November 18, 2008
Which Do You Want First?
Welcome to the ninety-sixth edition of RPGamer's Currents Column!
So what DO you want first? The bad news or the good news? Well, I should probabbly just give you the good news first since there aren't very many of those kinds of stories in this week's column. This week's column is almost depressing: nothing but pirates, murders, divorce, people being fired, and more. Well, at least I'm not talking about the DSi and the PSP again for the fourth week in a row, not too much anyway. Either way, it should be an interesting read.
And now, on to the NEWS!
Making Life Easier for Parents
Just dont spoil the game for me
The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is going to start implementing a new tool to help keep parents informed on what they buy their kids. The ESRB will start creating rating summaries for all games out on the market, starting with all games released since July 1, 2008 . These come in the form of a brief description of what is in the game and what went into the rating for that game. Parents also have many diffrent ways accessing this information, like from its new mobile website at m.esrb.org, an e-newsletter called ParenTools, and on its website at www.esrb.org.
The new rating summaries includes things like profanity, explicit violence, and any dialogue that refers to sexuality. Here is an example of one of the new summaries:
Call of Duty: World at War:
Call of Duty: World at War is a first-person shooter in which players assume the role of Allied soldiers in both the European and Pacific Fronts during World War II. Combat can be intense with extensive use of camera effects (e.g., slow-motion, blurring, and screen shakes) and realistic sound effects to highlight the tense and frenetic nature of each battle. Fighting is fast-paced with players using a large array of military weapons (guns, grenades, and flamethrowers). Collateral damage includes sprays of red blood when enemies are shot; maimed appendages from explosions; and flailing and screaming when enemies are set on fire. Cutscenes and historical footage can contain graphic depictions of prisoner/POW executions. Strong profanity can be heard during gameplay (e.g., "f*ck" and "sh*t").
Even avid videogame critics like Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Joseph Lieberman are happy with the summary system.. These two have been supporting more regulation on video games, so it doesn't come as a surprise that they would say these things:
Senator Hillary Clinton feels that:
This new supplement to the ratings is a real gift for parents as we head into this holiday season. Parents need all the information they can get to make more informed decisions about what's appropriate for their children. These new rating summaries offer more helpful information than ever before to help parents to get involved and get informed.
Senator Joseph Lieberman said:
For well over a decade I have called upon the video game industry to inform consumers about the content in video games so they could make the right choices for their children. One result was the creation of the ESRB rating system... The ESRB has now taken consumer education one step further with their new rating summaries, which provide a greater level of detail about game content to help parents be even more prepared to make informed game selections for their children. I applaud the ESRB for taking this proactive step to inform video game consumers.
To add to this, ESRB president Patricia Vance also says:
Parents can always use more help when making choices as to which games are right for their children. With our new rating summaries, which provide exclusive and unprecedented insight into the nature of the content that triggered a given rating assignment, parents will be that much more empowered in making those choices.
Other supporters also include National PTA president Jan Harb Domene and Dr. David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family.
On the other hand, there are also some problems with the new system. Alexander Sliwinski from Joystiq believes that the ESRB is being too descriptive with their new rating summaries and may begin to use phrases like āimplied child rapeā and lesbian alien sex that have nothing to do with the context of the game. Brendan Sinclair from Gamespot warns consumers about these new descriptions because they may include spoilers and plot twists. If you look at a line from the Resistance 2 summary, it spoils a major climatic moment in the game. Brian Crecente from Kotaku also worries that the wrong people will end up writing these summaries. Which, is perhaps the most valid of these points. Just who will end up writting such important summaries? I do believe this can be a fantastic tool for parents, and show others that the game industry is capable of regulating itself. Just be wary of spoilers.
Real Pirates Affecting Your Game Suppy Chain
No pirate jokes in here, this is a pretty serious problem...
Recently, pirates have been decreasing the supply of videogame hardware and software to retailers in Western Europe. This is no joke as more Somali pirates have been attacking ships near the Horn of Africa and are spreading into the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. This goes across the Suez Canal, a major shipping route which connects Europe to the Middle East and Asia. It's not only the videogame industry that is being targeted by these pirates. The oil, gas, coal, and toy industries are also feeling the bite as their shipments are also raided. Many industries are beginning to use another shipping route that goes through the Cape of Good Hope, but this route takes longer, is more expensive, and Western consumers may not see shipments for up to three weeks later.
Even Sam Dawson who is part of the International Transport Workers' Federation told Reuters that people in the West are now beginning to realize that piracy has become a big problem since they won't be getting their Nintendo gifts for Christmas. The attacks happen so often that he reports that it may take months to get the goods delivered. The attacks happen from every couple of weeks to as much as four times a day. If the navy does nothing to intervene, then the problem is only going to get worse for Western consumers and companies. The United States may not be as directly affected by the attacks as Europe is since shipments to the United States typically go from Asia heading east rather than west.
It is especially harmful when oil is on board. According to chief maritime security officer at BIMCO, Giles Noakes, if an RPG-7, an anti-tank grenade launcher, is fired into just one of the ships tanks filled with Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG), then that whole ship will just blow up. He expects that other industries like coal, grains, and iron ore will also begin to divert their shipments around the Cape of Good Hope. There have been some efforts by the British to prevent attacks by pirates, but it's really miniscule compared to what they should probably be doing. They have only killed two pirates this week as they increase the amount of effort put in by foreign raiders. Obviously, this hasn't stopped the Somali pirates.
Whenever we hear about video games and pirates, we are all usuallying talking about bit torrent and R4 cards. This is a really serious matter and it affects all the safe arrival of a lot of our goods, not just games. There is one thing that must be remembered when thinking about and discussing this story: the human toll. My best goes out to the crews of those ships who are constantly being put in danger to bring us the latest shipment of DS Games. So I say we should all be a bit more grateful for the games we get this holiday season.
"My Addiction Made Me Poison My Parents"
A possible new legal defense in China
This past week, the Chinese Health Ministry has officially declared internet addiction a mental disorder. Not too long after that, convicted killer Hu Ange appealed his case on the grounds that his internet gaming addiction made him criminally insane. Ange was sentenced to death for poisoning both his parents back in July. The game Ange was addicted to was Legend, a Microtransaction based MMO. Ange was so addicted to the game that he spent several thousand dollars buying in-game items that were meant to support his seafood business. In fact, it gets worse. After he poisoned his parents, he ignored their cries for help and instead went to his room to continue playing Legend.
The Chinese Health Ministry does at least understand that the internet and online games are not the cause of cases like this. Ministry officials recognize that this is often just a symptom of deeper psychological problems, and if they didn't turn to the internet to cope with feelings of alienation, they would turn elsewhere like to crimes or drugs. Ange is obviously a very sick individual who sees a new opportunity to shift the blame elsewhere. He was probably disturbed long before he started playing Legend, so it is unfortunate to see video games dragged into this mess.
QUICKIES: A few Small, But Awesome News Stories!
Life is starange...
Circuit City Officially Bankrupt
Just last week I wrote about Circuit City's financial problems and its probable bankruptcy. That didn't take very long did it? Early last week, Circuit City officially filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, despite the fact that it is the nations's second largest electornics retaler. Bloomberg reports that it has lost more than $5 billion in stock-market value in two years. It also owes $118 million to HP, $60 million to Sony, and a total of $900 million to all vendors. 700 employees will also be fired. Like I said last week, looks like you'll have to buy your games elsewhere.
China to Start Taxing Virtual Goods
In China, the amount of money made through the virtual currency market has grown by about fifteen to twenty percent in recent years. This has caused China's policymakers to make a plan to put a twenty percent tax on profits made by buying and selling virtual goods. The kinds of people that use this market are people like MMO gold farmers and traders and are used by instant-messaging services and web portals. One of the main reasons for this tax is that policymakers fear that it may lead to inflation and money-laundering. It looks like you can never escape the taxman, even in WoW.
Playing Your Portables on the Couch and Can
Here is an interesting little study. In a recent survey done by the NPD group, 79% of the participants said that they used their portable devices like the PSP, the DS, and the iPhone at home. People are also playing with those devices much more than before and about 92% of people who own a DS play about 4.6 hours a week on single player games. I find that I rarely play my portable systems outside of my home, and I consider myself an avid handheld gamer. I guess people really do like playing their DS games on the can after all.
Second Life Divorce Story
Two weeks ago, I had a story in this quickie section about a woman who was arrested for deleting her virtual husband's in-game Maple Story character. This week, I have another story of virtual love gone wrong. That is just what happened to Amy Taylor and David Pollard. The UK couple had been married for three years until Amy found David having a virtual affair in the game, Second Life, not once but twice. He was first caught with a virtual prostitute and later, with the help of a hired detective, a housewife in the U.S. To Amy, this was grounds enough for divorce. She said:
"I caught him cuddling a woman on a sofa in the game. It looked really affectionate. He confessed he'd been talking to this woman in America for weeks and said he didn't love me any more."
Dont worry about poor Amy, she has already found a new man, who she just happened to meet in World of Warcraft. Isn't love great.
Man, This week was a bit of a downer wasn't it. The only positive stuff was playing your GBA on the toilet and new ESRB summaries. Well, that is what the Currents Column is all about. Giving you the news you need to know and some other things that would be good to know. Either way it was still fun to write. Now, I'm off to play some games where nothing but happy things happen. (Translation: LittleBigPlanet)
See ya'll next week!
Send me a letter!