I'm sure that many people in the gaming community don't disagree with most your views on selling violent games to minors. Given this, don't you think you would get more support for your cause by being less overtly threatening towards what remains a popular past time?
I'm not out to make friends. I have enough of those. I'm out to accomplish something to protect children and the innocent victims who are sometimes harmed by kids made more aggressive and more violent by the murder simulators on which they practice that violence.
The world has enough folks who identify a problem, speak out, wring their hands and move on. In fact, it was your country's Winston Churchill who said: "Most people when they stumble across the truth, pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and move on as if nothing had happened." I have sat in rooms with families whose loved ones are gone because some kid trained on a game to kill them. Gamers can scoff at that, they can say it didn't happen, but all the science coming out of Harvard and from the American Psychological Association, and now out of the US Supreme Court in the Roper vs. Simmons case draws the causal link between these games, the violent ones, and teen violence.
Cocaine is a popular "past time," too. That doesn't make its consumption, certainly by kids, something we ought to look away from. I don't gauge what I do based upon polls, and certainly not polls of gamers. I couldn't care less what some 14-year-old thinks is good or not good for him. I listen to scientists, health care providers, public safety officials, and I base what I do based upon their findings, not what some readers of Game Informer magazine wish was true because of how they waste their time.
Previously you've campaigned against obscenity in rap music and broadcast media (the constant stream of 'real-life' violence from news programmes, especially the ongoing conflict in Iraq seems pertinent here). Do you believe videogames to be more or less of a threat than these other 'influencing' mediums?
Well, first off, war is not a "medium." It is a real Hell. There is, however, no question that war brutalizes both the people maimed and those who do the maiming. One of the leading experts on that is Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, a former Army Ranger whose book, On Killing, was nominated for a Pulitzer. Dave, who has become a dear friend and who is one of our experts in the Alabama wrongful death case against Take-Two, which will financially destroy Take-Two, has written extensively about the scientific proof that violent video games are murder simulators that train soldiers and civilians to kill. Grossman writes of the devastating psychological cost of getting a human being into that mindset. It is a matter of training, conditioning, and desensitization. That is why British and American military establishments use violent virtual reality simulators to get new recruits to kill.
Beyond that, video games are the most dangerous of all violent media, because they are interactive. You actually enter into doing the violence. Psychologists explain that interactive violence is a far more effective and quick means of behavior modification. But video games are a neutral technology. You can electrify or incinerate a city with nuclear fission. The fission is not the problem. The problem is what you do with it. Likewise, video games are tremendous teaching tools, because of their powerful nature, but what we do with them is what is problematic. Evil can find its way into any technology, because evil is in every heart. Certainly mine. But the difference is that I know that. I think most teen gamers have no freaking idea what evil is, and thus they are more easily preyed upon by it. I'm a Christian. The Bible explains all this. Kids would do well to read it as well as their cheat code manuals.
Are you aware of the free online game entitled 'America's Army'? It is a free online 'shooter' game that pits two teams against each other to fight to the death. The game was developed and is continually subsidised by the United States Army with the open intent to recruit young people into the armed forces. The guns are realistic, the sounds are excellent, and the tactical attention to detail is superb - this is all because it has been developed by actual soldiers. Upon being shot, the player will simply disappear without any suggestion of bodily trauma. Is this perhaps not significantly more obscene than representing any amount of fictitious gore, by misrepresenting the results of actual violence?
It is not, obscene, in the legal sense of the term, but it is outrageous. Gamers need to do their homework on me. I was on ABC's World News Tonight three years ago explaining how outrageous it is that taxpayers are subsidizing a violent video game distributed free to teens when this same government found the link between violent video games (Doom) and what happened at Columbine. The creation of the America's Army game is a scandal. By the way, there is classified information in the game, which is an illegal act, and our government's contracting with a Japanese company, Sony, to create the game violates a treaty the US entered into after WWII not to use Japanese companies to create military products of any kind, including training simulators. So our government has broken the law in a number of ways to make this game. I wrote the arrogant Don Rumsfeld ten times telling him that America's Army was a big mistake. I said that on ABC News at the time. Probably why I was profiled for a ten-minute piece last month on ABC's Nightline.
As you can see, by God's grace, I've been on this issue quite some time. I'm not as dumb and ineffectual as I look. The industry fears me because they know I don't quit.
Is it fair that certain games should be banned from the whole gaming populace, despite the argument that only a tiny minority of gamers are easily influenced?
No, of course not. In a free society, adults can pretty much get what they want and should. You gamers need to get off the "Jack Thompson wants to ban video games" nonsense. I had a kid in New York call me the other day screaming at me because of that. I said please, listen to my real position. He listened. He was a nice and polite guy. When I was done, he said "Hey, I agree with everything you have to say on this. This was very cool." I asked him what prompted him to call. He said, "Our eighth grade social studies class was talking about you, and I though I would call you." I said, "Tell your teacher I will be happy to address the entire class by speaker phone so they can hear what my real views are as the industry's chief critic," and he said that was very cool. Facts are very, very cool. Caricatures of critics are stupid.
In the past you have directed criticism towards games such as The Sims 2 for alluding to areas of inappropriateness. The instance of Sims 2 it was in the blur that covered the characters nudity, which could only be removed using a user created and unlicensed alteration of the game. Your qualm was that the blur itself suggested nudity. This is, in effect, the suggestion of nudity, in a visual medium (the game), which is itself a suggestion, this is reality twice removed, such as a painting of a photogragh of an apple. Do you worry that there might be some overspill from more zealous censorship groups that will outlaw even allusions to suggestions of inappropriateness?
Once again, you have totally mischaracterized my position. I think it would be nice if people would actually ask me what I think or at least read what I have actually written. The problem was not that the blur suggested nudity. The problem was and is that the brilliant but reckless person who created the Sims (I forget his name) has openly and actively encouraged mods of his figures. That has led to all sorts of porn available on the web to kids. This is not surmise. Go Google the sites. To underscore the legitimacy of my concern, the ESRB's Patricia Vance, picking up on my lead, shortly after the Sims flap informed the entire industry that developers' failures to protect their own copyrighted images and codes and so force was unacceptable and would lead to a gutting of the whole copyright concept. She noted that a failure of companies to go after modders who modded a teen product into adult product was a huge problem for which the developers were responsible by virtue of their laxity.
When she did that, I felt like Jeff Goldblum's character in Jurassic Park, when the t-rex comes through the de-electrified fence. He mutters, "Damn, I hate being right all the time." I'm not right all the time, but Vance got it, and I was right, and to the extent that the Sims folks or anyone else allow copyright infringers to modify their figures into porn, then they too are responsible for the consequences, to their copyright's dilution and the harm to kids that flows from it.