The Legal Arcade

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Siena, Italy Protests Gran Turismo 5

Italy again? Our last story was on an Italian-American organization asking that "Mafia II" be delayed until all references to Italians be removed from the game, and now the city of Siena is asking that "Gran Turismo 5" remove material related to its Piazza del Campo level before release.

The Piazza del Campo is the site of a famous biannual horse race, the Palio di Siena. The historic course is used in "Gran Turismo 5" in its new kart racing mode, controversially using the same flags that represent each district/competitor in the horse race. Apparently the flags and symbols are the only controversial component, so hopefully they can be removed or have the issue otherwise resolved without further delaying the near-vaporware racing game's release in November.

[via Kotaku]

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Italian-American Interest Group Protests Mafia II

Italian-American service organization UNICO is protesting Take Two's upcoming video game Mafia II for "directly, blatantly, and unfairly discriminating and demeaning one group to the exclusion of all others." Organization president Andre' DiMino demanded that the game's release be halted and cleansed of all references to Italians or Italian-Americans.

DiMino is currently undergoing an anti-discrimination push that fell much more toughly on MTV's Jersey Shore TV show and its portrayal of Italian-Americans as reinforcing a negative stereotype. MTV has actually responded to the complaints, to the point of making the second season contain less specific mention of Italian heritage or the word "guido."

Mafia II is set in a fictional city called Empire Bay between 1945 and 1957, based on a number of American cities but presumably most reliant upon New York. While there have been many organized crime rings that were not Italian in the United States, post-war New York was undeniably dominated by Italian-American organized crime, not Russian or Irish or anything else. Removing the Italian-American culture from a game told about post-war New York organized crime would be downright ahistorical.

Not to mention, "Mafia" is a very Italian word which has only come to describe organized crime in general since the dominance of Italian organized criminals in the early to mid-twentieth century. Famous Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi himself coined the term "mafiosi," which through a convoluted etymology later came to describe these criminals. The Yakuza series of video games obviously involves Japanese organized crime, without controversy.

Take Two responded, basically saying the game is based on a thoroughly-covered culture of movies, TV shows, and novels about Italian-American organized crime, and that Take Two balances free expression and social responsibility just fine, thank you very much.

[via Kotaku]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Educational Game Too Violent for Parents

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, a new video game used in schools to teach math has come under fire for being too "violent" for local parents. Local station KOAT Action 7 News had previously reported on the new math game after-school program, glowing with excitement over the technology. According to that report, kids were learning prime numbers! They never wanted to leave school! Fun and learning together, finally!

But the most recent report focuses on parent complaints about "violence." I've put "violence/violent" in quotes both times because the game seems to be almost entirely non-violent. From footage I've seen, it is a first-person shooter, but instead of shooting guns, kids are shooting abstract lasers at other abstract lasers with numbers over them. Also, the one parent the Action 7 News interviewed for the story really only complains that the game might make the children too addicted to video games, which doesn't have much to do with violence.

Both news spots are incredibly quick and lack almost any information, so it's hard to get a grasp on the situation. Presumably, this is a game that exists somewhere outside of Albuquerque, and I'd like to know what it's called so I can get a better look at the gameplay. In a way, this news encapsulates most controversial video game news: Excitement over amazing new technology followed by knee-jerk reaction by adults who have never played the game, and the knee-jerk reaction is always the better-publicized angle.

[via Kotaku]

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Controversial Classics: "Postal 2"

Gary Coleman died last week, giving me a very thin excuse to talk about "Postal 2," in which you are able to kill Gary Coleman (who does contribute his own voice for the game). It's just one feature on an incredibly long laundry list of controversial elements you can find in-game. The game wasn't very widely released or critically acclaimed, but the controversy surrounding it has kept its name in the history books and even earned it a crappy Uwe Boll film adaptation. While it could possibly be defended for being a satire of game violence, the game is, on its face, likely the most immature entertainment you will ever endure.

"Postal 2" is the 2003 sequel to 1997's "Postal," which wasn't especially noteworthy. The game is a first-person shooter set in a suburban neighborhood. Your character must complete a list of mundane and not necessarily violent tasks each day, which will eventually be frustrated to the point that the player has to expend enormous effort not to "go postal." In order not to use violence, the player will have to sustain verbal abuse, wait in ludicrously long lines, and generally not have any fun at all playing.

The sheer amount of controversial material packed into the game is really too long to even recount. This gameplay video gives you a fair idea of what you're in store for, including the use of cats as gun silencers. Oh, and if you want to see a gamer suicide bomb Gary Coleman in-game, here it is. Pretty rough.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chicago's Resurgent Video Game Industry on Time Out

My report on the Chicago game industry is online at Time Out Chicago now. Read about the companies that were (Midway, EA Chicago, Bungie) and the ones that are going to be (Wideload, Robomodo).

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Red Dead Gets its Own Small Controversies

Two quick bits of news on Red Dead Redemption:

In a BBC interview, a Rockstar Games writer and voice actor named Lazlow Jones was asked this question:

Question: How do you feel about accusations that games such as yours are responsible for more violence among young people?

His answer: Our games are not designed for young people. If you're a parent and buy one of our games for your child you're a terrible parent. We design games for adults because we're adults. There's a lot of kids games out there that we're not interested in playing. Just like you enjoy watching movies and TV shows with adult themes and language and violence that's the kind of thing we seek to produce.

It's a pretty reasonable answer, but most gamers would have a little bit of trouble with how strongly he put it, especially the "terrible parent" line. A commenter on a Kotaku post about the story said exactly my first thought: "There goes some kid's dream of getting Rockstar Table Tennis."

A few days earlier, Red Dead Redemption was also accused of some rather old-fashioned prejudice for including the character pictured above, a town drunk named "Irish." An Irish Herald article on Red Dead pointed the stereotype out.

The article has several funny moments: The headline is "Irish 'drunk' sours launch of hit game," yet the article has all of three sentences on the actual character. Clearly, there's not a lot to talk about actually on-topic. The rest of the article breathlessly gives us details of how awesome and popular the game is, and why we should all go buy it right now. The game is "groundbreaking," "expected to sell four million copies this summer," "retail[ing] from €49.99 with enthusiastic gamers pre-booking their copies weeks ahead of the Irish launch tomorrow," with the "appeal [lying] in the huge detail." Very excitable for a news article on a controversy surrounding the game.