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Bob Muir avatar 3:37 PM on 11.16.2007
Friday Rantoid: Thank you, Mr. Thompson, for being our nemesis



Author's Note: As you may have noticed, there was no Friday Rantoid last week, unlike the week before. Why? Because there will be a special triple-length (at least) Bonus Rantoid this Monday to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Wii, and I needed some time to get ahead on it. Expect another one next Friday as regularly scheduled!

Jack Thompson is Public Enemy #1 to the gaming industry. He is the greatest threat to creative freedom in the medium. The man will not stop until he sees games reduced to G-rated tripe so that sweet old ladies can be protected from our Satanic ways. He is the dark to our light, the Sephiroth to our Cloud, the Megatron to our Optimus Prime.* Society ill needs a savior such as him. So of course, the game industry's top priority should be taking him down...right? It seems as if that's the best option, but in reality, Thompson should be left alone and allowed to continue his crusade.

"Blasphemy!" the cries ring out. "Burn the heretic!" the townspeople roar. But before you light the fires, ask yourself this: what has he actually accomplished? Has gaming been destroyed by the mighty hammer of the censors? Is violence a thing of the past? Has the ESRB been ousted, replaced by a brutal regime that promotes newspeak? No. Even with the essentially-forced censorship of the torture porn game Manhunt 2, the strength of the ESRB has grown in favor of games with new campaigns about ratings and cooperation with current-gen parental controls. And despite the rise of proposed video game legislation, the ESA has succeeded at preventing the passage of any law that could have a cooling effect on the industry, including the bill that Thompson wrote for Louisiana state representative Roy Burrell. Public opinion may even be turning against video game regulation, since taxpayers end up paying the ESA's court fees every time a bill is defeated.

So is Jackie Boy a threat? Not in the least. First, consider the major battles he has fought. He started the whole Hot Coffee scandal over the unfinished sex minigame GTA: San Andreas (only unlockable by illegally hacking the game) and pushed forward the idea of video game legislation in lawmakers' minds. However, what was the result? Rockstar removed the content and put the game back on shelves. His next opponent? The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion and a user mod that made women topless. Nothing much came of it. At this point, Thompson was feeling full of himself and thinking he could make a difference, so he went after a sex scene in Killer 7. The only problem with his accusation was that Thompson had relied on a mistaken review; there was no actual nudity in the M-rated game.

From there, it was all downhill in his relevance to lawmakers. Last fall, Thompson crusaded against Rockstar's T-rated Bully for the crime of selling a "Columbine simulator" to kids. He filed a public nuisance complaint against Walmart, Take Two, and Gamestop, hoping to stop its distribution. The judge took a look at the game and saw no reason for it not to be released as a T-rated game. The game went on to sell even more copies because of the controversy. As you may remember, Jack Thompson was hasty in his assessment of the judge and had to defend himself for contempt of court. This was a major blow to him. As of now, the Florida Bar is moving to disbar him from practicing law.

So he's accomplished nothing. Meanwhile, how is his perception in the media? While he was once considered an expert on violence in video games by figures like Hillary Clinton, such figures have made a point to distance themselves from such a deranged madman. The National Institute on Media and the Family asked him to stop referencing their organizations in his campaigns. And during the most recent bloody school shooting, Virginia Tech, he asserted that it was all caused by video games, after which the media found that the killer had rarely played games in the past, discrediting him for that story.

Needless to say, public opinion on him is turning. While in the past he might have been called on by CNN to give his opinion in their report on Manhunt 2, there was no Thompson in sight, only logical reasoning, explanation of the rating system, and a look into the parental controls on consoles. The media has caught on that Thompson really doesn't know what he's talking about and is just spewing the same line about Columbine that got him attention in the past.

So I say, let Thompson have his fun. He's clearly incompetent at what he does, and any negative campaigns of his have easily been weathered by the video game industry. And just imagine if someone who knew what they were doing were the leader of the anti-game movement. We should be thankful that we have such an simple, powerless opponent to deal with.

*On second thought, scratch those comparisons. They make him sound way too cool for the hack he is.

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