The world is split with division. It’s always been like that and that’s also true when it comes to the gaming community at large. There’s always going to be some spirited debate as to which video game console rules and which one sucks. There’s also the entire console vs. PC war that’s been going on for a while now. There’s really no right side as it all boils down to a matter of opinion. Some people love and will stay loyal to a particular video game console series. Some prefer the convenience of video game consoles while others love the sheer power and customizability PCs brings.
However, from one shining brief moment in history, there was indeed a time when all creeds of gamers banded together into one unifying voice. That’s because there was one common enemy we had to face off against. This person has since faded from the limelight and we hardly ever hear from this person lately as his soapbox was taken away from him.
Does anyone remember Jack Thompson?
I’m betting a lot of you gamers forgot about him. I’m also betting a lot of the younger generation of gamers don’t even know who Jack Thompson is. Well, the short version of his history is that Jack Thompson waged war on the video game industry as a whole and tried to limit the amount of content you can experience in a video game, no matter what age you are. This activism did make him the video game world’s biggest enemy and, by pure happenstance, united the entire gaming community against a common enemy.
Now, I will try to be fair and say that, maybe, just maybe, his heart was in the right place. Of course, it’s more likely Jack Thompson just loved being a troll to the video game world, loved the attention he was getting, believed it was his way into politics, wanted to make a lot of money by suing video game companies or a combination of all of those factors. Whatever the case, Jack Thompson, for a long time, was the face of saying violent video games causes real life violence and gamers, well, we didn’t take to that insinuation all too kindly.
You have to remember that, during his heyday, there was still a huge moral panic against video games and how it might cause real life violence. Just before Jack Thompson popped up, there was already a lot of chatter about violent video games and how it was corrupting the youth. In fact, just a few years prior, we had the US Congress going after video game violence and, because of all of that, the ESRB rating system was created.
Even with the entire ESRB rating system already implemented, there was still some concern about how video games have been molding children’s brains to become hardened killers and… hooligans, I guess. So, even with the video game industry policing themselves with this ratings systems, a lot of people with more conservative values and people who would rather give a knee jerk reaction by blaming something they don’t understand instead of trying to dig deeper, they were still unsatisfied with this resolution. This just made it the right time for someone like Jack Thompson to step in and blame all the woes on something like violent video games.
And this is what Jack Thomson did. Boy, did he ever!
It seem as if whenever there was some high profile shooting, there would be Jack Thompson on the news immediately claiming that the alleged killer was inspired by or trained on something like Halo or Doom. When there was some form of mass shooting wherein the perpetrator was in his teens or younger, Jack Thomspon would be quick to point the finger at any possible violent video games he was “trained” on. He would even go defend In general, Jack Thomson was eager to point the blame on the developers of the games.
While he did have his sights trained on the video game industry as a whole, he was generally super laser focused on one particular game developer and publisher, Take Two, for obvious reasons. After all, Take Two are the same guys who released the uber popular Grand Theft Auto series. They were the prime target and he would usually site the fact that the perpetrators of these crimes have played games like Grand Theft Auto. Never mind the fact that, because of how popular Grand Theft Auto was at the time, the chances of someone playing some version of it was more than likely.
Jack Thompson is, for the most part, not in the public eye anymore. It wasn’t his attack on the video game industry that caused him to disappear. Rather, it was his overall antics that led to his downfall. At various times, he had attacked, sued and even filed petitions against various individuals. This led several complaints against him, reaching the Florida Bar. Oh, and it just so happened that Jack Thompson had attacked, sued and even filed against the Florida Bar! So, it came to no surprise that he was eventually disbarred from practicing law in the State, which just so happened to be the only state he was registered under. As of 2016, Jack Thompson is now teaching civics courses to prison inmates in Florida. He still pops his head from under the sand once in a while. In 2018, he made himself available as an “expert” regarding video game violence after another mass shooting event.
Now, if you’re reading this, you might think all of this is silly. Blaming video games for real life violence? There just doesn’t seem to be any connection with the two because we’ve all experienced it. Millions of people play games like Call of Duty and other games where you have to shoot the other person. Yet I don’t know anyone personally who has played Call of Duty or these other shooters who have shot another person because they did the same thing in the game. We know it’s fiction and it’s just a video game. And just because we did it in a video game, that doesn’t make us feel like we can do the same thing in the real world.
However, you do have to realize that a lot of non-gamers still don’t understand that there is no real legitimate connection between the two. In fact, just a couple of years ago, we had the sitting President of the United States still proclaiming that a huge contributing factor of a major mass shooting in the country was because, you guessed it, violent video games. So, yes. Jack Thompson may be gone from the public eye but his rallying cry is still being touted even to this day. However,
I will say things are much better now, though. It seems like, back then, video games were the magic boogeyman when it came to all the world’s ills. It became commonplace to connect the two events even though there isn’t still any concrete proof of how violent video games actually leads to kids causing real life violence. I believe that’s because the kids who grew up playing video games then are now grown up and instinctively know the argument is baseless. But before, when video games were a little more niche, we had people like Jack Thompson in the forefront of spreading this kind of misinformation.
I guess I have to partially thank Jack Thompson for this. He was indeed a common foe every gamer had to defend against back then. We may have been split by our own ideologies even then and we would disagree about a lot of stuff. But, when it came to Jack Thompson, we all agreed on something.
What’s your take on Jack Thompson or even violent video games? Let me know in the comments section below!