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Competitors get all steamed up...

Video game distribution platform Steam has been blocked by all ISPs in Vietnam

Link Here11th May 2024
The video game distribution platform Steam has been banned entirely in Vietnam.

Vietnamese players took to Steam forums, saying all of the country's internet providers blocked access to both Valve's app and browser. One commenter said they spoke to someone who claimed the order came from above.

Neither Valve or anyone from Vietnam's government have spoken on the matter.

An article in VietnamNet suggested that the ban may be connected to domestic publishers. A representative for one domestic publisher claimed Steam can put out games in the country without having to seek permission from the local government like Vietnamese developers have to. According to them, Valve's alleged ability to break the rules is an injustice to domestic publishers.



Facing privacy issues...

US Federal Trade Commission rejects facial age estimation for age/ID verification for gamers

Link Here6th April 2024
Full story: Age Verification in USA...Requiring age verification for porn and social media

The US games censor, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) has been working on a facial recognition tool to verify gamers' ages and this method was submitted to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for approval.

In a blog post, the FTC has just announced that it was denying the company's application for the technology. The FTC stated that it denied the application in a vote of 4-0, noting that it received over 350 comments on the issue before the vote. As the FTC notes, those who opposed the application cited privacy, protections, accuracy, and deepfakes as concerns.

Had the application been approved, the FRC would have added the facial age detection tech to the list of acceptable forms of receiving parental consent for collecting information from minor-aged users under the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). This Act requires parental consent for the collection or use of personal data for users under the age of 13.

Last year, the ESRB partnered with the digital identity firm Yoti and SuperAwesome to create this technology to verify users' ages. The ESRB claimed it was not meant to identify individuals outright but rather estimate the user's age and stated it would not store the data after the analysis concluded. However age companies offering facial age estimation also offer facial recognition, so users would have to somehow trust big tech companies (or national authorities) not to identify users. And let's face it, such institutions haven't proved themselves to be very trustworthy in the past.

While the FTC rejected the proposal, it said that ESBR could re-file the application in the future,presumably after improvements to the system.



Punish Me ASA...

ASA bans advert for a mobile game: Whispers: Interactive Romance Stories

Link Here24th January 2024

An in-app ad for the mobile game Whispers: Interactive Romance Stories , seen on 30 October 2023 in the mobile game app Virtual Families 3 . The ad featured an animated scene of a blindfolded woman kneeling on the floor while a man standing in front of her held her face in his hand. A speech bubble appeared which was labelled Niece. She said to him, Uncle, please punish me. On-screen text then appeared which stated 20 years ago. The scene cut to the woman as a young child at a funfair. She said, Uncle, this place is so fun! He held out his arms, lifted her into the air and nuzzled into her cheek. She said to him, Uncle, I will marry you when I grow up! The ad then returned to the opening scene with the woman blindfolded in a kneeling position and her statement, Uncle, please punish me. Two buttons appeared: Accept and Reject. An animated finger reached out from the bottom of the screen as though it was going to press the Accept button and then did the same thing with the Reject button.

A complainant who challenged whether, by featuring a potentially incestuous relationship between an uncle and his niece, the ad was offensive and irresponsible.

Gamehaus Network Technology Co Ltd did not respond to the ASA's enquiries.

ASA Assessment: Complaint Upheld

The ASA was concerned by Gamehaus Network Technology Co Ltd's lack of response and apparent disregard for the Code, which was a breach of CAP Code (Edition 12) rule 1.7 (Unreasonable delay). We reminded them of their responsibility to respond promptly to our enquiries and told them to do so in future.

The ad appeared in the Virtual Families 3 mobile game, which had a PEGI 3 rating meaning it was suitable for people of all ages, including children.

It highlighted the relationship between an uncle and his niece. In the first and last scenes, she was portrayed as an adult and was blindfolded in a kneeling position. She said, Uncle, please punish me. We considered that consumers would be likely to understand from her blindfolded, kneeling stance and her request to be punished that she appeared willing to engage in sado-masochistic, sexual behaviour with her uncle. We further considered that the flashback to the funfair scene when she was a child and her statement that she would marry her uncle when she was grown up, added to the impression of them having an incestuous relationship and had overtones of a child being viewed as a sexual object and groomed by an adult relative. We concluded that the ad had the effect of portraying a child in a sexual way.

Because the ad featured scenes depicting an incestuous relationship between an uncle and his niece, and suggested that a child had been sexualised and groomed by an adult, we concluded it was likely to cause serious and widespread offence in any medium in which it appeared, and portrayed a child in a sexual way and was therefore irresponsible.

The ad must not appear again in the form complained of.



Playing a miserable game...

China censors restrict monetisation of video games

Link Here22nd December 2023
Full story: Games censorship in China...A wide range of censorship restrictions
China is to bring in new rules that will limit the amount of money and time that people can spend on video games.

The restrictions are aimed at limiting in-game purchases and restricting time spent gaming. The planned curbs also reiterate a ban on forbidden online game content that endangers national unity and endangers national security or harms national reputation and interests.

Online games must not offer rewards that entice people to excessively play and spend, including those for daily logins and topping up accounts with additional funds, said the industry regulator, the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA).

Pop-ups warning users of irrational playing behaviour are also set to come into force and game publishers would need to house their servers processing and storing user data in China, rather than elsewhere.

The news sent shares in tech giants tumbling and wiped tens of billions of dollars off their value.

According to Reuters, the censor is seeking public comment on the proposals by 22 January.

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