SF City Attorney's Office Battles Mafia Wars

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Aug 20, 2010  |  Updated 2:00 PM PDT
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SF City Attorney's Office Battles Mafia Wars

Zynga

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San Francisco's city attorney's office is taking on the Mafia.

Well, not the the Mafia -- just Mafia Wars, the video game.

The city attorney's beef with the online game, created by San Francisco company Zynga, is that it advertised by gluing fake dollar bills to the sidewalk. The bills had messages printed on them that directed people to a website.

It's a cute idea, but Deputy City Attorney Alex Tse called it "documented acts of sidewalk vandalism," and pointed out that such advertising is illegal. It makes sense, actually. If everyone was allowed to glue junk to the pavement, city sidewalks would get a bit out of hand.

Tse's office has asked the company to explain its actions, identify responsible parties and to describe how it will remedy the situation. But it make take a few days for them to get a response. Zynga currently has its hands full with an exploding truck in the Nevada desert. The explosion was marketing gimmick to promote -- you guessed it -- Mafia Wars. The company's other games include Farmville and Petville, which presumably do not involve explosions or vandalism.

Meanwhile, another Bay Area videogame company has come under fire. Electronic Arts has earned criticism for its "Medal of Honor" series, which features realistic depictions of the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While many gamers love the series, one local mom whose son was killed in Iraq doesn't think it's appropriate. "Americans are dying and I can't imagine who would really want to sit and shoot U.S. soldiers on a game," Lt. Ken Ballard's mom, Karen Meredith said, and asked that the game be shelved for a few months to allow the pain of the war to subside somewhat.

State Senator Leland Yee has staked out a position of opposition to videogame violence, authoring several bills over the years that would restrict minors' access to the games. He was particularly critical of the US Army, which uses violent video games to market military service to young people. So far, Yee's been silent on the pressing issue of phony game money glued to San Francisco sidewalks.

Matt Baume is opposed to all forms of entertainment.

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