411 Games Interview: Jack Thompson
If you frequent 411Mania’s Games section, then you can be considered a gamer on some level or another. As a gamer, it is more than likely that you have at least heard of Jack Thompson. For the past few years, Jack has been quite vocal about the selling of violent video games to minors. He states that games have much more of a direct effect on people than we are admitting.
In the last edition of What If? a question was asked involving what would happen in the scenario where Jack Thompson had control of Take-Two Interactive; the very company he has his sights on taking down. Well, Jack happened to come across the column with the help of Google News Reader. Needless to say, he had some words for me. When Jack suggested that I do more than wildly speculate what would happen in the above stated case, I suggested an interview. Jack graciously agreed to give us some of his time in order to answer some of Gaming Section’s staff questions. Below is the exclusive 411Mania interview with the one and only infamous Jack Thompson.
411: What are the purposes and your ultimate goal in buying shares of Take Two?
To be part of the inevitable effort, given his mismanagement of the company, to kick Strauss Zelnick’s ass out of the company.
411: If you have kids, what are the specific rules you give to them about gaming?
My son is not allowed to play age inappropriate games that glorify violence and objectify women. He agrees with me.
411: Why not direct the attention of your crusade to encouraging responsibility among parents? I am not talking as much about what games they buy for their kids (I do believe following the ratings helps) but about sitting down with their kids and helping them understand the difference between the game’s virtual reality and real life.
I encourage responsibility among parents, including the parents who are at cash registers who sell Mature games to other parents’ kids with their parents nowhere in sight. See, that is the sole issue for me. Is the industry going to stop selling Mature games to kids under 17 with no parent in sight. The industry says it wants parents to be fully involved in the buying process. Fine, then get your lying butts, Wal-Mart and Best Buy and Target to the 94% age compliance rate of GameStop. How did GameStop do that? By having “zero tolerance” for the sale of M games to anyone under 17. You do that and you the clerk gets fired and the store manager gets fired. It’s freaking easy. Instead, all of the retailers are selling, with no age restriction and no age verification all games to anyone of any age via Internet sales. We’re closing that loophole in Utah, and that law we are going to pass there is going to spread like wildfire.
411: As violent as video games have become, movies are (and have been for a long time) more violent and explicit than games themselves. When you compare the cartoonish violence of games like Mortal Kombat with the explicit gore of movies like the Saw series, I think we all agree the movie violence is far worse. Why direct your attention to games and not movies and other media?
No, we don’t all agree. Played Manhunt 2? Psychologists can prove that interactive violence is more likely to modify behavior than passively consumed violence. A peer-reviewed study in Neuroscience, I believe, found that game play teaches you behaviors. See, you are only looking at one side of the coin. One side is the appetite for violence. The other side is the training of skills to act out the violence. Games train you, which is why the military uses them. Not just for violence encouragement but for training effective skills. It’s a double whammy, which is why gamers who massacre (there have been some, want a list?) are very good at what they do.
411: As a follow-up question, pornography is widely available through the internet and any kid that knows how to operate a computer can access it as easily as typing “naked girls” in any search engine. This can easily expose kids to images that their young minds are not ready to process or understand. Why is this less of a concern than prostitutes and a moving car in Grand Theft Auto, when clearly, in GTA you don’t see anything (it’s all left to the imagination) while pictures and video are way too explicit?
It’s not less of a concern. I have been involved in efforts against porn for 20 years and its distribution to kids. The US Supreme Court has hamstrung efforts to restrict content via the Internet. Not so as to tangible products you can buy in a store. The Court is behind the curve on the danger of the Internet. Not my fault.
411: The media have been quick to label your actions as “moral crusades”. To what extent do you see a connection between your moral crusades against pop-culture, and the political crusades against communism instigated by Senator Joseph McCarthy 1947-57. How do you react to accusations of ‘scare-mongering?
I did my honors thesis in college on the McCarthy error. Big difference. He made stuff up, I have facts. There are literally thousands of scientific studies that prove certain entertainment materials — porn and violence — can be harmful to minors. I didn’t make that up. I am not on a crusade. I believe in public safety, and I have spent countless hours with families whose loved ones are in the ground at the hands of a gamer who trained on a killing game to kill them. That changes your life. It motivates you. You know, if you’re a liberal on a “crusade” you’re simply a community organizer or a concerned social activist. But you find someone who is a Christian who acts on his social conscience, and he’s on a religious jihad or some kind of nut. I was trained as a lawyer to use the law. That is what I do. It drives the other side crazy, that I might actually know what I am doing. If I had not been effective, you wouldn’t be interviewing me, now would you? These people are so afraid, they have yanked my law license because I appeared on 60 Minutes. Sounds to me like they’re the ones that are paranoid. Some real free speechers, aren’t they?
411: Have you ever considered forming your own gaming company in order to produce the kinds of games you think may be of benefit to the gaming community? This would allow you the opportunity to show the world exactly what you’re for, instead of what you’re against.
No, other people are doing that. I’m having too much fun doing what I do. We’re about to get a huge video game bill passed in Utah. That is what I do. I leave the game design to smarter, more talented people than I.
411: Jack, we have to ask. Do you have a favorite game?
Yep. Golf. I’m a four handicap, and I could kick all of your butts! That’s my three-dimensional video game, and I love it. Besides, it gives me a better tan than a CRT.
411: Thank you very much for your time and best of luck in future endeavors.
Cheers. I enjoyed it. You have been very nice. Let’s do it again. Now I’m off to watch American Idol and beat the living dickens out of my Simon Cowell blow up doll!
There you have it. Hopefully this gives you a bit more understanding as to what Jack’s goals are. Again, thanks to Mr. Thompson for agreeing to take part in the interview.