Games News

 2009: April-June



26th June   

Update: Internet Villain...

Conroy to censor Australian internet so that it is suitable for 15 year olds
Link Here  full story: Website Blocking in Australia...Stephen Conroy's attempt at internet censorship
Stephen Conroy

  Internet Villain

The Australian Federal Government has now set its sights on gamers, promising to use its internet censorship regime to block websites hosting and selling video games that are not suitable for 15 year olds.

Separately, the Communications Minister, Stephen Conroy, has been nominated by the British ISP industry for its annual internet villain award, competing alongside the European Parliament and French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Australia is the only developed country without an R18+ classification for games, meaning any titles that do not meet the MA15+ standard - such as those with excessive violence or sexual content - are simply banned from sale by the Classification Board, unless they are modified to remove the offending content.

So far, this has only applied to local bricks-and-mortar stores selling physical copies of games, but a spokesman for Senator Conroy confirmed that under the filtering plan, it will be extended to downloadable games, flash-based web games and sites which sell physical copies of games that do not meet the MA15+ standard.

This means that even Australians who are aged above 15 and want to obtain the adult-level games online will be unable to do so. It will undoubtedly raise the ire of gamers, the average age of which is 30 in Australia, according to research commissioned by the Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia.

Colin Jacobs, spokesman for the online users' lobby group Electronic Frontiers Australia, said the Government clearly went far beyond any mandate it had from the public to help parents deal with cyber-safety. He said Australians would soon learn this the hard way when they find web pages mysteriously blocked: This is confirmation that the scope of the mandatory censorship scheme will keep on creeping . Far from being the ultimate weapon against child abuse, it now will officially censor content deemed too controversial for a 15-year-old. In a free country like ours, do we really need the government to step in and save us from racy web games?

Senator Conroy's spokesman said the filter would cover computer games such as web-based flash games and downloadable games, if a complaint is received and the content is determined by ACMA to be Refused Classification. All games that exceed MA15+ are deemed to be RC.

The filtering could also block the importation of physical copies of computer games sold over the internet which have been classified RC , the spokesman said.

Update: Second Life Banned

27th June 2009. See article from inquisitr.com

Commentators are pointing out that enormously popular online game Second Life has an adults only section so will be blocked according to the Australian government policy confirmed above.

 

26th June   

ELSPA Warning...

Suggests a period of overly cautious games ratings
Link Here

ELSPA The UK trade association, Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), is trying to show that the PEGI system is by no means weaker than the BBFC ratings that used to be oversee the region.

Speaking with MCV, the group took the opportunity to warn publishers: Abuse [the] new system and risk your future. Publishers may face fines of €500,000 ($696K) if they lie on the questionnaire, which allows PEGI and the Video Standards Council to determine an appropriate rating for their games.

ELSPA's statement and teeth bearing are to ease concerns that PEGI won't be strong enough for the UK when it's implemented this holiday.

 

26th June   

Update: Australians Treated Like Children...

Australia delays public consultation about allowing ad adult games rating
Link Here  full story: R18+ for Games in Australia...Pondering an adult R18+ rating for video games

R18+ banned The release date of a government discussion paper on an R18+ rating for games looks to have been delayed.

The Attorney General's department promised this year to release the paper to collate public opinion on the need for a R18+ classification for video games.

But now a spokesman for the AG office said the release of the paper will be delayed along with its slated July 31 closure date after a cabinet reshuffle saw Brendan O'Conner replace former Minster of Home Affairs Bob Debus who introduced the paper early this year.

The paper is under consideration by government... clearly it will most likely be extended past the [July 31] closure date, he said.

Media advisers, who are also reshuffling, will next week provide Computerworld with further details on the progress of the paper and planned release date. Responsibility for the discussion paper will remain with O'Conner.

IEAA CEO Ron Curry said he feared the ministerial reshuffle may have killed the consultation paper after the government had not responded to repeated requests to move forward the classification debate: We are not sure what [O'Conner's] position is on the issue... We have lobbied the government for five years, and quite extensively this year.. where do you go? .

 

26th June   

Update: Playing Hide and Seek...

Shutting out the world prying into Japanese erotic games
Link Here  full story: Western censorship of Japanese Games...Japanese games winds up the social justice whingers

Bible Black game Erotic Game Developer Minori , developer of adult PC titles like Bittersweet Fools and Angel Type , has blocked website access outside Japan.

While accessing the Minori site from Japan poses no problems, those outside the country have been greeted with this message:

This website cannot be browsed excluding Japan.

Some foreigners seem to be having an antipathy against EROGE (Erotic Games).

Therefore, We prohibited the access from foreign countries, to defend our culture. Sorry for you of the fan that lives in a foreign country.

As we previously mentioned, these recent defensive measures from erotic game makers come in the wake of the Rapelay controversy and subsequent rape game banning.

...

Currently, The bill that allows to limiting the content (It is censorship. Isn't it?) to all EROGEs is being discussed in the Diet because intellectuals and politicians said Japanese EROGE were being problem and troubled with the foreign country. Therefore we should make EROGE hidden away from foreign country, and also its content should be limited and censored.

Otherwise, you just can talk your idea about this issue at your blog or other media to inform the existence of this problem to the public. It would be very helpful for us.

If you do so, we might be able to recover the "Freedom of speech" and the barricade lying in between us would be taken away.

Please help us.

We hope this separation would be only for short moment.

 

23rd June   

Update: Censorship Game On...

Bavaria looks to take action against Austrian online games retailer
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

A Earlier this month GamePolitics reported that German Interior Ministers were seeking a complete ban on the production and sale of violent video games within Germany.

Although the Bundestag has not yet acted on the ministers' ban request, an online video game retailer based in Austria claims that the German state of Bavaria has moved to blocked access by German customers.

VideoGamesZone.de reports that the Bavarian Commission for the Protection of Children Against Media Abuse filed a lawsuit to shut down Austrian online retailer Gameware.at . [GamePolitics suggest that this is being done by the newly created internet blocking law but it sounds more like the 'indexing' method that bans German companies from marketing or advertising the product].

Company spokesman Chris Veber told VGZ: We've called our lawyer and are appealing, of course... this is violating the freedom of expression and wrong specifications from the [German ratings body], since we are not sending our products out to minors and do not have videos showing violence at [our site]. We are not breaking any Austrian laws...

The economic consequence of the indexing of Gameware.at is that no one would be able to find us on Google, the advertisements would be gone, no magazine would be allowed to mention our name...

Veber conceded that violent games are big sellers for his company and that 80% of his customers live in Germany.

 

23rd June   

Update: BBFC on Meths...

BBFC become a talking point over checking out crystal meth recipe
Link Here  full story: Grand Theft Auto...Grand Theft Auto brings out the nutters

Grand Theft Auto IV game Wow, we've all heard the stories of how “bad” Grand Theft Auto games are for our society, but as it turns out, the BBFC once investigated whether Grand Theft Auto IV contained a genuine recipe for manufacturing crystal meth.

The Times reports that the discovery prompted crisis talks with developer Rockstar. In testimony last year before the Culture, Media and Sport Committee of the House of Commons, BBFC head David Cooke discussed his organization's review of GTA IV:

We did examine [GTA IV] extremely thoroughly and we are the only regulator I know of who looked, for instance, at the particular issue where… there was a concern about whether you were being given instructional information about how to make the drug crystal meth.

We actually took independent advice on the point and eventually were able to satisfy ourselves that some of the crucial ingredients and techniques were missing so it was not a genuine cause for concern.

REALLY? The recipe for Crystal Meth. Inside GTA IV? Good job BBFC, perhaps this is just one example of why you're no longer in control of ratings in the U.K.

 

22nd June   

PEGI Checkers...

Times publish a few details about the new game censors, the VSC
Link Here

VSC logo Three men in Borehamwood will become solely responsible for rating computer games in the UK.

Digital Britain, the communications White Paper, concluded last week that game publishers could keep their self rating system.

Under the PEGI system, games makers fill in a tick-box questionaire. Their answers are checked by a body called the Video Standards Council, which is based in Borehamwood and until recently consisted of a former policeman and a music industry lawyer. A third staff member has been added recently.

Mike Rawlinson, the director-general of ELSPA, the trade body that represents the computer games industry, said that standards had been toughened up. He said that the three people in the Video Standards Council were very skilled in their work.

 

20th June   

Update: Square PEGI in a Round Hole...

Timetable for switch to PEGI ratings
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

PEGI logo PEGI will have to wait the best part of a year until it becomes the UK's sole classification system by law.

The proposal to implement PEGI as the UK's only games age classification model, overseen by the Video Standards Council, was put forward by Labour in its Digital Britain White Paper earlier this week.

More consultation will now take place between stakeholders PEGI, the VSC and the Department of Culture, Media And Sport to ‘fine tune' the bill, which will eventually alter the the Video Recordings Act, last tweaked back in 1994.

Following this, it will have to be approved by Parliamentary procedure, which is not likely to be completed until 2010.

However, as reported by MCV, the all-new PEGI logos WILL start appearing on boxes across Europe this summer, and are already being manufactured.

Fear of Indistinctive Symbols

Based on article from news.bbc.co.uk

Tiga logo The videogame trade association, Tiga, say the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating systems has room for improvement.

Tiga's chief, Dr Richard Wilson, said changes were needed to make the logos instinctively recognisable. There needs to be an advertising campaign and publicity as to what these pictograms actually mean. While the age ratings are fairly clear, there needs to be improvement to the system - especially the pictograms - because they are not instinctively recognisable.

Laurie Hall - the director general of the Video Standards Council, which administers the PEGI system in the UK - agreed with Dr Wilson and told the BBC that more work needed to be done: I think people need to be made more aware. Take the spider logo: that means 'fear'. In other words, people might find the game scary, but you might not immediately jump to that conclusion looking at the box. Our plan is to have a big awareness campaign and also put consumer information about the game on the packaging, in English, which will help.

 

18th June   

Update: Old Squares...

PEGI unveil new age classification symbols
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

PEGI logo PEGI age rating labels appear on front and back of the packaging at one of the following age levels - 3+, 7+, 12+, 16+ and 18+. They provide a reliable indication of the suitability of the game content in terms of protection of minors. The age rating does not take into account the difficulty level or skills required to play a game.

PEGI 3 PEGI 3

The content of games given this rating is considered suitable for all age groups. Some violence in a comical context (typically Bugs Bunny or Tom & Jerry cartoon-like forms of violence) is acceptable. The child should not be able to associate the character on the screen with real life characters, they should be totally fantasy. The game should not contain any sounds or pictures that are likely to scare or frighten young children. No bad language should be heard and there should be no scenes containing nudity nor any referring to sexual activity.

PEGI 7 PEGI 7

Any game that would normally be rated at 3+ but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category. Some scenes of partial nudity may be permitted but never in a sexual context.

PEGI 12 PEGI 12

Videogames that show violence of a slightly more graphic nature towards fantasy character and/or non graphic violence towards human-looking characters or recognisable animals, as well as videogames that show nudity of a slightly more graphic nature would fall in this age category. Any bad language in this category must be mild and fall short of sexual expletives.

PEGI 16 PEGI 16

This rating is applied once the depiction of violence (or sexual activity) reaches a stage that looks the same as would be expected in real life. More extreme bad language, the concept of the use of tobacco and drugs and the depiction of criminal activities can be content of games that are rated 16+.

PEGI 18 PEGI 18

The adult classification is applied when the level of violence reaches a stage where it becomes depictions of gross violence and/or includes elements of specific types of violence. Gross violence is the most difficult to define since in a lot of cases it can be very subjective, but in general terms it can be classed as the depictions of violence that would make the viewer feel a sense of revulsion.

 

17th June   

Update: Game Over for the BBFC...

VSC designated as UK's game censor overseeing self rating via PEGI classifications
Link Here  full story: The Byron Report...Tanya Byron reports on media child protection

VSC logo An overhaul of video games classification rules will make selling a video game rated 12 or over to an underage person illegal for the first time, Creative Industries Minister Siôn Simon has announced.

The PEGI (Pan European Game Information) system, currently used in most European countries, will become the sole method of classifying video games in the UK. It will replace the current hybrid system that has BBFC & PEGI ratings, either of which can appear on video games, and is sufficiently adaptable to work in the rapidly expanding online games market.

There is a new role for the Video Standards Council (VSC), an organisation which is independent from the games industry and will take a statutory role as the designated authority for videogames classification in the UK. It will have a mandate to implement the PEGI classification system for all video games.

This new system will work alongside the robust regulation of Films and DVDs carried out by the British Board of Film Classification, to ensure that consumers have the strongest possible protection across these media. There is no intention to disturb BBFC's jurisdiction in respect of linear material. The BBFC will continue to provide Blu Ray distributors with a one-stop service as at present. It is important that the BBFC and the VSC work together to share best practice in a rapidly changing and demanding media landscape.

The Government will now work closely with PEGI and the VSC on the development of a single, clear set of age-rating symbols to give parents the information they need to ensure that children are protected from unsuitable content, and help retailers to avoid breaking the law by selling games to people below the appropriate age. The new system will consist of five age categories and a series of pictorial boxes, describing content such as bad language or violence.

Professor Tanya Byron said: The PEGI system has been strengthened since my review and the Government has consulted widely on each of my suggested criteria. I support the Government's decision to combine the PEGI system with UK statutory oversight.

The new system:

  • mirrors the way games are classified in much of Europe, which is increasingly important as more games are played online and across international borders
  • is designed with child-safety as its main priority
  • is highly adaptable and works well for games distributed both on and offline
  • includes tough sanctions for manufactures who flout the rules, for example by making a false declaration about a game's content. These include fines of up to 500,000 Euros and a refusal to classify.

The new system will extend PEGI's remit so that all games are classified using its symbols. Information on the content of each game will be submitted to PEGI administrators including the Video Standards Council, which will then review each game to ensure it complies with the law. Following this evaluation, the manufacturer receives a licence to use the PEGI rating logos. The VSC, as statutory authority, will take account of UK sensibilities, and will have the power to ban games that are inappropriate for release in the UK.

PEGI's code of conduct determines which age rating is appropriate for different types of content. The PEGI Advisory Board, which includes representatives of parent and consumer groups, child psychologists, media experts and lawyers, maintains the code and recommends adjustments in line with social, technological or legal developments.

Comment: BBFC Director David Cooke Responds

See article from bbfc.co.uk

We have argued consistently that any games classification system needs to put child protection at its heart. It must involve consultation with the British public, command their trust, and reflect their sensibilities. It must take account of tone and context and be carried out by skilled and knowledgeable examiners. It needs to involve the provision of full, helpful and carefully weighed information to parents and the public more generally. It must have the power and will to reject or intervene in relation to unacceptable games or game elements. It should make a substantial contribution to media education, for example through dedicated websites and through work with pupils, students and teachers. It must be speedy and cost effective. It must have the capabilities to monitor online gameplay and to attract new members to online classification schemes. And it must be independent in substance as well as appearance, reaching its decisions and providing information on the basis of its own detailed assessments.

The BBFC has always supported PEGI and wished it well, but it continues to believe that it satisfies these requirements better than PEGI. However, it will cooperate fully in the detailed work needed to give effect to the Government's decision.

 

17th June   

Update: Reacting to Apple's Arbitrary Censorship...

Is it economically viable for the games industry to properly rate iPhone games
Link Here  full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

ESRB The recent discussion concerning the ESA's desire to have its rating organization, the ESRB, evaluate game content for the iTunes App Store brings a number of questions to mind:

Why?

Despite its present chaotic nature, the App Store is a rising star in the game space. Getting in on the ground floor would be a coup for the ESRB. Apple has a lot of money, too, and the ESRB is paid a fee by the developer/publisher for each game it rates.

ESRB is a non-profit organization funded by the revenue generated from the services we provide the industry. Given our highly discounted rate for lower-budget games, rating mobile games is not a financially attractive proposition; however we believe making ESRB ratings available for those games would serve consumers well. Parents are already familiar with ESRB ratings and find them to be extremely helpful in making informed choices for their families.

Apple's integration of ESRB ratings into its parental controls for iPhone games would afford parents the ability to block those video games that carry an ESRB rating utilizing the same tool they are being offered to block video content that has been rated by the MPAA or carries an official TV rating. It's about giving parents the same ability to do on the iPhone what they are being offered with other entertainment content and can already do on game consoles and other handheld game devices.

What would it cost?

I asked the ESRB what it costs a developer/publisher to have a typical console game rated? Would the cost to rate an iPhone game be less? Mizrachi said:

Our standard fees for getting a game rated cover the costs of providing that service. However, to make accommodations for lower-budget product like casual and mobile games, several years ago we introduced a highly discounted rate - 80% less - for games that cost under $250,000 to develop. We believe most iPhone games would likely be eligible for the discounted rate.

Who would pay for ESRB to rate App Store games?

Not the creators of $0.99 games, for the most part. They are apparently not making significant revenue. Apple has a deep pocket, of course, although they are not the creator of the games for sale on the App Store. Perhaps the larger industry players such as EA, Namco, etc. would foot the bill for their games. They are already accustomed to dealing with the ESRB.

 

13th June   

Play Group...

MPs for group to discuss video game issues
Link Here

Tiga logo A group of cross-party politicians has been brought together to raise and discuss issues related to the UK videogame industry.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group will be chaired by Labour MP Bill Olner, with vice chairman roles being filled by film maker and politician Lord David Puttnam, Conservative MP John Whittingdale, who is also chairman of the House of Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport, and Conservative MP Philip Davies.

UK trade group Tiga will provide the secretariat to the group, helping to administer it and arrange meetings, but was also instrumental to initiating its establishment.

Olner, Whittingdale and Tiga CEO Richard Wilson, will be speaking at the House Of Commons on Monday for the launch of the Play Together initiative.

 

5th June   

Rendered unto the Scrap Heap...

Guantanamo game can't escape its critics
Link Here

T-Enterprise logo Game development has ceased on Rendition: Guantanamo , apparently forever.

The sudden announcement was made by Scottish firm T-Enterprise and comes following a day of backlash in the wake of media reports about the alleged terrorist background of Moazzam Begg, a key consultant to the project.

In a statement released earlier today, T-Eterprise director Zarrar Chishti blamed press coverage by US media:

Unfortunately, much of the speculation regarding the game itself made by various publications and websites has been inaccurate and ill informed... [The game] was never designed to be “propaganda” or “a recruiting tool for terrorism”. Neither was it designed to glamorise terrorism as has been reported.

First and foremost, the main character was NOT Moazzam Begg.  Furthermore, Guantanamo was to be a mercenary run institution and so there would have been NO American military personnel killed within the game...

I would now like to refute all suggestions that the game was in any way linked to Al Qaeda. The game was simply designed to be an action video game that adults could enjoy.


However, as a direct result of the extreme reaction that the game and its popular misconceptions have provoked, T-Enterprise has decided to pull out of the project and will not be completing Rendition: Guantanamo.

Conservative pundit Rush Limbaugh had attacked Rendition: Guantanamo on his radio program, calling the game disgusting . The game is obviously political... it's a game played from the standpoint of a detainee and how unfair he's treated and how hopeless his life is and all is lost unless he can escape. There's already a firestorm of conversation about this that's percolating out there now.

 

4th June   

The Missing Bits...

Seeing Behind the Sims 3 censorial blur
Link Here

Sims 3 game There is a no-censor patch available for download for The Sims 3. This removes the blur that you see when one of the Sims removes their clothes.

Now when they are in the bathroom you can see what they have been hiding behind their clothes and the answer is nothing. It seems like the Men and Women in the world of Sims have none of their bits that define who they are.

 

3rd June   

Update: Clear Link...

Nutter MP spouts vague bollox about links between violent media and knife crime
Link Here

Culture, Media and Sport select committee A clear link exists between bloodthirsty films and video games and teenage knife crime, claimed Plymouth MP Gary Streeter.

He argued for an urgent review examining how to censor what youngsters watched at the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee. He highlighted fears of a knife arms race amid concerns that carrying the deadly weapons was becoming normal.

The committee says evidence to its inquiry also supported its view that violent DVDs and video games have a negative influence on those who watch and play them, contributing around 10% of any person's predisposition to be violent.

Streeter said: That's something we have to have a long look at. Are we allowing our young people to be brutalised by some of this dreadful violence we are allowing them to watch?

As part of the select committee inquiry, he was shown a number of video games, but he said he had to stop watching them as they were so sickening.

On the connection with knife crime, he said: There's a clear link for some young people. There's no doubt that for certain young people violent video games and films is a very serious negative influence.

 

3rd June   

Update: Ethical Decision...

Japanese software companies to self censor and ban rape games
Link Here  full story: Western censorship of Japanese Games...Japanese games winds up the social justice whingers

EOCS general audience certificate Japan's Ethics Organization of Computer Software have now held an emergency meeting in which nearly 100 representatives from various erotic game companies concluded that the manufacturer and sale of rape-type games should cease. This was not a government decision or even a legal one, but instead a self-policing policy on the part of the EOCS.

None of the representatives thought it was out of line to ban these types of games, and many felt this was the only way to rectify any problems caused by these types of games.

Future regulations regarding games will be worked out in the future. Until then, the EOCS will work with individual erotic game companies to help ease the transition.

 

1st June   

Update: Boy Whingers...

Hindus call for worldwide boycott of Sony over Hanuman Game
Link Here  full story: Boy Warriors Censorship...Indian computer game under fire from Hindus

Hanuman: Boy Warrior game Perturbed over Sony's Hanuman: Boy Warrior videogame and further vexed by stiff-necked attitude of Sony officials, various Hindu groups have given worldwide boycott call against Sony PlayStation products.

Spearheaded by the ever whinging Rajan Zed, who said that Hanuman game trivializes the highly revered deity of Hinduism; various Hindu groups/leaders who have jointly given the boycott call include Bhavna Shinde of Forum for Hindu Awakening in USA; Vamsi Krishna of Sanatan Sanstha of Australia and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti headquartered in India

Zed further said that immature handling of the issue by Sony, which is said to be a socially responsible and ethical corporation, saddened them. He also urged Sony to create a high-level check system so that denigrations like this did not happen in the future.

 

22nd May   

Update: Dogged by Censorship...

Apple continue their ludicrous iPhone bans
Link Here  full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

Hot Dog game The third version of Hot Dog Down A Hallway , Metaversal Studios' only iPhone app, has been rejected by the App Store. Apple ludicrously cites explicit content as the reason for its decision. Metaversal Studios is unconvinced by the label, as the game, despite its suggestive name, has previously been given a low age rating of nine and up by the App Store. The developer's Interactive Director, Dave Laundry, believes the iTunes censorship policy is a mystery.

Hot Dog Down A Hallway v1.1 is still available from the App Store for $1, but will likely be removed.

Reading old stories about Apple inanity

Based on article from guardian.co.uk

A British-made iPhone program has been banned by Apple - because it 'could' allow people to read the Kama Sutra.

Eucalyptus, a book reading application developed by Edinburgh programmer James Montgomerie, allows users to download and read thousands of classic titles from the library of Project Gutenberg, the respected website that hosts out of copyright books.

But after repeated attempts to get Eucalyptus onto the iPhone's popular App Store, Montgomerie was told that his application was being rejected because one of Gutenberg's books happens to be Sir Richard Burton's 1883 translation of the famous guide to sex.

In a series of emails, Apple told Montgomerie that allowing access to the Kama Sutra meant that the program contains inappropriate sexual content, in violation of the rules for iPhone software.

Of course the same title is already accessible through a number of other popular ebook applications for the iPhone, and even through the handset's web browser.

Montgomerie told the Guardian that although the situation has left him frustrated, it will not put him off developing for the iPhone. As a temporary solution to the problem, he has submitted a new version of Eucalyptus to Apple which specifically blocks the Kama Sutra - and says he hopes that bureaucracy will not get in the way this time: I would like to think that someone, somewhere at Apple would realise just how flawed the whole approval process is, and do something to change it. It does seem like it could be a lot better without having to spend too much extra money on it. They could make the whole thing a lot more pleasant.

 

14th May   

Nutter Taming...

PETA whinge at Nintendo's circus game
Link Here

Ringling Bros logo People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) have launched a campaign to try and put a stop to Take-Two's Wii game featuring Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, saying that the famed circus is looking to take its cruelty to animals virtual.

The organization says that they've already told publisher Take-Two about Ringling Bros. real life, lengthy history of animal abuse and neglect and even shown them undercover video footage, but to no avail.

So now PETA is asking people to send a message to Take-Two CEO Ben Feder asking him to sever ties with Ringling Bros. and telling them they would rather play a game featuring a circus that does not beat animals for entertainment.

 

14th May   

Update: Virtually Ahead of the Game...

Federal Trade Commission looks into children's access to explicit content in virtual worlds
Link Here  full story: Adult Second Life...Second Life create a separate sdult space

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

In 2008 Representative Mark Kirk called on the FTC to issue a parental alert about the virtual sex occurring in Second Life : Sites like Second Life offer no protections to keep kids from virtual rape rooms, brothels, and drug stores. If sites like Second Life won't protect kids from obviously inappropriate content, the Congress will.

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

 

13th May   

Luxembourg Needs More Laws...

Internet legislation for games and communications
Link Here

Luxemburg flag New legislation was introduced through the Luxembourg's parliament meant to protect minors by punishing online sexual predators and violent video game makers.

Luxembourg's Minister for Justice, Luc Frieden, said too many people abuse the Internet, and the online community cannot be one without laws.

The legislation will make it illegal for an adult to make proposals of a sexual nature to minors younger than 16 via new technology. This includes inappropriate texts written while chatting online. Perpetrators can face the same consequences as those who visit child pornography sites –imprisonment and heavy fines. Minors will also be protected against violence online, according to the legislation.

It's very bad that people make money by selling games where you can decapitate people to minors, Frieden said. Those who provide games and movies that are too violent to young people will be condemned. Judges will determine the degree of violence.

 

11th May   

PC Online Gaming...

Council of Europe considers online gaming
Link Here

Council of Europe flag The Council of Europe has issued a position paper, Human Rights Guidelines for Online Game Providers . The CE's recommendations include taking into account the potential impact of gratuitous violence and sexual content in games targeting minors.

In addition the CoE warns against content which advocates criminal behavior and urges providers away from conveying themes like aggressive nationalism, ethnocentrism, xenophobia, racism and intolerance.

The CoE documents alludes to the risk of online game addiction as well as the potential for children to encounter negative types such as bullies and stalkers. Threats to privacy are addressed as well. The CE also encourages online game companies to follow rating guidelines and to develop parental control tools for their products.

The CoE's has a surprisingly forward-thinking position on user-created content. The organization encourages providers to be thoughtful in deciding whether or not to delete such content: Before removing gamer-generated content from a game, you should take care to verify the illegality or harmfulness of the content... Acting without first checking and verifying may be considered as an interference with legal content and with the rights and freedoms of those gamers creating and communicating such content, in particular the right to freedom of expression and information.

The CoE also frets that content created by immature users today might come back to bite them in the future, and urges that providers create a system to prevent this: Consider developing mechanisms for the automatic removal of gamer-generated content after a certain time of inactivity, in particular for games targeting children and young people. Creating a lasting or permanently accessible online record of the content created by gamers could challenge their dignity, security and privacy or otherwise render them vulnerable now or at a later stage in their lives.

 

8th May   

Update: Censorship Boy Warriors...

Sony reject hindu call to ban Indian video game
Link Here  full story: Boy Warriors Censorship...Indian computer game under fire from Hindus

Hanuman: Boy Warrior game Hindu groups protesting the recent release of Hanuman: Boy Warrior for the PlayStation 2 have apparently run out of patience with Sony.

A press release issued by head whinger Rajan Zed seems to indicate that Sony will not intervene in Hanuman 's distribution. Bhavna Shinde of Forum for Hindu Awakening is quoted in the release:

So now we are left with no other alternative except to intensify our protests. Lord Hanuman is a highly revered Deity for us Hindus and we cannot accept any more denigration of Him...

We are shocked at the stubbornness of Sony Corporation not to withdraw the PlayStation2 game Hanuman: Boy Warrior despite our repeated requests. Sony Corporation is held in high esteem the world over with high ethical principles. We were expecting that Sony would not hurt the feelings of the one billion strong Hindu population for a minor product like this game.

 

1st May   

Update: Fitzpatrick on Speed...

Media and Jeremy Clarkson blamed for speeding
Link Here  full story: Top Gear and the Grand Tour...Top Gear and Jeremy Clarkson wind up whingers

Top Gear DVD Computer games, television programmes and Hollywood films are encouraging a dangerous culture of speeding among UK drivers, according to a report.

High-speed chases in movies and programmes such as Top Gear have built up a cachet of excitement and glamour around speeding, the report from Co-operative Insurance found.

Launched at a parliamentary reception attended by Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, the report showed that more than a third of drivers aged 17-18 and a quarter of those aged 19-21 broke the speed limit at least once a day.

Just 17% of teenage drivers said they never exceeded the limit, compared with more than half of older drivers. Based on responses from 3,000 people, the report found almost twice as many men as women break the speed limit at least once a day. The report found that speeding was endemic across both sexes and all age groups with three in four drivers admitting to speeding regularly.

David Neave, director of general insurance at Co-operative Insurance, said: It is undoubtedly the case that games, TV and films have fuelled the increase in speeding. The Fast & The Furious (computer game) and Top Gear are devoted to speeding and are targeted at a younger audience who are more likely to be encouraged to speed. We need to create the same stigma for speeding that currently exists now against drink-driving.

Fitzpatrick said: Many of the most serious collisions are caused, or their consequences exacerbated, because of someone driving well in excess of the speed limit. Research shows that one in seven people are extreme speeders. These people are playing Russian roulette with their lives and those of others and they must be hit by the full force of the law.

 

1st May   

Playing God...

Whinging about iphone game featuring Pacific Islanders
Link Here

Pocket God game An iPhone game in which users act as an all-powerful god that rules over the primitive islanders has caused a stir.

Members of the Pacific Island community are protesting the game, Pocket God , and urging people to complain to the iPhone's manufacturer Apple.

The game shows grass-skirted people next to an Easter Island statue. At the player's whim they can be tossed through the air, fed to sharks or set on fire.

Canterbury University Lecturer Malakai Koloamatangi took issue with the game: You can't say this is anywhere but a Pacific island.

 

1st May   

Offsite: Censors Offline...

Selling online games without classification: Will enforcement agencies continue to turn a blind eye?
Link Here  full story: Online Games Censorship in Australia...Online games producers try to evade censorship

World of Warcraft pre paid card Game distributors, retailers and advertisers may be at risk of prosecution and heavy fines for selling popular online games such as World of Warcraft , Warhammer Online and Age of Conan without classification.

The gaming industry has long assumed that online multiplayer games like these are "unclassifiable" due to the inherent unpredictability of online play, and therefore do not require classification. This assumption has led to countless copies of online multiplayer games being sold without classification over the years, despite legislation which prohibits the sale, demonstration and advertising of unclassified games. The assumption is said to be based on an understanding between the industry and the Classification Board, with anecdotal evidence suggesting that distributors who have applied for classification of this type of game have been told by the Board that it wasn't required.

But this longstanding assumption may be under threat. When media reports shed light on the disconnect between the legislation and the industry's practices, representatives of the Commonwealth and New South Wales Attorneys-General firmly rejected the view that online multiplayer games were exempt from classification. A spokesman for the NSW Police Minister also weighed in with an invitation to the public to contact local police if they saw retailers selling games illegally.

...Read full article

 

29th April   

Updated: Faith Fighter...

Nutters whinge at Faith Fighter flash game
Link Here

Faith Fighter game Nutters are calling for a ban on an online game where holy figures such as Jesus and the prophet Muhammad fight to the death.

Critics say the free Faith Fighter flash game is deeply provocative and disrespectful towards all world religions.

Muslims are particularly outraged because Islamic tradition prohibits drawings of Allah.

Hindus and Buddhists are also upset as the god Ganesha and Buddha are two of the six players .

This game is going out of its way to upset people and I think it should be taken off the internet, said Douglas Miller, pastor of the Link Church in Birmingham: Playing violent video games will ultimately affect your behaviour and this game is deeply offensive and provocative.

A spokesman for the Federation of Muslim Organisations said: In the current climate, this game can only create fear about religion. 'Having images depicting Muhammad in this way is also very offensive to our faith.

Brian Appleyard, former chairman of the Buddhist Society, called the game an offensive futile project.

Update: Inciting Intolerance

29th April 2009. Based on article from mediawatchwatch.org.uk

OIC flag The repressive Organisation of the Islamic Conference - representing muslim nations - have released a statement about the Faith Fighter computer game which has led to its replacement on the Molleindustria website.

When his attention was brought to the online game, a spokesman of the OIC Islamophobia Observatory in Jeddah expressed his concern stating that the computer game was incendiary in its content and offensive to Muslims and Christians.

He said that the game would serve no other purpose than to incite intolerance. He called on the Internet service providers who are hosting the game to take immediate action by withdrawing it from the web.

Molleindustria have now replaced the game with Faith Fighter 2 a game to show your love and respect for the easily offended deities (complete with a blob over the face of Mohammed).

Update: Showing Faith in Faith Fighter

2nd May 2009. See article from gamepolitics.com

Molleindustria have brought the original Faith Fighter 1 game back

 

26th April   

Update: A Second Adult Life...

Second Life gets heavy about adult verification
Link Here  full story: Adult Second Life...Second Life create a separate sdult space

Second Life Virtual world Second Life has put in effect some new measures to keep adult content away from users who might not want to run into it.

Later this year, parent company Linden Lab will create a standalone continent for adult content, and members who don't purchase private land will be asked to migrate there if they wish to partake in adult-related activities. Second Life is an 18+ environment already, but stricter age verification policies will be put in place. You'll need a verified account, either through credit card information or through Linden Labs' filtering system, to get into the adult continent.

Members will be asked to start flagging content as adults-only as part of a new content rating system, which will start to roll out in an update to the downloadable Second Life client that will be available next week.

 

24th April   

Rock a Bye Baby...

Apple ban Baby Shaker iPhone game
Link Here

iPhone Apple has apologised for a deeply offensive iPhone application called Baby Shaker , which made a game of quieting crying babies by shaking them.

It removed the $0.99 game from its iTunes Store two days after it went on sale.

It sparked 'outrage' from children's groups and brain injury foundations.

The aim of the game was to quiet babies by shaking the iPhone until a pair of thick red Xs appeared over each eye of a baby drawn in black-and-white.

This application was deeply offensive and should not have been approved for distribution on the App Store, Apple said in a statement We sincerely apologise for this mistake and thank our customers for bringing this to our attention.

The iTunes description included the line: See how long you can endure his or her adorable cries before you just have to find a way to quiet the baby down! It also included a disclaimer: Never shake a baby.

Jetta Bernier, executive director of Massachusetts Citizens for Children, said: I am disheartened that with this new application Apple is encouraging frustrated adults to shake infants, not only to end their crying, but to end their lives.

 

21st April   

Updated: Z Rated Whinging...

Indian video game with religious setting winds up the easily offended
Link Here  full story: Boy Warriors Censorship...Indian computer game under fire from Hindus

Hanuman: Boy Warrior game Hindus have urged Sony Corporation to withdraw the new Indian release Hanuman: Boy Warrior video game for PlayStation2, saying it trivializes the highly revered deity of Hinduism.

Perennial whinger Rajan Zed, in a statement from the US, said that in a video game set-up, the player would control the destiny of Lord Hanuman while in reality the believers put the destinies of themselves in the hands of their deities.

Zed, who is president of Universal Society of Hinduism, argued that reimagining Hindu scriptures and deities for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees. Controlling and manipulating Lord Hanuman with a joystick/ button/keyboard/mouse was denigration. Lord Hanuman was not meant to be reduced to just a character in a video game to solidify company/products base in the growing economy of India.

Zed explained that Lord Hanuman was greatly revered and his worship was very popular among Hindus and there were numerous temples dedicated to him. Son of wind-god, besides incredible strength and changing shape at will and flying, he was believed to be a perfect grammarian, great scholar and excelled in all the sciences.

Rajan Zed pointed out that as Sony was said to be a socially responsible and ethical corporation, it would effectively understand the feelings of Hindu community on this issue.

Zed suggested that until India came up with such organization, Central Board of Film Certification should be given the authority of rating and deciding whether the particular video game was suitable for public distribution in India.

Rajan Zed stressed that Hindus were for free speech as much as anybody else if not more. Hindu tradition encouraged peaceful debates, won on their intellectual merit ...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.

Update: Disrespectful & Disgraceful

21st April 2009. Based on article from webnewswire.com

More Hindus have joined the protest movement against Sony Corporation’s newly released Hanuman: Boy Warrior video game for PlayStation2.

The protest has now even extended to Australia, where Vamsi Krishna of Sanatan Sanstha found it very disrespectful, disgraceful and an insult to all those devotees of Lord Hanuman and followers of Hindu dharma.

Vamsi Krishna requested Sony to remove this video game with immediate effect from the market before this causes further unrest in the Hindu community worldwide and issue an apology to all those who have been hurt by this insensitiveness.

Meanwhile, Bhavna Shinde of Forum for Hindu Awakening argued that using a sacred figure from Hinduism, namely, the Hindus' revered Deity, Sree Hanuman, as a character in a video game is highly objectionable to us Hindus worldwide.

Shinde urged Sony to withdraw this video game, Hanuman: Boy Warrior at the earliest, and publish an apology to the Hindu community and Hanuman devotees worldwide. She requested all distributors and sellers of video games to exclude Hanuman: Boy Warrior.

 

18th April   

Update: Delaying Games...

Commonwealth Minister of Home Affairs takes over R18+ for games consultation
Link Here  full story: R18+ for Games in Australia...Pondering an adult R18+ rating for video games

R18+ banned The much-anticipated discussion paper on the introduction of an R18+ classification for video games in Australia will be released to the public by the office of the Commonwealth Minister of Home Affairs, Bob Debus, after censorship ministers stood divided over its contents at the Standing Committee of Attorneys General (SCAG) meeting in Canberra.

It is expected that the discussion paper will propose changes to Australia's current classification guidelines and will include relevant research and literature on the classification of video games. No specified timeline has yet been given for its release.
The paper will ask Australians to voice their opinions on whether the country should have an R18+ classification for video games. Once the consultation period expires, it will be up to the censorship ministers to decide whether or not to introduce the R18+ classification. Once again, their decision must be unanimous before any changes to Australia's current classification system can be made.

The main opponent of an R18+ for games is South Australian attorney general Michael Atkinson. He acknowledges the fact that Australia's current classification system may lead to the incorrect classification of some video games, but attributes this to a misapplication of the federal government's classification guidelines by the Classification Board of Australia: I don't doubt gamers when they say that some games that are classified MA15+ in Australia should have been classified R18+; that is a possibility in my experience. I am critical of the OFLC [the Classification Board of Australia]. I believe it bends over backwards for the industry rather than the public interest.

 

4th April   

Updated: Minister Hallucinates...

Bavarian minister likens violent video games to illegal drugs
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

Far Cry 2 game In the latest political attack on computer games, Bavarian Minister of the Interior Joachim Herrmann, a frequent critic of violent games, upped the ante by likening such games to illegal drugs and child pornography.

Herrmann made the charge in a [translated] press release:

...such games are one of the causes for youth violence and also for school shootings, where images from killer games become reality.

...more and more children are getting mired in this virtual world of violence. They have no time left for school or job training, and are lost to our society.

...In regards to their harmful effects, [violent video games] are on the same level as child pornography and illegal drugs, the ban on which rightly is unquestioned

However, a second German official, Commissioner for the New Media Thomas Jarzombek, criticized Herrmann's remarks: The comparison is completely inappropriate... anyone making such statements is unqualified to participate in any further debate [regarding the] protection of minors from harmful media.