A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Don't Drop the Soap, Gabe

Longtime readers will know that I’m a big fan of the Penny Arcade web comic; there is a link on my sidebar, after all. Reading that strip every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday is something of a treat for me, seeing as I spend most of each work week researching and writing some pretty dry material. After several hours of copywriting dullness, Tycho and Gabe (the avatars of Penny Arcade’s creators, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik) are always a welcome relief of gaming-related smartassery.

This is not to say that I agree with everything they do or say; from what I hear, Tycho is something of a Chomskyite liberal. Were you to lock he and I together in a room with, say, an adorable puppy, one of us would probably end up beating the other to death with it (I bet the guy in charge of locking-political-opposites-in-rooms-together goes through pallets of puppies that way). But I do agree with him on at least one real-world issue: Jack Thompson is an asshole.

Penny Arcade, 15Oct05 Posted by Picasa

Wikipedia has a huge article on Thompson here. Those interested in such details may go bask in its extraordinary comprehensiveness; for our immediate purposes it is enough to know that the old coot is a censorship advocate of the most extreme sort. Tycho and Gabe have been poking fun at him for months, but a few days ago the confrontation seems to have taken a more serious turn. My understanding of the situation is this: Thompson recently offered to donate $10,000 to charity in the name of anyone who created a game in which the makers of violent video games are themselves the victims. Several enterprising game designers went and did it - gee, never saw that coming - after which Thompson promptly backed out, claiming his offer was "satire". Yesterday Tycho and Gabe went ahead and donated the $10,000 to the ESA Foundation in his name, noting that "Thompson now claims that his repellent suggestion was 'satire', and we must conclude that his financial offer was also satire, some new breed of satire apparently that I'm sure is just hilarious to people in need."

Humiliated, Thompson has now threatened legal action. Apparently he's even faxed the Seattle police department, demanding that the infamous PA duo be arrested. I wonder ... which prison gang do you think is in charge of raping skinny gamers in the shower? Maybe they, you know, take turns.

Penny Arcade, 19Oct05 Posted by Picasa

For the record, I, like Gabe, do not think children should play exceedingly violent or sexual video games. But it is their parent’s job to monitor what they play, not the government’s, and certainly not Jack Thompson’s. Warning labels are fine – they tell parents what is inside without infringing on free speech – but outright censorship is an evil that free societies rightly shun. Even the culturally conservative National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) recently distanced itself from Thompson, issuing an open letter “condemning his use of biased and vitriolic tactics and asking him to refrain from implying that the Institute supports him and his work in any way”.

So there you have it; an interesting tidbit from the culture wars, care of your friends here at The Zoo. Oh, and on a side note: I’ve completely lost interest in EverQuest II … yes, I’m a fickle mushhead (though eight months on the same video game is actually pretty good for me). I’ve pre-ordered Civilization IV, however, which will likely return me to the bosom of turn-based strategy games. I've been longing for that ol' lover of mine anyway.