Articles on cop-killing video game, 25 to Life
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Violent video game set for release "25 to Life":
Daughter of slain police officer staged a protest; Shurtleff says, "I just hope people don't buy it'
January 13, 2006
The Salt Lake Tribune
By Lisa Rosetta
A violent urban combat video game that prompted a protest organized by the family of a slain Utah police officer is scheduled to be released next week. The game, called "25 to Life," allows players to be cops or gangsters "while fighting your way up the ranks," according to the Web site of software publisher Eidos.
Jack Thompson, a Florida attorney who represents Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), a national organization for survivors of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty, is asking state attorneys general to file injunctions against the company to stop the release of "25 to Life." "Many, many states have public-nuisance statutes that provide the state the basis, the legal basis, for stopping the release of the game," Thompson said.
In Utah, the game caught the attention of Shalon Gurr, the daughter of slain Roosevelt police Chief Cecil Gurr. She staged a protest in September outside the offices of game designer Avalanche Software. Cecil Gurr was gunned down and killed in a convenience store parking lot in 2001. His killer, Lee Roy Wood, pleaded guilty to capital murder and two counts of attempted aggravated murder. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, who participated in the September protest, said Thursday that he is upset Eidos is releasing the game, but he does not plan to take any legal action against the company. "I just hope people don't buy it and play it," he said.
Eidos agreed in September to delay releasing the game until after Christmas, which it did, Shurtleff said. The company also pledged not to aggressively market "25 to Life" and to encourage retailers not to sell the game - rated "M" for mature - to anyone under 18. Shurtleff said he hopes retailers such as Wal-Mart will choose not to stock the game but acknowledged that was a "corporate, free-market decision."
In his letter to Shurtleff, Thompson stated he intends to "take to the public airwaves in California" and encourage police officers to go into video-game stores and seize copies of "25 to Life." "This is a public safety issue," he said.
Cop-killer video game returns
October 8, 2005
By Mike Strobel
For a shiny moment, I thought 25 To Life was dead. No such luck.
"CAN'T WATE (sic) TO GET MY COPY AND ICE SOME COPS," says a wanker on the preview website.
25 To Life, the video game that makes Grand Theft Auto look like Bambi, was to launch this month.
When I heard its British producer, Eidos, postponed to sometime next year, I figured, well, maybe the game is toast.
Sorry, no. Pre-order lines are humming. Everyone's just stoked. I guess Eidos needs extra time to fine-tune the gore.
"The blood looks outrageous," enthuses another wanker. "I wanna beat someone with a bat."
Someone, as in a cop.
In 25 To Life, you hunt police. Shoot 'em, bash 'em, gash 'em.
We should all be troubled by this, but especially cops.
Especially cops who've been hunted for real.
"It sickens me," Toronto Const. Noel deGuzman, 35, says.
"The night I got shot ... it was not a game. It was a fight for survival."
After my first column about 25 To Life, deGuzman found the web preview. He has not had the stomach to see it again.
The scenes are way too familiar.
July 8, 2004, at Dupont and Lansdowne, a thug named Michael Swift skulked behind a van and shot deGuzman in both legs.
He was about to finish the job when his 9-mm jammed and deGuzman's partner shot him in the arm.
Swift, 23, also had a shotgun and a knife. In 25 To Life, you can choose a machinegun or a baseball bat or a broken bottle to finish off your helpless cop.
And people thought GI Joe dolls bred violence.
I hope you saw Mark Bonokoski's column yesterday about the new Warriors game. Or the 60 Minutes episode about an Alabama teen so jazzed on Grand Theft Auto he killed two coppers and a dispatcher.
Are we numb to this crap?
If you figure, hey, no worries, these games are adults-only, then you have never met a 12-year-old boy.
"Little Johnny should be learning how to read, not how to kill cops," says U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Swift, by the by, got 14 years. Should have been 25 to life, but that's another column.
A bullet is still embedded in deGuzman's right leg.
"I live with what happened every day," he tells me.
"Do I think (the video game) is going to lead to mass shootings of police officers? Of course not."
But if the "insensitivity and disrespect towards police officers" leads to the death or wounding of one cop, "does that justify the profit?"
No, it does not. And if the toll is only one, I will be surprised. Grand Theft Auto, Alabama, remember?
"I invite anyone," says deGuzman, "who develops, publishes, markets, sells or purchases such a product to attend any police remembrance ceremony in Canada."
Cops must shudder.
York Regional Const. Clint Whitney, 31, tipped me to 25 To Life in July. He saw it in a Texas police newsletter.
Since then he has helped launch Project TAGG in York's 2 District. Together Against Gangs and Graffiti.
"There's a lot of pressure on kids," Whitney tells me of what he sees even on the once placid streets of Markham.
"They think gangs offer security and protection. They don't realize the cost.
"And in the back of my mind: 'There's a game out there that goes completely against what we're trying to do.'
"A game that says, 'Don't listen to that cop. Kill him.' "
Defenders of 25 To Life say it's an outlet, a release. Gimme a break. They point out you can choose to play a cop and gun down goons. Whoop-de-doo.
Eidos makes no mention of public outcry in its delay notice.
The widow of one of Alberta's murdered Mounties has spoken against the game. So has COPS, Concerns of Police Survivors, a U.S. alliance of slain cops' families. "Even video game companies are subject to ... public pressure," said a rep.
Meanwhile, Noel deGuzman and his family live with the scars, not all of them physical.
Clint Whitney used to work in Toronto and was on scene after Const. Tony Macias was wounded during a 2001 bust.
I have sipped beer with at least two bullet-scarred cops.
I wish everyone could do the same.
Then nobody would buy that damn game.
Cop-killer video game draws protest
Company puts "25 to Life" on hold: Survivors of a slain Utah police chief are among the dozens of demonstrators
September 27, 2005
Salt Lake Tribune
By Lisa Rosetta
With American flags flapping at their sides, dozens of people, including Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff, converged on Avalanche Software's Salt Lake City office Monday to protest a cop-killer video game they say glorifies crime.
Shalon Gurr Hansen, daughter of Roosevelt police Chief Cecil Gurr, who was shot to death on duty in 2001, organized the event to discourage the game's developer, Avalanche Software, and its publisher, Eidos, from marketing "25 to Life."
The effort - which dozens of police officers have joined - already has made a difference.
Just hours before the protesters assembled around 100 West and 500 South, Eidos announced it would delay release of the game until sometime in 2006. Chief executive Bill Gardner said in a news release that the London-based company had re-evaluated its release calendar, allowing it to "make changes in the best interest of the business."
The game, touted as a way to "experience the gritty lifestyles of police task forces or as a gangster surviving the local neighborhood thugs while fighting your way up the ranks," had been scheduled to come out next month on the PlayStation II, Xbox and PCs.
The demonstrators now hope to make the delay permanent.
"It's a small victory," Hansen said. "We want to make sure to drive the point home so this is . . . never released."
Shurtleff, who attended Gurr's funeral in 2001, said he spoke with Gardner over the weekend and persuaded him to push back the release date. The game glorifies murdering police officers and brings video games to a new level of indecency, the attorney general said.
"I'm a free market, free enterprise kind of guy," he said, "but you have to draw the line somewhere and this is it."
And protester Brad Chapman said, "It's insidious as hell. It's teaching young people to kill people."
Jack Thompson, a Miami-based attorney representing Concerns of Police Survivors, or COPS, a national organization for survivors of police officers killed in the line of duty, said the delay might have resulted from the threat of litigation.
"I'm thrilled because this proves even video game companies are subject to political pressure, or more importantly, public pressure," he said.
Thompson filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Fayette County, Ala., after 18-year-old Devin Moore shot two police officers and a dispatcher in 2003. The legal action claimed Moore's incessant playing of "Grand Theft Auto" led him to kill the three men. The attorney says there is a strong connection between games such as "25 to Life" and violent crime. Moore, Take-Two Interactive Software, Wal-Mart and Sony were among the defendants named in the suit.
Shurtleff said he will call on retailers to refuse to stock "25 to Life" if it is released and urge parents to monitor their children's game selections. In addition, he and the Gurr family will demand the Entertainment Software Ratings Board change the game's rating from "M" for mature - meaning it's not suitable for children 16 and younger - to "AO" for adults only.
Rodney Oliver, Gurr's brother-in-law, said society doesn't need a game that portrays law-enforcement officers poorly.
"There has got to be a better way to make a dollar than that," he said.
Eidos pushes back release date of controversial title 25 to Life
September 27, 2005
By Neil Davidson (CP)
The release of the controversial video game 25 to Life, which has drawn the ire of a New York state senator and the widow of a murdered Mountie, has been pushed back to next year.
Publisher Eidos Inc. made no mention of the backlash surrounding the game in announcing the delay. The game was originally slated for release in March and then pushed back to first the summer and subsequently the fall.
"Following the recent management change and restructure, Eidos is able to re-evaluate its calendar of releases giving us the opportunity to make changes in the best interest of the business," Bill Gardner, CEO of U.S. Publishing for Eidos, said in a statement Monday.
"It is in light of this review that we have decided to move the ship date for 25 to Life from October 2005 into next year." The "urban action first-person shooter" allows the gamer to play either as police or gangster.
Critics have said 25 to Life glorifies violence against police. "Set in the heart of today's cities, experience the gritty lifestyles of police task forces or as a gangster survive the local neighborhood thugs while fighting your way up the ranks," Eidos said in a March release on the game. "Bust out of prison, or infiltrate the inner sanctum of the drug lord's mansion, your knowledge of the streets will be put to the test because - 25 to Life IS the streets!"
U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has spoken out against the game, calling on New York retailers and distributors not to stock the game or sell it. He also asked Microsoft and Sony to terminate their licensing agreements with Eidos.
"Little Johnny should be learning how to read, not how to kill cops," Schumer said in a June release. "The bottom line is that games that are aimed and marketed at kids shouldn't desensitize them to death and destruction."
"There is nowhere that the value of the police force is felt more strongly than here in New York, and to sell a video game that denigrates their value is simply unacceptable," he continued. "You certainly don't need a degree in criminal justice to understand that when you make sport of behavior that is dangerous and destructive you reinforce it. The last thing we need here in New York is to reinforce a destructive culture of violence and disrespect for the law."
Microsoft subsequently noted that the game was rated M for Mature (17 and over) and was not aimed at children. Eidos said in its release Monday that 25 to Life is "created for adults."
Mandy Delorande also spoke out against the game. Delorande's husband, RCMP Const. Dennis Strongquill, was shot to death in December 2001 while conducting routine police duties near Russell, Man.
"To have a video game where police officers are murdered ... I think it should be banned," Delorande told the Winnipeg Free Press in July. The game is developed by Avalanche Software.
Slain mountie's wife wants video game banned
July 20, 2005
WINNIPEG (CP) - Mandy Delorande's 14-year-old son loves to play video games. But it's a safe bet the Manitoba teen won't be going anywhere near a controversial new game called 25 To Life when it is released this fall.
The game - in which players can take on the virtual identity of a hard-core gangster and then go on a bloody mission to murder police officers - hits a little too close to home for the Delorande family.
Delorande's common-law husband, RCMP Const. Dennis Strongquill, was shot to death in December 2001 while conducting routine police duties near Russell.
Three young fugitives from Alberta ambushed Strongquill and his partner with an overpowering arsenal of stolen weaponry acquired during a violent crime spree.
It was a cold, calculated killing that stunned the country.
And now, through modern technology, Canadians will soon be able to simulate this kind of violence in their own living rooms.
"To have a video game where police officers are murdered... I think it should be banned," Delorande told the Winnipeg Free Press from her home in Barrows, just north of Swan River.
It's an opinion shared by many.
U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer is fighting to block the game's release, saying 25 To Life makes previous controversial titles such as Grand Theft Auto look like Romper Room.
"Little Johnny should be learning how to read, not how to kill cops," Schumer told reporters recently.
"The standards are lower and lower and lower until we have no standards at all."
Schumer is asking retailers and manufacturers to boycott the game. He also wants Microsoft and Sony to cancel licensing agreements with the company that created it. There has not been a similar movement in Canada.
Daniel Donovan, a district attorney in New York, said recently the game is not only excessively violent but also encourages the player to kill the good guys.
"This is not a game. This is a teaching tool, to teach young, impressionable minds that there are rewards for criminal activity and for killing our police officers," he told reporters in the United States.
People who support the game's release - a quick search of online message groups Monday reveals dozens of positive postings - note the game isn't being marketed to "Little Johnnys." It comes with a mature rating, which restricts anyone under 18 from buying it.
They also argue censorship is wrong in a free country and parents should take greater responsibility for their kids.
A visit to the game's official website - which includes blunt descriptions of the storyline, graphic screenshots and profanity-laced rap music - requires a user to simply click 1987 or earlier when prompted to enter your birthdate.
Winnipeg lawyer Greg Brodsky has defended many accused killers, including a handful who claimed they were influenced by pop culture. Although he doesn't believe a cop-killing video game will cause a ``healthy person" to resort to violence, less stable individuals may be swayed. "Anything that encourages people to think it's OK to kill or diminish life is not OK," Brodsky said.
"There are some things which just shouldn't be available for public consumption. We don't block child pornography just because of the child victims. It's also so the guy looking at it won't go and act out his impulses."
Ed Humphries, vice-president of the Winnipeg Police Association, said officers are routinely treated with disrespect while patrolling city streets.
"A game like this just reinforces any ill feelings people have towards police. The very thought we are being hunted is offensive," he said.
Players of 25 To Life can choose their weapons ranging from jagged beer bottles to machine guns. They can customize gang colours and use innocent bystanders as human shields while committing a rash of violent crimes.
Players do have the option of choosing police officers as their character, in which the tables are turned and you hunt down the bad guys.
Up to 16 people can play online at once - eight as gangsters, eight as police. It's a virtual fight to the finish.
The game is made by a British company, Eidos, which has declined to comment on the controversy.
Cop killing - for kids
July 16, 2005
By Mike Strobel
Imagine a video game where you hunt down and kill politicians.
There'd be hell to pay. Laws would change.
But cops? Fair game, I guess.
Brace yourselves for 25 to Life, coming soon to your video store.
Const. Clint Whitney, 31, York Regional Police, gets wind of it from a Texas cop newsletter. He tracks down a preview on the web, recoils, and calls me.
"I was dismayed," he says. "It goes against everything I stand for.
"I don't have kids myself, but there are thousands of kids under my protection as a police officer.
"I'm willing to put my life on the line for every single one of them.
"And then some video game comes along and gives them a taste of what it's like to take that life away from me."
Sit right down, ladies and gents, boys and girls.
Choose your weapon. Machinegun? Good choice.
Pretend to kill a cop. What fun.
Watch his blood gush. Finish him off with a 2-by-4 and a broken bottle.
Whitney has seen real cops bleed. He used to work in Toronto, 12 Division. He was early on the scene after Const. Tony Macias was wounded during a drug bust in 2001.
"I've seen what happens when the gangsters shoot."
Due out in October
Soon, you can, too.
25 to Life is due in October, my local Blockbuster tells me.
There is no full demo disc yet. But there's a sample on the web and games insiders have seen others.
"It's like a death match online," says Orlando Fears, 22, a staffer at Gamerama on Yonge St.
Up to 16 people can play, eight gangsters, eight cops.
You can even customize your gang colours, before you go off to shoot, slash, bash, brain, or firebomb coppers.
Bonus! Use passersby as human shields.
"Even compared to other violent games, it's a violent game," Fears says.
"GTA (Grand Theft Auto, the current bloodbath champ) is more random violence. You can kill cops but you don't have to.
"This time, it's the whole point.
"I can see how some cops might have a problem with it."
No kidding. Parents, too.
U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer is trying to block the game. He says 25 to Life makes GTA look like Romper Room.
"Little Johnny should be learning how to read, not how to kill cops," he said.
25 to Life is made by Eidos, of Britain, which surely was gleeful about Schumer's outcry.
They will love columns like this, too. Nothing sells video games like controversy.
The tradeoff? At least now you know. Especially you parents.
Clint Whitney is not pushing a ban. Nor am I, though it's tempting. Censorship is even worse than 25 to Life.
Kids are another matter.
The game is sure to get an adult (18-plus) rating.
But 12-year-olds are sharp. They will get their little mitts on it.
At the Media Awareness Network, education director Jane Tallim tells me Grand Theft Auto was one of the favourite games of, wait for it, boys in Grades 3 to 6.
Those same kids will flock to 25 to Life. Will they all then go out and attack real cops? Of course not.
But that kind of crap sets an unsettling tone.
"Even in the suburbs, I'm dealing with kids who imitate being a thug -- what they see as strength and character," says Whitney, who stresses he speaks for himself, not the force.
"I roll up to a scene and they're telling me to f--- off and 'bring it on' and challenging me. They're acting the act."
Is 25 to Life a hate crime?
"If the game involved attacking Jewish people, or African Canadians it would be against the law," says Jane Tallim. "So we have to ask if it's okay to target other groups, like the police who are on the front line dealing with aggressive or violent behaviour."
Meantime, keep your eyes peeled, parents.
Make sure your video store toes the ratings line with 25 to Life and its ilk.
Talk to your kids about the games they play.
Smile at the next cop you see.
"People can make their own decisions," says Clint Whitney.
"But we get the society we deserve."
Eidos Goes For Life
25 To Life is announced from Eidos to give gamers a taste of the "thug life"
May 12, 2004
by: Daniel "monk" Pelfrey
FROM THE PRESS RELEASE
Eidos (NASDAQ:EIDSY), one of the world’s leading publishers and developers of entertainment software, in coordination with Highway 1 Productions, Inc. (Hwy 1), takes an unrelenting look at today’s street lifestyle in its upcoming video game titled 25 To Life. An urban-based, third person action gamer, 25 To Life is currently in development by Avalanche Software and will be available for the PlayStation®2 computer entertainment system and the Xbox® video game system from Microsoft in the Spring of 2005 worldwide.
"With 25 To Life we capture the tried and true concept of a game of cops and robbers. Who as a kid didn’t play that?” says Kevin Gill, global brand manager at Eidos. “The open, urban environments, robust player customization and no-holds-barred hip-hop soundtrack brings the street lifestyle to the online space for the first time….25 To Life IS the streets!”
Set in the heart of today’s urban cities, 25 To Life places gamers in the gritty lifestyles of police task forces or hard core gangsters. Surviving the local neighborhood thugs while fighting their way up the ranks is the only way to survive on the streets. Gamers are offered a myriad of choices along the way, For example, players can bust out of prison, or infiltrate the inner sanctum of the drug lord’s mansion. Either way, street knowledge will be put to the test as gamers must establish and defend their turf or uphold the law. Rule the streets with badge in hand, or is that an AK? The battle lines are drawn in 25 To Life, the game the streets have been waiting for.
25 To Life delivers intense online multiplayer gameplay for up to 16 players, as well as a rich and compelling single player experience. Complete USB Headset support lets gamers strategize with other gamers from around the world. The highly interactive urban environments deliver a superior and realistic street life experience. Car alarms, barking dogs, and even pedestrians being just a few of the items that may give one’s position away. The depth of the 25 To Life world will suck gamers in and not let go.
Eidos has partnered with Quazal to incorporate online play into 25 To Life. Quazal's Net-Z engine provides a powerful and flexible object-based solution to networking that goes beyond traditional messaging approaches. The flexible topology combines the best of the client-server and peer-to-peer concepts, allowing for a smooth online experience in a variety of network conditions.
"25 To Life represents an awesome new property for Eidos, and it's a great opportunity for us to really show off our networking technology," said Mike Drummelsmith, developer relations manager at Quazal. "Eidos and Avalanche are gunning to bring out a great playing online game, and we can't wait to see the reaction at this year's E3."
25 To Life’s fully customisable character system gives gamers the freedom to define each player’s looks and style. Display rankings by unlocking and customizing gear with the latest threads from today’s hottest street-wear. The robust weapons arsenal includes both lethal and non-lethal ways to take down opponents. Depending on the side of the law gamers choose to play on, access will be given to either the proper police weaponry or the black market offerings of the underground. To further solidify it’s “street creds,” 25 To Life will offer a cutting edge hip hop soundtrack featuring undeniable rap classics as well as the best of current and breaking artists.
25 To Life: Does the Video Game Go Too Far?
June 19, 2005
WABC Eyewitness News, New York
By Carolina Tarazona
Some local law makers are very concerned about a violent new video game that offers players the choice of killing cops or thugs. They say this game goes too far. Eyewitness News reporter Carolina Tarazona is here now with more.
It may be the future of video games: "25 to Life." It's a game that allows you to choose between gangsters and cops. The more you kill, the more you win. Senator Charles Schumer says he doesn't want it here.
Senator Charles Schumer, (D) New York: "The standards are lower and lower and lower until we have no standards at all."
Senator Schumer is asking retailers and manufacturers to boycott the game. He also wants Microsoft and Sony to cancel licensing agreements with the company that created it.
The game, to be released in the fall, can already be previewed online. It features explicit rap lyrics and images of gangsters using civilians as human shields.
"25 to Life" was made for X-box and Playstations. It was created by Eidos, the same London-based company which developed Tomb Raider.
Staten Island, D.A. Daniel Donovan says the game is not only excessively violent, but also encourages the player to kill the good guys.
Daniel Donovan, Staten Island D.A.: "This is not a game. This is a teaching tool, to teach young, impressionable minds that there are rewards for criminal activity and for killing our police officers."
Grand Theft Auto, a top selling video game where the player can steal cars, kidnap, and push drugs was on the top-seller list in 2004. Video game sales that year reached $10 billion dollars, a 4 percent boost from the previous year.
This video game is expected to be released sometime in September. We tried contacting the game maker for the reaction and so far we have not heard back.
Violent game furor
June 20, 2005
New York Daily News
By Rivka Bukowski
You may have thought "Grand Theft Auto" was the last word in video game violence. Think again.
The latest in shoot-'em-up video game technology, "25 to Life," allows players to attack police with an arsenal of Molotov cocktails, broken bottles and baseball bats. When weapons fail, players make strategic moves using civilians as human shields.
The game even lets players choose gang colors and create personalized graffiti tags.
"It's the worst in a series of violent and gruesome games that lower the common denominator of decency," said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), who is trying to block the game from hitting stores in September.
The game, created by the British company Eidos, is similar to the best-selling "Grand Theft Auto" series, currently in its fifth incarnation: "San Andreas."
"25 to Life" makes "other controversial games like 'Grand Theft Auto' look like 'Romper Room,'" Schumer said.
Schumer called on PlayStation manufacturer Sony and Xbox maker Microsoft to cancel their licensing agreements with Eidos. The senator also urged stores and retailers not to stock the game.
Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, slammed "25 to Life" for its cavalier treatment of murder.
"It's outrageous that a company like this would try to desensitize our children," Lynch said.
The game, he said, is likely to "produce cowards that will hide behind a gun."
Representatives from Sony and Microsoft could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Young gamers browsing at GameSpot on Broadway at 33rd St. said the violence and gangster features would make "25 to Life" a hot buy.
"It's like ghetto-ish, I like that," said Bronx seventh-grader Jesus Martinez, 13.
Brooklyn seventh-grader Nashalie Ledesma said she would try the game "just for the fun of it, to see how it is, explore the violence."
"It's just a game," said Ledesma, 12. "It's not like I'm gonna do it in real life. I don't have the guts to do it."
But concerned mom Tori Cage, who was shopping with her 9-year-old son, Dquan, said the game should never hit store shelves.
"They should ban them totally," said Cage, 27, of Maywood, N.J.