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Marc Ecko set to sue New York City in graffiti row

Graffiti game finds more trouble.

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

A dispute between fashion designer Marc Ecko and the New York government has erupted, with Ecko announcing plans to sue the city mayor after a permit for the party promoting the graffiti art-form and his new game was revoked.

Atari's graffiti-driven action-adventure title, Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure, was set to have a related event in New York on August 24th, called The Getting Up Bloc Party, with a showcase of graffiti artists and live music.

However, city mayor Michael Bloomberg revoked the license required to hold the party, on the grounds that the show's featured graffiti demonstrations are not seen as an art exhibition, but rather a fully commercial event.

Bloomberg said: "Graffiti is just one of those things that destroys our quality of life, and why anybody thinks that it's funny or cute to encourage kids to go do that, I don't know. We have talked to them and asked them to not have a subway car motif to write graffiti. This is not really art or expression. This is - let's be honest about what it is - it's trying to encourage people to do something that's not in anybody's interest."

Ecko has provided an open letter to the city of New York on his blog, stating: "Unfortunately the spirit of the event, as it was originally conceived and as it has been presented to the appropriate civic groups and government officials since November 2004, seems to have been lost in the haste to stereotype all graffiti-style artists as 'vandals' and to brand this event as a 'promotion of crime.'

"At its core, this is an event designed to celebrate an art form born from the streets of New York over two decades ago as a means of creative self-expression, allowing the public a unique chance to experience the workmanship and skill that go into creating a piece of art fine enough to hang on the walls of any traditional gallery or museum. Upon completion, a 48-foot mural will be donated to The Point, a Bronx-based nonprofit youth development organization, while the remaining nine will be placed throughout the city for public display," Ecko added.

Ecko hopes his case will get the permit reinstated for the party. A judge is currently considering the suit.

This is not the first time Atari's game has come under scrutiny by outside sources, with the Keep America Beautiful group, and the National Council to Prevent Delinquency previously expressing concern that the title, which has players spraying and maintaining tags around a fictional city against an oppressive mayor, will spur real-life mimicry.

The groups have requested America's Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) to give the game "the most restrictive rating possible", condemning the title as something that "clearly attempts to make criminal and dangerous behaviour enticing to children", as said in a statement by Ray Empson, president of Keep America Beautiful.

Atari issued a press release in reply, declaring: "The focus of the game is on expression through art; the hero is typically equipped with only paint, and never guns. Just as popular films and television shows present fictionalised entertainment depicting stories, cultures, characters and actions that may be exaggerated versions of 'real-life' people or events, videogames such as Getting Up provide amusement and escape in a fantasy world where players can vicariously experience different lifestyles and mock activities."

Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure will be released on PlayStation 2, Xbox, PC, and mobile phones later this year.

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