For those who haven’t heard about the recent clash between Jack Thompson and the gaming world, this makes an interesting cautionary tale on how not to run a smear campaign. Jack is a the sort of despicable lawyer (contrary to popular belief that is not a tautology) who gives ambulance chasers a bad name. He regularly harangues the gaming industry regarding their violent and explicit content under the pretence of wanting to protect the children. Recently he even managed to get Hillary Clinton to jump on his cobbled-together-bandwagon that relies on inflamatory hyperbole and very little else. Indeed, there are few gamers who actually argue that kids should be buying games containing mature content; it’s common sense. What I do object to is the suggestion that having played a few hours of GTA: San Andreas, I am now a veritable time bomb just waiting to go off in spectacular fashion as I decide to enact a sequence of the game and go on a carjacking killing spree. If anyone has a camcorder I recommend you start following me now — this could be your big documentary filmmaking breakthrough.
Jack decided to up the ante recently, clearly not content with making comparisons between Doug Lowenstein of the ESA and Hitler. In his latest stunt, A Modest Video Game Proposal, he offered to donate $10,000 to charity if gamers would bring to life his design: a story about a vengeful father rampaging and brutally murdering key figures of the gaming industry, which in targeting (albeit thinly veiled) real individuals was, frankly, disgusting. And let’s face it, he’s no Jonathon Swift. Realising how volatile and damaging he was to their cause, a previously allied pro-family group publicly distanced itself from him. Attempts to discuss the benefits of the gaming community from Penny Arcade (who also run a highly successful gaming charity called Child’s Play) were met with screaming abuse and threats to sue.
And in expecting to silence his adversaries, Jack made a rather dire miscalculation. A group of GTA modders, Fighting Hellfish, went ahead and made his game. Realising his mistake, Jack not only tried to suggest that these gamers were too stupid to understand his witty satire, but also withdrew his charity offer. In an inspired move, Gabe and Tycho at Penny Arcade smeared a generous dose of sodium chloride into the open wound by donating the full $10,000 dollars themselves in his name. No doubt Jack will be back, but I certainly hope he chooses to lie low for a while after this catastrophe.