Greece bans gaming.
September 1, 2002 1:19 PM   Subscribe

Greece bans gaming. Apparently since the law was passed last month, video arcades (other than registered casinos, of course) have been raided and closed down rapidly now. I found no evidence of a hoax, but a Slashdot post links to this NY Times article from March about the pending legislation. (Translations of the law to English can be found here as well.) This seems legit: if so, wtf is the host of the next Olympics doing banning people from playing games?
posted by XQUZYPHYR (22 comments total)
I've never wanted to pick up the Doom 2 double-barreled shot and squeeze off a few rounds more than I do right now.
posted by Bag Man at 1:25 PM on September 1, 2002

Soldier of Fortune - what a great game to escape from the world. My plan is to create a VR game, based on the SoF engine, and one will be able input people they don't like into it..(via a combination of face recognition, entering physical params, etc).
The sweet blood sprays everywhere and I..
posted by ac at 1:30 PM on September 1, 2002

The Dance Dance Revolution will not be televised.

Anyway, despite's note:

You are writing a letter to responsible adults, who will judge you on what and how you write. An email message saying "greece sux" is not appropriate. Nor is "your all idiots because of that gaming lawr." Emails like that won't help; they'll hurt.

It's going to fall on deaf, headphoned ears. Time and time again, my gaming peers have shown that they are NOT a very organized and eloquent activist group. We have no Comic Book Defense Fund, or EFF, and rely on adolescent dissent to convey that our opposition "sucks." (Maybe we do, I haven't heard of it)

I wish some good reasoned people like Game Developers would form a group that could provide an answer gaming censorship.
posted by Stan Chin at 3:41 PM on September 1, 2002

sorry, answer TO gaming censorship
posted by Stan Chin at 3:42 PM on September 1, 2002

ack. stole my dance dance revolution joke.
mental note: must check metafi earlier in the day.
posted by juv3nal at 4:23 PM on September 1, 2002

More info here.
posted by RylandDotNet at 4:57 PM on September 1, 2002

I wonder what would happen if I went to Greece on holidays and brought my GameBoy Color with me?
posted by Multi Global Trans Express at 5:36 PM on September 1, 2002

d. Electronical games are those, for whose operation it is necessary to be dependent on electrical
mechanisms that also have some calculating (accounting) program.
e. Entertainment "technical" games are those, whose result depends exclusively on the ability and skill of the
player, and its use is solely for entertainment.

What is the exact word being used for accouting? This would seem to me to imply a requirement for keeping track of how much money the game should pay out relative to actions within the game.

Classification E games aren't banned.

posted by effugas at 6:08 PM on September 1, 2002

Not I in any way think they're doing the right thing by banning vid games, but just to put it into perspective, consider that the Army just released a VR recruiting FPS that has to be a little creepy when viewed from across cultural divides...
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:37 PM on September 1, 2002

The Interactive Digital Software Association helps protect gamers' rights, at least in the United States. There's nothing on their site about Greece, though.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 6:50 PM on September 1, 2002

Right, Fupped. That completely justifies it. By the way, the Army also uses toilet paper. Shall we ban that?
posted by dhartung at 7:39 PM on September 1, 2002

is greece also the place where senior citizen british planespotters were taking pictures of planes and were arrested and jailed for terrorism?

i was planning a trip to greece but it sounds like a horrible government and i don't plan to go there any longer.
posted by suprfli at 10:11 PM on September 1, 2002

The Interactive Digital Software Association helps protect gamers' rights, at least in the United States.

Sorry, completely wrong. The IDSA is a spokes-facade for software companies. Look at how many articles in their "Media Center" deal with, um, victories in the War Against Software Piracy.
posted by zerolucid at 1:49 AM on September 2, 2002

I am Greek, and I am pro-freedom of speech but this law makes sense for the realities of Greek society at present time. Here's the deal: Gambling is strictly regulated in Greece; there are state-sponsored lotteries, and a number of casinos that operate under government oversight in the more touristy parts of the country. However, Greeks like to gamble; a *lot*. So, what supply did it rise to that demand? video arcades.

In Greece, as in most poorer countries, most video arcades are running clones of the real arcade consoles: generic arcade console, fitted with generic game controls and a cloned ROM chip of the arcade hit du jour. To maximize their value, most "clone" consoles have multiple chips or multiple ROM images that can be switched at the flick of a switch, a master on-screen menu or radio control: select 1 for Tetris, 2 for Virtua Fighter, 3 for ... slot machines.

That's right: since the consoles are cloned and illegal anyway, and since these arcade places operate under shady circumstances (just imagine the copyright violations a single arcade can have with 10-20 machines, each with 5-10 images!), it was a short stretch for the arcade owners to fit them with slot machine or poker games that could be played for actual, real money. Illegal gambling, 21st-century style.

The social backlash of teenagers spending all their money on slot machines, families losing their savings because Dad lost it on video poker, and quasi-casinos on every street (my middle-class neighborhood had three that I knew off) was too much for the Socialist government, so they banned arcades outright. Yes, it sucks, but what else can you do, technically? Even if only the shadier places were shut down, "proper" arcades with actual real arcade consoles, hacked to do video poker would flourish due to less competition. Policing a population that *wants* to gamble is insanely hard. So, they banned all arcades, which actually, very few people here thought it was an unwise move.

The one very unfortunate side-effect of the anti-arcade law was that on Internet cafes: the letter of the law forbids all venues of "electronic gaming". That includes Net cafes which mostly do business on LAN gaming (Quake, etc), not plain Internet access. And since some of these places actually hook up to Net casinos or run video poker-type games themselves, it's hard to distinguish between legitimate gaming and your local shady quasi-casino.

What would you do, if unsactioned, unregulated, illegal casinos were sprouting like Starubucks' in every American strip-mall?

(Oh, and the plane-spotters would have had it a lot worse if they were caught taking pictures of Andrews AFB, for example)
posted by costas at 5:57 AM on September 2, 2002

"What would you do, if unsactioned, unregulated, illegal casinos were sprouting like Starubucks' in every American strip-mall?"


Well, for starters, I wouldn't ban everything that even resembles a video slot-machine.
If you don't like the gambling, then ban the gambling. Simple.
posted by Newbornstranger at 8:51 AM on September 2, 2002

newbornstranger, i think that costas point was that the gambling was incorporated into the video games. so it's not all that cut and dried.

thanks costas, it helped my understanding considerably.
posted by triv at 10:24 AM on September 2, 2002

Costas, the law also bars private ownership of any electronic game (my link to the law isn't working, so no direct quotes, sorry.) So it would theoretically be illegal to play Quake in your own home. I mean, come on.
posted by Yelling At Nothing at 10:46 AM on September 2, 2002

Yelling at Nothing et al: if this is inferred by the law, it's news to me. As far as I know, it was never enforced against private indiividuals, or for that matter Net cafes: the "arcades" in my neighborhood are all shut down, even the one in a small side-road, while the 2-3 Net cafes (including a very prominent one on a major street) are still open for business.

The law was basically drawn up to shut down illegal gambling. These other provisions are there to close any loopholes any of the arcade owners would consider jumping through (like, e.g. putting up arcade consoles in a private residence, w/o a restaurant/bar license).

And y'all are all welcome to come visit: I've lived and worked in the US for quite a while and I only recently returned home. The police here do not take their power to extreme --Greeks have a short fuse on abuse of authority-- and people still care about the society enough to know whehn laws make sense and when they do not: Drunk driving is bad; consuming alcohol in public without some stupid paper bag around the bottle is not :-)
posted by costas at 11:14 AM on September 2, 2002

Again, gambling and gaming are two different things. Sometimes they will overlap, but that is not a given fact.

If you want to put Pacman arcade machines in my garage, you should be allowed to, and you should be allowed to play them.

Judging from the wording of this law, it sounds like it has become illegal for anyone in the country to play any electronic games what-so-ever. Does this mean that now you can't go and buy The Sims at your local computer store?

If so, Greece has just proven itself to be as backward as Turkey once was. If not, we can breathe easy, but still.. I agree with Newbornstranger.. clamp down on illegal gambling, not just all electronic games.

That said, I don't think they should be banning anything, but it appears Greece has one of those freedom-quashing tyrannical governments that Eastern Europeans love.
posted by wackybrit at 12:14 PM on September 2, 2002

Exactly wackybrit (why do I feel strange saying that?)...
I agree that any version of Mortal Combat that can also be used as a slot machine should be illegal. Just like any cell-phone that can also be used as a gun should be illegal. But that doesn't mean all videogames, and all cell phones should be banned.

Fight the problem, not the place the problem shows up in.
posted by Newbornstranger at 12:21 PM on September 2, 2002

Exactly wackybrit (why do I feel strange saying that?)...

Probably because I rarely say anything on here worth agreeing with :-)
posted by wackybrit at 3:00 PM on September 2, 2002

Skallas et al: I agree, oversight and inspection would be best, but it was tried before and failed miserably, mainly because "arcade" owners would buy themselves out of arrests, inspections, etc. Is it a failure of law enforcement? absolutely. But when law enforcement fails, you have to at least tweak the law. I could draw parallels to Guantanamo here, etc, but they should be obvious. Law enforcement here has to be cleaned up before laws like this one can be relaxed.

I am not saying this law is fair --I never did. But it does make sense for Greek reality at present and it was never used to extremes, AFAIK: no ceisures of private arcade consoles, no shutdowns of internet cafes, no ban on private or LAN gaming. It was strictly used against video arcades, which are very different venues from the video arcades you see in the US, BTW.

Also, wackybrit: Greece is a democracy and has far from a tyranical government --they follow public opinion too much, if you ask me. They will probably lose the next elections. Comparing Greece to Turkey, where the Army has a larger say on politics than the parliament is nice trollbait and rather unfair.
posted by costas at 1:07 AM on September 3, 2002

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