CNET has an interesting interview with games journalist David Kushner who talks about his latest book, Jacked: The Outlaw story of Grand Theft Auto. The book takes a deeper look at the Grand Theft Auto phenomenon, and delves into related topics such as the game's development, the ESRB, Hot Coffee and Jack Thompson, amongst other topics.
The interview is very interesting because it discusses how Kushner approached some of the most controversial topics related to Rockstar's popular series. For example, he writes about the whole Hot Coffee controversy from the modding community's perspective and how the whole controversy had some positive effects like getting the ESRB to refine its descriptors for game content and to review how closely it examined the game it rated, along with finally bringing to light the fact that Grand Theft Auto is a game really meant for adults. Here's an excerpt on Hot Coffee:
Say a little more about how you think Hot Coffee changed the video games industry?
Kushner: It forced the [Entertainment Software Ratings Board] to develop some more refined guidelines about how games are submitted, reviewed, etc., and new penalties. During that era, the game industry was in a battle with Capitol Hill over violent games. You had a lot of powerful people who were threatening to regulate the industry, which is something that would have been awful in my opinion. And Hot Coffee seemed to be the smoking gun for these detractors. But ultimately the controversy passed, changes were made, and detractors like Joe Lieberman came around to say that the game industry's ratings were doing a good job. I think the days of those threats of regulation are behind us, fortunately.
My favorite part of the interview deals with Jack Thompson and the industry's failure to put someone up against him on the cable news circuit:
Is Jack Thompson a true believer or a media savvy opportunist?
Kushner: Maybe a bit of both. I spent a lot of time with Jack over the years, and he's more nuanced than people realize. He and I disagree about games but I tried to write about him the same way I write about anyone: sympathetically and as a real person. The fact is, whether you love or hate Jack, he had a big impact on shaping public opinion about video games. And I think that is partly the fault of the game industry. There was a specific strategy in place to not engage him, and as a result he was on many talk shows unopposed. I'm just a writer about the industry, and I was being asked to go on CNN to provide a counterpoint, when all along I was wondering: why isn't a game developer or publisher doing this instead of me?
You can read the rest of the interview with Kushner here.
You can learn more about the book on Amazon.com. A hardcover edition is available now, as well as an audio book and a Kindle Fire edition.