Games News

 2010: April-June



15th June   

Games are Like Peanut Butter...

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Vulnerability to Violent Video Games
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peanut butterIn a special issue of the journal Review of General Psychology, published in June by the American Psychological Association, researchers looked at several studies that examined the potential uses of video games as a way to improve visual/spatial skills, as a health aid to help manage diabetes or pain and as a tool to complement psychotherapy. One study examined the negative effects of violent video games on some people.

Much of the attention to video game research has been negative, focusing on potential harm related to addiction, aggression and lowered school performance, said Christopher J. Ferguson, PhD, of Texas A&M International University and guest editor of the issue. Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests. Violent video games have not created the generation of problem youth so often feared.

In contrast, one study in the special issue shows that video game violence can increase aggression in some individuals, depending on their personalities.

In his research, Patrick Markey, PhD, determined that a certain combination of personality traits can help predict which young people will be more adversely affected by violent video games. Previous research has shown us that personality traits like psychoticism and aggressiveness intensify the negative effects of violent video games and we wanted to find out why, said Markey.

Markey used the most popular psychological model of personality traits, called the Five-Factor Model, to examine these effects. The model scientifically classifies five personality traits: neuroticism, extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness and conscientiousness.

Analysis of the model showed a perfect storm of traits for children who are most likely to become hostile after playing violent video games, according to Markey. Those traits are: high neuroticism (e.g., easily upset, angry, depressed, emotional, etc.), low agreeableness (e.g., little concern for others, indifferent to others feelings, cold, etc.) and low conscientiousness (e.g., break rules, don't keep promises, act without thinking, etc.).

Markey then created his own model, focusing on these three traits, and used it to help predict the effects of violent video games in a sample of 118 teenagers. Each participant played a violent or a non-violent video game and had his or her hostility levels assessed. The teenagers who were highly neurotic, less agreeable and less conscientious tended to be most adversely affected by violent video games, whereas participants who did not possess these personality characteristics were either unaffected or only slightly negatively affected by violent video games.

These results suggest that it is the simultaneous combination of these personality traits which yield a more powerful predictor of violent video games, said Markey. Those who are negatively affected have pre-existing dispositions, which make them susceptible to such violent media.

Violent video games are like peanut butter, said Ferguson. They are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems.

 

5th June   

Villains of the Piece...

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Russia don't like being game villains so they will impose more censorial state control nastiness
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Call Duty Game Year DVD Dismayed by the negative way it is portrayed in computer games, Russia is planning to promote itself with a series of patriotic titles based on the heroic deeds of its soldiers in the Second World War.

The country's parliament is also discussing plans to ban anti-Russian computer games after MPs complained that games, mostly American, portrayed Russians as Cold War stereotypes, villains and alcoholics.

The Russian version of the best-selling Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 game already has a scene cut where gamers shoot innocent passengers at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, but if the parliamentarians get their way it could be banned altogether.

While the MPs cannot stop offending games being made, some want to ban their import. The Duma is considering setting up a commission to decide which games should be illegal to import.

Games that might fall foul of the commission include the German Ulitsa Dimitrova, where gamers play a seven-year-old child in St Petersburg who has to steal, kill and lie in order to buy cigarettes.

 

22nd May   

Update: Rated as Censorial...

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Sony boss adds his voice for changes to Australia's games rating censorship
Link Here  full story: R18+ for Games in Australia...Pondering an adult R18+ rating for video games

sony computer entertainment logoMichael Ephraim, boss of Sony Computer Entertainment Australia, has spoken out against Australia's video game censorship system, citing double standards for leniency shown to other forms of media.

He said: Gaming has moved on, the choice of content has moved on and I think it is time Australia gets in step with the rest of the world and has an R rating classification.

I think it is just giving people choice. You give people choice for movies, books, whatever. Why aren't you giving them choice for gaming?

The Government needs to move on, to stop thinking that gaming is for kids, gaming has grown up. Eight to 88 (year olds) play games now ... the average age of a gamer is something like 24 years old.

 

21st May   

Update: Killer Games Ban Killed...

German government backs off from ban on violent video games
Link Here  full story: Killergames...German politicians target video games

Counter Strike Source PC DVD A group of Interior Ministers have been asking for a total ban on the production and distribution of violent videogames in Germany. 

Thanks in large part to a petition, such a ban will not be enacted in the near future. German website Game Captain reports that the 73,000 signatures captured on a petition against banning such games allowed the matter to be taken up in front of the Committee on Petitions. The petitioner was allowed to speak, and apparently asked more education on media be provided in place of the ban.

Parliament State Secretary Dr. Herman Kues, of the Federal Ministry for Home Affairs must have been swayed, as he announced that no changes to the current criminal code would be enacted. Instead the government will push for more public education of the PEGI ratings system.

 

12th May   

Update: Australian 'Democracy' in Action...

The wrong kind of 98% majority support games for adults
Link Here  full story: R18+ for Games in Australia...Pondering an adult R18+ rating for video games

australia attourney general logoThe strong response from Australia's gaming community to the R18+ issue may have backfired a bit, as the government is now delaying discussion of the issue in order to get feedback from more of the community.

GameSpot notes that Minister for Home Affairs Brendan O'Connor indicated that, …further work needs to be done before a decision can be made. When pressed, O'Connor told the publication that ministers had agreed that a broader consultation of the public's views was needed following the dominant response from 'interest groups.'

Perhaps the Australian government doesn't understand that gamers now permeate just about every corner of culture, a point made by Interactive Games and Entertainment Association (iGEA) President Ron Curry, who stated, I'm not sure how the [Home Affairs] minister pigeon-holes them as an 'interest group', because gamers cover all facets of society.

 

8th May   

Peta Pit Bulls...

Developer deletes dogs from a game after aggressive Peta whingeing
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ynga logoPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) have whinged over the use of Pit Bulls as a fully fledged combat item. in the Mafia Wars online social game.

Developer Zynga has responded and now removed the dog as a fighting tool.

PETA noted that Countless social gamers stopped plowing their FarmVille fields long enough to voice their objections to Zynga about the game's negative depiction of this most used-and-abused breed, and the company quickly responded in just the right way.

Mafia Wars is obviously only a game, but the suffering endured by thousands of pit bulls who are treated as if they were nothing more than burglar alarms or fighting machines is very real, stated PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman: By removing Mafia Wars ' virtual pit bull, Zynga is no longer perpetuating the mindset that it's acceptable to chain, neglect, and abuse real dogs.

 

7th May   

Update: Overwhelming Response, Underwhelming Action...

98% of consultation responses support R18+ for games
Link Here  full story: R18+ for Games in Australia...Pondering an adult R18+ rating for video games

australia attourney general logoThe Australian government has published a status report regarding the public consultation on the possible introduction of R18+ classification within Australia.

Over the 2 month period 60,000 submissions flooded the Attorney-Generals Department with 98.2% of people supporting an R18+ for video games in Australia.

The majority of submissions received in a non-template hardcopy were from the games retailer EB Games (34,938 total: 4202 of these included individual comments while 30,736 provided no additional comments). This was followed by submissions that followed the template collated by the organisation Grow Up Australia (16,056), with many of these providing additional comments.

The remaining submissions were sent directly to the Commonwealth Attorney-General's Department. The majority were received via email (7347), followed by post (745) and fax (592). Many of these also contained individual comments. The Department received 33 submissions from community, church and industry groups.

On 7th May Australia's Attorneys General met and discussed the R18+ situation. Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor confirmed that no decisions were made over the issue. Censorship Ministers have requested further analysis of community and expert views. It is not just the weight of numbers that need to be considered. It is also the strength of the arguments on each side.

The next SCAG meeting will most likely be around September.

The Art of Criticism

Based on article from attackofthefanboy.com

electronice arts logoGames producer Electronic Arts boss Frank Gibeau wrote an editorial piece for Games Industry where he said that government policies that don't allow for the rating of mature content in videogames effectively censor entertainment choices for adults.

He goes on to say that the policies show a poor understanding of today's videogaming audience.

Existing legislation in Australia that limits age ratings of games to 16 demonstrates a distance between those policies and the reality of the videogame industry and the people that play interactive games in Australia today.

The spectrum of gamers is as wide as the viewership of television, movies, theatre, and the readers of books. Governments don't insist that all books be written for children, or that all television shows be cartoons. Adult gamers want their governments to treat them with the same respect they get as movie goers and book readers.

Adult Australians should be allowed to choose the games they play, including those with mature themes.

 

1st May   

Viet Ban...

Vietnam considers restrictions for online gaming
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Sold Out Software Conflict Vietnam The Vietnam government's Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has drafted legislation that could significantly restrict online gaming.

The proposals include limiting users to three hours of playtime for particular games, imposing licensing restrictions on the purveyors of online games and labelling that in-game assets are not convertible to real-world money.

The three-hour restriction on playtime would also be increased to four to five hours per day for games that are cultural or education-based.

For protectionism reasons the draft also would require foreign game makers to register titles earmarked for Vietnam one year before their debut.

The draft will be published in the next few months and there will be a supposed public consultation.

 

16th April   

Update: Signing up for an R18+ for Games...

Retailer signs up 72,000 to its petition
Link Here  full story: R18+ for Games in Australia...Pondering an adult R18+ rating for video games

game logoA pro R18+ petition sponsored by retailer GAME has gathered the signatures of over 72,000 Australians.

The company plans to present some of it findings to a Standing Committee of Attorneys-General meeting on May 7 reports GameSpot, though it's unclear if the issue of R18+ will even be on the agenda of that gathering. GAME also plans to present the petition to Federal Home Affairs Minister Brendon O'Connor.

The petition, also sponsored by Everyone Plays, achieved the large number of supporters in only six weeks, and is on track to become the largest petition in Australian history, surpassing a 2005 petition for Work Choices that received 85,189 signatures.

A similar petition sponsored by EB Games and Grow Up Australia totaled over 46,000 signatures.

 

15th April   

Burning the Midnight Oil...

South Korea asks online games to restrict children's playing time
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south korea culture ministry logoThe South Korean government is introducing policies aimed at curbing the amount of time children spend playing online games.

The first involves barring online gaming access to young people of school age between midnight and 8am.

The other policy suggests slowing down people's internet connections after they have been logged on to certain games for a certain period of time.

The Culture Ministry is calling on games providers to implement the plans. It is asking the companies to monitor the national identity numbers of their players, which includes the age of the individual. Parents can also choose to be notified if their identity number is used online.

The Korea Herald reports that Barameui Nara , Maple Story and Mabinogi , three popular virtual worlds, will introduce the blackout later this year. Meanwhile role playing games Dungeon and Fighter and Dragon Nest will pilot the connection slowing scheme.

 

13th April   

Update: Playing a Cautious Game...

John Rau and upcoming discussions about R18+ for games in Australia
Link Here  full story: R18+ for Games in Australia...Pondering an adult R18+ rating for video games

john rauAfter John Rau took over the job in South Australia following Atkinson's resignation earlier this year, political party Gamers4Croydon was popping champagne corks, claiming Rau supported the adults-only classification.

The Australian Christian Lobby hit back in a report in The Advertiser, claiming SA Labor had given it a written promise to oppose the changes.

However, Rau said through a spokeswoman that the response to the Christian lobby was given before the election and before Rau took over. He had yet to come to a final decision on the matter.

The response to the Australian Christian Lobby was a clarification of the Government's position, he said: I have no preconceptions about this issue and intend to listen to the arguments. I can neither support nor wisely argue against a position if I am not aware of all the facts.

A spokeswoman from the Federal Attorney-General's Department confirmed the matter of an R18+ classification for computer games was on the agenda for discussion at the next Standing Committee of Attorneys-General (SCAG) meeting on May 7.

But the spokeswoman noted that the censorship ministers may decide not to vote on the changes at the May meeting, instead electing to defer the decision to a later meeting to allow them to properly analyse all public submissions to the recent consultation.

 

10th April   

Retribution...

Nutter MP gets his comeuppance in games advert
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dead to rights video There's a nice short YouTube video putting a whinging MP dead to rights. (of course promoting the new console game Dead to Rights: Retribution.

Dead Rights Retribution Xbox 360 There must be a few MPs that deserve a similar comeuppance.

 

9th April   

Hughes Views...

Violent DVDs and video games exert a negative influence on nutter MPs
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simon hughesIn a debate lead by Labour MP Diane Abbott on London gang crime at Westminster, MPs linked the problem of increased knife crime to the prevalence of violent video games and movies.

Speaking of a Home Affairs Committee report on knife crime, Liberal Democrat MP and former party leader candidate Simon Hughes stated: The report then makes a controversial point, but I believe that it is true – evidence supported our view that violent DVDs and video games exert a negative influence on those who watch and play them.

Fortunately subsequent talk of possible action on the subject focused more on the fight against knife possession as opposed to a possible crackdown on gaming.

 

8th April   

Update: Gutter TV...

Ofcom not impressed by complaints about video game discussion bias
Link Here  full story: Alan Titchmarsh Show...Audience groomed to boo video games defender

alan titchmarsh games video An edition of ITV's Alan Titchmarsh Show featuring a biased discussion of violent video games has attracted 131 complaints - but will not be investigated by Ofcom.

The show, which aired on 19 March, saw host Titchmarsh debate the perils of violence in computer games with former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, actress Julie Peasgood and computerandvideogames.com editor Tim Ingham.

Broadcast understands that viewers felt the discussion was not impartial, portraying an overly critical view of video games.

An Ofcom spokeswoman said it would not be investigating the issue.

 

6th April   

Update: Putting the Swiss Knife into PEGI...

Swiss nutter MP looks to ban the top dozen violent games
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Midway Games Ltd Mortal Kombat According to the politician behind a proposed Swiss law to ban violent video games, the ban would not blindly outlaw all violent games.

Swiss Social Democrat Evi Allemann indicated that the ban would apply only to individual games. She estimated that, like in Germany, only 12 or so games would wind up being banned, including titles such as Mortal Kombat and Manhunt (which are banned in Germany), but not the likes of Counter-Strike .

It appears Allemann would specifically focus on games which display cruel acts of violence that a player contributes to.

Allemann also said that the PEGI rating system is not enough and intimating that Switzerland and/or Europe needs an independent federal agency to rate games, one that is free of any ties to the gaming industry.

 

1st April   

Updated: The Libel Tourism Game...

British blogger sued in Australia over criticisms of online game registered in the US
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bruce on games logoIn an internet defamation case that lawyers say could set an extraordinary precedent , an American registered games company is suing a British blogger in the Australian courts.

Evony, an online games company registered in the US state of Delaware, is suing Coventry-based blogger Bruce Everiss for libel over a series of allegations made on his website, Bruce on Games. In a bizarre twist, however, Evony has decided not to pursue its case in Britain or America, but 10,000 miles away.

A hearing in Sydney on Monday will determine whether or not the supreme court of New South Wales has jurisdiction – with the potential to set a precedent for the way defamation laws are applied to the online world.

Evony's owners, who boast that the game has more than 11 million players worldwide, have accused Everiss – a 30-year veteran of the computer games industry – of damaging their reputation with a series of claims made on his blog. Among the allegations that Evony is objecting to are claims that the game is exploitative and has links to another company that is already being sued for fraud by Microsoft.

Evony – which has also threatened legal action against the Guardian for similar claims made in an article published in July – says that the assertions made by Everiss are completely untrue and damaging to its business, and that neither the company nor its owners are associated with fraud or implicated or involved with the Microsoft case.

Before the case against Everiss reaches court, however, Evony must first argue why a company registered in the US should use the Australian courts to take action against a British citizen.

Update: Libel Dropped

1st April 2010. Based on article from gamepolitics.com

A libel suit filed by Evony, LLC against a UK-based blogger has been dropped.

Bruce Everiss has been taking the company to task on his blog for quite some time now, detailing some of the sketchy practices used by the game's creator.

Evony filed its lawsuit in Australia, a move that Everiss called libel tourism, and dropped the case just two days into hearings, reports the Guardian.

A Vice Development Director for Evony said in a statement that the case was dropped in deference to criticism from players of the game themselves. A lot of our players expressed opinions about the lawsuit, and we reacted to that, said Benjamin Gifford.

Evony is now saddled with a bill of $114,000 AU (approximately $104,550 U.S.) for Everiss' legal costs. The company also must pay a security fee of $80,000 AU (approximately $73,350 U.S.).

The Guardian wrote that Evony's case began unraveling once Gifford began to fold under cross-examination by Everiss' lawyers.

If the lawsuit was intended to quiet Everiss, it didn't work; his website is chock full of fascinating stories about Evony.