From: David Farber <email@example.com>
Date: Thursday, Oct 13, 2005 9:16 am
Subject: [IP] more on Gaming industry asked to victimize themselves for charity
Begin forwarded message:
From: Dave Wilson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: October 13, 2005 9:03:50 AM EDT
Subject: Re: [IP] Gaming industry asked to victimize themselves for charity
In the winter of 1874, a 14-year-old named Jesse Pomeroy was on trial for
kidnapping, mutilating and killing two children,
while on parole for torturing a series of younger boys when he was 12. His
eventual conviction makes him perhaps
America's youngest serial killer. The media circus leading up to Pomeroy's
appearance in court for murdering Mary Cullen
and Horace Mullen was dominated by a belief that his fiendish behavior was
influenced, or perhaps even caused, by a fad
that had swept up the nation over the past three years, the melodramatic
Experts said the sensational tales had corrupted Pomeroy. Without
immediate action to suppress the works or at least
keep them out of the hands of impressionable youths, they argued, any youngster exposed
to the material could be expected to engage in
the same sorts of otherwise inexplicable deeds. As the moralizing reached a
crescendo, Pomeroy himself took the stand. And
it was then the nation learned that Pomeroy was illiterate. By his own admission, he'd never read a book in his young life.
This story -- from a column I wrote in 1999 in the wake of Columbine -- is interesting, I think, for two reasons. It illustrates the fact that there's a pattern of blaming youth violence on whatever kids like at the time (jazz, rock, comics, movies, etc.). And it reminds people that murder by children is not a product of the modern age. Critics who charge that kids have never tried to kill people until the advent of video games are ignorant of history (although, to be charitable, many murders by children have almost certainly been wiped from the historical record, either because the adults in charge wanted to protect families or because they just couldn't believe a kid could do such a thing). Pomeroy, who appears to have been quite "sane" in the legal sense (he knew what he was doing was wrong, or at least against the law) was initially sentenced to death, but that was quickly commuted to life in prison since nobody really wanted to execute a child. He lived out nearly all the remainder of his life in solitary confinement (patiently hacking at the walls, floor, and bars of various cells for decades as he made dozens of attempts to escape prison, or at least get to somebody else he could kill). When heart disease rendered him harmless (he couldn't take more than a step before having to stop and catch his breath), he was finally transferred to a prison farm in 1929, where guards and other inmates would torment him by staying just out of arm's reach. He died in 1932. He lives on as a character in a couple of historical novels, and he's arguably the model used for such teen-horror staples as Freddy and Jason: amoral, sadistic, obsessive, and methodical.
Two points: Violent crime, and in particular violent crime committed by youth, has actually seen a steep decline since the introduction of videogames, according to statistics compiled by the U.S. Justice Department. So if there is a relationship between videogames and youth violence, it appears to be a positive one. (I'm not saying there is; I'm just saying that if you want to make causative arguments you should at least have some statistical evidence, and not just a few claims from kids facing prison time that a videogame made them do it). And finally, offering $10,000 for somebody to develop a videogame is rather amusing, since development costs for games today are in the range of a modest movie budget, starting at about $10 million. Maybe Mr. Thomson left a few zeros off?
David Farber wrote:
> Begin forwarded message:
> From: Frank Wales <email@example.com>
Date: October 12, 2005 5:08:14 PM EDT
To: Dave Farber <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Gaming industry asked to victimize themselves for charity
Dave, for IP, perhaps.
> Lawyer Jack Thomson proposes a videogame industry
bludgeon-fest as a new game scenario, in an apparent
attempt to taunt the videogame business into proving
that videogames don't influence violent behaviour:
Attorney Proposes Violent Game
> October 10, 2005
> by: Matt Saunderson
> Jack Thompson will give $10,000 to charity if any videogame
and releases a game based on a scenario he created. Miami, Florida
Jack Thompson, a long-time outspoken critic of violent and
videogames, has done something totally unexpected. Thompson today
proposed a violent videogame, and will pay $10,000 to the favorite
of Paul Eibeler (the Chairman of Take-Two Interactive) if any
company will "create, manufacture, distribute, and sell a video
game in 2006"
based on a scenario he created.
> Thompson's proposal is titled A Modest Video Game Proposal and has
to members of the press and apparantly to Douglas Lowenstein,
President of the ESA.
> Here's Thompson's proposal (italics are his, not ours):
> "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." The Golden Rule
> This writer has been saying for seven years that violent video games
can be "murder simulators" that incite as well as train some
obsessive teen players to be violent.
> I've been on 60 Minutes and in Reader's Digest this year
explaining how an
Alabama teen, with no criminal record, shot two policemen and a
in their heads and fled in a police car--a scenario he rehearsed
of hours on Take-Two/Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto video games.
> I have sat with boys in jail cells, their lives over because of murder
convictions, after they, with no history of violence, have killed
while in a dreamlike state. Said one cop who investigated such a
in Grand Rapids, Michigan: "The killing was like an extension of
> The video game industry, through its lawyers, its spokesmen, and
lobbyist, Doug Lowenstein, the president of the Entertainment Software
Association, all say it is utter nonsense to suggest that what is
into a kid's head hour after hour, day after day, year after year,
possibly have behavioral consequences. Cigarette ads can persuade kids
to smoke, but interactive simulators in which these same kids
bludgeon, and maim affect not a wit their attitudes and behaviors,
notwithstanding the findings of the American Psychological
published in August 2005.
> The video game industry says Sticks and stones can break my bones,
can never hurt me. Fine. I have a modest proposal for the video
I'll write a check for $10,000 to the favorite charity of Take-Two
Software, Inc's chairman, Paul Eibeler - a man Bernard Goldberg
ranks as #43
in his book 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America - if any video
will create, manufacture, distribute, and sell a video game in 2006
> Osaki Kim is the father of a high school boy beaten to death with
bat by a 14-year-old gamer. The killer obsessively played a
game in which one of the favored ways of killing is with a bat.
scene, before the interactive game play begins, is the Los Angeles
in which the killer is sentenced "only" to life in prison after
and the jury have heard experts explain the connection between the
game and the murder.
> Osaki Kim (O.K.) exits the courtroom swearing revenge upon the
video game industry
whom he is convinced contributed to his son's murder. "Vengeance
is mine, I
will repay" he says. And boy, is O.K. not kidding.
> O.K. is provided in his virtual reality playpen a panoply of
Uzis, revolvers, shotguns, sniper rifles, Molotov cocktails, you
Even baseball bats. Especially baseball bats.
> O.K. first hops a plane from LAX to New York to reach the Long
Island home of
the CEO of the company (Take This) that made the murder simulator
on which his
son's killer trained. O.K. gets "justice" by taking out this
female CEO, whose
name is Paula Eibel, along with her husband and kids. "An eye for
says O.K., as he urinates onto the severed brain stems of the
victims, just as you do on the decapitated cops in the real video
> O.K. then works his way, methodically back to LA by car, but on
his way makes
a stop at the Philadelphia law firm of Blank, Stare and goes floor
to wipe out the lawyers who protect Take This in its wrongful
death law suits.
"So sue me" O.K. spits, with singer Jackson Brown's 1980's hit
Lawyers in Love blaring.
> With the FBI now after him, O.K. keeps moving westward, shooting
video arcades called GameWerks. "Game over," O.K. laughs.
> Of course, O.K. makes the obligatory runs to virtual versions of
mortar retailers Best Buy, Circuit City, Target, and Wal-Mart to steal
supplies and bludgeon store managers and cash register clerks.
have checked kids' IDs!"
> O.K. pushes on to Los Angeles. He must get there by May 10, 2006.
the beginning of "E3" -- the Electronic Entertainment Expo -- the
of the video game industry. O.K. must get to E3 to massacre all
the video game
industry execs with one final, monstrously delicious rampage.
> How about it, video game industry? I've got the check and you've
got the tech.
It's all a fantasy, right? No harm can come from such a game,
right? Go ahead,
video game moguls. Target yourselves as you target others. I dare you.
> Jack Thompson is a Miami lawyer who has for 18 years been involved
to stop the marketing of adult entertainment to minors.
> It is unlikely that Thompson's proposal will actually be turned
into a game,
as most videogame companies do not simply accept proposals from
We'll keep you updated, however, as it is very likely that there
will be some
sort of response to Thompson's proposal from members of the
Archives at: http://www.interesting-people.org/archives/interesting-people/