Jack's Back.

Oh, Jack. What shall we do with you?

Jack Thompson's back, and once again spouting his bull. No doubt he'll be walking the same tired, illogical paths, once again. Let's see.

EGM: Videogames with mature content are clearly labeled on the box. Isn't a voluntary ratings system a responsible move by the videogame industry?

It was a responsible move by the television and movie industries. Let's see what Jack says.

Jack Thompson: The ESRB [Entertainment Software Rating Board] doesn't work because, as the [Federal Trade Commission] and various private individuals and organizations have found, retailers are not abiding by [the ratings]. They're selling these games to kids under 17 despite the rating label. In fact, it's a counterproductive sales tool because millions of kids want the Mature-rated games. Rating labels that have no practical impact are ineffectual and counterproductive. That's why another attorney and I sued Best Buy in November of 2004, so they agreed now to ID anyone who presents a game to a cashier and appears to be 21 years of age and under. We moved the bar four years forward, so it is less likely kids under 17 can buy these things.

What the...? He didn't even answer the question! He's claiming that the system doesn't work because the industry is specificaly making M-rated games to bost sales. While there are several companies that do practice such a buisness model [Midway's NARC comes to mind.], most quality M-rated games don't have violence for violence's sake. Video games stores have no legal authhourity to enforce the rating system, yet they're still blamed when kids buy M-rated games. The fault lies with the parents who buy the games for their kids, or just give them the money.

EGM: But how often do M-rated games end up in the hands of kids in stores?

JT: Many stings have found that up to 50 percent of kids under 17 were sold M-rated games. And with 14-year-olds, between 70 to 80 percent of them were able to buy titles like [Grand Theft Auto:] San Andreas. Some videogame companies don't want retailers to abide by these ratings. It's a charade—they say to parents and Congress, "Don't sell M-rated games to anyone under 17," but they do. The videogame industry says one thing and does another.
No, they say they don't market to children. They don't. They market on Comedy Central, VH1, MTV, and [adult swim]. Not exactly kiddy programming. And again, some developers make violent games for the free pub, but they're the minority.

EGM: Who are you referring to, exactly?

JT: Game publishers, console manufacturers, and retailers. They're all in cahoots with one another to have a rating system that doesn't work. The ESRB system is not a warning label—it's a rating label. It should say "Do not sell this game to anyone under 17."
Except that the rating system is built to inform consumers about the level of violence. If you're so concerned, why aren't you working to give retailers the legal authourity to refuse games to minors? Not to mention online shops, which only ask for token proof of age. Hmmm.

EGM: What are you proposing to fix this?

JT: We need a three-legged stool:

Funny you should use the word "stool".

Sorry, carry on.

education, legislation, and my approach, which is to do the right thing. This includes representing bereaved third parties so they can sue those responsible for actions that have resulted in death.
As long as you're at it, enact legislation which will allow serial killers to blame their crimes on music, movies, and television, why doncha. Something like under fifty crimes in the US-ever-have been found to be related to videogames. In fact, if you'd only study the studies , Jack, you'd find that the percentage of crimes caused by videogames is lower than that of TV, movies, music...

Family members who miss their loved ones—this is where the breakthrough will occur. The industry fears this, so they've all run out and bought "copycat liability" insurance to protect them. If they don't think this is going to happen, then why are they buying it? This third solution is to scare the dickens out of the videogame industry to stop marketing and selling inappropriate games to children. My goal is to save lives.
"The dickens"? Cute. Appropriate for what you want to do to the industry, Jack. And to answer your question, why do doctors buy malpractice insurance?

EGM: Your attempts to compensate victims of alleged game-related deaths have been unsuccessful so far. Why do you think this is?

JT: Lawyers tend to be to the left of normal people, and judges tend to be the left of the lawyers. Federal judges tend to be the left of them. So you have a bunch of First Amendment absolutists who block these kinds of lawsuits. State courts, however, are far more responsive to parents. I suppose federal judges by and large don't have a problem with mental molestation of children with murder simulators.
Bill O'Reilly would be proud. Of course, it's the liberal System's fault. State courts tend to be more narrow-viewed. Federals can see the big picture.

EGM: You once compared Doug Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, to Saddam Hussein.

JT: If I did, I want to apologize to Saddam Hussein. Doug is a propagandist to whom the facts don't matter. He's paid to lie and he does it very well. Doug is paid a handsome salary, probably seven figures, to say there are no studies that indicate [violent games have] an effect on anyone. If this is true, why is the military using them to create killing simulators?
Because soldiers KILL. That's what they DO, Jack. And it doesn't matter what he says; if he's lying, prove him wrong. But you can't, can you?

EGM: Let's talk about this. Isn't there a difference between training and acting out?

Seems obvious. How will Jack spin it?

JT: A cyberterrorism expert has found that games such as [THQ's] Full Spectrum Warrior, or Full Spectrum Command as it's known in the military, is being used by al Qaeda to train their troops. These games don't just teach skills—they break down the inhibition to kill. We've been trained by society and our parents not to kill another person, so the way you break that down is to put a soldier in a VR setting, which will be far more effective in the long run.
Nice one, Jack. Argueing that terorists use a tactical training game used by US forces to learn countertactical tactics. Which is, y'know, what enemies are supposed to do. Nice how you used Al Qaeda to make the games seem like T3H EBIL ONOZ.

EGM: MIT's Henry Jenkins says many researchers don't buy the "monkey see, monkey do" hypothesis.

JT: If Henry doesn't think education has an effect on anyone he should stop being a professor.
Except that it's not what he said.

You can modify behavior. The very same people like Doug [Lowenstein] who say games can't encourage anyone to do anything are the same people who tend to get upset about tobacco ads because they encourage kids to smoke. So why are [mature] game advertisements shown on TV when X percentage of kids are in the audience? This is because ads for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas may persuade them to buy games. And how is it that 10 hours of being immersed in violent behavior doesn't have an effect? It's nonsense to think otherwise....

I'm right. If you think I'm wrong, you're wrong. There are always Kids watching. The purpose of advertising is to persuade people into buying things. Kids should not be playing GTA in the first place, and the primary responsibility for a child's media intake lies legally and morally with their parents.

EGM: But tens of millions of these GTA games are sold and there are very, very few reports of actual violence associated with them. Aren't the criminals just blaming a game as a scapegoat? Aren't other factors at play here?

JT: First of all, we don't know how many people have acted out violently because of these games,

but after I appeared on Good Morning America, a Gallop poll found 71 percent of all U.S teenage boys who played Vice City were twice as likely to have been engaged in an act of violence.

Which is not the same as saying that the games caused this. These young men may be drawn to the game because it miorrors the violence they already practice.

Also, aggressive behavior may be expressed verbally—not everyone goes "postal" or "Columbine." There have been dozens of studies that show even short-term exposure of these games to teens has an effect on violence, aggressiveness, and bad behavior that goes from bad speech to killing people. It's a wide spectrum. Videogames can be the final causal link in a chain of factors that can result in a Columbine.

But not the only link. You're impling that the chain is entirely composed of videogames. Dylan and Eric were outcasts, among other things. They actively looked for the kind of material they enjoyed.

Logical Fallacy: Unnamed multitudes. IE: "Everybody agrees with me!" "Lots of studies have shown..." "Everyone knows that!"

EGM: Shouldn't parents—not government or game publishers—bear the responsibility to prevent that?

JT: Both government and home have shared responsibilities here.

Don't you have your career staked on blaming the publishers? Parents are primarily responsible for their kids' media intake.

Parents are negligent in letting kids play these games for hours at a time, but even if we do everything right to keep a kid away from these games, his classmates are playing them. He could just play somewhere else.
Funny, this is the same arguement used by drug deals and porn distributers. Huh.

We have an aggressive industry taking advantage of derelict parents. The whole youth culture is immersed in this stuff.
"Youth culture"? What is this, Fox News?

EGM: Does your 12-year-old son play videogames?

JT: Not anything above an E [suitable for everyone] rating. Many Teen [-rated] games should be Mature because our society is more desensitized to violence. GTA3, which was released five years ago, now helps other games push the envelope in violence. The bar has been raised.
Out of curiousity, Jack, do you beat him too? DO you crawl into his bed at night?

I'm sorry, that was out of line.

EGM: But most games aren't violent.

JT: Yes, I know Doug [Lowenstein] says most games aren't violent, but an incredible percentage of games that are sold are M-rated.
HE JUST TOLD YOU THAT MOST GAMES AREN'T VIOLENT! It doesn't matter who said it, you prick, as long as it's true!

There may be 41 Euchre games and one GTA, but what do you think the sales are like for each? This is how Doug uses statistics.

GTA sells better than an obscure card game? What a shock! Look, Jack, looking at it fron a structuralist perspective, GTA is a quality game. And since there are so many violent games, why do you invariably talk about Full Spectrum Warrior and GTA?

EGM: Do you play games?

JT: I play them to the extent that I need to make DVD copies of the killing scenes for presentations or court. Have I played San Andreas? Yes.
This question isn't relevant, and shouldn't have been asked, but I just admire Jack's spin skills.

EGM: Jenkins claims youth violence has fallen as games rise in popularity. How do you see a correlation between virtual violence and real violence?

JT: Well, let's look at deaths in and around schools. In 2004, there were 48 in number. In 2003, there were 16. In 2002, there were 17. Yes, the death rate in which murderous actions have taken place has gone down, but there are other factors such as the shortening of ambulance response time, better medical techniques, and so forth.

Violence, Jack. We're talking about violence, not deaths. Assault, attempted murder, actual murder, rape, and so forth.

EGM: So, what's next on the agenda for you?

JT: [A lawsuit regarding] a multiple loss of life by a teenager who played Vice City. We are going to sue videogame manufacturers, platform manufacturers, and retailers like Wal-Mart, Circuit City, and Amazon who continue to sell adult-rated materials to children. We're going to sue the industry for its recklessness, for being so shortsighted.

Yet, because creating an industrywide ratings system long before games were able to even display 3D models is shortsighted. I'm sure.

Eventually there is going to be a Columbine to the factor of 10, a slaughter in a school by a crazed gamer. And when that happens, when America figures out these kids were filled up with virtual violence, Congress may ban the games altogether. You wise guys who think you're so clever about saying what kids ought to play and then putting [Mature] games in the hands of those kids, you will wish you listened to me.

Logical fallacy: Worst case scenario. Assuming that the worst will happen without any evidence to indicate it.

In the end, Jack serves as a sterling example of what selective statistics, creative misunderstanding, and a dogged avoidance of the truth—commonly known as "spin"—can do. I'd like to believe that he actually believes what he's saying, but the sheer slipperiness of this guy—it's nearly impossible to get a straight answer of him—leads me to believe he's lying through his teeth. He knows his arguements are flawed, he just wants the money for the case. If you look at the conversation with Jenkins, he actually gives straight open answers. The man wrote a book about the role of gender in games, as opposed to someone who writes a book about a contorversal subject solely for the sales. On one side you have a tenured professor, on the other you have a lawyer. Hmm.


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