Posts Tagged ‘Jack Thompson’

Real Video Game Villains: Jack Thompson

November 2, 2020

To me, “activist” usually denotes fighting for the powerless and being the voice of the voiceless. In that sense, Thompson was not an activist. He was the unhinged voice of the Christian Right and a lawyer (the latter I will not immediately hold against him). He first came to some prominence by crusading against Rap music. He fought for censorship in the now-infamous case against 2 Live Crew. Bolstered by his perceived success, he turned toward violence in video games.

He went hard against Grand Theft Auto 3, creating a huge fervor that caused my mom to make me return the game to Blockbuster. He said that the game was far too violent and that kids would be influenced to commit acts of violence. However, the game’s title was Grand Theft Auto so what did he expect. While violence is prevalent and rewarded in-game, characters who engage in violence are quickly punished.

He also railed against the game Manhunt (by Rockstar, the same publisher as GTA3). In Manhunt, you play as an ordinary person stuck in a twisted reality game show where a death row prisoner is offered his life and freedom if he can kill all of the other contestants (Running Man style). The game is designed to look and feel dirty as you murder people in horrible ways while trying to remain stealthy. The game is written to put the player in a huge gray area where you are forced to kill or die. You are not a hero.

The third major game he targeted was Bully (again developed by Rockstar). In Bully, you play as a young kid freshly arrived in a boarding school who must contend with the cliques in school often with violence and manipulation. The game plays a lot like GTA 3 with plenty of lewd and violent behavior. However, nobody has a gun and you more often use your fists, rubber bands, and stink bombs instead.

Jack Thompson made a lot of the same leaps of logic that other proponents of censorship go with. If a school shooter had a copy of one of these games, the games were the problem. He didn’t think about all of the people who played these games who did not engage in actual acts of violence. He was convinced that, as a born again Christian, he had to be the moral authority and save children from themselves. This probably comes from a belief that morality is an external thing gifted to humanity by God instead of something that is inherent or logical. In the case of Manhunt, he rose to the occasion because of an erroneous news report that a copy of the game was present in a criminal’s home.

The thing these people do not get is that most humans are fairly stable. Most people know the difference between fiction and real life. They know that many things that happen in video games are not acceptable to do in the real world. We would have way more problems if most of us did not have that solid line between fact and fiction. People would have been stomping on turtles in the Eighties.

Thompson created a lot of fire and fury in the 90s and 00s but it eventually died down as people started to look more at the actual causes of violence. Thompson eventually overstayed his welcome in the courts and was disbarred in Florida and quietly rode off into the sunset in disgrace. He was rightfully ridiculed and the games industry and games journalism came together to deal with him. He will be remembered as a lunatic but sadly probably made a lot of money with his fear-mongering activity.


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