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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EH: This is The Escapist; I'm told we like rants here. And these are valuable points. Also following from the above, have you found any particular approach in speaking with parents, teachers or doctors especially effective in shifting the emphasis from condemnation to consideration of potential or inquiry?

GJ: The two elements here, as in almost any communication, are humanity and compassion. Remind them that these games are played by people. Mostly good people who feel they're getting a lot out of them. People who will defend their games from the heart. That takes the discussion out of the realm of "those things," our fear of technology, and brings it back to "What about that really great kid you know who loves Halo?" Then it's an easier jump to compassion and empathy, asking why people love what they love. From there people can usually get to the next mental exercise in the sequence, which is basically: "When you see your 14-year-old playing this game, and you crave, to what extent are you feeling your own gut reaction to violence, and to what extent are you actually perceiving something about your kid?"

EH: Do you think it's simply a matter of waiting out the storm in terms of letting the wave of videogame criticism pass in the way that other waves against movies, comic books and music have passed, or is there a danger in not taking a proactive approach in response?

GJ: No, you've got to be proactive, too. Comic books survived their storm, but suffered tremendous damage. The anti-comics crusade destroyed half the publishers in the business and drove the surviving comics to a very juvenile, bland level that held the industry back for decades. The game business is much bigger and less economically vulnerable, of course, but damage can be done. Proactivity, however, doesn't mean hostility. As the game business fights for its rights, it has to prove itself to be a good neighbor and a good citizen too. Passionate game enthusiasts tend to be sardonic souls, slightly alienated from the mainstream, to whom such concepts will seem awfully corny. Game-lovers tend to like to both the victim role and the angry antagonist role. But those are roles with some huge pitfalls.

EH: The general attitude that I find with this is that a) hyperbolic response is justified because Jack Thompson is also hyperbolic and threatens physical harm on gamers, and b) what we do doesn't matter because people will eventually get over this game censoring idea on their own. There are enough in the game community to already disagree with a) and they do tend to stomp on people who act like jerks, so they will be right there with you on that point -- and b) is trickier but I think they can be convinced of the importance of responding to this seriously.

GJ: I think the first thing game advocates have to do is get over Jack Thompson. He's not a major figure in the game regulation field. All the moderate critics of games have distanced themselves from him completely, if they even think about him anymore. It's only hardcore game culture insiders who really even know who he is. So to react to a Leland Yee or Craig Anderson as if he were "a Jack Thompson type" - and justify one's overreaction accordingly - is painfully self-destructive. Jack loves being "the man the videogame industry loves to hate," and he works the game community consciously in order to maintain that role. Too many game geeks, with their love of conflict and the righteously indignant victim role, play right into that.

As far as waiting for it all to blow over, I think the key is what outcome do you want. Does the game community just want to survive and eventually be left alone, or does it want to become a valued member of the entertainment establishment and our common culture? I suspect a lot of people really do prefer the former, in which case just hunkering down might be an OK strategy. It says a lot about the different media that movie people are so desperate to be loved and respected while game people seem so happy to be ignored as long as they're allowed to tend their own gardens. (Or am I being unfair?)

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