Published February 27, 2007
PLAYING POLITICS: Could video-game violence become an issue in the 2008 presidential campaign?
Not likely, given the more pressing concerns on voters' minds. Even Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, long one of the game industry's more vocal critics, has been relatively quiet on the subject since launching her campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Instead, Republican candidate Sam Brownback has picked up the gauntlet.
The Kansas senator has reintroduced his Truth in Video Game Rating Act, which would require the Entertainment Software Rating Board to review all of a game's content before assigning a rating.
The ESRB currently depends on publishers to send video footage of each game's most lurid content, which it then uses to establish a rating; Brownback argues, correctly, "Such taped segments may or may not fully represent the game's content."
Critics of the bill say it would lead to a logjam, particularly when the board is faced with 100-hour-plus epics like "Final Fantasy XII." Other have wondered how the board would be able to review massively multiplayer online games such as "World of Warcraft," which, by nature, are never complete, since their developers are always adding new adventures.
STOP SIGNALS: GameStop, the world's largest video-game retailer, weighed in on the ratings issue with a full-page ad in USA Today.
Over a somewhat eerie picture of himself, company president Steve Morgan wrote, "We support the ... rating system and enforce our policy not to sell M-rated game to kids under 17 without their parents' permission."
GameStop also launched a Web site, www.respecttheratings.com, to teach parents about what exactly that "M" on the cover of "God of War 2" means. (That would be "mature," as in "may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.")
It has a good amount of reasonable advice for game-illiterate parents and a decent collection of links to other Web sites for more information.
TRUE CRIME: One of the driving forces behind the ratings fuss — the former CEO of "Grand Theft Auto" publisher Take-Two Interactive — is paying a heavy price. Ironically, though, the case has nothing to do with the violence or hidden sex scenes in "GTA."
Instead, Ryan A. Brant pleaded guilty to first-degree falsification of business records in a scheme that allowed him and other Take-Two executives to receive millions of dollars in unrecorded compensation.
Brant's plea keeps him out of prison, with five years probation, but he still must pay a $7.26 million fine. That's a lot of stolen Cadillacs.
LITTLE SPROUTS: A number of big-time game developers have landed at brand new studios. The most exciting new joint is the Japan-based Seeds, founded by three refugees from Capcom's defunct Clover Studio. Their previous credits include "Okami," "Resident Evil," "Viewtiful Joe" and "Devil May Cry."
Stateside, there's Gamecock Media Group, an "independent artist-driven" publisher whose developers include veterans of "Halo," "Stronghold" and "Max Payne."
Gamecock has announced five titles, ranging from a massively multiplayer online epic to an animal-themed party game, due by spring 2008.
And then there's Marc Ecko Entertainment (yeah, MEE), in which the mastermind behind 2006's dreadful "Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure" returns to the scene of the crime.
The lackluster sales of "Getting Up" didn't send fashion designer Ecko running back to his sewing machine; instead, it looks like he's coming back to inflict more pain on the reviewers he blamed for its failure.
NEW IN STORES: Fresh games are arriving for each of the three new consoles.
Xbox 360 users are clamoring to get their hands on Microsoft's urban crime saga "Crackdown," mainly because it includes a password to participate in the online beta test of the eagerly awaited "Halo 3."
EA Sports has a couple of remedies for the post-Super Bowl blues: "NBA Street Homecourt" for the Xbox 360 and "Arena Football: Road to Glory" for the PlayStation 2.
And the title of the week goes to Atlus' role-playing game "Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja," for the Nintendo DS.