Violence!

Tomorrow on 60 Minutes there will be a story about a case involving a teenager and violent video games. From CBS’s website:

GRAND THEFT AUTO – Can a violent videogame called Grand Theft Auto be responsible for an 18-year-old murdering three people? That’s what the families of the victims are saying in a lawsuit and to Ed Bradley.

I believe these families are being represented by Jack Thompson, attorney extraordinaire. Earlier this week, there was a great “Fisking” (I love these blogging terms) by Josh at Cathode Tan. He dismantles pretty much everything the attorney Jack Thompson has said. (Man it’s hard not calling that guy names. It’s been done so well, by so many other people). It’s an excellent read, as are most of the comments that follow.

This is a perfect example of the power of blogging. It takes some leg work to do this and I’m glad Josh did his homework. He responds to Thompson’s comments/opinions/rants with a level-head. He doesn’t resort to personal attacks and name calling, as Mr. Thompson has been known to do. He points out flaws in the argument and then has examples and counterpoints to reinforce his points.

There are plenty of examples of this in the political blogging community (too many to cite any one example in particular) but blogs keep the so-called “MSM” on their toes. This type of leg work is just now starting to show up in gaming blogs. One I remember, in particular, was the GBA Disney game that had a swear word in it. Gasp! The story was originally found on The Sun (the link to the story seems to be gone) but is quoted here. This was just some shoddy reporting and no real research on the part of the writer. Just a knee-jerk reaction to a swear word on a Disney game. Did he think a game with the Disney name on it could make it through their Quality Control without this being caught? That’s quite a leap of journalistic faith. Actually, the game turned out to be a pirated version (hat tip to Video Fenky) and the pirates had a little shout-out to their competition. But it was the bloggers (and other interested parties, namely, gamers with brains) that righted this wrong. Jack Thompson needed someone to right some of his “wrongs”. While we’ve previously seen some mentions of Thompson which prove this guy measures way high on the wackiness meter (here, here and elsewhere) but no one had really taken him to task until Josh analyzed some of the stuff he has said.

Once Josh posted this, gamers and gaming bloggers took over and this spread pretty quickly. Evil Avatar had it first, since Josh submitted it there but it immediately spawned comments and opinions from fellow EAers. Penny-Arcade picked it up from EA and even though Tycho doesn’t talk directly to the issue at hand, he does make some good points:

… However, the man is essentially building his legacy on the broken bodies of desperate teenagers. Countering the man rationally will serve no purpose, the imagery is too potent. I’m powerless to dissect a sermon like that, simply because the task is so vast. There are a hundred ways his piece dissembles, exaggerates, omits key points, or relies on flourish and appeals, but his motif is perfectly packaged for media. The man spins at ten thousand RPM.

The importance of exposure on Penny-Arcade (or a similar site like EA) can’t be underestimated. Whether they consider themselves bloggers or not, they have an audience of millions and a link from their news stories will drive big time traffic to a site, with thousands of eyes pouring over all your hard work. I’m sure Josh got a nice big jump in traffic from that linkage. This link spawns hundreds of little links (like buttonmashing) and others, like the ones found here, here, or here, here, here, here, and here. (If there are others, let me know). This puts the story in front of even more eyes, most importantly those that have never heard of PA. (I know, it’s hard to believe, but some people haven’t been enlightened.) Call it a meme, call it whatever, but it’s out there for more and more people to see. Hopefully it is enough to counterbalance all the tripe that was spewed out in the first place. This is the voice of the gamer. The voice of a group of people who care about this form of entertainment and desperately want it to be respected and not blamed for everything that’s wrong with society. There were sicko killers and criminals before video games and there will be many more after. We just want some equal footing when defending our hobby of choice. One side of the story really isn’t an argument.

This voice of the gamer probably won’t be heard on tomorrow’s show. I’m afraid it will be one-sided and biased. But the blogging groundwork has been laid and we can also be vocal and have our voice heard. Places like Penny-Arcade and Evil Avatar (among others) have loyal followers that can be mobilized to do great things. Gaming bloggers can also do their part. Heck, we could stoop as low as GoogleBombing Thompson’s “help site” with something like “Clinically Insane“. But we gaming bloggers are above childish tomfoolery, right? We can, however, point people to Josh’s post and let them make their own conclusions. We can watch the bit on 60 minutes and actually debate the points they bring up. It will make us want to scream obscenities at the TV and then get on our favorite forum to call Thompson names not-fit-for-print but we must restrain ourselves and not allow ourselves to be baited into that trap. We just need some even-handed comments and discussions. No name calling! We are Mature Gamers, remember?

I’ll be watching the 60 minutes episode hoping both sides of the story are shown. I know they don’t have the best record of doing that, but one can hope. But I’ll definitely be blogging my thoughts. Until then…

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