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Published at 1:51 PM PST

If you live in either California or Oklahoma, your tax dollars have recently been used in attempt to ban "violent video games". Here's the latest tax wasting, first amendment violating, laws that have tried to been passed in the respective states.

California
Back in 2005, Senator Leland Yee and his peace loving buddy Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (you know, that guy from the children's movie The Terminator) introduced and signed bill AB1179, which banned the sale of "violent" video games to anyone under 18. Anyone caught, no matter if it was knowingly or unknowingly, would be fined $1,000 for each video game sold. The ESA and the Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) fought to have the bill overturned. 

During the court hearings in 2007, Schwarzenegger stated that he intended to  "vigorously defend this law" and that California has  "a responsibility to our kids and our communities to protect against the effects of games that depict ultra-violent actions." To our knowledge, he hasn't spoke out against his violent movies, which feature the same or in some cases more violence and gore than the video games he was so desperate to "protect" kids from. Later in 2007, the court ruled at the law obviously violated the First Amendment.

The judgement was appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court but was affirmed in 2009. Undeterred, Schwarzenegger once again decided to waste tax dollars and decided to appeal the case to the Supreme Court in May 2009. A few years later in 2011, the Supreme Court ruled the law as unconstitutional on the basis of both the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

In January of this year, the bankrupt state of California had to agree to pay the Entertainment Software Association $950,000 in legal fees from the supreme court case. This is on top of the legal reimbursements from the 2008 case against video games, bringing the total California has paid the ESA to $1,327,000. The ESA has plans to donate some of the money to "develop after-school educational programs for undeserved communities in Oakland and Sacramento", where that money should have went in the first place instead of being used to fight against people's rights. The money paid to the ESA is just the beginning, California also has to front the costs of the resources wasted during the cases. which is likely more than what they had to pay to the ESA.

Oklahoma
Apparently someone didn't get the memo from the California cases. Oklahoma State Representative Will Fourkiller (and apparent Geo Cities user) has introduced bill HB2696, which proposes an excise tax of 1% on "violent video games". The bill defines "violent" video games as anything with a ESRB rating of Teen or higher. This means games such as Guitar Hero, The Sims and many gambling games would be placed on the same "violence" level as say Manhunt or Postal. 

The bill states that proceeds from the tax would go into new funds dedicated to childhood outdoor education and preventing bullying. While that's a good cause, the money should be taken from the funds and Fourkiller's own salary that will be, and all ready has been, wasted on the mere drafting and proposal of this bill, not a tax on our rights.

In a statement to Ars Technica, Fourkiller stated "Not everybody is going to react the same, but I believe after hours and hours of watching the screen, playing the video game, being that person and taking on that role, people get desensitized." Ars has asked Fourkiller for clarification on his statement, but has not yet responded.

The best part of this bill is that Fourkiller has introduced it under the emergency rules clause. Fourkiller's reason for this is because  it is "immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health and safety." The bill is scheduled to be read on the House floor next week.

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These two states are not the first to introduce tax wasting laws and apparently won't be the last. If you live in the United States, please stop voting for people like Leland Yee, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Will Fourkiller. The only way they'll learn is when they are unable to spend anymore of your hard-earned tax dollars on useless laws that will never be passed.

Sources: ESA, Joystiq, Ars Technica

Published at 3:39 AM PST

"We are sending out requests today to outlets and shops to pull the games off their shelves and we will replace them with other games," Sakchai Chotikachinda, sales and marketing director of New Era Interactive Media, told Reuters.

This is the request that shops are receiving today in Thailand. Why? Because of an “obsessive” player of Grand Theft Auto IV who had no mental problems but committed crimes because of the very evil game and the evil game alone.

"He said he wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game," chief police investigator Veeravit Pipattanasak told Reuters.

Now, my opinion of this story is that this person clearly does have a mental problem. What kind of person would like to see if robbing a taxi was as “easy” as robbing it in the game. Nobody in their right mind would do such a thing like that.

Thanks to Reuters for the story.

Published at 2:48 AM PST

Only a few days after the news of Grand Theft Auto IV being edited and slightly censored in Australia, I contacted the OFLC via email to ask if they knew how it had been edited, and what the reasonings were. Obviously this was before we learned that Rockstar had not submitted a uncut version first, rather they submitted an edited game for rating rather then attempting to have the full-uncut game rated first.

This was a smart move, as being rated "18" in the UK, there was no chance of the uncut version being released in Australia due to the OFLC not having an R rating for games (adults only rating). I today received an email back from the OFLC, the are rather busy so it did take awhile. They state that they did not rate the uncut version, and therefore can not speculate as to what has been edited, instead they told us to contact Rockstar directly, which obviously isn't necessarily now.

However an interesting point is that the OFLC alerted me to a future Public Discussion paper for the introduction of a R rating for games, making adult games, or anything that should not be played by persons under the age of 18, able to be released. Manhunt 2 for example. Australia has missed man terrific games and gaming series' due to not having an adults rating for games, and there could be a change in the wind. Best part; on the most part it seems Grand Theft Auto IV's editing has been the spark of this, which in itself shows just how powerful the game and the series is. Or maybe it's just that some of the Classification Ministers like the series?

I am aware of concerns that the content of this game has been modified for Australian release. The Classification Board will classify a computer game in the form in which the distributor submits it. The Classification Act does not provide the Board with the power to direct a distributor to modify a computer game. You may wish to contact the creator and/or distributor for further information about different versions of this game.

Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers with censorship responsibilities have agreed on an initiative to seek community views on the issue of an R 18+ classification for computer games. A discussion paper is being developed and will be released for public consultation. You may like to participate in the consultation when it is announced and make a submission.

The Attorney-General’s Department is aware of research into game-playing trends in Australia, including findings that the average age of Australian gamers is 28 years old. The Department is also aware of the wide range of views on the introduction of an R 18+ classification for computer games in the community.

The OFLC also make note that Grand Theft Auto IV was rated officially on the 12th of  December, 2007. I'd like to thank the OFLC for the information, and urge any Australian's out their too submit their support and/or opinions when the Consultation becomes Public within the coming months.

Published at 8:56 AM PST

Hasn't been much news regarding Manhunt 2 since it's announced release in the UK (very soon too we are hoping). However, MCV had an exclusive interview with BBFC director David Cooke yesterday, the interview's main focus was, you guessed it, Manhunt 2. Cooke says they are still a little disappointed that the game was passed for release after all the work they did examining the game to become familiar enough with it to make a valid decision. Considerably more time than the VAC who passed the game apparently.

MCV: Has the whole Manhunt 2 experience changed the way the BBFC works – in terms of culture or processes?

Cooke: Not fundamentally. The reason for that is obviously we thought it was the right decision, or we won’t have reached it. It hasn’t affected the fact that we still base our decisions on thorough gameplay. In the case of Manhunt 2, by the end of it all, we probably spent over 100 examiner hours on the game - including more than a few hours of mine.

We actually got a fairly substantial benefit from the Manhunt episode, We went to the High Court, and it clarified the harm test – actually a benefit that flies across a whole range of games and film.

It all gets quite technical, but for instance, it showed it was not necessary for us to show devastating effect, which was what the arguments had said previously.

MCV: Are you still disappointed with the decision?

Cooke: We absolutely accept that if you have an independent judicial tribunal, like we do with the Video Appeals Committee, you have to abide by its findings and there’s no point showing sour grapes. I guess we’re still disappointed because we put quantifiably more examining hours into getting familiar with the game than the VAC was able to do, so in effect, they were substituting their judgement for ours on the basis of familiarity of the game.

Read the full interview at MCV.

 

Published at 8:42 AM PST

During the recent MI6 Game Marketing Conference, ESRB President Patricia Vance addressed the topic of rating downloadable content. It's only been i recent years that downloadable content has evolved, originally downloadable content was basically just modifications made by an enthusiast. Now however developers alike at extending gameplay beyond the box you purchase. Oblivion and Grand Theft Auto IV are huge games, and both have downloadable content coming soon, they have helped bring this 'downloadable content rating' problem back into the focus for the ESRB.

Simply, developers must "keep the content in the downloadable product consistent with the core rating." What does this mean? It means that the content put up for download must not contain content higher of that on the original rating. For example; you could not have a downloadable package with sexual content for an M rated game that only had violence and horror content according to the rating on the box. If the content is changed, then the ESRB would force a re-rating, which would cost the company money no doubt (for updated boxes I would presume).

Source: MTV via Wired

Published at 5:36 AM PST

Seems the announcement of the Australian version of GTA IV being edited has struck a cord with not only fans but the Attorneys-General also. The Sydney Morning Herald in Australia has stated that many gamers that pre-orded the upcoming title have canceled their orders and plan on importing the game, regardless of national law.

On top of this, a development has found that many are also angered by the price. $AU120 where as it’s $US60, meaning it should pad out to $AU64, but it doesn’t. These two very important aspects of the game in Australian fans eye’s have made the choice to import a cheaper, uncut version a very easy decision. This is horrible for Australian retails, as most orders were through Australian retailers themselves it means a major lose in profit, more money to overseas markets and less into the Australian economy.

The news of GTA IV being cut has once again brought up the question of bringing in an R (adults) rating for games into the Australian games rating system. Finally, perhaps we will see a result, as at a Standing Committee of the Attorneys-General the censorship ministers agreed to allow public opinion on an R18+ rating for games. Victorian Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Rob Hulls says that there are persuasive arguments to support the introduction of an adults-only games category.

"While computer games have predominantly been considered the domain of children, the most up-to-date research indicates a steadily growing trend in adult consumers of the product, with the current average age of gamers reported to be 28 years," says Hulls.

"It seems inconsistent that in Australia adults are allowed to view adult-only films, which have been classified R18+ by the classification board, but not computer games with an equivalent high-level content. At the moment, Australia is out-of-step with the rest of the developed world on this issue," continued Hulls.

This is terrific news for all Australians, good to see that with a large scale game such as Grand Theft Auto IV it has brought to the attention of the Government the importance of an adults rating for games. Something we have been wanting for some time now.

Something intreaging about the article is it also says that the New Zealand version of the game was rated R18+, which is interesting as it’s believed the New Zealand version of the game was also edited, this may not be the case after all. We’ll keep you up to date on how this goes, fingers crossed Australia will have an R18+ rating and an unedited GTA IV very soon.

Credit: Sydney Morning Herald

Published at 11:41 PM PST

Kotaku has posted a very detailed overview of EA's bid to takeover, and it has some information that I didn't even know about. The problem is that it shows EA in a nicer light then it seems, but maybe that's what's going on, Riccitiello wants to help Take-Two, and maybe Strauss is being hostel in all of this.

Personally, I think EA just wants to takeover the GTA franchise and all the profits from this, but it doesn't matter what I think, read about it here.

Published at 3:47 AM PST

Stephen King, he's the King of horror (no pun intended) and he appears to believe in freedom of speach in not only books and movies, but also games. Although admitting he has little interest in video games, the horror-writer has used his Entertainment Weekly column to strike out at those who want to ban the sale of violent video games to minors. He believes, like many of have been trying to explain for years, that it's up to the parents to monitor their own children's entertainment with games and movies.

Story goes after learning of a bill in Massachusetts which is to ban the sale of games deemed violent to persons under the age of 18, King decided he needed to voice his opinion

"What makes me crazy is when politicians take it upon themselves to play surrogate parents. The results of that are usually disastrous. Not to mention undemocratic,"

"What really makes me insane is how eager politicians are to use the pop culture as a whipping boy. It's easy for them, even sort of fun, because the pop-cult always hollers nice and loud. Also, it allows legislators to ignore the elephants in the living room,"

He also mentions banning games that have already been released, or about to be released doesn't stop minors getting hold of them. Obviously many can import the game from countries that have not banned the game, or even use the internet now days.

We'll leave you to read up more on King's comments, we just think it's great to see someone who writes horror for a living state what we have all been trying to get politicians and game activists to understand for years. Nice work Stephen King, I'm an even bigger fan of your work now.

Thanks AfterDawn.

Published at 12:50 PM PST

Apparently Eliot Spitzer is known for just more than being the governor of New York, He is now also known as Client 9 in a upscale prostitution ring according to the New York Times. What is really ironic is that back in 2006, Mr. Client 9 Spitzer called out the videogame industry saying.

Like all parents, I know it is increasingly difficult to protect our children from negative influences… we have learned that when self-regulation fails, government must step in… we must do more to protect our children from excessive sex and violence in the media…

Media content has gotten more graphic, more violent and more sex-based… Currently, nothing under New York State law prohibits a fourteen-year old from walking into a video store and buying… a game like ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ which rewards a player for stealing cars and beating people up. Children can even simulate having sex with a prostitute…

Real life prostitution is ok. Fake prostitution in a harmless videogame, not ok. Thanks for clearing that up, Mr. Client 9. If you would like to read the full 36 paged report released by the FBI, the link is below.

FBI Report: PDF
New York Times: Spitzer Is Linked to Prostitution Ring
Thanks goes to
GamePolitics for the heads-up!

Published at 6:00 AM PST

'Grand Theft Auto' is a great gaming series with much enjoyment to be had, but for victims of real life Grand Theft Auto it's not-so fun. Louisiana students this year have decided to understand the problem and attempt to combat it by learning the consequences of stealing someone's pride and joy, their automobile.

Louisiana Insurance Commission is running the education program which encourages good driving habits and gives tips on how to prevent theft of your vehicle. Read up more on this here.

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In case your wondering as to why we are posting such a thing, we are giving an example to the public on how gaming and the real world are not interlinked. Just because you see it in a game doesn't mean you'll do it. Therefore, just because we play the games doesn't mean we condone or agree with the actions preformed in the game a real life situation. Same goes, Rockstar don't intend you to preform acts depicted in any of their games, and your soft-headed to thing any differently.

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