Sunday, 11 September 2016

Entitlement in Video Games: Pre-ordering

I've got news for you.  You aren't obligated to pre-order a video game that you're interested in and are thinking about buying.  I know.  Shocking, right?

For the uninitiated, pre-ordering a video game is, as you might imagine, paying for a game before its release and receiving it on the day of release.  Pre-ordering is often incentivized through what is often referred to as a pre-order bonus, which might include downloadable content (DLC) or a physical good like a poster.

With pre-ordering a video game, it seems to be the same thing every time.  A game gets announced, consumers get excited, and they pre-order the game without ever having played it themselves.  But, subsequently--inevitably--the disappointment kicks in and the complaints begin.

One of the biggest complaints and causes for regret when it comes to having pre-ordered a game and subsequently being disappointed by it is that the game is not what it was advertised to be and, most of all, to look like.  Pre-release gameplay circulates and is shown to the public who presume that the footage they are seeing is what the video game they will buy will be like.  However, occasionally, this is not the case.  Sometimes the graphics aren't what they were in the gameplay footage, the video game lacks advertised mechanics, or lacks certain game modes that were said to be in a video game.  The consumer then sees this as a form of false advertising.

Now, I'm certainly not going to defend this type of misdirection or "false advertising."  And certainly the onus is on the video game developers and publishers to be honest about their game.  But the consumer also has a responsibility to be as informed as possible.

I can understand if an individual pre-orders a game and is disappointed with the final version of the game upon playing it--but only when its their first time.  Everyone has to learn lessons somehow.  But when some individuals continue to do this over and over again--well, I'm sorry, but that's just your fault.  If an individual truly has a problem with the way game developers and publishers work, showing one game and publishing another, then don't pre-order video games.  I cannot say it any clearer.  Wait for a game to be released, watch the footage (which there is always plenty of throughout the Internet), and read the reviews.  Then, if you're satisfied that the video game in question is what it was said to be, buy the game.  You will survive if you wait a couple of days post-release to purchase a video game.  No one is forcing anyone to buy a video game day one.

When video games like Watch Dogs and No Man's Sky are amping up for release, I understand that it can be difficult not to get excited with all of the hype that is thrown behind them, both by developers/publishers and by the general population on the Internet.  But we've seen it happen time and time again.  Video games aren't what they once were.  The landscape has changed.  Video games from generations ago were seemingly complete and were as advertised (though there were exceptions, of course).  Today, it's the norm for video games to be released not as advertised, and even broken or incomplete.  I'm not saying I like it, but that's the fact of the matter.  What I am saying is that you have no right to complain about a video game's final version if you didn't take the time to wait and see how it turned out, and instead pre-ordered without assurances that the video game you're pre-ordering is what you've seen to date.  We have the ability to make choices, so why not make the right one?  It really, truly is as simple as that.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Children and Video Games

What comes to mind when you think about video games?  If video games aren't of interest to you, then chances are that you imagine little cartoon characters hopping around to cheerful music.  Real family friendly stuff.  Kid stuff.  But this isn't 1990 anymore, where the Nintendo Entertainment system reigns supreme and graphics are made up of pixels so large you can count them.  This may come to you as a surprise, but video games have changed drastically over the last couple of decades.

Long gone are the days of the pixelated man jumping and hitting blocks, hopping on turtles and mushrooms.  While there are games published today that are made with that aesthetic and style, video games have evolved far beyond that.  Today, games are more realistic than ever, both in terms of gameplay and graphics.

With that being said, I have a message for uninitiated parents: video games have ratings.  Yes, that's right.  Just like movies and even TV shows, video games have ratings dictating the age that they're appropriate for, and for good reason.  The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) sets out the ratings ranging from eC for Early Childhood to A for Adult.  Most commonly, though, you'll see E for Everyone, T for Teen, and M for Mature.  So, what do these ratings mean and why am I telling you about them?

For starters, many parents don't seem to know what their children are playing.  The rating of a video game determines what age the game is appropriate for.  But to a parent, a video game is just a video game, and it doesn't matter what it's called or even what the rating is.  It's a video game—how harmful could it be?  Well... very, actually.  

When a game is rated E for Everyone, that typically means that, as the rating suggests, it's appropriate for everyone.  Think Super Mario Bros.  But when a game is rated T for Teen (13 and up), that means that it likely contains some violence, suggestive themes, some strong language, and maybe a little bit of blood.  This is where you might find some sports games, arcade fighting games, and action adventure games.  When a game is rated M for Mature (17 and up), this means that the game may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and strong language.  This is where you find some of the most recent best-selling games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty.  (To see a full detailed list of game ratings, check out the ESRB ratings guide.)

These particular games—the Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty series—are some of the most violent video games on the market today, selling millions upon millions with each release.  In Grand Theft Auto, the player is capable of stealing, murdering, and even picking up prostitutes for onscreen sexual encounters.  Call of Duty, meanwhile, allows the player to kill, granted it's in a war setting, again and again. 

Though these games are rated M for Mature, this doesn't seem to stop parents all over the world from buying them for their children.  This is an individual choice each parent has the right to make, but unfortunately, many of them don't seem to know what it is that they're buying their children.  

What I'm saying to parents is this: take just a few moments to read the back of the box before picking a game up for your children.  Take a look at the rating in the bottom corner.  Heck, in the Internet age that we live in, a video of gameplay is just a couple of clicks away on YouTube.  Once you've seen the game that it is that you're buying, then you can make the decision of whether it's appropriate for your children or not.  Making an informed choice isn't going to hurt you.

Another reason I'm telling you about video game ratings is because children are always developing.  With that, it's important that they aren't vegging out on video games day in and day out, a constant intake of mindless information.  Not only that, but, as I'm sure you know, children are so easily influenced.  Now, I'm certainly not going to say that video games cause violence like anti-video game folks like to argue, because they don't.  But I do believe that it's reasonable to say that children take lessons from what they see in video games (and in movies and on TV, too), so it's important that they're taking in age appropriate material and useful information rather than content that they don't understand and is inappropriate for someone their age.

I'm certainly not demonizing these games.  I play them, after all.  But I'm not a developing child.  I'm an adult that is able to discern the difference between reality and a video game.  I'm able to separate actions in a video game from real life actions.  Frankly, I'm just tired of seeing children who I believe are far too young to be playing certain video games carrying the game from a store.  I often have a hard time believe that a their parent would have purchased the game for them if they had taken just a fraction of their life to research the game before making the purchase.

The final issue that I have with children and video games doesn't actually have to do with the games themselves at all, but instead, it has to do with playing the video games online.  On the current generation of consoles, most games have some type of online play.  This means that the player will likely interact with others—real human beings from all over the world.  This exposes the player—or in this case, your children—to the actions of others.  This often includes unfiltered conversation, resulting in strong language, or, in worst case scenarios, adults befriending your children with malicious intent.  The latter behaviour certainly isn't rampant (though the former is), but the fact that children are interacting with others online is something to keep in mind. Fortunately, parental controls are an option on video game consoles, allowing parents to dictate what their children are able to do on their console.  Again, it's all about being aware of what your children are doing and making sure they're having an age appropriate experience.
In the end, it's up to the parent to decide what their children play.  They're your children, after all, and you have the responsibility of deciding what they can and can't do.  Just know that video games have ratings for a reason and that it's your responsibility to make appropriate decisions for your children.  Everyone has the right to decide what's best for their children.  I'm simply making sure parents are informed when they make these decisions.  

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Self-Defence in Canada: Misconceptions and what you need to know

The fact of the matter is, whether we like it or not, much of Canadians' knowledge regarding "the justice system" comes from American television.  From fictional TV series like Law & Order, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, and Criminal Minds, to true crime series like Dateline NBC and A&E's The First 48.  But, what most people don't seem to realize is that the Canadian justice system differs in regards to many aspects of its American counterpart.  This means that Canadians are inundated with a flurry of supposed knowledge that doesn't actually relate to their own criminal justice system, and system of rights and freedoms.

There are a number of aspects from the American justice system that have seemingly become apart of Canadians' knowledge regarding their own system, resulting in widespread ignorance on the matters.  First, you might often hear someone say "I plead the fifth," meaning they are exercising their fifth amendment right to remain silent in order to avoid self-incrimination.   That's all well and good—if you're American.  If you're a Canadian and you say that, however, just know that section 5 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms refers to the annual sitting of Parliament.

What we as Canadians should be referencing is section 13 of Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Though not quite so laid out, this section does provide Canadians the right to remain silent—or "plead the fifth" as some might continue to say.

Next in our series of American influenced justice-isms is the Miranda warning, or Miranda rights.  This is something I'm certain we've all heard at one point or another.  "You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law.  You have a right to an attorney.  If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you..."  Easy, right?  Nope.  

While Canada does indeed have a Miranda warning similar to that which you often hear in American crime TV series, it's not quite the same.  It's more detailed and articulated than that which you hear on TV, often making sure the person being read the warning is aware of their rights.

Third—and this is just a means of clarification—in Canada, we don't have misdemeanours and felonies.  Instead, we have summary offences and indictable offences.

While these are mostly nitpicks of mine, it's still important for Canadians to be educated on their own justice system rather than that of our neighbours' to the south.  But don't worry.  The law is only all about technicalities, so being specific is only kind of important (yes, I am being facetious).  And while we're on that topic, just for future reference, know that ignorance is not a reasonable defence.  So, "I didn't know it was illegal" isn't going to fly.  But enough preamble.

This brings me to the main focus of this article: self-defence.  You're likely familiar with the concept, or at least know what it refers to.  This is yet another aspect where the Canadian version is far different than the American one that we so often see on TV and hear about in the news, so it's pretty important to be aware of the differences.

For example, in a number of American states, there is a law known as the "Stand Your Ground" law.  This law states that a person has no duty to retreat when faced with a threat or harm—meaning that as long as they're in a place that they're lawfully allowed to be, they can use any level of force necessary to cease the threat or harm that might come to them.  Meanwhile, if a Canadian comes face to face with an intruder in their own home and decides to use lethal force against the intruder, the home owner can be charged with a crime.  Let me explain.

Self-defence is all about the protection of yourself, as well as of the individuals in your care.  Thanks to sections 34 through 37 of the Criminal Code of Canada, Canadians have a right to self-defence.  But in Canada, it can be difficult to understand what exactly qualifies as self-defence, what is outside the boundaries of the law, and essentially what is acceptable and what is not.  

As Canadian law defines it, self-defence is, in simple terms, when a person is assaulted by another when they themselves have not instigated an assault upon another individual, have not provoked the attack, and their physical force in return is justified in order to prevent harm upon themselves, and the force is to the degree necessary, not excessive.  Basically, if Person A attacks Person B prior to Person B attacking Person A, Person B’s reactionary force is justified as self-defence as long as the force used is not excessive and is deemed as the amount of force necessary (Brudner 2011:878) to cease the attack, and Person B did not provoke the assault.

There are, of course, stipulations in terms of being classified as acceptable self-defence.  For instance, if the defensive force used is excessive to that of which is necessary to prevent harm or injury, that individual may be subject to punishment based on the use of excessive force, though this may often be looked over depending on the particular series of events that have taken place and the backgrounds of the individuals involved.  

For example, after having his store robbed numerous times, David Chen of Toronto reached his breaking point upon being robbed yet again.  As a result, Chen and a couple of store employees chased the culprit down, kidnapped, confined, and assaulted him until the police arrived (Canlii 2010).  

Using force to prevent a robbery is most often deemed justifiable.  However, once an attack and robbery have been stopped and the culprit has begun to flee, any further force used, in the eyes of Canadian law, is considered excessive and unjustified.  In this particular case, charges were brought against the store owner, David Chen, because the force that he used was initially deemed excessive.  Fortunately for Chen,  the charges were eventually dropped against him.  But each case is different, and individual cases’ results will vary.  This is why it's always important to understand what's legal and what isn't.  We may not like it, but the law's the law.

As long as they remain within the boundaries and limits of the law of self-defence, the individual or individuals defending themselves are protected by the law in which they may use the amount of force necessary to prevent grievous harm or death to themselves.  

So, if someone breaks into your home and attacks you, you certainly have the right to use force to cease the attack.  If you, for example, hit the intruder with a baseball bat, they stumble, but then come at you again, you can continue to use force against them until they stop.  But, if you hit the intruder with a baseball bat, they stumble and then run away, that is the extent of the force necessary to defend yourself.  If you decide to chase them from your house, catch up to them and continue to beat them with the baseball bat, you are now outside of your right to self-defence and you are now using excessive force, thereby assaulting the individual, and you may be charged with a crime.

It's all about being informed.  Don't take what you hear from TV as fact, because more often than not, especially as a Canadian, the information you're consuming doesn't actually apply to you.


*Please note: this article is an opinion editorial and is not be taken as legal advice.


1. Brudner, A. (Fall 2011). Constitutionalizing self-defence. University of Toronto Law Journal61(4), 867-897. 
 Retrieved from 
2. R. v. Chen et al., 2010 ONCJ 641 (CanLII), <

Criminal Code of Canada s. 34-37
Defence of Person
Self-defence against unprovoked assault
34. (1) Every one who is unlawfully assaulted without having provoked the assault is justified in repelling force by force if the force he uses is not intended to cause death or grievous bodily harm and is no more than is necessary to enable him to defend himself.
Extent of justification
(2) Every one who is unlawfully assaulted and who causes death or grievous bodily harm in repelling the assault is justified if
(a) he causes it under reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm from the violence with which the assault was originally made or with which the assailant pursues his purposes; and
(b) he believes, on reasonable grounds, that he cannot otherwise preserve himself from death or grievous bodily harm.
R.S., 1985, c. C-46, s. 34; 1992, c. 1, s. 60(F).

Self-defence in case of aggression
35. Every one who has without justification assaulted another but did not commence the assault with intent to cause death or grievous bodily harm, or has without justification provoked an assault on himself by another, may justify the use of force subsequent to the assault if
(a) he uses the force
(i) under reasonable apprehension of death or grievous bodily harm from the violence of the person whom he has assaulted or provoked, and
(ii) in the belief, on reasonable grounds, that it is necessary in order to preserve himself from death or grievous bodily harm;
(b) he did not, at any time before the necessity of preserving himself from death or grievous bodily harm arose, endeavour to cause death or grievous bodily harm; and
(c) he declined further conflict and quitted or retreated from it as far as it was feasible to do so before the necessity of preserving himself from death or grievous bodily harm arose.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 35.

36. Provocation includes, for the purposes of sections 34 and 35, provocation by blows, words or gestures.
R.S., c. C-34, s. 36.

Preventing assault
37. (1) Every one is justified in using force to defend himself or any one under his protection from assault, if he uses no more force than is necessary to prevent the assault or the repetition of it.
Extent of justification
(2) Nothing in this section shall be deemed to justify the wilful infliction of any hurt or mischief that is excessive, having regard to the nature of the assault that the force used was intended to prevent.

R.S., c. C-34, s. 37.