The Long Week in Video Game Violence

To say the past week has been a wild, insane, and completely absurd for video gamers is an understatement. While no particular story stands out as big as "Hot Coffee" did last year, combined they take a toll. The games may seem like they're most important part of the industry, yet the attacks against them are becoming far more serious.

We'll begin with 25 To Life, a game that initially drew harsh criticism for its cop-killing nature. Players control either a drug dealer looking to keep his business open by any means necessary or police attempting to bring the dealers down. While the production of the game (which has been ripped by the gaming media, gaining a meager 45% cumulative score from Gamerankings.com) brought controversy, it seemed as if it was forgotten.

That was before the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund spoke out against the game. Why they chose 25 to Life is anyone's guess given the numerous other titles which feature violence against authorities. As such, CNN ran with the story to get the message out there about the boycott efforts of the group. The stats on their website show a grim side of this country. However, to single out one specific video game while avoiding such films as Training Day (amongst many, many others), which shows officers in a truly terrible light, is ridiculous.

One of the stranger and more radical ideas comes from Texas. Congressional candidate Star Locke has proposed a tax on video games, fried food, and soft drinks. This would eliminate property taxes. While this doesn't sound completely over the top, his plan to make the tax at a staggering 100% is. His definitions of what constitutes a violent game will hopefully be the end of this unbelievable concept. All this would do is drive business away from the state businesses as gamers head online to purchase their games.

There were multiple pieces of legislation again attempting to block the sale of games to minors. To report on each one is meaningless, as none have made it into effect without either a stern, successful lawsuit by the ESA. The only notable attempt was by Utah State Representative David Hogue. He makes the case that violent games should be considered obscene and lumps them together with pornography. Gamepolitics.com features this quote from Hogue:

"We are seeing an increase in mental health problems with juvenile offenders," Hogue told the Tribune... "I feel real strong that violence should be in [the pornography statute]. We need to give parents a tool to protect their children... It's sending out the message that there is more than pornography that is threatening to juveniles."

The United Kingdom has their own problems, now with a 16-year old found guilty of setting his house on fire to kill his 11-year old sister two years ago. He has been convicted of the crime, and of hitting his brother in the head with an axe. The trial brought up his obsession with Capcom's Devil May Cry, a fantasy over-the-top action series. What actually comes of the scenario (for the game or his actual sentence) is yet to be seen.

Take Two, publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series, has seen better days. In this week alone, Barbara Kaczynski left the board of directors (citing the "Hot Coffee" scandal as a reason), their offices caught fire, and just today they were sued by LA city attorney Rocky Delgadillo. His reasoning is that the company failed to disclose the game's actual content due to the Hot Coffee incident. He's fighting for the company to turn over all profits from the game to "concerned citizens" of the city.

He's also looking to slap the company with a $2,500 fine for false advertising under California law for each copy sold. Keep in mind the game was rated M for mature before Hot Coffee, AO for Adults Only afterwards, and each time carried the ESRB sticker for strong sexual content. The lawsuit seemingly came from nowhere as a few other minor lawsuits failed to generate anything in the media, and the hype over the incident has long since died. Note that election season is coming soon, and Delgadillo is running for Attorney General according to Good Morning Silicon Valley.

To continue with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, voice actor James Woods said he was unhappy with the company. The Associated Press picked up the story, with this quote from the actor:

"If someone said, 'We're going to have this in there, be aware of that,'" then he could make his own judgment, he said. He said he "just doesn't like to be sandbagged."

This is easily the funniest of this weeks events, given the actor seems to have no problem with the violence levels, has starred in somewhat explicit films (Scary Movie 2, Any Given Sunday, etc.), and will be doing voice work for the upcoming Scarface video game. How could a hidden, hard to unlock, small sex scene featuring consenting and fully-clothed adults be offensive to him when the players can have sex with hookers as a basic gameplay mechanic?

Canada brings some more international flavor. A fatal accident in Toronto due to illegal street racing brought the medias eyes to Need for Speed: Most Wanted. The game features numerous reckless driving scenarios, including police chases and evasion. The media reported a copy of the game was inside the vehicle, though why that was an important detail is unknown.

Given that street racing is increasingly popular due to its exposure in film (2 Fast, 2 Furious), TV (Street Fury), and games, it's no surprise this accident occurred. Thankfully, the Toronto detective handling the case shows wonderful common sense that seems to be decreasing faster than street racing increases:

"There is a small percentage who have difficulty separating reality and simulation, fantasy. It's a very, very small percentage," he said. "This was not the game's fault. There are millions who play this game and don't go out and do this."

Thank you detective. Couldn't have said that any better.

Finally this week, the story out of Maryland about an 8-year old boy that accidentally shot a classmate at day care apparently has a video game hook. Police reported his father taught his son how to use a gun (though other the media outlets say it was a 50 cent music video) and let him play 50 Cent: Bulletproof along with 187: Ride or Die. Both games are rated M, failed miserably with critics, and yet the games are still under fire. Thankfully, the father has been imprisoned, and it's hard to put the blame on anyone, or anything, else. This will likely be a situation to keep an eye on, and a lawsuit wouldn't be surprising.

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