Cold Dark Heart

Cold Dark Heart
The Fallacy of the Fanboy

Matt Meyers | 3 Aug 2010 13:00
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Thompson's lawsuits usually centered around a belief that violent videogames, at their core, were "murder simulators," and their use by children would disrupt proper social development and, more seriously, cause them to act violently. In short, he is the perfect antagonist to the gaming community, because he refuses to acknowledge its real nature; he lives in a world of outdated stereotypes, where bespeckled nerds conjure up ancient evils in their parents' basements, and anarchistic outcasts plot their overthrow through a session of Halo.

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But where, then, were the protagonists who rose up to oppose his force? I will freely admit that there are those who fought directly, by studying the effects of videogames on children, and filing amicus curiae briefs in his court cases; but there were, and still are, far more attacks on Jack Thompson than honest commentary on what he means. Jack Thompson represents non-gamers at their most ignorant, and though any gamer has the knowledge of the pleasure and sublimity of this art form (yes, it is one), few choose to wield that familiarity effectively. Most would rather rag on such kinds of people endlessly, instead of addressing the root cause of their fear and anger: gaming ignorance.

Gamers adopt a business-as-usual attitude when confronting critics, refusing to acknowledge the obvious PR problem. Said in another way, if we worked to educate people about games, could the Jack Thompsons of the world rise to such prominence within the mainstream? Instead of trying to reflect, organize, and systemize our theories on the boundaries and purpose of videogames, most would rather be left alone to their pregame lobbies and boss battles. Instead of trying to put a controller into the hands of every misinformed individual, gamers scorn them for their ignorance.

When Roger Ebert announced that videogames, in principle, could never be art, the reactions were mixed. There were a few individuals, like Steve Prokopy of Ain't It Cool News, who were willing to show him how games could be art. Prokopy wanted to physically put a controller in Ebert's hands and guide him through the process. He was certain that such an experience would shatter Ebert's dim view. The truth of the matter is that videogames are art, in principle and practice, but few gamers were willing to convey this to Ebert, the outsider. Most acted defensively. Jerry Holkins from Penny Arcade, in his post from April 21st, dismissed Ebert as an old curmudgeon. Holkins asked, "Do we win something if we defeat him?"

For the gaming fanboy, such an argument is about conquering a foe. As Holkins says, it is about a victory and a defeat. Listen to the verbal volleys, keep the score, and crown the victor. It is just a battle. Afterward, both sides go back home with their positions intact, and, for all its intensity, the debate achieves very little.

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