first agreed to do these Game Law columns, I told the editors of
Gamasutra.com that from time to time I would like to have the
opportunity to rant about issues beyond the straightforward legal
issues that I have been addressing to date. This is the first time I
have taken the opportunity to rant on a little bit and I hope you find
it both thought provoking and informative.
recently did an interview for GameCloud.com. There were a bunch of
questions about a whole variety of issues. Everything from why and how
did you become a Game Attorney to specific problem issues that a lot of
developers face. Among the questions asked was a question concerning
some of the recent moves to regulate the industry and I responded by
referencing a fellow Miami attorney named Jack Thompson. Jack Thompson
being the self-appointed defender of the moral standards as they apply
to everything from “Hot Coffee” to violence in games.
a Miami attorney, I am well aware of Mr. Thompson in that he has been
in and out of the local news for over 15 years. In my opinion, he is
sort of a laughing stock and nobody in the legal community here takes
him very seriously. However, as a result of some grandstanding on hot
button topics, Mr. Thompson has once again come to the forefront in the
general media, now attacking all sorts of games with all sorts of
arguments. Anyway, in the interview I mentioned the possibility of
debating Mr. Thompson but also stated that I did not want to validate
his position by making any efforts to do so.
reviewed the Gamecloud article and posted a news story entitled “Hey -
a Florida Attorney Who Loves Gamers!” and referring to me as the other
game-crazed Miami attorney. The piece mentioned that I had expressed a
willingness to debate Jack Thompson. I came into work the day that
article was posted not knowing that it had been posted or even that the
GameCloud interview was up yet. First notification I got that anything
was amiss was an incoming email with the subject message “Just say when
and where, Tom” and the body of the message was Jack Thompson's name,
address and office and cellular telephone numbers. The message was also
cc'd to Dennis McCauley.
a cautious man, rather than me responding to Thompson directly I
assumed that this was some sort of prank or something. So, I sent a
quick “WTF?” to Dennis McCauley over at Game Politics to figure out
exactly what was going on. To make a very long story short, I became
aware of the article and responded to Mr. Thompson's challenge by
giving him a date, a time, and location. After much huffing and puffing
he ultimately declined to meet and debate. Too bad, but not a surprise.
received a large number of emails from gamers praising me for being
someone who could stand up to Jack Thompson. And there is no doubt that
I could. But that is not the point of this article. The point of this
article is that gamers and game developers need to become a politically
active force if they want to effectuate change. And talking to each
other about what a (fill in your own expletive here) Jack Thompson is
does not get anything done.
recent efforts by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Senator
Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) to present the Family Entertainment
Protection Act before Congress shows exactly how volatile the political
situation concerning the game industry is. These extremely powerful
people are advocating putting restrictions on the game industry that do
not exist in film, literature, or even television. This sort of prior
restraint on free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment is
extraordinary and is something that should be opposed by anyone who
loves or makes their living from games, regardless of their feelings
about violence in games. Because even if you oppose violence in games,
that sort of government regulation of the industry is really not the
way to address it.
what do gamers or even most developers do about this? They complain.
They whine. They praise anyone who says something that they agree with
and jeer anyone who says something they don't like. But they do not
organize and more importantly, they do not bother to vote. Rough
estimates are that there are upwards of 145 Million gamers in the
United States . This number far exceeds the number of people in the
Christian right or moral majority. However, those minorities vote in a
block they have an excessive amount of power in the political
marketplace. If even 10% of active gamers voted in a block on specific
issues, politicians like Hilary Clinton would be very weary to take
positions opposed to our industry. Heck, if she got “back off” emails
from even 1% of gamers she would have never offered the bill in the
first place. After all, it's no good to pander to one organized
minority voting block at the expense of another larger organized
minority voting block.
industries spend millions of millions of dollars on lobbying and on
organizing voters. And while the ESA does a good job, its power is
significantly limited by simple economics. And no one seems to be
making any effort to organize and mobilize gamers as a political force.
Mobilizing the people that play the games that we make could easily
generate the amount of politic leverage that we need to protect our
industry from unwanted interference and regulation by this government
or any other elected government.
treat this as a call to arms. Get out and vote. And when you vote, make
sure that you learn the position that the candidates that you are
considering take concerning freedom of speech and how it implies to
computer and video games. Otherwise, you may end up working in an
industry that is significantly handicapped due to restraints on
expression that none of us want to have to deal with.
(2005 Thomas H. Buscaglia. All rights reserved.)