Tuesday, May 14, 2013

EA Wants Your Guns



If you wear glasses, you are well aware that there is no worse feeling in the world than when your glasses break.  Unfortunately that is what happened to me two weeks ago.  They just snapped in half for no apparent reason.   The eyeglass shop I go to was kind enough to give me a lender set while mine were in the repair shop, but as anyone who wears glasses also knows, even a near identical set of frames adds enough variation to your prescription that it still takes a bit of time before your eyes adjust.  Hence the reason why I haven't been writing much.

But now I am good to go.  Phew!

Fortunately, it doesn't appear that I have missed much in terms of gaming news, especially political gaming news.  I guess this is a sign that gaming is definitely cooling off for longer and longer periods of time in the wake of the pre-Christmas rush.  Makes you wonder about the long term health of the hobby....

One story that did recently catch my eye is this report about Electronic Arts' - winner of The Consumerist's "Worst Company In America" award for two years in a row - recent decision to stop licensing real world firearms for their games....

According to Reuters, the news service that apparently believes "woken" is a word suitable for professional journalism, EA has said:

"We're telling a story and we have a point of view," EA's President of Labels Frank Gibeau, who leads product development of EA's biggest franchises, said in an interview. "A book doesn't pay for saying the word 'Colt,' for example."

Put another way, EA is asserting a constitutional free speech right to use trademarks without permission in its ever-more-realistic games.

Okay, this is kinda interesting. EA is making the case that suddenly somebody on the board of directors has "woken" (ahem) up and said: "Hey!  Just why are we paying gun manufacturers to license their weapons when we can use them for free?"  Does anybody really believe that bit of spin?  I mean, seeing how EA is officially one of the worst companies in America, it is possible that nobody caught on sooner.  But I think something more sinister is going on.

In my opinion, rhis is, unfortunately, another ugly tentacle of political correctness reaching into the formerly apolitical world of gaming.  I know this is the case because this peculiar decision follows another politically correct, anti-gun decision from EA, as also pointed out in the Reuters article:

In August, game fans and some video game news outlets vehemently objected to EA putting links to weapons companies like the McMillan Group and gun magazine maker Magpul, where gamers could check out real versions of weapons featured in the game, on its "Medal of Honor: Warfighter" game website.

"What kind of message is a video game publisher like EA sending when it encourages its players to buy weapons?" asked Laura Parker, the associate editor of gaming site GameSpot Australia in a post in August.

EA immediately removed the links and dropped the marketing tie-up, which it said was part of a charity project to raise money for military veterans. The company said it received no money from its gun company partners.

"We won't do that again," said Brown. "The action games we will release this year will not include licensed images of weapons."

So, anti-gun zealots - zealots who apparently believe it is okay to play with guns in a game but not actually manufacture them in real life - fabricate a controversy over hyperlinks and EA promptly backs down, even if that means that military veterans - you know, those brave men and women who actually use weapons to protect lots of people - get hurt in the process.  Wow, such leadership, EA!  No wonder why you are one of the most hated companies in America.

Regardless, these two examples clearly shows a trend in the thinking of EA, one where profiting from guns in games is fine, but gun manufacturers turning a profit on weaponry in real life is definitely not fine.   Why is that exactly? 

Of course, EA has put out the requisite disclaimer that all Big Corporations use to save face:

 EA said politics and NRA comments critical of game makers had nothing to do with its decision. "The response from our audience was pretty clear: they feel the comments from the NRA were a simple attempt to change the subject," Brown said.

This is, of course, incoherent.  Basically, EA is denying a political motivation...while acknowledging that their "audience" was demanding such action due to NRA politics.  Huh?

I swear, if you want to get a taste of clinical insanity, you just have to start hanging out with Statists and follow their doctrinaire quests for utopia....

I think there can be no doubt about it: EA has decided to ride the wave of anti-Second Amendment demagoguery, one where real world firearms are great for fun and profits, but not for personal ownership and protection.  Tell that to Ethel Jones.

This whole story, while largely minor, makes me sad.  Not just because of this effort to attack America's Second Amendment, i.e., an amendment the Founders of this great nation only made second in order of priority of importance,  but because it shows the absolute hypocrisy of Left-wing gamers.  Notice how they are NOT decrying violent video games, nor demanding the elimination of gun-based gameplay, rather they just don't want real world weapon manufacturers to profit from their intellectual property.  In other words, these Statist gamers are just looking for a free ride.  Did you ever see such dissimulation?    It is okay if gamers get to run around and gun people down in, say, Battlefield 3, but it is NOT okay if Colt gets paid for its contribution to the hobby.  Reminds me of the logic of the war-profiteer-cum-peace-activist Alfred Bernhard Nobel.

It is at times like this that I truly weep for this hobby.  Not a lot, mind you, because I understand that most gamers are far too intelligent to support such hypocritical pablum that is being spewed by their more brain-damaged gaming compatriots.  No, like most Statist movements, this one is also comprised of a small gaggle of malcontents being led by gaming site editors, the Gene Shalits of the gaming world, who are desperate for attention.  So I do weep, but not a lot.

However, we may all being weeping a lot more as I fear that EA's decision to stop licensing firearms could provoke a reaction that might act as a headshot for all of us.  As stated above, EA's position is that as with a book or a movie, you do not have to license a prop or get permission to use a brand name.  However, I fear that things might not be as simple as they appear.  As a smart constitutional lawyer by the name of Mark Levin once said, once you bring an issue before a judge, all bets are off.  Anything can happen.

[BTW: I am not a lawyer, so my opinion is truly ill-informed.  However, seeing how that has not stopped other ill-informed, non-lawyer Gene Shalits from opining on the internet, I might as well sound off too!]

Logically speaking, EA would seem to be correct in its interpretation of the law based on precedent.  However, I fear that people who make the case that portraying a specific weapon in a game is no different than portraying a weapon in a movie or a book is off the mark.  A shooter, unlike a book or a movie, portrays a weapon in intricate detail.  It is not merely mentioned in passing, nor is it briefly flashed about the screen, rather it is visually modeled in intricate detail, not to mention being given detailed physics that control its in-game operation.  And needless to say, a weapon in a shooter is central to the gaming experience in a way a weapon is not to the book reading or movie watching experience.  For these reasons I fear that a judge could find that weapon manufacturers might have a unique circumstance concerning the portrayal of their intellectual property within a game.

There is also the possibility of judicial activism, too. Remember, we are dealing with lawyers in black robes, and not perfectly objective legal gods on earth.  If I was an anti-gun judge, what would be the best way to remove real world guns from video games? The cagey decision would be by telling game devs that they would have to license firearms for their game. I'd bet all the but the largest shooter developers would not be able to afford that.  Before long, M16s and AK74s would soon become scarce in most FPS (a not altogether bad situation seeing how many shooter devs are showing a severe lack of imagination when it comes to weaponry).  Of course, the simplistic knee-jerk reaction would be to just deny gun manufacturers any royalties from games using their intellectual properties  - no ill-gotten gains for you, Colt! -  so EA could still be correct in their gamble.

I guess we'll find out soon enough as Reuters mentions a case that could decide the matter once and for all: 

But EA's legal theory is now being tested in court. Aircraft maker Bell Helicopter, a unit of Textron Inc, has argued that Electronic Arts' depiction of its helicopters in "Battlefield" was beyond fair use and amounted to a trademark infringement. EA preemptively went to court, suing Bell Helicopter to settle the issue.

The U.S. District Court, Northern District of California, has set a jury trial for the case in June.

Sounds like Bell Helicopter is making the same case I did above.  Again, EA's aggressive move seems to suggest confidence in their legal position.  They are probably correct.  But if they are not, and our shooters suddenly become devoid of real world military hardware, just remember who you can thank: the anti-gun crowd with their convoluted moral reasoning.

Stay tuned as news develops....

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