(BBC) Virtual goods such as weapons or digital bottles of champagne traded in the US could be worth up to $5bn in the next five years, experts predict. In Asia, sales are already around the $5bn mark and rapidly growing. For many, virtual goods are one of the hottest trends in technology and are fuelling huge growth in the social gaming sector.
(IDG News Service) Online games in China should move away from "lowbrow" content such as monster hunting, Chinese regulators said, highlighting the uncertain regulatory conditions faced by game operators in the country. The game features the regulators dislike, especially monster hunting as the main way for players to gain experience points and new powers, exist in virtually all hit online games. Game operators should also limit highly popular systems that let players kill other human-controlled characters, the country's culture ministry said in a statement on its Web site.
(CNET blog) There's no denying that the online multiplayer experience is a major selling point for video games like the just-released Modern Warfare 2. The ability to play with (and against) other players from around the world adds an expanded dimension and a social component that single-player titles lack. But while the bulk of the mainstream media criticism of these games tends to focus on the violence, gore, and questionable ethics in such combat-centric titles, little is spoken about a growing issue that can affect online gamers playing any title: instances of racism, misogyny, and homophobia.
(Guardian) Addiction to online games is becoming more widespread among vulnerable young people, according to a treatment centre that has begun running abstinence courses in Britain. As games become more visually enticing and the recession leaves people at home in front of computer screens, therapists are encountering more cases of people obsessed with being online. In extreme circumstances game players can, they warn, become detached from normal existence and forget to eat or sleep as they interact with screen characters such as wizards and monsters. Youngsters can also develop posture problems.
(Heise) "What's wrong with the Germans?" – an dieser provokanten Frage hat Electronic-Arts-Manager Gerhard Florin am Donnerstag auf der Kölner Spielemesse gamescom seine harte Kritik am deutschen Jugendschutz und dem System der Selbstkontrolle aufgehängt. Besonders an der Nicht-Freigabe vieler Spiele entzündet sich die Kritik des EA-Vertreters: "Das ist für mich Zensur".
(Reuters) China has banned websites featuring or publicizing online games which glamorize mafia gangs, saying violators will be "severely punished". The Culture Ministry said such games "advocate obscenity, gambling, or violence," and "undermine morality and Chinese traditional culture," the official Xinhua news agency said. "These games encourage people to deceive, loot and kill, and glorify gangsters' lives. It has a bad influence on youngsters," the report said, citing a ministry circular.
(Xinhua) The General Administration of Press and Publication (GAPP) of China said that the country will next year start to implement a five-year program advocating clean online games. Sun Shoushan, vice director of the GAPP, said the administration will put forward the "China Green Online Games Publishing Program" this year and the implementation begins since next year. The official made the remarks at a forum during the seventh session of the China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference (Chinajoy), one day after the GAPP issued a notice warning of the illegal release of online games and declaring stricter control on the games' approval. Some illegal companies release pornographic and violent games on the Internet, the notice said.
(BBC) The videogame trade association, Tiga, say the Pan European Game Information (PEGI) rating systems has "room for improvement". Tiga's chief, Dr Richard Wilson, said changes were needed to make the logos "instinctively recognisable".
(Europa) In April 2008, the Commission with its Communication on video games signalled the growing importance of video games both in social and economic terms and explicitly showcased the video games industry, arguing that it is about to become a major pillar of European media culture. One year after the Communication, Commissioner Reding, experts and relevant stakeholders will come together in order to re-assess progress to date towards improved protection of minors and identify further measures as necessary. The European Commission's hearing on video games and the protection of minors will take place on 8 July 2009 in Brussels. It will take the form of panel discussions on the following topics: Raising awareness among parents and consumers; Online Games: particular risks, specific responses?; Towards a pan- European Code of Conduct for the retail sale of video games. 8 July 2009; 10.00 ? 16.30
(Siliconvalley.com) Apple's iPhone has already shaken up the mobile phone world. Next, it may shake up the video game industry. In less than a year, the device has become a significant game platform. But its bigger impact could be to help change the way the game industry does business. The iPhone is one of the first widely successful gaming platforms in which games are completely digitally distributed; the only way to get games on the device is to download them. That, along with some other important factors, has already created a new market. On the iPhone, consumers can find more games updated more regularly and at a cheaper cost per game than what they'd find on a typical dedicated game console.
(Guardian) Two issues raised in Lord Carter's review affect the games industry in particular First, there is some suggestion that the UK Government will support a tax breaks system like the ones already in place in Canada and South Korea. While the tax breaks are only alluded to in the Digital Britain document, many insiders are cautiously celebrating the possibility of implementation. Second, and more controversially, the Government has chosen to back the PEGI system of self-regulation rather than the homegrown, government-affiliated, top-down BBFC's. A long debate has been raging behind the scenes for several years between the two regulation bodies, and many in the industry will welcome the decision. Although less well-recognised in the UK, the PEGI scheme is a pan-European, independent opt-in facility backed by 28 countries. BBFC have not responded well. see Digital Britain: UK to implement PEGI system for video games classification (Daily Telegraph).
(EP) Adoption in plenary of a resolution based on an own-initiative report drafted by Toine MANDERS (ALDE, NL) welcoming the Commission Communication on the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games. The report calls on the Commission and Member States, in cooperation with the industry, to explore the merit of developing a 'red button' which can be included on (mobile) consoles or game devices and computers and which disables a certain game or which can control access to a game during certain hours or certain parts of the game. It also calls for additional efforts in this respect, including the possibility of integrating an acoustic warning into the Pan-European Game Information (PEGI) age rating system, and counts on the professional game sector systematically to integrate access models for online games in order to ensure that minors are not exposed to harmful content online.
(Heise) Nachdem die Ergebnisse einer Studie des Kriminologischen Forschungsinstituts Niedersachsen (KFN) bekannt wurden, erhält die Debatte über gewaltverherrlichende und suchtgefährdende Computerspiele neuen Auftrieb. Das Institut des Kriminologen und ehemaligen niedersächsischen Justizministers Christian Pfeiffer legt am heutigen Montag eine Untersuchung vor, nach der mehr als 14.000 Neuntklässler nach medizinischen Kriterien süchtig nach Computerspielen sind. Weitere mehr als 23.000 Jugendliche seien stark gefährdet. Ausuferndes Spielen allein führe noch nicht automatisch zu einer Abhängigkeit, aber das Spielen von Online-Rollenspielen verstärke das Risiko. Das gelte vor allem für das Spiel "World of Warcraft"
(GamesIndustry.biz) The BBFC has published the results of a survey revealing that three quarters of British parents are concerned about the content of videogames and want independent ratings. The survey, conducted by YouGov for the BBFC, revealed that 79 per cent of parents believe that videogames affect children's behaviour, 74 per cent wanted games to be regulated by an independent body, and 82 per cent felt it would be beneficial if videogames used the same ratings as films and DVDs. "This poll clearly shows parents support a regulatory system for games that is independent of the industry and UK based, reflecting UK sensibilities and sensitivities," said David Cooke, director of the BBFC. See also ELSPA: 'PEGI is still the right solution for child safety' (MCV) and Why the BBFC gaming survey is hokum (TechRadar)
(Vnunet.fr) "Le temps du jeu", "La violence et le jeu", "La dépendance présumée au jeu"?Voici quelques-uns des thèmes abordés par Pedagojeux.fr, le nouveau site d'information sur les jeux vidéo destiné aux familles. L'ergonomie du site est agréable et la navigation aisée grâce à six onglets ("Sujets sensibles", "Jeu et rapports sociaux", "Bien choisir son jeu", "Équipements", "Aspects financiers", "Droits et devoirs") et grâce à un moteur de recherche efficace. Pendant neuf mois, un comité de pilotage, composé de la DIF, du programme Internet sans Crainte (soutenu par la Communauté Européenne), du FDI, de l'Unaf, de l'association Action Innocence, du Sell, de Microsoft, de Bayard Jeunesse et de Jeuxonline, s'est réuni. Une poignée de scientifiques a été consultée pour la réalisation du site ou a directement contribué.
(BBC) Video games should have a "red button" parents can press to disable inappropriate games, says a report. Drafted by a European parliament committee, the report backs games for children but says parents need help policing how and when they are played. The committee said games have a "broadly beneficial effect" on the mental development of children. The report comes as research shows that more than half of European children are unsupervised when using computers. The report backed the European Pan European Game Information system (PEGI) and called for it to be strengthened and win more support from member nations.
(Net Family News) The US body responsible for videogame ratings - the Entertainment Software Rating Board - are making them a little more useful to parents. They've created a mobile ratings site for cellphones (http://m.esrb.org), CNET reports. So parents can now access a rating even at point-of-purchase, when pressure from those kid gamers can be intense and a little right info at the fingertips can help. Both the mobile site and the regular Web one also have rating summaries.
(The Local) A new Swedish study shows that playing violent video games can alter children?s heart rates, raising concerns about violent games' long term physiological effects on youngsters. In a collaborative project, researchers from Stockholm University, Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institutet asked a group of 19 boys aged twelve to fifteen to play two different computer games, one specifically violent, the other not. The data illustrated that after playing the violent game, the heart rates of the boys were no longer regular.
(Pew Internet & American Life Project) The first national survey of its kind finds that virtually all American teens play computer, console, or cell phone games and that the gaming experience is rich and varied, with a significant amount of social interaction and potential for civic engagement. The survey was conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The primary findings in the survey of 1,102 youth ages 12-17 include: Game playing is universal, with almost all teens playing games and at least half playing games on a given day. Game playing experiences are diverse, with the most popular games falling into the racing, puzzle, sports, action and adventure categories. Game playing is also social, with most teens playing games with others at least some of the time and can incorporate many aspects of civic and political life. Another major finding is that game playing sometimes involves exposure to mature content, with almost a third of teens playing games that are listed as appropriate only for people older than they are.
(Guardian) The computer games industry has again called for the UK government to choose PEGI, the voluntary Pan-European Games Information ratings, instead of a proposed hybrid system, as it seeks to implement the findings of this year's Byron report on the safety of children online.
(BBC) Planned changes to the way video games are rated have sparked a row about who should be in charge of giving games their official age classification. Culture Minister Margaret Hodge has announced a consultation on whether the ratings for games should replicate the system for movies. But games makers oppose plans, backed by MPs, for the British Board of Film Classification to rate games as well. The games industry wants its own voluntary code to be made official.
(BBC) A row has broken out between the games industry and the UK's content classifiers over who should regulate video games in the future. UK games industry body Elspa has called on the government to replace the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) role's in assessing video games. The industry favours its own voluntary system, called Pegi. see also BBFC vs PEGI debate rolls on (GamesIndustry.biz).
(BBC) Children are able to illegally buy violent video games through online auction websites, the UK's Trading Standards Institute has said. Almost 90% of retailers tested by the association sold under-18s games, such as Manhunt 2, through such outlets. Traders supplying games to an under-age person in breach of official classifications can face a fine or up to six months in jail.
(Il Tirreno) Violenze e rapine per essere capomafia: a Livorno GTA IV (Grand Theft Auto) finisce sott'inchiesta. Il reato ipotizzato è istigazione a delinquere. Così, GTA, ovvero Gran Theft Auto IV, il videogioco più famoso e venduto (settanta milioni di copie) finisce sotto inchiesta. La Procura di Livorno ne ha fatte acquisire due copie e ora le farà analizzare a degli esperti.
(Reuters) Playing video games does not turn children into deranged, blood-thirsty super-killers, according to a new book by a pair of Harvard researchers. Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson, a husband-and-wife team at Harvard Medical School, detail their views in "Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do," which promises to reshape the debate on the effects of video games on kids.
(BBC) For many years the average video gamer has been male and aged 24 or more. But casual games and the appearance of the Nintendo Wii have changed that profile and now it looks like it is about to change again. Research suggests that there are about 158 online games and virtual worlds in development or up and running designed specifically for children. See graph
(BBC) Given that the average gamer is aged 23 or above, it's perhaps no surprise that a lot of games are rated over-18 only. But who are the guardians of taste and decency and how do they decide a videogame's age rating? In the UK, video games are classified by two bodies - the Pan European Game Information system (Pegi) and the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) - both of which have overlapping roles.
(RAPDI) The European video games sector is dynamic, with expected revenue of 7.3 billion by the end of 2008. However, public concerns that video games can cause aggressive behaviour, heightened by school shootings such as in Helsinki (Finland, November 2007), have led several national authorities to ban or block video games such as "Manhunt 2". In response, the European Commission has surveyed existing measures protecting minors from harmful video games across the 27 EU Member States. 20 EU Member States now apply PEGI (Pan European Games Information), an age-rating system developed by industry, with EU support, since 2003. In the Commission's view, industry must invest more to strengthen and in particular to regularly update the PEGI system so that it becomes a truly effective pan-European tool. Also, industry and public authorities should step up cooperation to make classification and age rating systems better known and to avoid confusion caused by parallel systems. A Code of Conduct for retailers should be drawn up within two years on sales of video games to minors. See Communication on the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games COM(2008) 207 final.
(RAPID) With the average age of video gamers now exceeding 23 years, the European Commission has been analysing the steps made by industry players and public authorities across the 27 EU Member States to provide clear rules for the protection of minors from video games more suited to adults. In its Communication "On the protection of consumers, in particular minors, in respect of the use of video games", the Commission will also be calling on all stakeholders to raise parents' awareness on existing self-regulatory age-rating systems and make them more effective in all 27 EU Member States.
(Net Family News) CNET has a "18 top game picks: The DOs and DON'Ts of games for kids." The guide includes screen shots so you can see what the games look like, and it offers "nine games you can count on for your child, and nine you should shy away from (or keep for yourself)." They're all good games, just not all child-appropriate, CNET adds. There is one "don't" concerning hardware rather than a game, on the very last page: the Xbox 360 headset. "The premise: This simple headset plugs into your Xbox 360 controller and enables voice chat over Xbox Live and compatible games. The good: Lets your kids talk to other people over Xbox Live. The bad: Lets your kids talk to other people over Xbox Live."
(RAPID) The European Commission has authorised, under the EC Treaty rules on state aid, a French tax credit aimed at encouraging video game creation. This tax credit may be granted only to video games that meet the criteria of quality, originality, and contributing to cultural diversity. After an in-depth investigation, the Commission has concluded that this measure qualifies for the exemption provided for by the EC Treaty for aid to promote culture. See also UK Government and ELSPA speak out on French tax breaks (MCV).
(OUT-LAW News) Downloads of software, ringtones, games, music and movies sold to consumers will be taxed where the consumer is located instead of where the supplier is based with effect from 2015 under changes to Europe's VAT regime. The changes are intended to prevent distortions of competition between member states that operate different VAT rates. For business-to-consumer supplies of telecoms, broadcasting and electronic services, taxation will be determined by the place of consumption. VAT will therefore be payable in the EU member state where the consumer is based at the rate prevailing in that state. Business-to-business supplies of telecoms and electronic services will not be affected by the changes as these are already taxed by reference to where the customer is located.
(BBC) British censors are seeking a judicial review to block the sale of controversial video game Manhunt 2. Last week developer Rockstar won a hearing at the Video Appeals Committee to have a ban on the title lifted. But the British Board of Film Classification said that decision was based on an incorrect interpretation of the Video Recordings Act.
(RAPID) The European Commission has authorised, under the EC Treaty rules on state aid, a French tax credit aimed at encouraging video game creation. This tax credit may be granted only to video games that meet the criteria of quality, originality, and contributing to cultural diversity. After an in-depth investigation that began in 2006, the Commission has concluded that this measure qualifies for the exemption provided for by the EC Treaty for aid to promote culture.
(BBC) More than 75% of parents are concerned about the content of video games played by their children, a survey suggests. Almost half of the 4,000 parents surveyed in the UK, France, Italy and Germany said that one hour of gaming each day should be the limit. Some 43% of the surveyed parents said they were not aware of ratings systems for games to determine suitability. The survey comes as Dr Tanya Byron conducts a separate review of games and their impact on UK children.
(Reuters) Singapore has banned a Microsoft video game that contains a scene showing a human woman and an alien woman kissing and caressing each other. The Straits Times said Mass Effect, a highly anticipated futuristic-space adventure game from Microsoft, was banned by Singapore's Media Development Authority.
(Reuters) A Swedish Web site that promotes trading of pirated movies is developing a new software standard for Internet downloads in a move that could make it easier to swap media files, which is illegal in many countries. The Pirate Bay is the biggest ad-supported site using the software of BitTorrent. The program has been a good match for Internet denizens looking to pick up free downloads of copyrighted media, from Harry Potter movies to Xbox 360 video games.
(CoE) Twenty-three Council of Europe member states signed the Convention on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (CETS n° 201), which represents a major step in the prevention of sexual offences against children, the prosecution of perpetrators and the protection of victims. Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Lithuania, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Sweden, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Turkey signed the convention at the beginning of the 28th Conference of the European Ministers of Justice in Lanzarote. The convention will enter into force once it has been ratified by five states. The convention also criminalises the use of the new technologies ? the internet in particular ? to sexually harm or abuse children, for example by "grooming", an increasingly worrying phenomenon of children being sexually harmed after meeting adults they have previously encountered in internet chat rooms or game sites.
(Pew Internet & American Life Project) Parents today are less likely to say that the internet has been a good thing for their children than they were in 2004. However, this does not mean there was a corresponding increase in the amount of parents who think the internet has been harmful to their children. Instead, the biggest increase has been in the amount of parents who do not think the internet has had an effect on their children one way or the other. Fully, 87% of parents of teenagers are online - at least 17% more than average adults. Parents check up on and regulate their teens' media use, not just in terms of the internet, but with television and video games as well. However, those rules lean slightly more towards the content of the media rather than the time spent with the media device.
(BBC) The government is asking for evidence for a new study of the effect of violent computer games on children. Psychologist Tanya Byron will head the study, which will also examine how to protect children from online material.
(Multichannel News) When it comes to influencing young people, friends are often the best brand marketers. That?s one of the key takeaways from a new global study about youth and technology called "The Circuits of Cool/Digital Playground" from MTV, Nickelodeon and Microsoft, which used both qualitative and quantitative methodology to talk to 18,000 kids (8-14) and young people (14-24) in 16 countries: the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, the United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, China, India, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. In the study, MTV Networks and Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions studied 21 technologies that impact on the lives of young people: Internet, e-mail, PC, TV, mobile, instant messaging, cable and satellite TV, DVD, MP3, stereo/hi-fi, digital cameras, social networks, on and offline video games, CDs, HDTV, VHS, webcams, MP4 players, digital-video recorders/personal video recorders and hand-held game consoles. See also Teens establish ?community? generation (FT).
(Guardian) The impact of media violence on children will be the focus of a wider than expected government review. It may lead to new voluntary controls over excessive violence and sex on children's television and the internet and in video games. Gordon Brown stressed that he did not see the review leading to state censorship, but hoped it would lead to a common agreement between parents, programme makers and internet providers that new controls are necessary. Speaking at his monthly press conference in Downing Street, Mr Brown said parents were right to expect the government to do everything in its power to protect children from harmful material in a multimedia age. The review is to be conducted by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
(BBC) The net, mobile phones and MP3 players are revolutionising how Britons spend their time, says Ofcom's annual report. It reveals that older media such as TV, radio and even DVDs are being abandoned in favour of more modern technology. Surprisingly, it also shows that women, in some age groups, are the dominant web users and older web users spend more time online than any group. Among children it showed that web and mobile phone use is growing at the expense of video games. See also Mobile phones 'eroding landlines' and More than half of UK homes have broadband (vnunet.com).
(Ars Technica) "Everybody's doing it!" That's one excuse provided by European kids as to why they pirate media or software from the Internet, according to new survey results from the European Commission. The qualitative survey consisted of 9-10 year olds and 12-14 year olds across all 27 of the European Union's member states (plus Norway and Iceland) and was meant to gauge how children in Europe use online technologies. And while most of them are aware that downloading things like music, movies, and video games is illegal, they're more than willing to justify it.
(vnunet.com) The creators of the online world Second Life, Linden Lab, has banned all forms of gambling in the game. While Linden Lab itself does not offer any gambling facilities in Second Life, the ability for people in the game to create just about any type of object means that virtual casinos have sprung up all over the world. This new policy will effect all users of the game, regardless of where they live in real life.
(BBC) Fast food brands are getting around laws banning the promotion of unhealthy snacks online, research suggests. New Advertising Standards Association rules prevent the online and offline advertising of fast food to children. But, according to trade magazine New Media Age, fast food brands are targeting kids via games, videos and cartoons on their websites. It accuses brands such as McDonalds, Kinder and Haribo of exploiting a legal loophole in the rules.
(Times) Manchester Cathedral is calling for all video games manufacturers to sign up to a new set of "sacred digital guidelines" to prevent future "virtual desecration" of religious buildings. Digital Guidelines code of conduct: 1. Respect our sacred spaces as places of prayer, worship, peace, learning and heritage. 2. Do not assume that sacred space interiors are copyright free. 3. Get permission from the faith leaders who are responsible for the building interiors you want to clone. 4. Support the work of those engaged in resisting the culture of gun crime and those involved in promoting the work of conflict resolution.
(BBC) Sony has issued an "unreserved" apology to Manchester Cathedral for using it as a violent computer game backdrop. The firm published an apology in a city newspaper but has confirmed it will not be withdrawing the game or making any changes to it.
(Ars Technica) by John Timmer. Results of a survey of American adolescents have appeared in the June edition of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, and they paint what is likely to be a reassuring picture for those willing to listen: less than half of adolescents are gamers, and they spent a small enough time gaming that it plays a minimal role in their lives. The researchers found that 36 percent of adolescents played video games, and that there's a stark split along gender lines: 80 percent of those gamers were boys. Typical use was about an hour of gaming a day during the week and an hour and a half on weekends (females played less than males).
(BBC) A video game which uses a term abusive to people with disabilities is being pulled by its manufacturer. MindQuiz, a brain training game for the Nintendo DS handheld console, was released in the UK by French software giant Ubisoft in March 2007.
(RAPID) The European Commission has formally reminded the Greek authorities of its obligation to lift its total ban on gaming machines, including computer games. The European Court of Justice in Case C-65/05 of 26 October 2006 ruled that the Greek laws which ban the installation and operation of all gaming machines violate a number of internal market principles.
(BBC) British censors have banned a violent video game from the UK for the first time in a decade. The video game Manhunt 2 was rejected for its "unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying", the British Board of Film Classification said. It means the Manhunt sequel cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK. see also A discussion of the BBFC's decision to ban Manhunt 2 (gamesindutry.biz) by Rob Fahey.
(BBC) British censors have banned a violent video game from the UK for the first time in a decade. The video game Manhunt 2 was rejected for its 'unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying', the British Board of Film Classification said. It means the Manhunt sequel cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK.
(BBC) The Church of England is considering legal action against entertainment firm Sony for featuring Manchester Cathedral in a violent PlayStation video game. The Church says Sony did not obtain permission to use the interior in the war game Resistance: Fall of Man. The game, which has sold more than one million copies, shows a virtual shoot-out in the cathedral's nave in which hundreds of enemies are killed
(BBC) Steam, an online distribution platform for videogame content, has signed up more than 13 million users, the system's owners Valve has said. More than 150 PC games can be downloaded via Steam and the system has also been used to automate more than 2,500 updates to existing games. Digital distribution of game content is a growing segment of the industry. Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo have all started online services for downloading games onto consoles.
(Guardian) Internet giant Google has drawn up plans to compile psychological profiles of millions of web users by covertly monitoring the way they play online games. The company thinks it can glean information about an individual's preferences and personality type by tracking their online behaviour, which could then be sold to advertisers. Details such as whether a person is more likely to be aggressive, hostile or dishonest could be obtained and stored for future use.
(BBC) The British Board of Film Classification isn't the first place that gamers expect to find research on video games and the reasons that people play them, but the BBFC has just released such a report as part of its attempt to better understand the attitudes of gamers and those who don't play them. The BBFC's even-handed report also delves into the question of game violence, but always with an eye to understanding rather than judgment. Their findings? Despite some parental fears, gamers consistently understand the distinction between the real-world and an onscreen fantasy, and don't confuse the two. The report is lengthy but well worth reading, if only to see a model of how to seek understanding before leaping to polemical conclusions.
(GameSpot) While concerned parents and legislators have criticized the gaming industry as selling violent games to children, a report by the Federal Trade Commission names the gaming industry as the most improved media when it comes to keeping children from inappropriate content. see also FTC: Games better regulated than music, movies (Ars Technica).
(BBC) The Chinese government has clamped down on the amount of time youngsters can spend playing online games. Under-18s who play for more than three consecutive hours a day will have limits imposed on the amount of points they can score. Online game companies based in China have been given three months to install the so-called anti-addiction software.
(Net Family News) Kajeet is a new cellphone specifically aimed at 8-to-16-year-olds (but probably more appealing to, say, 8-to-11-year-olds). It has a "mature look and simple pricing," the Washington Post reports. "Parents can set monthly allowances" for minutes, ring tones, games, and text messaging on the $99 phone's "pay-as-you-go cellphone service" on the Sprint Nextel network. No contracts or cancellation fees. And there's a "wallets" option, so that calls to family members are covered by Mom, for example, but ring tones come out of the kid's wallet. As for kid phones, The Olympian describes popular brands like Wherify, Disney Phone, Firefly, and Tic Talk.
(BBC) Rampant piracy is threatening the future of the PC games industry, Todd Hollenshead, head of Doom 3 creator Id software has said. He warned that unless the problem was tackled some companies could relegate the PC to a second tier platform.
(Guardian) A "labelling" system for media content is under way to help parents protect their children from unsuitable content in the digital age, Gordon Brown revealed. The chancellor said that as part of its responsibilities for content regulation and media literacy Ofcom, the industry regulator, will introduce common labelling standards providing information on the type of content, regardless of the medium concerned: cinema, TV, radio, computer games, or the internet. A Treasury spokeswoman was unable to confirm when the scheme will be introduced.
(BBC) Big media firms are rushing to copy the success of online games like World of Warcraft, a conference has been told. Millions of dollars are being spent trying to emulate the massively multiplayer online game, experts at the Game Developer's Conference said. "We are going to have so many failures it is going to be unbelievable," said Mark Jacobs of Electronic Arts. The panel also predicted that non-gaming MMOs such as Second Life would be prevalent in the short term.
(Europa) Viviane Reding, Member of the European Commission responsible for Information Society and Media, Annual Conference for the Joint Government-Private Sector Dialogue, Brussels, 26 February 2007. Speaking about creative contents, and notably audiovisual contents, I would like to make two comments related to EU?Japan cooperation. First, I would like a better distribution of Japanese films, notably feature films, in the EU and a better distribution of European films in Japan. Second, I must reflect here the debate which is taking place in EU countries on videogames. As you may know, worries have been expressed in European countries about very violent games imported in Europe. Our industry, with the support of the European Commission, has developed a good functioning system of labelling as regards games not appropriate for certain age categories and content categories. I believe this is a domain, where a discussion is needed between the EU and Japan in order to better understand each other and take advantage of existing best practice.
(The Register) Ringtones and music will always take a bigger slice of the mobile content market than games or erotica. An adult content aggregator said the introduction of age verification systems had made it easier to sell what the industry calls 'erotica' or adult content - and you'd call mobile porn - in Europe.
(RAPID) Revenue from online content will reach ?8.3 billion by 2010 in Europe, a growth of over 400% in five years, says 'Interactive Content and Convergence: Implications for the information Society', a new study for the European Commission. For the most advanced sectors, online content will represent a significant share of total revenue: about 20% for music and 33% for video games. Thanks to the spread of broadband, the roll-out of advanced mobile networks, and the massive adoption of digital devices, the study shows that mass market online content distribution is becoming a reality, creating unique opportunities for Europe.
(AP) European justice and interior ministers agreed to look at ways to prevent the sale of violent video games to children across Europe amid worries that national controls are too lax. EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini told reporters at the end of two-day EU talks here that he and German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble and Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries "encouraged member states to prevent, to ban violent video games."
(OUT-LAW News) European countries have agreed to co-operate on video games laws to stop children from being able to buy violent games. Germany, the UK, Greece, Finland, Spain and France have backed the creation of Europe-wide policy co-ordination. European justice ministers met this week and agreed to examine the area of computer game law. German Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said that the first step in the process was to publish a summary of game ratings which parents could check. She said this would happen soon on an EU website.
(EurActiv) On 16 January 2007, Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini called on ministers meeting in Dresden to agree 'to share best practices' on curbing the sale of violent video games to minors.
(Consilium) During the JHA informal meeting in Dresden, Ministers discussed the issue of violent video games. European Commissioner for Justice, Freedom and Security Franco Frattini stressed the role of the European Union in preventing and controlling the sale of these games. He also expressed the intention, supported by German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, to launch a debate on how to avoid the negative influence of violent video games on children under 18. It is hoped that the discussion will bring together all elements of the industry including producers and inventors.
(Ars Technica) by Eric Bangeman. Violent video games are officially a hot-button issue on both sides of the Atlantic. While addressing the EU Parliament, EU Vice President and Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security Franco Frattini made the case for increased regulation of the video game industry, and the European Union may adopt more stringent regulations covering the development and sale of violent video games in 2007.
(OUT-LAW News) Franco Frattini, the EU commissioner leading a campaign against violent and 'perverse' video games, is expected to push for the UK's ratings laws to be applied across Europe. Frattini had said that he was using the UK as a model that would reassure parents across the continent that it would not be possible for people to sell adult-rated computer games to children without breaking the law.
(Ars Technica) Issued by the National Institute on Media and the Family, the 11th Annual MediaWise Video Game Report Card attempts to provide a 'snapshot' of the video game industry and its relationship with parents, teens, and children.
(Reuters) Teens who play violent video games show increased activity in areas of the brain linked to emotional arousal and decreased responses in regions that govern self-control, a study presented at the Radiological Society of North America's annual meeting found. The study used functional magnetic resonance imaging to record tiny metabolic changes in brain activity in 44 adolescents who were asked to perform a series of tasks after playing either a violent or nonviolent video game for 30 minutes.
(OUT-LAW News) The Internet Archive project has won an exemption from US copyright law, overcoming an obstacle which threatened the entire work of the not-for-profit group. It can now host copies of obsolete computer games and software without fear of prosecution. The Library of Congress has published six exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which criminalises duplication of material copyrighted to someone else. The exemption is from punishment for breaking the kinds of copy controls on material which are designed to stop unauthorised duplication.
(The Register) Italian MPs debated if computer games featuring sex and violence are sending their country's children berserk. The meeting was convened after the proposed release of Rule of Rose, a computer game some fear will corrupt Italian children, erupted into an international tizz - within the computer games industry and some corridors in Brussels, at least. A consensus emerged that retailers should be made legally answerable to PEGI, the European ratings system for computer games, set up in 2003. Even retailers are warming to the idea.
(Heise) After a massacre at a school in the German town of Emsdetten, the dispute about whether killer games are one of the causes for the increase in violence among young people has heated up again in Germany, as has the call for a ban on such games.
Second Life, the three-dimensional virtual world, has been getting tons of press lately. In the software, which anyone can download for free, you travel around as an "avatar", through a huge range of spaces - beautiful natural environments, shopping malls, museums, clubs, homes, apartments and cities. So far, it's signed up 1.3 million members. Is it a game? No. Is it a marketing opportunity? Yes, but who cares? What matters most is that it may point to the future of the Net, says Fortune's David Kirkpatrick.
(Europa) To obtain a detailed overview of the legal and economic aspects of gambling and games of chance, the Commission asked the Swiss Institute of Comparative Law to carry out a study into the sector. The study is the result of close to two years work and provides an analysis of the legal regimes governing gambling and games of chance in the European Union. The study also attempts to give indications on the economic development of the sector. The study confirms that in all Member States the sector is subject to rules and regulations aimed at safeguarding public interest objectives. While pursuing broadly similar aims the national laws and regulations vary considerably and often lead to barriers to the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment that are incompatible with Community law.
(BBC) A government minister has made a plea to the games industry to get involved in the debate surrounding children and playing videogames. Experts recently warned that young people were spending too many hours in front of consoles and missing out on healthy childhoods. Creative industries minister Shaun Woodward said the industry had to deal with its image problem. He added that videogames also had a vital role to play in the UK economy.
(Ofcom) An independent study conducted by RAND Europe, which looks at the potential indirect impact of the European Commission's proposed Audiovisual Media Services (AVMS) Directive. Ofcom asked RAND Europe to look in particular at the potential indirect effects in three key sectors: IPTV, mobile multimedia and online games. Indirect effects refer, in particular, to the possible effect that regulation could have on companies' investment and location decisions. Ofcom believes that this report highlights some important economic risks inherent in the Commission's proposals. These risks are particularly important in relation to the new media industries that RAND Europe has examined and which are strategic for European future competitiveness. Executive Summary, 184 Kb. Full Print Version, 2.2 Mb
(CNET News.com) An increasingly wide range of mobile devices are giving the kids who use them entry points to wireless broadband outside of the home and parental control. Portable game players like Sony's PSP (PlayStation portable system) and Nintendo DS are just a couple of the popular mobile gaming devices that also let kids log onto the Net or connect to a peer-to-peer chat network. And Microsoft's upcoming Zune portable media player will likely let kids join social networks on the fly via built-in Wi-Fi. Couple those gadgets with free wireless broadband in parks, cafes and even entire cities and all bets are off when it comes to parents maintaining control of their kids online, consumer advocates worry.
(International Herald Tribune) Children are the future, especially for mobile phone operators: kids love to communicate, they play games and buy music, and they don't mind fiddling around with complicated technology. The cellphone industry, recognizing all of the above, is enthusiastically seeking ways to attract the youth market to more advanced data services - game and music downloads, video clips and more. But analysts caution that operators must tread carefully, for what kids crave is often at odds with the wishes of their parents, who pay the bills and worry about what kinds of content their children are exposed to.
(BBC) Criminals are targeting the lucrative world of online games, an engineer at Microsoft has warned. Hackers could use malicious programs to steal players account information and then sell virtual items, such as gold or weapons, for real world cash.
(BBC) The videogames industry is continuing to fail women by not producing suitable content, a senior executive at Electronic Arts (EA) has said. David Gardner, chief operating officer for EA's worldwide studios, was speaking to a conference in Edinburgh.
Sony cannot patent inventions in the UK that remove the anonymity of the peer-to-peer user experience and put social networking at the heart of file-sharing. The Patent Office ruled last week that the inventions are not eligible for patents. The application for the "system and method for reviewing received digital content" describes building a web community. When a P2P user downloads a piece of content from another user's computer, be it a song or a game or a movie, he normally knows nothing about that user ? or where that user obtained the content. Sony's proposal would change that experience.
All too familiar with hackers looking to exploit security flaws in its software, Microsoft warned video game developers that their PC games are now a target for criminals. Popular massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, such as "World of Warcraft," have created a market for valuable game identities loaded with gold or other hard-earned forms of in-game currency that can be used to buy new weapons, magic spells or other trappings to advance within the game. Using software designed to infiltrate a computer system, hackers steal account information for users of MMO games and then sell off virtual gold, weapons and other items for real money.
(Vodaphone) Mobile phones offer a wide range of features including picture messaging, downloadable pictures and video clips, games and internet access. These technologies bring significant benefits to our business and personal lives, but can also raise concerns about misuse. We care about our customers and have developed tools to combat spam and enable parents to protect their children from inappropriate content, contact and commercialism. The implementation of our content standards varies between markets reflecting local cultures and specific areas of concern. see also Privacy.
(RAPID) A public consultation on ways to stimulate the growth of a true EU single market for online digital content, such as films, music and games, has been launched by the European Commission. The Commission intends to encourage the development of innovative business models and to promote the cross-border delivery of diverse online content services. It is also keen to ascertain how European technologies and devices can be successful in the creative online content markets. Input to this consultation will help shape a Commission Communication on Content Online, due to be adopted at the end of the year. The deadline for replies is 13 October 2006. The deadline for replies to the content online consultation - which is open to industry, in particular content and internet service providers, consumer organisations, in particular from the Internet community, regulators and all interested parties - is 13 October 2006.
(Progress & Freedom Foundation) by Adam Thierer. Not since 1996 has online freedom of speech been under such intense attack in Washington. Proposals are pending or being considered that would impose: Extensive data retention mandates requiring companies to collect information about all of their customers for many months or even years; Mandatory age verification of minors before they?re allowed to go online; Potential regulation of voluntary industry ratings or labeling systems (such as the video game industry?s ratings system); A mandatory new top-level Internet domain designation (?.xxx?) for adult-oriented websites; A ban on social networking sites in schools and libraries; Mandatory labeling for "sexually explicit" websites; Other filtering / labeling requirements. All companies doing business online must show policymakers and the general public that they are serious about addressing these concerns. What is needed is a voluntary code of conduct for companies doing business online.
(BBC) The publishers of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have settled a dispute with the Federal Trade Commission in the US over secret sex scenes in the game.
Take-Two agreed to clearly disclose relevant content on the game's packaging and not to misrepresent rating or content descriptions.