Watch out, war criminals, Amnesty International was trying this week to get former president George W. Bush arrested by such impeccable democracies as Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Zambia for war crimes against terrorists, and soon the International Red Cross may be coming after you for laying down that land mine in Call of Duty.
One of the world’s largest and most respected humanitarian groups in the world is investigating whether the Geneva and Hague conventions should be applied to the fictional recreation of war in video games.
If they agree those standards should be applied, the International Committee of the Red Cross says they may ask developers to adhere to the rules themselves or “encourage” governments to adopt laws to regulate the video game industry.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is mandated under the Geneva Conventions to protect the victims of international and internal armed conflicts. That includes war wounded, prisoners, refugees, civilians, and other non-combatants. The question they debated this week is whether their mandate should be extended to the virtual victims of video game wars.
During this week’s 31st International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent in Geneva, Switzerland, members of the committee held a side event to discuss the influence video games have on public perception and action.
“While the Movement works vigorously to promote international humanitarian law worldwide, there is also an audience of approximately 600 million gamers who may be virtually violating IHL,” according to the event’s description. “Exactly how video games influence individuals is a hotly debated topic, but for the first time, Movement partners discussed our role and responsibility to take action against violations of IHL in video games. In a side event, participants were asked: ‘What should we do, and what is the most effective method?’
“While National Societies shared their experiences and opinions, there is clearly no simple answer. There is, however, an overall consensus and motivation to take action.”
The International Red Cross made this video to document war crimes against imaginary electronic entities (IEEs).
It makes perfect sense. If Geneva Convention protections can be extended on a completely non-reciprocal basis to terrorists and illegal combatants who routinely violate those conventions and all other laws and customs of war by a simple fiat and decree expressive of an international, entirely non-democratic and unrepresentative, consensus of self-appointed elite holier-than-thous, why shouldn’t entirely fictive and imaginary electronic entities not be entitled to receive the same kinds of rights and immunities from the same sources on the basis of similar reasoning and procedures?
Hat tip to Walter Olson.
If Angry Birds was a Hitchcock movie…
Hat tip to Ben Slotznick.
Use your armed guards to make those children mine the Coltan faster.
Gamasutra reports that those corporate fascists over at Apple actually had the nerve to refuse to sell the game app Phone Story, by the sanctimonious Bolshie game design firm Molleindustria, via the iPhone App store, just because the app featured a series of left-wing smears directed specifically at smartphones, consumer products, and Apple.
One can picture the equivalent of Jeffrey Lebowski whining: Whatever happened to free speech, man?
[U]ntil now, few have been willing to turn the lens on this boom and examine what mass-market gadget lust is costing us ethically. Though we’ve since heard of suicides at Foxconn, deplorable working conditions and hazards to the environment involved in the manufacture of the latest hot smartphones, game developers were mostly silent—until now.
It seems natural that provocative serious games developer Molleindustria was the one to take the step. The studio, which has taken on forces like the Catholic church, McDonald’s and big oil with games like Operation Pedopriest, McDonald’s Video Game and Oiligarchy, never pulls its punches as it uses games to sharply deconstruct the social and economic constructs most people take for granted.
Its latest title, Phone Story, uses a series of minigames with voice-over narration to shed light on the human cost and high environmental impact of smartphone development. In one minigame, while the narrator explains that most electronic devices require the mining of coltan, a conflict mineral in Congo whose demand spurs war and child labor, the player must use the touch screen to guide armed soldiers to bark at exhausted child miners in order to meet the goal in time.
In another, the voice-over explains the suicides at electronics manufacturers in China, and the facile solution of “prevention nets”—while the player must catch tumbling workers using a stretched trampoline.
Of course, Phone Story is more interesting for the fact that players must interact with these messages while holding one of the devices discussed. Imagine being served hamburgers on a tour of a slaughterhouse. And all of the developer proceeds—70 percent of total App Store revenues, as per usual—will be pledged to organizations fighting corporate abuses, starting with Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehavior, which supports workers in abusive conditions internationally, including at Foxconn.
Or they would be, if Phone Story had been allowed to stay on the App Store. Apple yanked it just a few hours after the game was officially announced, citing four code violations: 15.2, which prohibits depictions of child abuse, and 16.1, which prohibits apps depicting “objectionable or crude” content. The other two, 21.1 and 21.2, pertain to Phone Story’s charitable bent—and they don’t seem to quite apply, intended instead for games that allow their users to make donations within a game, rather than a pledge by the developer to donate revenues.
Molleindustria makes an iPhone game to criticize the iPhone platform, and that Apple’s chosen to silence it is an interesting punctuation mark on the developer’s statement.
Gamasutra reached out to Molleindustria’s Paolo Pedercini about iPhone Story, who credits the game’s idea to recent international affairs graduate Michael Pineschi, to whom he spoke through creative activism group YesLab. At the time, Pedercini already had some unusual ideas in the works for projects that could act as commentary on gadget fetishism.
“One of them was a multi-touchable virtual-pet vagina, monologuing about technological lust and willful submission to consumerism,” he reflects. “Unfortunately, the flesh engine didn’t work as I hoped so I went for a straightforward educational game.”
But the intent was always to develop a game as commentary on the hardware industry. “Most of the adults in the Western world are somewhat aware that most of our objects are manufactured far away, in conditions that we would consider barbaric,” Pedercini says.
“A lot of tech-aware people heard about the story of the Foxconn suicides or about the issue of electronic waste,” he continues. “But with Phone Story, we wanted to connect all these aspects and present them in the larger frame of technological consumerism.”
He specifically wanted to highlight the goal that “must-have” consumer electronics culture plays in perpetuating these high-impact cycles; one of the levels of Phone Story tasks the players with tossing brand-new boxed phones to swarming would-be buyers rushing a storefront. In his view, the marketing machine that makes people believe they absolutely need an upgraded hardware device on the day it comes out is what causes extremism in the supply chain.
“We don’t want people to stop buying smartphones,” he notes, “but maybe we can make a little contribution in terms of shifting the perception of technological lust from cool to not-that-cool. This happened before with fur coats, diamonds, cigarettes and SUVs—I can’t see why it can’t happen with iPads.”
Pedercini says it was essential to use the platform itself to stage a critique of that platform. “Almost like the device itself was speaking to the user,” he suggests. “The idea was to make a sort of reminder that you can keep with you, like a way-less-permanent tattoo or a bumper sticker, something that you carry around and maybe show off as a conversation-starter.”
But although Apple’s immediate removal of Phone Story makes for an interesting conversation point, Pedercini says he never intended it to happen this way: “I’m very familiar with the App Store policy, and the game is designed to be compliant with it,” he asserts.
“If you check the guidelines, Phone Story doesn’t really violate any rule except for the generic ‘excessively objectionable and crude content’ and maybe the ‘depiction of abuse of children’. Yes, there’s dark humor and violence but it’s cartoonish and stylized – way more mellow than a lot of other games on the App Store.”
“What makes these depictions disturbing is the connection the player makes with the real-world situation,” adds Pedercini. “Of course, the goal was to sneak an embarrassingly ugly gnome into Apple’s walled garden, but not to provoke the rejection. If it was just a matter of provocation I would have gone way further.
If you’re a communist and have to have this App, you can buy it, and the rope you need to hang capitalists, via Android Market.
The cat Frida Kahlo and her owner says she beats the shell game two times out of three.
A gamer recently sold a virtual property, existing only in the context of an on-line game, for serious money.
Think the rent is, in fact, too damn high? Then stay as far away from online world Entropia Universe as possible, because its real estate prices will drive you insane.
Take, for instance, what just went down on Planet Calypso, where one of Entropia’s wealthier players has sold off his interests in a “resort asteroid” for an eye-popping $635,000.
The seller is Jon Jacobs, also known as the character ‘Neverdie’. He originally purchased the asteroid in 2005—eventually converting it into the extravagant resort ‘Club Neverdie’—for the then-record price of $100,000. For those keeping score, that’s a gain of over $500,000 in just five years. In nerdier terms, that’s an ROI of 535%. Match that, Citibank.
You have to be pretty old to remember the original, but it’s hilarious if you do.
YOU ARE IN AN OVAL OFFICE. THERE IS SNOW OUTSIDE. YOU ARE BEHIND A DESK. ON DESK THERE IS A BUST OF CHURCHILL.
YOU HAVE A CONGRESS.
YOU HAVE A SENATE.
YOU HAVE A MEDIA.
YOU HAVE A TELEPROMPTER.
YOU HAVE A MILITARY.
YOU HAVE A BIG JET.
YOU HAVE $3 TRILLION OF GOLD.
YOU HAVE 82% APPROVAL HEALTH.
THERE IS 7.2% UNEMPLOYMENT IN THE FOREST.
YOU HAVE A RACE CARD.
YOU HAVE INAUGURAL PARTY LEFTOVERS.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO?
JourneyQuest is a web comedy series poking fun at role playing gaming produced by the Dead Gentlemen. There are four episodes so far, but the story has barely started.
Episode 1: Onward
Episode 2: Sod the Quest
Episode 3: A Rather Unfortunate Turn of Events
Episode 4: Deadly, Ancient Magicks
Avalon Hill, Charles Roberts, Games, James Dunnigan, Nerd News, Obituaries, Simulations Publications, War Gaming
PanzerBlitz, designed by Jim Dunnigan in 1969, was the best of the Avalon Hill games.
Charles S. Roberts passed away recently from emphysema at 80 years of age. Roberts was best known as a historian of American railroads, but in 1954 he took advantage of his professional experience in printing and advertising to found the game company Avalon Hill in 1954.
Avalon Hill created an entire new war gaming hobby with its board games based on historical events. AH’s crucial innovations included the use of a grid overlaid on a flat folding map, zones of control (ZOC), an odds-based combat results table (CRT), and terrain effects on movement, troop strength, morale.
The earliest games were primitive, featuring large and arbitrary units, a rectangular grid offering overly limited movement and possibilities of unit interaction, and thoroughly unbalanced scenarios.
AH’s publication of PanzerBlitz, designed by the legendary Jim Dunnigan, in 1969 represented a design breakthough featuring a hexagonal map grid, tactical level units, and multiple typically far more balanced scenarios.
Dunnigan went on to operate Simulations Publications, a rival company that eclipsed Avalon Hill and created a new era in simulations gaming.
Baltimore Sun obituary
Hat tip to Walter Olson.
Fighting one’s way to the vital Russian village of Bednost (Poverty)
President Obama’s performance has been so memorable that already, after less than two years in office, he has won a special place in the hearts of ordinary Americans: a place resembling Osama bin Laden’s as one of a series of carnival targets you throw baseballs at and win prizes for knocking down.
Gawker positively squeaked in protest at the political incorrectness of it all, headlining the story as “Horrible Obama-Smashing Game.” (chuckle)
That didn’t keep them from uploading a video of a young man hurling baseballs at the target of the president prefaced by “F**k you, Obama.”
Hit the alien invader with the health care bill & presidential seal game
The Jersey Shore boardwalk game, however, was not the great man’s first recognition by amusement park popular culture. Even earlier, a church fair outside Allentown, Pennsylvania attracted the attention of the Secret Service when a rented shooting game featuring You-Know-Who holding the health care bill appeared as the target.
The Morning Call reports that the feds were not amused and the games company was quickly strong-armed into removing this threat to his Imperial Obamaness.
The game’s target is a painting of a black man in a suit who is holding a scroll labeled “Health Bill.” He sports a belt buckle fashioned after the presidential seal, antennae and a troll doll on his shoulder.
Players paid $1 per shot, or $5 for six shots, to fire foam darts at targets on his head and heart. Those who hit their mark won a stuffed animal.
Cindy Wofford, special agent in charge of the Philadelphia office of the Secret Service, said her agents are looking into the game and will determine if there were any direct or indirect threats to the president. They will share their findings with the U.S. attorney’s office.
“We take these kinds of things very seriously,” Wofford said.
The White House issued a statement Wednesday through spokeswoman Moira Mack saying it disapproves of using the president’s name and likeness for commercial purposes. The longstanding policy precedes Obama.
There was no Secret Service intervention that I can recall when representatives of the liberal urban intelligentsia produced a fantasy documentary and a play featuring the assassination of George W. Bush. (link)
Former President, New Community-Organizer-in-Chief and 12th Imam Muhammad al-Mahdi, formerly Barack Hussein Obama
David Corn, in Mother Jones:
Glenn Beck mysteriously killed. The GOP driven out of Congress. Obama proclaims himself the “Lost Imam.”
It’s January 2011. The GOP is about to assume control of both houses of Congress—having been voted in by a public deeply suspicious of Democrats after President Barack Obama conducted clandestine talks with President Felipe Calderon of Mexico and Prime Minister Stephen Harper of Canada. But two days before the new conservative majority is to be sworn in, Obama announces that this Congress will not be seated, that the United States (a creation of “racists and warmongers”) will be replaced by a North American Union, that the US Constitution will be dissolved, and that private ownership of firearms will be outlawed (as part of a United Nations treaty banning firearms globally). In response, millions rise up, and the Revolution begins. ...
[This is] the premise for a new [as of October, 2009] online computer game hosted by a website called United States of Earth.
In the game’s scenario, 20 million armed American “patriots” begin seizing local and federal government offices. These are the same people whose earlier Tea Party protests had been ignored and dismissed by the mainstream media. Now, they post bounties for government employees. There’s fighting in every state. Meanwhile, Lou Dobbs has been disappeared, and Glenn Beck has been found dead of an “aspirin overdose.” Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly have been rounded up, and Fox News forcibly shut down. The US military refuses to come to Obama’s rescue. His loyalist forces of 40,000 end up controlling merely three counties in Virginia, while an allied force is in charge of three counties near Washington, DC. The Federal Reserve also controls two of its own counties, as does the Cong (the remnants of the Democratic Congress). A collection of pro-Obama black nationalists and Islamic fundamentalists have a hold on two counties. What can you do as a player? You can join the patriots trying to capture Obama and defeat the Cong.
The only rumors of Barack Obama’s intended coup d’etat that I’ve heard pertain to an on-line game obviously having a certain amount of fun with paranoid fantasies.
But J.R. Dunn, who is a well-known and respected editorialist at American Thinker, has been receiving comments from his readers containing real rumors of the sort in recent weeks (He must be attracting even more colorful commenters than me!), and is actually editorializing on the unlikeliness of such a thing.
We’ve been hearing a lot of comments recently about a national coup d’etat scheduled for sometime in late summer or early fall and designed to circumvent the coming Democrat debacle in the 2010 elections.
This is an example of political gothic of a type that I tend to overlook. But my interest was piqued by the fact that it has been mentioned several dozen times in the comment threads of essays of mine in recent weeks. I’ve had a little difficulty grasping exactly how such a thing would work, so I’ve spent the last few days puzzling it out.
The contention is that at some point before the upcoming November elections, an “incident” of some violent but unknown nature will occur that will provide Obama with the opportunity to declare “martial law” across the country, which will involve the “cancellation” or “postponement” of the elections. This will enable the Obama dictatorship to take off its humanist mask and put its true agenda into play.
Personally, I’m going to practice up by playing some of that United States of Earth game.