Greeks and Geeks

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This has been an interesting story. 🙂

Two more “official” links about this story coming from professional associations can be found here and here. Type in “Greece electronic games ban” in a search engine, and you’ll find plenty more, most of which appear to have come news services.

So this is no hoax.

The impression I’m getting is that while police aren’t breaking into homes looking for gamers, they certainly are arresting people at least arcade/cafe owners/employees when games are being played.

So this isn’t a matter of a screwy bill being passed that is just sitting on the books. At least the public part of it is being enforced.

Nor is this a matter of it being an unconsidered bill. The bill was originally drafted by Greece’s Economy and Finance Ministry in late February, and in numerous reports at that time (and here’s one of them, it was very clearly understood to mean a a ban on public computer gaming.

What’s a bit unclear is that the English translation we got also includes private gaming, perhaps this was a last-moment addition to the bill (anyone who has ever lived in the Western U.S. is aware of “private clubs” in “dry” counties where you pay a dollar or two for “membership.”)

Why?

Apparently, there’s a fair amount of gambling going on with at least some of these machines. It looks like the arcade machine come with multiple game ROMs, which can be switched from, say, Ms. Pac Man to a video poker/slot machine.

The government said they banned everything because they couldn’t tell the difference between a gambling device and a legitimate game. On the face of it, this seems extraordinarily stupid, but some further reading is enlightening.

When this bill was being debated, the opposition party also suggested a ban on pinball and trivia games. If you’re using trivia games to gamble, you are one hard-up gambler.

It’s not that the country generally prohibits gambling; the seven casinos, three national lotteries, six types of football betting, horse-betting, and 14,000 card-playing clubs haven’t been touched at all. 🙂 This looks to be more a matter of untaxed gambling.

Does This Change The Message?

Not for the touring gamer, not one bit.

If gaming is part of your life, and the only way you can game is to bring a notebook with you and hope somebody doesn’t get overzealous in the interpretation of the term “private” with you, gamers ought to know that before they go.

If that means less tourism for a country, well, that’s the price the country pays for those laws. We didn’t pass the laws, your country did.

Paranoid? Well, here’s an email I got from a Greek gamer:

Thank you so much for posting this on your site, I happen to be a Greek
gamer and we all really appreciate the effort you are making to help us.
This law is insane and I hope that with your and many other sites’ help we
can convince the parliament to cancel it or at least make an exception for
computer games. It’s a catastrophe for internet cafe owners as their main
customers were gamers who wanted a better internet connection (the best we
have here is ISDN, DSL will be available in about 2 months) or just play on
a LAN. Many game servers have gone offline because their administrators are
afraid of being arrested.
It’s horrible 🙁 (well, for gamers at least as
other people don’t really care).

If, for whatever reason, a country won’t let you do what you want to do, you should not go there. The country has the perfect right to make the laws it likes, and we have just as perfect a right not to go there because of those laws. People should certainly be made aware of such laws
before finding themselves in hot water over something that’s perfectly legal everywhere else.

If I try to reserve a hotel room and one of my requirements is a Jacuzzi, and Hotel X doesn’t have one, I just don’t stay there. It’s not a matter of hatred; the place just doesn’t have what I want.

If you want a certain type of customer, you give them what they want. If you don’t want to or can’t do that, no problem. Just don’t expect them.

Ed

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