June 21, 2005
‘Cop Killer’ Video Game Targeted by U.S. Senator
SAN FRANCISCO -- A new video game which lets players join crime gangs and kill police officers has become the target of a proposed boycott by a U.S. Senator.
Sen. Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said the "cop killer" video game, called "25 to Life," had hit an "all-time low" and discouraged the sale and distribution of the title, due out this summer.
"'25 to Life' makes 'Grand Theft Auto' look like 'Romper Room'," Schumer said on Monday in comments e-mailed by a spokeswoman. The blockbuster video game series "Grand Theft Auto" from Take-Two Interactive is frequently criticized for its violence.
"Romper Room" is a popular U.S. children's television show.
The new video game lets players "be the law" or "break the law," taking the side of police or thugs in running gun battles through a grimy urban landscape.
The criminals use human shields in fights, while police call in special weapons and tactics units. The title refers to the length of a jail sentence.
A spokesman for game maker Eidos, which was recently acquired by SCi Entertainment, declined comment.
Schumer also urged game console makers Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. to end their licensing agreements with Eidos.
"The last thing we need here in New York is to reinforce a destructive culture of violence and disrespect for the law. Little Johnny should be learning how to read, not how to kill cops," Schumer said in separate comments.
His statements echo persistent and so far unsuccessful calls from groups of lawmakers, who charge that violent video games promote similar behavior in children.
Violent titles are a lightning rod for the video game industry, whose $10 billion in annual U.S. sales rival Hollywood's movie box office receipts.
As a national debate rages over whether the industry should be left to regulate itself, lawmakers from several states want to make sales of violent video games to minors illegal -- efforts courts have rebuffed saying that the games are protected by laws that apply to creative expression.
Meanwhile, some fans of the controversial games describe them as scathing critiques of American society.
Based on sales, the fans of violent video games are legion.
Take-Two's "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," the latest installment in the series, was released in October 2004 and quickly became a best-seller.
That game was harshly criticized for allowing players to do such things as running pedestrians down with a car and killing prostitutes or police.
Retailers and console makers tread lightly when the subject is violent games.
"Xbox appeals to a broad audience of game players and, like all forms of entertainment, not every game is appropriate for every player," a spokeswoman for the unit that oversees Microsoft's Xbox game player said in a statement on Monday.
A Sony spokeswoman was not available for comment.
"25 to Life" carries an "M" rating -- for those 17 and older -- from the Entertainment Software Rating Board for blood and gore, intense violence, sexual themes, strong language and drug references, according to the Eidos Web site.
Other titles from Eidos include "Laura Croft Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness" and "101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure." (Additional reporting by Franklin Paul in New York)
On the Net: