Erin Hoffman's Inside Job

Erin Hoffman's Inside Job
Inside Job: Voices of Sanity: An Interview With Gerard Jones

Erin Hoffman | 21 Dec 2007 21:00
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In the ongoing battle for diversity, stability and outreach in the game industry, all as necessary components for true quality of life, I have frequently cited Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super-Heroes, and Make Believe Violence. For this pre-holiday-madness edition of Inside Job, I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Jones himself on the issues of game censorship, parental concerns, the social context of the videogame censorship battle and more.

Jones has long been an advocate for listening to kids and considering their interests and opinions. Prior to writing Killing Monsters - whose 10th chapter, "Shooters," should be mandatory reading in any course covering videogame ethics - Jones had little experience with game development, but since the book's remarkable reception he is a frequent invitee at industry conferences and a respected writer on media issues.

Erin Hoffman: To start us off, what response have parents had to Killing Monsters, interacting with you personally?

Gerard Jones: The response has been almost universally positive. Glowing, even. Maybe it's just that people who don't like what I'm saying don't bother to contact me personally, but nearly every first-hand response from a parent has been supportive and even grateful. Some thank me for validating their own parenting instincts, others (and these are the ones that really make me glad I wrote it) thank me for changing their minds. Most parents really want to trust their kids' inclinations and relationship with their culture, with good reason - but there are so many people invested in frightening parents that it's hard for them to cut through it all without support.

EH: Support is definitely something we need to work on; it tends to be sporadic and quiet, whereas the criticisms levied against various media are unceasing. The latest vogue in criticizing videogames is to dismiss or forget previous predictions and allege that now that videogames are becoming more realistic, there is more potential for lasting mental harm - that photorealism puts them in a different (and new and scary) category. What are your thoughts on this, and have you had any further development on the theory that people are less likely to emulate a videogame character than a movie character because they are already directly experiencing the former while the latter is romanticized?

GJ: This is a classic pattern in media alarmism. Every prediction of social disintegration proves to be untrue, but each new medium or entertainment form is viewed as unprecedented and therefore not bound by the old (disproven) predictions. Popular novels were attacked as social dangers in the mid-19th century, but by the late 19th century you have critics saying, "These so-called 'comic strips' aren't like the wholesome popular novels of our youth, which did so much to encourage literacy." Movies were attacked because drawing young people indoors to stare at a screen was deemed unwholesome; later on TV and comic books were attacked because they isolate viewers and readers rather than enabling them to experience powerful images in the healthy, communal context of a movie theater.

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