A Jack Thompson Response

Bloggers in the video game realm know they’ve truly “made it” when Jack Thompson personally responds to a post. While I haven’t been able to verify the identity 100%, the responses I received are generally consistent with Mr. Thompson’s form, so I thought I would take this opportunity to respond to them, but without the name calling Mr. Thompson feels necessary to include.

jackthompson said…

Dennis McCauley got it wrong, of course and as usual. The FTC reg pertains to use of a credit card to verify a parent’s identity, not a minor’s age. Go read what he links to at the FTC on his site, and you’ll find you’re wrong.

It is a violation of bank card agreements to use credit cards as age verifiers, and obviously so since kids as young as 12 have credit cards and since junior can “borrow” dad’s card. Pretty simple stuff, really, if your brain has not been fried by games.

The last time I sued Best Buy in this regard, they caved and settled and agreed not to sell M games to kids. They are in breach of the agreement, as well as violating Florida’s anti-fraud statute. It’s a shame you all don’t know what you’re talking about. Jack Thompson

October 25, 2007 5:35 PM

jackthompson said…

Actually, it is up to the government to decided these things, just as it is up to society to stop 7-11 from selling beer to 12 year olds. Duh. That’s why we have a deceptive trade practice law in every state in the union. It’s called democracy, gamer nerds. Deal with it. And grow up.

October 25, 2007 5:38 PM

It is so difficult to select a place to begin. I suppose I will start from the bottom, where you make the broad statement that it is up to the government to decide “these things.” What you have stated is a philosophy on governance, not a fact. In your mind, the government should be free to control the hearts and the minds of the people as they so choose. In reality, our democratic republic has taken a small segment of the choices people can make and placed restrictions upon them. Alcohol, tobacco, and pornography are all among the things with restricted sales to minors. Movies, music, and video games are not. As I have pointed out repeatedly, there is no content beyond the level of the Saw movies in even the Manhunt games. If you had taken the time to experience them, you would know this to be the case. Therefore, if your basic supposition is that the government should add violent media to the category with alcohol, tobacco, and pornography, then so be it. But there is a logical fallacy in attacking content in only one medium when the same content exists in another medium which is equally accessible to the people you claim to be trying to protect.

Also, contrary to what you seem to believe, there are in fact people who do not agree with you on a philosophical level. In fact, there are even people who vote for the same candidates you do who do not agree with your basic ideology that the government should have unlimited control to censor content. Moreover, there are many people who believe the government is not some grand babysitter or pseudo-parent who should be making decisions for people. In fact, it has been argued that the usurption of personal responsibility by “progressive” government programs has been a key cause of the downward trend of society, tracing back to unnecessary government coddling in the New Deal.

That being said, your view is in such the substantial minority that it cannot be allowed to prevail. Tyranny of the minority cannot be tolerated (and if you’re not familiar with the concept, I suggest you brush up on your Federalist Papers). In fact, your very position that violence is “obscenity” is fallacious under the Burger test for “obscenity”:

The basic guidelines for the trier of fact must be: (a) whether ‘the average person, applying contemporary community standards’ would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest, (b) whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and (c) whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Emphasis added to the key element, the prurient interest. There is no sexual arousal associated with violence for the average person.

This brings us to the error in your “for the children” argument. If your goal were to simply keep these games out of the hands of minors unless their parents decided otherwise, I doubt seriously you would face much opposition. No one opposes movie theaters or Wal-Mart for policies of this sort. The difficult aspect is that your goals go well beyond “the children” to keep this content out of the hands of adults, whom are more than capable of making their own decisions, to the point that you eventually want to run many, if not all, game manufacturers out of business. (I’m still unclear if you would start to target less objectionable content, say Smash Bros. Melee, if you succeeded against the most extreme outlying targets.) Anyone who has monitored your commentary knows that you would just assume punish parents who buy T or M games for children under 13 and 17 respectively as you would prevent the kids from playing the games. Ultimately, that is the parent’s decision, not yours, to make.

Speaking to your credit card reference, children under 18 cannot acquire credit cards on their own. I will grant you that Dennis’s reference is not exactly on point, but the concept is essentially the same. Anyone under 18 with a credit card has been granted said card by someone of legal age, likely a parent or guardian. In that case, the person who has the card has given implied consent that the card be used, and thusly implied consent to purchase the M rated game. Ultimately, the account holder is still in control, and to dictate otherwise would mean that you are preventing people who are 18 from easily purchasing games from online retailers.

You also mention “junior can ‘borrow’ dad’s card.” If Junior has asked for permission, then the parent has granted permission to play the game. If Junior has not asked permission, then Junior has more to worry about than the content of the game as he’s already committed fraud and identity theft.

Your comment about Best Buy “caving” really has little to do with the present situation. Large companies often choose to settle disputes to discontinue wasting time on what amount to nothing more than meritless nuisances. It it often cheaper and quicker than proceeding with legal action.

Finally, I do take some personal offense to the implication that games have “fried my brain.” I’ve been gaming for nearly two decades, but I also have an undergraduate and two graduate degrees. If you continue to assume that you’ll never encounter anyone on the opposite side of the debate with an an ounce of intelligence, you’ll continue to have your simplistic responses outdone by intelligent gamers. Eventually, sensationalists in the media will tire of your particular issue, and you will be relegated to a historical footnote.

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About Mark Methenitis

Mark Methenitis is an attorney in Dallas Texas. Mark received his Juris Doctorate and his Master of Business Administration from Texas Tech University and his Bachelor of Arts from The University of Texas.

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