Archive - Oct 2005

October 18th

Unlikely Praise For An Unlikely Target

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Memo to Jack Thompson: THANK YOU FOR BEING DUMB.

That is not a phrase you see often in this space. Our whole driving idea here is that dumb people ruin things for the rest of us, and that is not something we should be thanking them for. Yet I mean this with all sincerity - Jack Thompson is, in the long run, helping things.

This is because Jack Thompson is to video games what Fred Phelps is to homosexuality. Only better, because people still take Jack Thompson seriously. For those who don't know, he's the Florida lawyer who's taken over from Joe Lieberman as the nation's leading crusader against violent video games. Mainly because Joystick Joe has a day job, and Joystick Jack does not. Or has found some way to make bitching about Rockstar his day job.

And he is quite bugfuck about it. Going on and on about murder simulators, yelling at people, making vague allegations about psychological damage, comparing pro-family conservatives who aren't fully behind him to Hitler-appeasers, etc. For the most part, unlike Joystick Joe, Jack Thompson has the time to stay on top of industry trends, so you will rarely find him targeting a three-year-old horror title nobody played in the first place. Instead, he targets stuff like Manhunt, which is two years old, and nobody liked.

The point is, he's all rabid and frothy about it, and that's why, in a way I pray he never finds out, he's helping, in that special way only an alarmist retard can.

You see, the Jack Thompsons of this world are able to spread their alarmist retardation to opportunistic politicians. The opportunistic politicians then want to look like they're doing something about the horrible problem. Not bothering to research the subject, they then craft laws like California's Assembly Bill 1179, preventing the sale or rental of violent video games to minors.

And then boneheads like Schwarzenegger sign 1179, probably not even reading it, because it contains obviously Thompson-inspired passages like the following. ACTUAL LAW TIME!

"Even minors who do not commit acts of violence suffer psychological damage from prolonged exposure to violent video games."

"'Violent video game' means a video game in which the range of options available to a player includes killing, maiming, dismembering, or sexually assaulting an image of a human being, if those acts are depicted in the game in a manner that ... [e]nables the player to virtually inflict serious injury upon images of human beings or characters with substantially human characteristics in a manner which is especially heinous, cruel, or depraved in that it involves torture or serious physical abuse to the victim.

The bill then proceeds to sort-of define "cruel". "depraved", and "physical abuse", "torture", and "heinous", the last of which strikes me as particularly funny. It's defined as "shockingly atrocious", which means you can boil the California law into a cereal jingle. "Don't sell heinous games, they're shockingly atrocious!"

The other great thing about the law, and this is where Jack Thompson's helpful influence comes in, is that it cannot possibly stand up to constitutional scrutiny in the courts. It's vague, it sets up a bizarre definition for "violent games" that lies outside the industry's own system, requires that games that meet this vague definition carry a black sticker, and as quoted above, makes some startlingly unproven claims about the impact of violence on kids.

So a rabid, frothing activist causes a rabid, frothing law to be passed. When it is inevitably overturned (and the software companies have already sued to do just that), it will mean that any future attempts to legislate against game content will have a much tougher hurdle. Will future opportunistic lawmakers bother to carefully craft a game law that passes constitutional muster, or will they just bag it for a long liquid lunch? I know where my bets are.

And it's all thanks to Jack Thompson working people up into a frenzy. Thanks, Jack, for being such a fucking idiot.