I'm a Human Inbox

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Jack Thompson's Doing a Heck of a Job

[Media: Article]

There's been a lot of political talk about videogames lately, and I've been paying attention to it all but didn't know how to phrase it properly. I've been doing a lot of thinking about it, so I'd like to make a couple of points on it now. This will be a long entry with lots of linkage, and there may be a bit of redundancy for people who already pay attention to these issues.

The biggest news is that Jack Thompson removed himself from an Alabama lawsuit against Rockstar this Tuesday. This was actually fairly predictable, and it mainly came from how Jack Thompson was conducting himself in the courtrooms.

"He can’t proceed with the civility the rules require," attorney for the defense Jim Smith said. "All lawyers have to conduct themselves with honesty, integrity and civility. This isn't a street fight.

But before the judge could decide one way or the other, Thompson stepped aside, telling Game Politics, "The other side wants to make me the issue. The important thing is that the clients be served." Thompson also said it was his idea to step down, and that he wasn't being pressured to do so by the judge.

Although Jack "stepped down", I think it's awfully similar to Michael Brown "stepping down" from the head of FEMA. Sure, it was Jack's choice, but attempting to defend himself would have been a very bad decision.

Continue ReadingShortly before all of this, Warren Spector, designer of Deus Ex and Thief had some criticisms about Rockstar, which I actually agree with.

The fact is things could get a lot worse for us and it could happen very soon," he said. "We are dead square in the cultural crosshairs right now," Spector said. "The kids, the teens, the 20-somethings, they love us. And what that means is the parents and politicians don't. There's a whole generation of folks out there who do not get games... They don't understand why their son is barricading himself in his room killing demons all day. And they don't understand why their daughter, instead of playing with Barbies which is something they understand, is instead raising families of little virtual electronic people. They don't get it. And people blame and fear what they don't understand.

Jack Thompson actually tried to pick up on this and attempt to bring Warren into court to support his arguments, but Warren had to remind Jack that he's totally opposed to Jack Thompson's views.

Kotaku recently Urged Bloggers to stop talking about Jack Thompson, and I grudgingly have to admit that I disagree. I'll be honest, I hate talking and Blogging about Jack Thompson, but I think it's important that I do. Ignoring the issues, and the frustrating things that Jack says would be a big mistake. Although we may hate his tactics, and his arguments, he does have a layer of truth to his words. It would be dangerous to ignore the things that are true. This is what I would like to talk about, we as gamers have a responsibility to promote the positive qualities about this medium.

I believe that the gaming industry is approaching a dangerous time as we enter the next console generation, with all its improvements in graphics, realism, immersion and interactivity. Non-Gamers are going to look at visuals like this:

(Click to Enlarge)

Which are produced in real time, and be horrified by something they have very little understanding of. When they see the realism, the physics and the sound, which is starting to closely resemble real life, they will see a danger to their children and other adults. They will ask themselves how people are able to discriminate between real life, and virtual life. How will we gamers be able to answer those questions?

I personally feel that the gaming industry is advancing far faster in graphics and realism than it is in maturity. I also feel that gamers are still vaguely embarrassed to openly discuss the finer points of gaming among non-gamers. When was the last time you had a discussion about games that made you emotional or made you think, with non-gamers let alone gamers? When was the last time you recommended a game to a non-gamer due to its story? When was the last time you talked about videogame violence with non-gamers?

I think there are a lot of boundaries that still need to be broken, and it's important to talk about them. But, at the same time, I definitely think that things are improving. A couple of nights ago, my Landlord borrowed my Gamecube so that his daughter and niece could play Mario Kart on it. The two girls who were 5 or 6 years old, got two grown men and a lady to play Mario Kart with them, all of them non-gamers. For the rest of the night, they played Mario Kart far past everyone's bed time, and they were roaring with laughter and cries of outrage after everyone crossed the finish lines. I've never seen a group of people have so much fun, and it was glorious to see 5 non-gamers of mixed ages and genders all have a great time. I believe that moments like that, makes for steps towards a maturing entertainment industry.

So go talk about these issues. Encourage people to play great games. And let's keep talking about Jack Thompson.