update on Jack Thompson’s career

One year ago today, Jack Thompson was disbarred from practicing law.   For those who have anything to do with video games or just enjoy playing them, that was a victorious day.  Thankfully, we haven’t heard much from him since.  He gives gaming and Christianity a bad name.

But now there’s some current news about him.  He just issued a news release saying his ban from practicing law is invalid and he will begin to practice again on October 1, 2009.  As usual, he’s stretching (and inventing) “facts” that aren’t valid.  (And if you read his letter at the link, know that his claims aren’t all factual, either.)

Jack Thompson might’ve made a few good points, like that kids shouldn’t be able to buy M-rated video games, but he went way beyond what was reasonable.  If you aren’t familiar with him, let me give a few “career highlights”.  I’m getting these from this article: 10 Great Moments in Jack Thompson’s (Failed) Career.  But be forewarned that the article has some explicit language in it, so view only if you don’t mind that.  Hence I’m making a summary (because I know some of the regulars here don’t want to read that).

At the start of his career, Jack Thompson tried to become the state prosecuting attorney in Florida.  He went up against Janet Reno, who was the current attorney.  He passed her a note that said, “I, Janet Reno, am a:”, followed by 3 boxes: heterosexual/bisexual/homosexual.  That sounds like something you’d do in junior high, when you really have no idea of what is proper and/or tactful.  She walked over to him, dissed him, but put her hand on his shoulder while telling him he was stupid.  And as you’ll see with Jack Thompson, this is only the start — he does not know when to stop.  He filed a police report claiming that her touching him on the shoulder constituted battery.  That’s basically admitting that he needed police help against a 50-year-old woman.   Jack’s career only went downhill from there.

In 1990, Thompson attacked the rap industry, and he claimed he was Bruce Wayne, a.k.a. Batman, in his fight against the evils of rap music.  But this isn’t just verbal nonsense — he wore a Bat-watch and mailed out copies of his driver’s license with pictures of Batman edited in.  Note that at this time he is a certified, legal lawyer in Florida.   (Somehow he would stay certified for another 18 years!)

Doom screenshot
Doom screenshot -- does this look like a military-style murder simulator?

In 1997 he filed a lawsuit against the makers of Doom, MechWarrior, several other games, most of Hollywood, and porn websites, claiming their influence caused kids to become evil.  Fortunately the case was dismissed before it even started.  He claimed Doom was an extremely accurate military-style murder simulator.  If you’ve played Doom, you know better.

Every time there was a school shooting, like at Columbine and Virginia Tech, Jack Thompson was there, claiming video games were the cause.  And even when there was no proof found, Thompson never backed away from his allegations.  He can’t be bothered to let facts interfere with his statements.   I remember when Virginia Tech happened, that Thompson was on TV that day blaming video games before anyone even knew who the killer was or why he did it, and then it was found that he didn’t even play video games.  (I wrote more on that here.)

Years later, Jack Thompson offered $10,000 to charity on behalf of anyone who made a game representing the murder of Paul Eibeler, who was the boss of Take Two (which makes the Grand Theft Auto games).   When someone took him up on that, he backed away, saying it was just satire.  So he offers money to charity, then takes it away.  Doesn’t sound like a funny joke, does it?  But wait, there’s more!   A website called Penny Arcade donated the money on his behalf to the Child’s Play charity for sick children.  What is Jack’s response?  He called the police.  Why?  Because two men had donated their own money to charity.

In 2008, the Florida Bar Association finally had enough of Jack Thompson, and they ordered him to attend a disbarment trial.   He had to prove that he hadn’t been using the legal system as his own personal soapbox.  They also ruled that any further legal proceedings filed by Jack had to be cosigned by another member of the Florida Bar, which means he can’t use the legal system unless supervised by a responsible adult.  To this, he immediately filed an appeal without a signature.

Normal disbarment was for 5 years, but for Jack, they made it “enhanced disbarment”, citing 27 violations of professional misconduct.  That meant he couldn’t practice law for 10 years.  His response to this was to walk out of the proceedings, and he accused the judge of not having the authority to hear this case.  Realize that this case was from the Florida Supreme Court, and he said they don’t have legal authority over him.  This sounds like somebody who has lost touch of reality.  But, as I mentioned before, these crazy situations with Jack Thompson keep going and going and going.  He also accused the judge of being mentally unbalanced, and he started using phrases like “killing three thousand people“.  Given that this happened after 9/11, one shouldn’t use such phrases, particularly around law enforcement officials.  This childish act resulted in U.S. Marshals being dispatched to his home.  His behavior also resulted in a permanent disbarment from practicing law.

In his appeal to the judge who disbarred him, he said, “She is just making this stuff up as she goes” and “Maybe Dava Tunis is mentally impaired” and he called her a “raving wild woman … who had become unhinged”.   He also wrote a letter after the visit by the Marshals, saying “the purpose of that visit was to intimidate and harass me”.  And now the FBI won’t even talk to him anymore, after so many fraudulent claims.  Thompson wrote about that: “The FBI has done nothing and refuses to talk to me. … With all respect, either the FBI takes this seriously — the computer hacking, the criminal use of lunacy proceedings, the whole nine yards… or I and others will do what we need to do.”  I really don’t think it’s wise to threaten the FBI…

Jack Thompson’s written objection to his disbarment trial references the Holocaust and lynching of blacks, in comparison to how he’s being treated.  He manages to compare himself to John the Baptist and Jesus.   And he said the people who run The Florida Bar are fascists.   He told the judge she was a liar.  He says he’s being persecuted because he’s a Christian, and while such things do occasionally happen, in this case it’s because Jack Thompson promotes fraudulent lawsuits and participates in unprofessional behavior (including name-calling and threatening people).  He said they hate him without reason.

I could go on, but if you want to read more, there’s many more examples on the Internet of how he’s done stupid things and threatened people.

getting college credit by playing video games

In college there were a few classes that I enjoyed taking, like various music performance classes, and athletic classes like tennis and bowling.   But there was never anything related to playing video games.  (Well, I did get to take one about programming for games.)

The University of Houston is now offering a class on Wii Performance.   The games used in the course will be Wii Fit, Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, and Wii Dance Dance Revolution.   Their program coordinator said:

Our department conducts a host of research into the epidemic of obesity, not only its root causes, but ways to combat it and the diseases related to it. Using the Wii games can be both fun and an effective tool. We anticipate that many students will want to take this class.

I think their anticipation is right-on.   Of course many students will want to take that class!  If I could get college credit for playing video games, I know I would’ve!

video games used for team-building at work

Do you ever get stressed at work?  Or have you ever dreamed of getting paid to play video games?   Many people would answer yes to both questions, and now some companies play multiplayer video games at work to bond with each other and to reduce stress — and they get paid for it!

Kevin Grinnell at Grinnell Computers has started such a plan, and it’s a hit.  He considers it a team-building exercise, saying:

“We laugh until we cry when we play these games. We can do the thing where we have company dinners, and company functions, but those really aren’t stress relief. At times, they can be more stress than they’re worth.”

That last part is certainly true sometimes.  I’ve been to work dinners and outings where you had to pay your way (and didn’t really want to go), or where some coworkers will get drunk and act stupid, or where the company tries to manufacture fun and it doesn’t work and you’d rather be at work than at the “fun” outing.

You don't get to do stunts like this in real life...
You don't get to do stunts like this in real life...

Not only is that a great way to release stress, but it also causes people to let their guard down, to be themselves.  For Grinnell, the gaming is optional, but the option is to either play video games from 3 to 5 pm on Friday with the team, or take the same two hours off unpaid.  I think that’s a great style of motivation.   You can leave early, which sounds good, or you can play games and get paid for it, which sounds even better!

If you aren’t familiar with multiplayer video games, they are as the name suggests — multiple players in the same game.  Often people are on teams in these games, where they work together.  There’s also the added benefit of cost — there’s an initial setup cost to get the game, but then there’s no more business expense for it.  In a way, it’s like going out to play golf or going to a restaurant with your colleagues, except that there’s no cost, and it’s even more fun.

guess what's about to happen here
What could've happened here?

Here’s the link to the news article about it: Shooting the boss (and getting paid for it).  (Props to Turtle Dundee for the link.)

Personally, I think this is a great idea!  And as the owner of my own business, I am immediately implementing this team-building exercise at my company.  (And before you ask, no, I’m not hiring at this time.  Sorry.)  Hopefully many other companies will realize the value in this and start such programs.  It seems like a win-win program for everyone.

old-school motion capture controller

I’ve heard some people talking about the latest technology in control schemes for video games.  Obviously the Wii’s controllers were a huge success, and I think Wii MotionPlus will make it even better.  But lately there’s been a lot of hype for Microsoft’s new full-body control called Natal and Sony’s new Motion Controller.  There’s a lot of potential for these new systems, and right now the hype is abounding.

But before everyone gets too excited about full-body motion controls, I want to remind you this has been tried before.  There was a product called Sega Activator for the Sega Genesis game console.  With it, your body was the controller.  Here’s the instructional video for it:

It’s fairly obvious why that didn’t catch on.  Now it looks generic.  But consider that this was revolutionary and cutting-edge at the time.  Obviously the company thought it was a great idea and worth the money required to release it.

But all that aside, that doesn’t mean Natal will or won’t work well — it just means we’ll have to wait and see.  I’m hoping they can pull this off, and that the next generation of gaming will be even more immersive and more awesome.