New Cop Killing Video Game Is Blockbuster's #1 Video Game Rental
It is not a game. There are real gang members and real cops battling it out on the streets of our city. They are armed with real guns.
Lives are at stake.
The Hamilton Police Association says gang warfare is the biggest problem facing cops here.
Chief Brian Mullan says gang violence is a top priority. In four months, 96 gang members have been arrested, 215 criminal charges have been laid, 16 search warrants executed and 19 guns seized. The gangs and guns unit has tripled to 15 officers and the chief is asking the province for $5 million to combat gangs.
Yet in a parallel world acted out in recreation rooms across Hamilton, bodies are dropping just for fun.
Gangs are games.
Shooting cops dead makes you a hero.
While the real guys play for keeps, kids are playing for points.
It's called 25 to Life and it is Blockbuster Video's top video game rental in the country. It ranks fourth on the Rogers Video list. Its name comes from the sentence handed to convicted murderers in the United States.
Hamilton police are encouraging cops across Canada to join American law enforcement officers on a petition asking that the ultra-violent game be banned and urging consumers to boycott stores that sell it.
The online petition has drawn close to 200,000 names from both sides of the border in the six-weeks since it was posted by the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund in Washington, D.C.
The original goal was 17,500 signatures -- one for each United States police officer that has been killed in the line of duty.
An e-mail campaign circulating through the Hamilton service over the last few weeks helped drive numbers up on the petition, says Bruce Mendelsohn, memorial fund spokesperson.
"We've hit such a vein," he says. "Clearly the people, whether American or Canadian think this game is the worst of the sort so far and a sign of what is to come."
As U.S.-style gangland shootings creep over the border into Canada, Canadians should educate our youth about gang violence, says Mendelsohn.
Chief Mullan says "maybe it's time for some legislative entity to come forward and restrict violent video games."
"It's shocking that anyone would allow a game promoting the death of a police officer," says Brad Boyce, administrator of the Hamilton Police Association.
The Ontario Police Association has addressed the issue with newly minted federal justice minister Vic Toews.
"Who are the degenerates who think up these games?" asks Staff Sergeant Peter Abi Rashed, a major crime detective in Hamilton for 17 years.
"Do they know the message they're sending to our youth? That guns and gangs are fun and the whole thing is a game. But this is real life. People don't get up and hit replay and start over again."
Abi Rashed often lectures to cops about homicide investigations. He says over the years, video games, movies and television have desensitized people to the point where they are unmoved by photos from real murder scenes because they have seen worse.
25 to Life is simple. You can play the part of a gang member or a cop. No matter which you choose, the drug-dealing gang member is always the "good guy."
According to the rules, it's always a good thing to kill a cop.
Made by Eidos Interactive, 25 to Life is rated "mature" and is only to be sold to gamers aged 17 and up because, as the disclaimer says, it involves "blood and gore, intense violence, drug references, strong language and sexual themes."
One Internet game reviewer says 25 to Life has the requisite POSH hour -- "police officer slaughter" hour.
The gore and controversy surrounding the game isn't going to push it off shelves at Blockbuster, says David Stewart, president of Blockbuster Canada.
He wasn't familiar with the game until yesterday when he was called for this interview. And he hasn't heard anything about the growing concern among police officers or the petition they've signed.
The game is "clearly identified as a mature product," Stewart says.
"We find ourselves not willing or wanting to be a censor even if the themes might strike you and I as a little bizarre."
This certainly isn't the first violent, anti-cop game to top the charts.
Super-seller Grand Theft Auto is one of the biggest and best games of all times.
And that's where there's an interesting difference. Gamers, retailers and reviewers across the board have panned 25 to Life, saying it's a boring game and poorly made with bad play control.
Yet it's still a bestseller.
"It's the No. 1 Blockbuster game because of the content," says Marc Nascimento, owner of 1 Up Games in Westdale.
"It's bloody. You get shot. You see blood."
Nascimento says the gamers who want to buy it are too young for him to sell to. It's the 12 to 16-year-olds -- boys and girls -- who want 25 to Life, because of its violence and their keen interest in gang culture.
"It's the gang ideal, the gang mentality, the interest in gang warfare. This game is popular with the wannabes."
Problem is, sometimes the wannabes grow up to be real gang members.