Game Controversy Update

Been wondering what's going on in the world of game legislation and controversy? No? Well, here's an update anyway. This week:

- A $600M lawsuit against Rockstar Games, owner Take-Two Interactive, Sony, Wal-Mart, and GameStop was allowed to continue by the Alabama Supreme Court this week. The companies are being blamed for a 2003 incident in which car theft suspect Devin Moore grabbed a police officer's gun and started shooting, killing two officers and a dispatcher. His actions were painted as being influenced by Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Game and retail industry groups had appealed to throw out the suit. At the time of his arrest, Moore made the widely quoted statement, "Life's like a video games. You've got to die some time."

- The US Senate this week held a hearing on the effects of violent video games. The hearing came at the request of Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), one of the four senators who proposed the Children and Media Research Advancement Act. Witnesses from the research community included the American Psychological Association's Dr. Elizabeth Carll, who stated that her organization's "analysis of violence in interactive video game research suggests exposure increases aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, angry feelings, physiological arousal, and decreases helpful behavior," and the University of Illinois' Dr. David Bickham, who noted that "scientific research has repeatedly demonstrated that children learn what video games teach." ESRB president Patricia Vance testified in support of the self-regulatory ratings organization, pointing to the comprensive nature of the ESRB's ratings and the quickness with which it reacted in the Hot Coffee scandal. Republican Assistant Majority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives explained a bill he is sponsoring in his state, seeking to fine minors $25 if they purchase an M-rated game; the law would not take any action against parents or guardians buying Mature games for minors. Paul Smith of law firm Jenner & Block spoke in support of the industry, citing several instances of courts defending video games as a form of expression; in the past, Smith has represented publishers such as Acclaim, Activision, Capcom, Eidos, Infogrames, Interplay, Nintendo, Sony, and Square. Law professor Kevin Saunders of Michigan State University disagreed, likening playing video games to playin more traditional games such as pinball, an activity not protected as expression. Also present was Rev. Steve Strickland, brother of one of the slain police officers in the above incident.

- Since Shack is going Oblivion-crazy: Christopher Weaver, who you might know as the founder of Elder Scrolls developer Bethesda Softworks, has written an editorial for Next Generation in which he decries a violently offensive mobile game called Office Massacre. Weaver took issue with developers wanting to capitalize on controversy for its own sake. "Creativity demands that we can do better than copying tragic life events for crass entertainment," he said. (Office Massacre has since been cancelled.)

- Game Politics has reactions from California Assembly Speaker pro tempore Leland Yee (D) regarding Yee's presence in a panel at last week's Game Developers Conference. Yee is the author of a California bill seeking to limit the sale of violent games to minors. The GDC panel discussed the impact of legislation on games and how the industry should react.