Tag Archives: Law

The Byron Review

“Hardly a day goes by without a news report about children being brutalised and abused in the real world or its virtual counterpart. Some make links between what happens online or in a game, and what happens on the streets or at home.  

“These headlines have contributed to the climate of anxiety that surrounds new technology and created a fiercely polarised debate in which panic and fear often drown out evidence. The resultant clamour distracts from the real issue and leads to children being cast as victims rather than participants in these new, interactive technologies.

“It quickly became apparent that there was a big difference between what concerned parents understand and what their technologically savvy children know. […] Put bluntly, the world of video games has come a long way since the early days of Pac Man. And while change and innovation are undoubtedly exciting, they can also be challenging or just plain scary.”

Tanya ByronDo my eyes deceive me? Am I reading a report about games and the Internet that not only doesn’t immediately vilify the industry as corruptor of our youth or blame it for the collapse of Western society, but blames the media-led moral panics and goes on to say that risk-taking is an essential component of growing up? And this quote was taking from the first page!?

The Byron Review, summarised here or available in its entirety here, is shocking in that it is an independent look at how children can be protected from the dangers presented in games and online that doesn’t assume that gaming is a childish pursuit – as it says, games are no longer just Pac-Man – and doesn’t recommend clamping down on the industry and removing responsibility from where it should lie.

It recognises that children are raised by their parents, not games, and that if the opposite is true then it is the fault of the parents. The fact that the majority of parents couldn’t tell Facebook and Xbox Live apart doesn’t mean that we should descend into Luddism and ban the whole lot. We should look forward and recognise that today’s kids are tomorrow’s parents, and that letting them learn from their mistakes, as a kid who fell out of a tree one too many times would tell his kids that climbing trees can be dangerous, is how we’ve always done things and will mean that the next generation is ready to face a digital future.

As for the recommendation that all games carry BBFC ratings, I wouldn’t disagree. I think it’s been coming for a while, and it makes sense to use the same ratings for all entertainment. I actually like the clear iconography of the PEGI ratings, which are much better at describing the content than the BBFC ones, but it’s counterproductive to want parents to take an interest in what their children are playing but then make it difficult by using something other than the well-known film ratings. Most games with any objectionable content use both anyway.

Still, it hasn’t taken long for more exposés that – shock! – some games are violent from the usual sources, so some things never change. But at least we can’t complain that nobody’s given our digital entertainment a fair look. The difference here is that people are taking interest.

Manhunted Down

Manhunt 2

So Manhunt 2 has become the first game since Carmageddon to be refused a BBFC rating, effectively banning it from sale in the UK. Unless they turn all the victims to zombies and make the blood green, it’s unlikely to see the light of day here at all. This is the part where I wave my import Wii and chipped PS2 around, grinning like a loon. I had no interest in this game until now.

The kneejerk reaction from many gamers will inevitably be the freedom of speech card, just as predictable as the tabloid headlines tomorrow (expect lavish use of the words “sick” and “outrage”). And as much as I dislike censorship, I’m not sure this is a bad thing. Manhunt, for all its excessive gore, depicted a man forced to kill or be killed without a say in the matter, and in that respect had some moral justification, however tenuous, for the act of murder. The sequel, on the other hand:

“…Lamb is battling with his own psyche. A reluctant but able killer, he’s guided by the rather unpleasant Leo, a fellow inmate with a penchant for bloodlust. And it’s this Leo who acts as Manhunt 2’s interior monologue, audibly urging Lamb to commit grisly acts of murder a provoking him to let go of his remaining threads of sanity.” (GamesTM 56)

Is it any surprise that the BBFC criticised a game like this for its “unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing”? I have no problem with virtual depictions of killing but when the only justification is that you’re a psychopath you run out of moral high ground to take very quickly. Even the most visceral horror films are told from the perspective of the victims.

I remember all the furore around the first Manhunt (ignoring the fact that the inaccuracies went unreported – like how it was the victim who loved the game), and being incensed at how under-researched the tabloid articles claiming that the objective was to sate your bloodlust were. Do we really want to make them right when they get wind of this one? For this same reason I think this game does nothing but harm to our hobby. We don’t need it. Every sale that this game made on pure controversy is another spot of credibility to the Mary Whitehouses of the world.

It’s unfortunate that it got banned through legislation, but when the developers won’t exercise self-control and a bit of responsibility it might be for the best.

Chikan Chuui

So Tomonobu Itagaki, producer of the Dead or Alive series, is facing a sexual harassment lawsuit after he went out with a woman from Tecmo and “groped her and forcibly kissed her”, amongst other things.

The general reaction when people hear this is that they’re not surprised, mainly since the DOA games don’t do a lot to advance the feminist cause, to say the least. I’d probably agree. The men in it aren’t exactly bright and well-attired, but then again they don’t have a game about dressing them up in swimwear and making them jump around.

It’s not the fact that the lawsuit happened that surprised me at all. What surprises me is that there are actually women working at Team Ninja. Surely that has to be a joke?

RIP Lik-Sang

Remember those days when your only choice for getting an import game was the local independent and the prospect of paying £100 for it? Or a questionable mail order company in the back of CVG that may or may not fold before the next issue? Then the Internet came along and we could get all the cheap imports and dirt cheap accessories we wanted from Hong Kong outlets, and it was good.

As you may or may not know, possibly the biggest of these Hong Kong retailers, Lik-Sang, has today announced in a surprisingly ironic statement that it’s closing down as a result of repeated Sony lawsuits against it. The most recent one, which I wrote about in my last post, ended in a ruling that the importing of PSPs into the EU before the official release had been illegal and, by association, that importing the PS3 would be as well.

“Today is Sony Europe victory about PSP, tomorrow is Sony Europe’s ongoing pressure about PlayStation 3. With this precedent set, next week could already be the stage for complaints from Sony America about the same thing, or from other console manufacturers about other consoles to other regions, or even from any publisher about any specific software title to any country they don’t see fit. It’s the beginning of the end… of the World as we know it”, stated Pascal Clarysse, formerly known as the Marketing Manager of Lik-Sang.com.

“Blame it on Sony. That’s the latest dark spot in their shameful track record as gaming industry leader. The Empire finally ‘won’, few dominating retailers from the UK probably will rejoice the news, but everybody else in the gaming world lost something today.”

Well, fuck them. Really, fuck them. I’d never once used Lik-Sang to buy a Sony product but had bought countless cheap gadgets (most recently my £10 component switcher) that are difficult to find elsewhere. Now that’s gone because Sony wants to attack consumer choice for when they decide that they don’t like paying more for a late product. I don’t, didn’t buy a UK PSP, and also won’t buy a UK PS3.

This is a sad day. I hope this pisses off enough gamers to really come back and bite them.

Sony’s at it Again…

So now it’s illegal to import a Sony console into the EU without their permission, following on from all that rubbish surrounding PSP imports when that was delayed in Europe:

“The law is clear; grey importing PS2, PSP or PS3 into the EU, without the express permission of SCE is illegal. Therefore, we will utilise the full scope of the law to put a stop to any retailers who chose to do this.”

Beside the fact that if it’s illegal it’s not ‘grey’ anymore, it’s a potential stumbling block for those indies who miss out on the Christmas rush of PS3 buyers and so were counting on flogging imports at inflated prices to actually get an advantage of the high street for once. And I thought this thing was multiregion? What’s the point if you can’t import games, since the PSP embargo stopped a lot of companies even selling those?

Maybe someone should point out to them that price fixing is also illegal. I can’t think of a better term for a 33% price hike while simultaneously blocking cheaper imports from abroad. Whatever happened to competition?

Games Are Bad, Mmmkay?

Mr Mackey

Another day, another anti-game study. Only this one is even more idiotic than usual.

Obviously as tired of finding tenuous links between violent games and psychotic behaviour as we are hearing about them, someone has gone and decided that there’s a link between playing violent games and, get this, “permissive attitudes” towards drugs and alcohol, as well as that great evil that has blighted humanity since the beginning (cover your eyes now, children)…sex.

I almost feel bad for giving this shit exposure. As stupid as I find the idea, it’s not a huge jump in logic to say that virtual violence would beget actual violence, but this one is just ludicrous. OK, so GTA and its ilk might, in places, depict a culture that encourages drugs and they’re rated as such, but to say that violent games encourage drug and alcohol abuse is absurd. I can’t remember the last game I played that did anything to encourage alcohol (in Oblivion drinking ale lowers your intelligence), and even if sex was starting to pervade games in the same pernicious way that “urban” culture has, Hot Coffee put paid to that.

Like most people of my age I enjoy the occasional drink and I’ll admit to trying weed once, but does that constitute a drug problem or rampant alcoholism? I concede that I feel an urge to have sex without the need to get married that of course naturally follows, but I’m willing to put that down to hormones and absolve the Call of Duty 2 that I just played. There’s nothing like a rifle and some dead Russians to get me in the mood for some lovin’, baby!

I can only imagine that these asinine studies keep happening simply because they guarantee mucho exposure as indignant gamers try to DDoS the culprits. That means I’m a part of the problem by giving it exposure, so I suggest that you don’t look up who did it, don’t click any links to it, and if you show it to anyone else make sure to laugh your ass off at it. Treat it like the joke it is, which is something that Penny Arcade do well.