NOT AN ADDICT: We've heard the stories about people who got addicted to video games — the "World of Warcraft" player who didn't bathe for a week, the Korean who died after 50 straight hours online. Most gamers will admit having survived more manageable addictions, ranging from "Minesweeper" to "Grand Theft Auto." The question facing the American Medical Association was simple: Is video-game addiction a psychiatric disorder?
And the AMA dodged the question, despite a committee report that called for video-game addiction to be included in a widely used directory of mental illnesses. The AMA's delegates backed away from that, instead recommending more research. "The AMA remains concerned about the behavioral, health and societal effects of video game and Internet overuse," said association president Ronald M. Davis.
Davis followed that toothless comment by calling for a video-game ratings system "that better alerts parents to the content of the video game and recommended age of the player" — precisely the information that's already found on every game package. Entertainment Software Rating Board president Patricia Vance was puzzled too, saying the AMA "seems to disregard the fact that the vast majority of parents are satisfied with the ESRB ratings and use them regularly to choose games for their children."
HELLO, OSCAR? Movie studios want to make games, game publishers want to make movies, and both sides met again this year for the second Hollywood and Games Summit in Los Angeles. The keynote speaker was novelist, filmmaker and game writer Clive Barker, who rallied the audience by challenging film critic Roger Ebert's claim that video games can't be "art." "Roger Ebert obviously had a narrow vision of what the medium is, or can be," Barker said. "It seems so high-handed."
Thomas Tull, chairman of Legendary Pictures, offered some hope that his studio's "World of Warcraft" movie will be better than, say, "Doom." "Making movies based on games just because they sold well is a really bad idea," he said. "If there's a great universe and story, that's what's interesting to us."
But the most exciting news came during a Q&A session with LucasArts president Jim Ward. Let's face it: Anyone who's played with Nintendo's Wii controller has thought about using it as a "Star Wars" light saber. "We're all over that," Ward promised, "and internally we have already played a light saber game on the Wii. It's a lot of fun, and we'll get there."
Wii FOR ALL: The Wii's Virtual Console online service has become the home for over 100 classic games, but now Nintendo wants to invite some new blood. With a tool called WiiWare, independent developers will be able to create low-budget games for Nintendo's hit console, then sell them on the Wii Shop channel.
Microsoft has taken a similar approach with its XNA Game Studio, but we still have yet to see the first great homebrew Xbox 360 game. So the gauntlet has been thrown: If you think you have the next "Tetris" in your head, it's time to get to work.
HOOPLA: Greg Oden and Kevin Durant were the top two selections in this year's NBA draft, and they will be playing next season in Portland and Seattle, respectively. While they're trying to win the hearts of Pacific Northwest hoops fans, they'll be going one-on-one in another arena: the video-game store.
Oden will be featured on the cover of 2K Sports' "College Hoops 2K8." Durant snagged EA Sports' "NCAA March Madness 08." It's the first time the top two NBA draft picks have modeled for competing games — and who knows, in a few years they could be gracing the covers of EA and 2K's NBA franchises.
NEW IN STORES: Tecmo updates 2004's "Ninja Gaiden" for the PlayStation 3 with "Ninja Gaiden Sigma." Is it too much to ask for a new game already? ... Time to sharpen your wooden stakes: Microsoft's "Vampire Rain" falls on the Xbox 360. ... Ubisoft's "Platinum Sudoku" and Majesco's "Turn It Around" bring more puzzles to the Nintendo DS. ... And naval warfare comes to the PlayStation Portable in Konami's "Steel Horizon."