Jack Thompson Has Defense Department in His Sights

Is there an “unholy alliance” between the video game industry and the U.S. Defense Department?

There is in the mind of Jack Thompson.

The anti-game activist sent out a press release this morning claiming that he would turn his attention in the New Year to the U.S. military’s foray into the video game space. From Thompson’s press release:

One of the consequences of this collaboration [between the DoD and the game biz] is the increasing number of commando-style assaults by young video gamers, such as the recent “mall massacre” in Omaha, Nebraska. 

GP: …ummm, evidence? Any basis whatsoever for such a sweeping condemnation?

Virginia Tech’s Cho was an obsessive high school player of the military-themed CounterStrike, according to the Washington Post. 

GP: Gov. Kaine’s blue ribbon Virginia Tech Review Panel reported that there was no evidence that Cho played anything more sinister than Sonic the Hedgehog. The Washington Post deleted its initial reference to any supposed Counter-strike play on Cho’s part. Thompson is well aware of that, but continues to cite the initial – apparently erroneous – report.

Researchers have proven the long-term effect of immersion in interactive violence…  

Perhaps. But Thompson doesn’t say what those researchers may have proven. There’s certainly no study which draws a link between game violence and actual violence, although that’s the implication in his press release.

What is increasingly clear is that the unholy alliance between the game industry and the DOD is teaching an an entire generation of kids that war is glamorous, cool, desirable, and consequence-free.

Believe it or not, there is actually a formal working relationship between the[DoD] and the game industry at the Institute for Creative Technologies [ICT] on the campus of the University of Southern California.  US Senator James Inhofe of  Oklahoma is its most unabashed and enthusiastic supporter. 
A recent poll shows that more than 60% of the American people want a federal law that prohibits the sale of extremely violent, mature-rated  video games to minors.  How upset will American parents be when they find out their federal government, rather than being part of the solution, is actually part of the problem? 

GP: While the use of the freely-distributed America’s Army PC game as a recruiting tool is somewhat controversial, there aren’t many other publicly available games with any kind of DoD connection. I reminded Thompson that all of the America’s Army games, including the more recent console titles, are T-rated. He replied:

America’s Army is not the only such game, ace.  Pay attention.

GP: Well, we are paying attention, which is why Thompson’s move in this direction is surprising. In addition to America’s Army there are a pair of Full Spectrum Warrior titles. And that’s about it. Thompson, in fact, mentioned FSW in a follow-up e-mail. It’s true that the strategy franchise is M-rated, but the player’s character directs a squad and doesn’t actually handle any weapons.  ICT developed that game in versions for both the military and commercial game market.

There is and has always been an overlap between the military and consumer markets. Products developed for one often find their way into the other. What’s more, the military is making increasing use of game tech for training purposes.

Aside from that, the small universe of games with a DoD connection doesn’t seem like especially fertile ground for a Thompson-style jihad. There are no crazed axe murderers, no hookers to rob, no carjacking, no simulated drug usage.

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