Game Lobby: August 4th, 2008

Video games have progressed to the point where they are no longer the sole leisure pursuit of predominately adolescent males. Due to their increasing exposure to the general public, games have now caught the attention of not just this group, but adults of varying ages, along with members of the opposite sex.

This increased attention has also invited increased scrutiny, as politicians, activist organizations, media groups, and concerned parents have centered video games, the individuals that play them, and the games industry itself in their active microscopes. They have proceeded to fire shots of accusations and falsehoods meant to dent and eventually destroy the freedoms enjoyed by video games in our society.

While games can weather these attacks for a while, someone has to step in to provide resistance against these charges; an individual has to respond to the charges levied against video games with positive news about video games’ effect on society.

Who will that someone be? Me, the Game Lobbyist; every Monday, I will be searching and providing you with news that spotlights the positive influences that games have on our generation, along with doing my best to sort through the grime that individuals in power toss at our favorite hobby.

However, before I start doling out the news for the day, I would like to take the time to recognize the life of Melissa Batten who, earlier in the week, was murdered by her husband, Joseph, who then subsequently took his own life; she was 36 years old. Reports circling around the internet, specifically from Destructoid and Kotaku, mentioned that her husband was abusive, physically and verbally, towards her. Once she learned that said husband obtained a handgun, she immediately obtained a restraining order against him.

Prior to her death, Melissa worked as a software development engineer in test for Microsoft, after obtaining a law degree from Harvard. Her husband also worked for Microsoft, but has since spent his time with Wizards of the Coast, known for their extensive list of card games.

More information about this tragic event can be found here. Starting out with a story about loss was not how I wanted to introduce my first column, but I felt that it was (and still is) important to recognize players in the game industry who are not always as influential as Shigeru Miyamoto or Cliff Bleszinski. I personally hope that the Melissa’s husband receives whatever negative karma he deserves for such a heinous action. Along with the remorse that I feel for Melissa’s friends and family, I also have a strong sense of anger with the knowledge that mainstream media sources (specifically Fox News) will use whatever tactics necessary to craft this story into the standard-issue fare of ‘video games equal violence.’ Hopefully, this will not happen, but if it does, I and other gaming outlets will be sure to call them out.

Moving on to the news of the previous week…

Game Developer in Texas Receives First Governmental Grant

I thought this piece would serve as an excellent countermeasure to the somber opening that I provided. While individuals may have had mixed opinions on Texas governor Rick Perry’s E3 speech, one promise that he made in his address is that his state would be “a haven for game developers.”

As it turns out, that prediction may actually prove correct.

According to Gamepolitics.com, Pixel Mine, a development company based in the Lone Star State, announced that their first project, Fireteam Reloaded, will receive a production grant. This decision makes them the first development house to receive this honor.

On its face, this piece of news should be the start of something big for aspiring developers in Texas; however, this grant does have several ‘provisions’ which are mentioned in this article.

As of this writing, Fireteam Reloaded was reviewed for any ‘objectionable material,’ but no changes have been made to it as of yet.

I think that it is great that states such as Texas are granting benefits to game developers to improve on their craft, as it gives added credence to the gaming industry’s increasing influence on society. However, I am a bit concerned about the law’s ‘provisions,’ which call for the game in question to conform to ‘general standards of decency and respect for the citizens of Texas.’ As we have seen in the past, it has become too easy for individuals in positions of power to twist standards of ‘decency’ for their own benefits. Jack Thompson and Leland Yee are two examples of individuals who have exercised this yarn time and again.

At this moment though, the intent is positive; let’s hope the execution remains as such.

Could Bioshock 2 be Hit with the Ban-Hammer?

While I am not a fan of first-person shooter, I have found myself drawn to Bioshock for its immersive story, creative weapons, and excellent atmosphere.

That said, games like Bioshock have been regarded with increased scrutiny by activist and governmental groups for their questionable content. In fact, according to Gamepolitics.com, Bioshock’s sequel could be prevented from release in the UK.

Industry consultant Vincent Scheurer, when speaking at the Develop Conference in Brighton, noted that due to the fallout of Manhunt 2, future games could be placed in trouble under the BBFC’s regulations.

In giving my opinion on this matter, I first have to praise Scheurer for speaking out against Paul Jackson of the ELSPA when he praised the decision to ban Manhunt 2. I am of the opinion that the rating system is placed on games for a reason, and that it is the responsibility of parents and retailers to enforce what games are not safe for younger children. As it stands now, games are already placed under the microscope to a degree that could be rendered laughable by other entertainment industries.

I hope that the second Bioshock game is able to escape the Big Daddies of the BBFC, as preventing gamers from purchasing it would not look good for the country or industry.

Video Game Legislation Far from a "Final Fantasy" as Illinois Joins the Fray

The amount of video game laws that have been passed through our government is truly startling, to the point where I and many others wonder why our tax dollars are not placed towards more useful endeavors.

Illinois becomes the latest state this year to draft video game legislation, with a provision that says that MMORPGs like Final Fantasy 11 have to have a means in which users can cancel their account online. This situation occurred when a pair of parents had difficulty canceling their account on the service. Ars Technica has more information on the matter here.

In analyzing the ins and outs of this law, I would have to conclude that what is here means well, but like most pieces of game legislation, could turn out to be unnecessary. Having played some online games in the past, I have had no problems in canceling my account, and if any occurred, I was able to receive efficient customer service.

Of course, this law does have one advantage: it is written in a way that will actually help consumers and benefit the online gaming sphere. That in itself is an accomplishment.

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