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Videogame Censorship
May 21st, 2009 by worldblee

The politicians are at it again. Like lab rats that push a button hoping that food will come out, California Attorney General Jerry Brown is appealing the state’s earlier loss in court with regard to its bill to restrict the sale of videogames in the hope that votes will come his way should he run for re-election or for Governor. Every time this type of restriction is brought before a reasonable judge or court it is thrown out as unconstitutional. The results will probably be the same this time, with the tax payers of California footing the bill for the failed appeal.

My name is Jerry Brown, and I also hate puppies

My name is Jerry Brown, and I also hate puppies

The response from game industry folks such as me is just as Pavlovian–why would anyone want to ban our lovely games? Parents should be responsible for the children’s buying choices, and anyway games rated ‘M’ for Mature aren’t available for sale to minors… But even if expressed in self-interest, the arguments against censorship are all valid (and personally I don’t believe in the ESRB ratings system anyway-having submitted games through it I’ve seen how arbitrary it can be and the fact that nudity is rated more obscene than violence just makes no sense to me) and there is no empirical evidence that games ever actually hurt anyone.

Columbine wasn’t caused by videogames. People with severe problems kill other people, and pixilated characters aren’t powerful enough to cause a normal, healthy person to kill another person. These truths are self evident.

But not to Jerry Brown:

“These video game makers are shamelessly exploiting vulnerable children for profit,” Brown told The Times in an interview. “And in the same way pornography can be banned, pornographic violence can be banned as well.”

So what can a videogame supporter do? There are a couple things:

  • Follow the issue at www.gamepolitics.com -they do a good job of covering game censorship issues.
  • Follow general censorship issues at http://www.mediacoalition.org/.
  • Don’t be shy about writing to your elected officials-let them know that videogame censorship is an issue you take seriously. If you’re lazy like me, sign up for the Video Game Voter’s Network; this will allow you to receive notifications and express your views in pre-rolled and pre-addressed emails to officials so that you can express your views without having to use your noggin much.

One would imagine that this issue will go away eventually as more politicians enter office having played games their whole lives-but who knows, perhaps having fun* and wanting to hold office are mutually exclusive.

* By fun I mean legal, open activities as opposed to the clandestine affairs that have brought down more than one politician (or preacher).

More Motion Gaming Rumors
May 1st, 2009 by worldblee

First, Microsoft bought 3DV Systems and was rumored to have a deal in place to provide 3D motion sensing cameras for the Xbox 360 platform. Now Engadget reports a rumor that Microsoft is preparing to launch a motion-sensing peripheral:

Here’s a quick rundown of capabilities mentioned:

  • Full body and hand gesture control of games/characters.
  • In fighting games you kick, punch, duck, dive, jump and so forth with your body.
  • It also picks up small hand gestures like pinching, grabbing and scrolling.
  • There will also be video conferencing and games with video.
  • Trivia game over the internet with live images of each person playing. When a question pops up, they can clap to buzz in.
  • You can “move objects on your screen” and the other party can see what you’re doing in real time.
  • Sensor detects only the person playing, not folks observing on the couch.
Engadgets picture of MS peripheral

Engadget's picture of MS peripheral

The reporter is a little fuzzy on the details of how infrared 3D cameras work (they calculate the distance between the camera and any object and in conjunction with software like that produced by my colleagues at Omek Interactive you can algorithmically determine where a person’s hands, head, body, etc. are positioned). Nonetheless, an interesting development given how hard the company has seemingly worked to keep their motion gaming plans secret.

Not to be left out, Variety reports that Sony is readying a similar system, albeit one with an actual peripheral rather than just a camera. Here’s the article’s lead:

Sony’s much rumored motion sensing controller for the PlayStation 3 is real and it will likely be unveiled at E3.

That’s what I’ve been hearing from several sources, one of whom has seen the device and two of whom are familiar with Sony’s plans to show it at E3 next month.

Rumors that Sony will come out with a motion sensing device have abounded for over two years, ever since a patent was first reported on in January of 2007.

It will be interesting to see what is revealed–or not–at E3. I’m expecting peripherals to be released in 2010 rather than 2009 but it would certainly be a happy surprise to see something come out this year.

And Nintendo? I’m sure they’re quaking in their shoes right now. Not. Nonetheless, it will be interesting for gamers to get an option to play motion games on all three platforms with a variety of input mechanisms. Once people try controlling avatars with full body motion I expect to see converts to this style of gaming since it can provide exercise benefits along with exercise. Body motion is not the right controller for every type of game, but for some sports, fitness, and adventure titles it provides a fresh new way to play.

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