For reference,

Article 1: here
Article 2: here
Article 3: here

Here is my letter to CBS's GameCore.

Dear GameCore,

I read the commentary by Jack Thompson, Scott Ramsoomair, and Tim Buckley on the topic of violence in video games, and I would like to make some comments of my own. I am a college student and longtime gamer as well as a moderator on Scott's web forum. I have met hundreds of gamers and parents and have seen the good, bad, and ugly of the industry, so to speak. Those are my credentials on this subject.

First, there are many video games that are violent in one way or another. While not everything reaches the level of "murder simulator," as Mr. Thompson puts it, there are games of all genres that have violent or aggressive acts worked into the game play. Tim used the goomba example from Super Mario Bros. to illustrate this, and I agree.

Mr. Thompson then argues that the more brutal of these games desensitize young people to violence and killing. I would say Mr. Thompson only has half of the picture here. Video games definitely do desensitize young people to all sorts of things: violence, language, sex, etc. By no means are games the only form of entertainment that do this, but that is for another debate. The problem with Thompson's argument is that he does not seem to separate or recognize the separation between real-life killing vs. killing on a TV or computer screen.

And of course, why would he? After all, he is just as bad as the "whores" (his wording, not mine) who are working for the video game industry. He is not interested in the truth about associations between video games and violence; his purpose is to prove that there is a link no matter what, and he is therefore only interested in the specific facts that serve to prove his case. We who have ethics tend to call such people "shysters." But I digress.

For the last two years, I have gone to Otakon, a very large annual Baltimore convention which features anime, video games, and several similar "subcultures" related to Japan. If you ever want to know what true gamers are like, go to one of these conventions and see for yourself. You will undoubtedly find a large spectrum of people, from those who just come to see what the latest game releases are, to the hardcore fans who dress up as their favorite characters while they are at the convention. Some carry fake weapons with them if they are dressed as, say, a ninja character. REAL swords were in fact for sale in the Otakon Dealers' Room, and several people bought these at the event. Yet nobody killed each other, of course. Even though this is Baltimore, a city where the murder rate flat-out alarms anyone who has moved here from the Midwest (another thing I know from personal experience), and even though there were very violent video games being played at this convention.

What you have to understand about people raised in a culture of video games, the Internet, and modern media in general, is that while they are definitely desensitized to just about everything under the sun, they still tend to know right from wrong, and they are extremely good at separating fantasy from reality. And if you think about it, that should actually make sense; they grew up learning that Mario could jump on a goomba, and the goomba would not really be hurt the way a human would. They learned from experience and from example that one instance is real, the other fake. On the contrary, the people who usually fail to separate video game violence from real violence are the ones who know these games least: activist groups who think they can tell everyone else what is / is not appropriate without actually watching or reviewing or playing anything first.

In short, people in general should educate themselves on this subject more before they pass judgment as Mr. Thompson has. I agree with Tim that parents should watch what their children play and take more responsibility. I empathize with parents who did not grow up in this same culture and honestly do not know what is out there or how they can protect their child, but these parents need to realize that it is their duty to learn the facts and act accordingly, not go to the industry and ask it to do this for them.

Moreover, the teaching of right vs. wrong is invaluable compared to any benefit censorship or regulation would bring. Millions of gamers worldwide are aware of this. They'll kill and maim and torture for make-believe game points while wearing a samurai outfit at a convention, but the second they turn their consoles off and go back into reality, the overwhelming majority of them would never hurt a fly.

Conversely, the societal cost of regulation far outweighs any benefit to banning or restricting video game violence further. More regulation may make some parents even more ignorant than they already are of their children's upbringing, since if they think the industry has taken care of things, they might be less likely to watch over their kids and take more responsibility themselves. Also, further regulation begs the classic anti-censorship question of, "When does it stop?" Thompson mentions a "harness" that allows somewhat free movement therein. Who determines what this harness consists of and how tightly it should be fastened? People who do not know anything about games? Lawyers like Jack Thompson? Or worse yet, politicians? Don't even get me started on politicians and censorship.

I have seen the video game generation firsthand, and I am not in the least afraid of what it will bring to the future. A future with a bunch of Jack Thompsons running around deciding right and wrong for the rest of us, however... That idea scares the crap out of me.


William Keay