this modified computer game warrants an R18+ classification with consumer advice of high impact violence [and] online interactivity.

 

 Offsite Article: Unblemished...


Link Here 19th October 2017
Tokyo Tattoo Girls The English language release of the video game, Tokyo Tattoo Girls, will be uncut, hopefully recognising that fans are more important than social justice warriors with their fake 'outrage'

See article from oneangrygamer.net

 

  Censorship body...

League of Legends video game censored in South Korea


Link Here 18th October 2017
league of legends
  
 Before and censored
 

The Korean version of the League of Legends has been censored after a software update on the Korean server for the game.

Artwork for the character Evelynn has been changed to cover up her bare midriff and also to reduce her cleavage (in visibility rather than size).

The game is 12 rated in South Korea, and has a Teen T rating from the ESRB in the US.

The South Korean Game Rating & Administration Committee has a recent history of censorship of games in regards to artwork, especially in mobile games.

The change to Evelynn's artwork has sparked another round of debate about game ratings in Korea and what should be deemed appropriate or not.

 

  A bit of a lucky dip...

Games censors and the UK parliament considers whether loot boxes in video games need to be regulated as gambling


Link Here 17th October 2017
loot boxLoot boxes are a revenue creating facility where gamers are assisted in their quests by the real money purchase of loot boxes that contain a random collections of goodies that help game progress. loot boxes are found in many commercially successful games, such as Overwatch, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, Halo 5: Guardians, Battlefield 1, Paragon, Gears of War 4, and FIFA 17.

The pros and cons of this method of revenue raising has been passionately debated in games forums and teh debate seems to have widened out to more regulatory spheres.

Last week the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), who rate games for North America declared that loot boxes, despite their inherent randomness, do not constitute a form of gambling. The reason, simply put, is that while you don't know what you're going to get out of them, you know you're going to get something -- unlike a lottery ticket, say, where the great likelihood is that your money is just going up in smoke.

The same opinion is reflected by PEGI who rate games for Europe. PEGI operations director Dirk Bosmans told Wccftech:

In short, our approach is similar to that of ESRB. The main reason for this is that we cannot define what constitutes gambling, That is the responsibility of a national gambling commission. Our gambling content descriptor is given to games that simulate or teach gambling as it's done in real life in casinos, racetracks, etc. If a gambling commission would state that loot boxes are a form of gambling, then we would have to adjust our criteria to that.

And for solidarity the UK games trade group Ukie agreed. Dr. Jo Twist of Ukie said

Loot boxes are already covered by and fully compliant with existing relevant UK regulations. The games sector has a history of open and constructive dialogue with regulators, ensuring that games fully comply with UK law and has already discussed similar issues as part of last year's Gambling Commission paper on virtual currencies, esports and social gaming.

Not everyone agrees though, a British parliamentarian gave a little push to the UK government by submitting the questions:

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps she plans to take to help protect vulnerable adults and children from illegal gambling, in-game gambling and loot boxes within computer games.

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what assessment the Government has made of the effectiveness of the Isle of Man's enhanced protections against illegal and in-game gambling and loot boxes; and what discussions she has had with Cabinet colleagues on adopting such protections in the UK.

It seems that the Isle of Mann already sees loot boxes as being liable to gambling controls.

Tracey Crouch, from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport responded in a statement, pointing out that definitions and protections already exist regarding loot boxes and other in-game currencies, referencing a paper published by the UK Gambling Commission earlier this year. She said:

Where items obtained in a computer game can be traded or exchanged outside the game platform they acquire a monetary value, and where facilities for gambling with such items are offered to consumers located in Britain a Gambling Commission licence is required. If no licence is held, the Commission uses a wide range of regulatory powers to take action.

So for the moment it seems that for the moment the status quo will be maintained, but in this age of cotton wool and snowflakes, I wouldn't bet on it.

 

 Update: Playing the whinger...

Rajan Zed complains about hindu character in Fate/Grand Order role playing game


Link Here 15th October 2017
fate grand order parvatiThe full time whinger Rajan Zed is upset at Fate/Grand Order (FGO) mobile role-playing video game, developed by Japan's Delightworks, for reportedly introducing goddess Parvati as one of the new servants; saying it trivializes a highly revered Hindu deity.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed urged Delightworks to withdraw the character of goddess Parvati in its free-to-play FGO video game.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, said that in this mobile game set-up, the player became the Master who summoned and commanded servants controlling their movements, including goddess Parvati; while in reality the devotees put the destinies of themselves in the hands of their deities.

Moreover, goddess Parvati depicted in FGO appeared more like a belly-dancer than the Hindu deity devotees were used to seeing, Rajan Zed pointed out, and termed it as incredibly disrespectful.

Rajan Zed further said that Hindus were for free speech as much as anybody else if not more. .. BUT... faith was something sacred and attempts at belittling it hurt the devotees. Video game makers should be more sensitive while handling faith related subjects, as these games left lasting impact on the minds of highly impressionable children, teens and other young people, Zed added.

 

  Inappropriate pasting...

Image of assassinated Russian diplomat cut from Batman: The Enemy Within video game


Link Here 10th October 2017
Telltale - Batman: The Enemy Within A photograph of assassinated Russian diplomat Andrei Karlov has been removed from the video game Batman: The Enemy Within , made by Telltale.

batman andrei karlovTelltale said it regretted the inclusion of the image of Karlov, who was shot dead at an art exhibition in Ankara in December 2016.

Telltale apologised in a statement and said the game had been updated to remove the picture across all platforms. The company said:

We regret this incident occurred, and we are taking appropriate action internally to ensure that we continue to maintain our high standards in production and quality assurance.

 

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