Thursday, November 8, 2007

The "Jack Thompson Debate" Idea is Over-Rated

GamePolitics has run a number of stories on the rumor, later squashed, of a Jack Thompson debate at the GDC, in addition to the debate that already occurred. In fact, GP's recent poll is on this very topic. I'd like to voice an opinion that really hasn't surfaced in any of the gaming media on this topic.

The Jack Thompson Debate at GDC would be a waste of time and have no real benefit for the industry.

I'm sure more than a few readers may be outraged by this statement, but I have four specific reasons for my position.

1. It won't change Jack's position.
It has become readily apparent that no amount of reason, logic, or factual evidence, much less the vocal and emotional pleas from fans, will sway Mr. Thompson. He will, in all likelyhood, hold the same stance from now until his death in the distant future. And in the mean time, he will use every waking moment to fight what he considers the "good fight." Mr. Thompson is the definition of a zealot, and although another debate will likely serve point 4, it won't change Mr. Thompson's mind. In fact, I doubt his mind would change if he soundly lost a million debates.

2. It won't reach the mainstream media.
Ultimately, this whole issue is about the perception of the video game in the main stream media and in the main stream American's mind. A debate at a conference of game developers won't make it on CNN or FoxNews or MSNBC. At best, it will make its rounds through the game fan circles, the game media, and maybe the technology media crowd, who are already overwhelmingly opposed to Mr. Thompson's position. The impact on society at large would more than likely be negligible.

3. It gives Jack more free press and attention.
I know my mother always told me to ignore a bully. By bringing in Mr. Thompson for a debate, it will make him the center of attention. And, when asked about the event, I'm sure he will spin his take on the event to his benefit, no matter the outcome. It's another line for his resume that we don't need to provide.

4. Jack would lose, but the only benefit would be an ego boost to people in the industry.
Here's the one benefit, if you can consider it that. Essentially, no matter how large or small the loss, the industry will be happy. And perhaps a video of the event might make its rounds into more mainstream parts of society. But ultimately, it's an ego boost without an impact to the mainstream. We all need ego boosts sometime, but I really think the net benefit here is fairly minimal.

I must admit I am relieved to see that, so far, the GDC has not arranged for this debate to actually occur. To me, the circus that would follow the debate would detract from the conference, and ultimately prove to have little or no benefit to the anti-game censorship cause. However, that is just my opinion, and so feel free to disagree.


Jack Thompson said...

Most folks there thought I won the debate in Philly against Lorne Lanning. Everyone except Lorne.

Read the account at

As to needing the publicity, dude, get real. I've been on 60 Minutes twice, Today eight times, and even Oprah. I don't need the publicity. Gamers need to hear the truth. The industry needs to be told to their faces that adult games shouldn't be sold to minors, and if they keep doing so, then the feds are going to regulate the industry.

I don't need the gig. The industry needs to be hit upside the head with the truth. Beside, the majority even at GP said the debate was a good idea.

Galen Rice said...

The industry knows that adult games shouldn't be sold to minors: that's why there's a rating system.

And before you even begin to talk about how much it's failed because it's not enforced, take a look at the movie industry: they also have a voluntary ratings system that is followed by most, MOST, retailers and theaters. And even then, children are readily able to get their hands on R-rated films.

There is no logical way you can claim that the sale of R-rated movies to minors is any different from the sale of M-rated games to minors, except that, as a relatively new medium, game retailers are not being as strict about the ratings system as movie retailers are. Just wait ten years when the kids who grew up with the ESRB rating their games are in control, and you'll see strict enforcement on-par with that at movie retailers.

Yet, kids will still be able to get their hands on R-rated films, kids will still be able to get their hands on M-rated games, and no law seeking to regulate the sale of either will ever make it past the Supreme Court in the next thousand years. That is the truth, and YOU, not I or Mr. Methenitis, need to hear it.

As for debate, you won't even debate me via email. You've proven to me that you not only need the publicity, but crave it. Get real yourself, bub.

BoosterBoy said...

The idea of a debate with Jack Thompson is indeed an exciting one. And not because of the potential punches to be thrown thrown, insults to be exchanged, ego-boosts to be gained, nor because I'm the kind of person who likes to see the man fail time and again (I am, it's just not the reason this time).

Merely, it's exciting in the same way as people were excited by the idea of Manhunt 2 and its surrounding press coverage. Here in the UK the game was infact originally refused classification by the BBFC, effectively banning its sale to UK audiences - the second time such a thing has occurred.

Beyond the controversy that created here, very few people (I'll stop short of saying 'nobody') actually care about the game. Certainly nobody in my circle of friends, industry contacts and online gaming buddies actually owns nor intends to purchase Manhunt 2 for their system.

The idea and the controversy is interesting. The actual product is sub par.

Graham Campbell