Scoring the Thompson-Lanning Debate at VGXPO ...now with Audio Clips!

November 4, 2007 -
Controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson and game developer Lorne Lanning (Oddworld series) engaged in debate yesterday at the VXGPO in Philadelphia. 

The event followed the screening of Spencer Halpin's Moral Kombat, an as-yet unreleased documentary which chronicles the video game violence debate. Both Thompson and Lanning appear in the film. Newsweek's N'Gai Croal served as moderator.

Chris Grant has an excellent blow-by-blow at Joystiq. Unfortunately, when we arrived at the debate we were informed there would be no filming or photography permitted. Apparently the official video of debate is to appear on the DVD of Moral Kombat as an extra feature. However, prior to that announcement being made I managed to capture a little bit of the pre-debate: 



I'll defer to Joystiq's excellent reportage on the who-said-what and instead offer my overall impressions...

It's clear that Thompson can turn on the charm when he wants to. During the debate he was at times witty, self-deprecating, and not at all like the combative Thompson who frequents the GamePolitics comments area. In some ways he connected with the crowd better than did Lanning. (mp3: Thompson makes a funny)

In retrospect, the Oddworld developer could have done better. He missed some obvious openings left by Thompson and at several points in the debate drifted off into far-ranging tangents about things like global warming and nutrition.

Lanning did manage to score some broad points against Thompson, asserting that Jack is in it for the money vis-a-vis his involvement in a pair of wrongful death lawsuits against the deep-pocketed video game industry. Perhaps. It's hard to know what motivates Thompson. (mp3: Lanning's lawsuit rant)

All in all, however, I found myself wishing Lanning would call Thompson on the attorney's schtick, which wasn't much different from what we see on his frequent TV appearances. Thompson, for example, launched into his oft-repeated line about how violent video games could not be considered art because they don't fit the ancient Greek definition of art. Perhaps that sounds authoritative - oh, the ancient Greeks! - but how is it even relevant? Since when do the ancient Greeks get to define what today's art is?

Regarding school shootings, Thompson repeated his mantra about kids going to school with guns for 200 years in this country in order to shoot their dinner on the way home. This was by way of saying school shootings cannot be traced to easy gun availablity. Cite a reference, please, Jack. Which kids? Which 200 years? It sounds apocryphal from here.

Thompson trotted out the 1997 Paducah, Kentucky school shooting as evidence that violent games (Doom, in this case) cause school shootings. It would have been nice for Lanning to have pointed out that the Paducah lawsuit against video games utterly failed to convince the court.

N'Gai played the role of the neutral moderator well, although he actually put Thompson on the spot at one point. As he often does, Thompson was complaining that the video game industry had targeted him because of his Christian activism. As Chris Grant blogged about the exchange on Joystiq:
Jack mentions the Bar complaints raised against him by the video game industry. Says that speaking publicly about faith isn't tolerated. N'Gai points out that the major political candidates have all spoken publicly about their faith.

Thompson also got into a rant about an old nemesis, former ESA president Doug Lowenstein (mp3: Thompson and Lanning argue about Doug)

The audience was afforded some Q&A time as well, with the best question coming from a guy who designs simulation games. He wondered how Thompson could call various titles "murder simulators" and such, since they didn't fit the criteria for simulation modeling. No real answer...

And as to GP's interaction with Thompson?

There wasn't any. I didn't approach him and he didn't approach me.

UPDATE: Wired's Susan Arendt has more on the debate. Mashed Buttons has its own view. Over at Bits, Bytes, Pixels & Sprites Dan Zuccarelli offers his impressions...

Comments

As I said before...I don't agree with Jack...at all...and i still hate him...but I do tip my hat to him for this. He actually debated, he was moderately civil, and I didn't hear a single threat from him. To be perfectly honest, Dennis, I think your being a little critical of him here, but I don't blame you. After all, he has been a real asshole to you and everyone here.

In regards to this part: "Thompson, for example, launched into his oft-repeated line about how violent video games could not be considered art because they don’t fit the ancient Greek definition of art. Perhaps that sounds authoritative - oh, the ancient Greeks! - but how is it even relevant? Since when do the ancient Greeks get to define what today’s art is?"

Not even that, but Salvidor Dali made some beautifully ugly art, as did Escher at times, and more recently, Belskinski (sp?). In terms of composition versus subject matter, it seems Jack is arguing that only the games with more advanced graphics could be art.

On a more serious note, recall to the time in Lousiana, just after Katrina when Jack held up the game Vice City and proclaimed it "not art". The back of the box, however, reads "Having just amde it back onto the streets of Liberty City after a long stretch inside, Tommy Vercetti is sent to Vice City by his old boss, Sonny Forelli. But all does not go smoothly upon his arrival in the glamorous, hedonistic metropolis of Vice City. Tommy is set up and loses everything. Sonny wants his money back, but the biker gangs, Cuban gangsters, and corrupt politicans stand in his way. Most of Vice City seems to want Tommy dead. His only answer is to fight back and take over the city himself."

In other words, there is a story,an actual piece of literature protected by the First Amendment, ie, art.

@BearDogg-X

Tactically, yea, a school shooting fits the definition of terrorism. I only differentiate because some people object to using the term when it's not a politically motivated act.

Jesse Ventura's idea sounds good to me too. As does the Israelis'. What doesn't work though are "no guns" signs and wishful thinking.

In theory, the "cotton ball" effect I mentioned above might be lessened if the Federal government banned and confiscated all firearms. But any attempt to do so would no doubt start a civil war. Then, even if a confiscation could magically happen, there are plenty of other methods besides guns. Like the Bath incident which had a larger body count than VT.

Not to mention the Beslan school attack where some 300+ teachers and students were gunned down despite Russia having some of the strictest gun laws in the world.

you know, i would love to see a JT vs. Dennis debate on cnn sometime. really, it would be a nice change to have someone completely informed and focused (meaning no political agenda, global warming...are you serious?).
sounds like this debate wasn't a bad one though.

@Austin

Bad idea. A really really bad idea. We all know Jack has a grudge against Denis and I wouldn't be surprised if the reverse was true so the debate would end bad. Now if Jack had never heard about gamepolitics (imagine how different the world would be) then i'd still think it a bad idea.

Now if you could take Denis and JT and have them debate over something unrelated to games or politics (something trivial which neither feels strongly about) then that would be something I would like to see.

Thompson picks his opponents the way Uwe Boll did when he challenged movie critics to a boxing match. They both want some certainty that their opponent won't be so formidable.

I was at the debate. Jack was VERY prepared. He didn't have things written down, but it was an old argument he's had many times. Lorne, on the other hand, decided to go by wits alone, and failed miserably, which is a shame. Lorne attacked Jack's religion and money-making, being very emotional to the point it made Jack's job easier. Personally, the religion and monetary aspects weren't coherent in the context of the debate.

One thing Jack said was very important about suing companies and such for indirectly causing a wrongful death. He said (paraphrased) that, "all you have to show is that the product (the game) was an indispensible part of what eventually led to the outcome." That was the perfect time for Lorne to step in and explain all the different ways the murders blamed on video games could have come about without practicing headshots on Quake. He missed it, and lost that part of the argument pretty badly.

The Alabama case (I can't remember the details) makes the incredible claim that the killer had never shot a gun before. There is no way to tell if he had practiced with a gun at a range or in private, so that assertion is pretty ludicrous.

On Columbine, Jack asserted that both gunmen were too young to buy guns, but it was well documented that the oldest was of-age, 18, to buy guns.

Jack also slipped one by when he asserted that games like GTA and Manhunt 2 would carry the equivalent of NC-17 if they were rated like movies and therefore should be AO and restricted from minors. Rating a game NC-17 means no one under 17 should purchase, and NC-17 is EXACTLY the same as the current rating of M, which states not suitable for those under 17. Manhunt 2 is rated M. His statements were contradictory. And for the record, the last NC-17 movie I bought (which was definitely R material) did not flash the "Check ID" message , meaning any clerk would not have been alerted to make sure the purchaser was 17+.

One of the people who posed a question was a young man who identified himself as a "lawyer." After the debate, this young lawyer flipped-off Jack. Not very mature. I can't wait until he flips off a judge.

Also, one of the women interviewed in Moral Kombat movie declares the 9/11 hijackers flew the planes SOLELY from simulators. It was well documented that they took flight school. It's not an error of the movie, she was just wrong with her facts during the interview.

Jack Thompson most definitely won the debate. He didn't win me over to his point of view, but he was professional, witty, and well-rehearsed.

During the interview, the audience was polled on GTA as a "Cop Killing Simulator." Many of the audience members pointed out how quickly bad things went for the player if he shot cops in GTA, and how it discourages the player from virtual cop killing.

This really, really makes me mad. Why is that that when he gets onto these debates, he manages to carry on with a somewhat respectful manner, and yet become a complete flaming r-tard when he gets on here?

You just KNOW Jack is going to come on here with his same old tired Internet troll bullsh*t, claiming that even gamers found him decent, that Lorne was weak and couldn't compete with God's almighty soldier. This is what truly causes me to hate this man. He's nothing but a two faced douche bag.

thompson, the game industy isnt attacking christianity, you are. your antics are the direct opposite of what that religion teachs, and with those antics and you claim to following that faith, you portray a false image of christianity and basically slandering it. im guessing the only part of the bible you have looked at is the cover.

@ Robb

Sorry, but from where I stood, Lorne won. Maybe it's a question of perspective. We all know Jack's wrong. In my mind he didn't win me over as he brought out the same old record he's been playing over and over again and I don't think he really convinced anyone else either. As I said, Lorne may not have been exactly the best, but for once we actually had someone who knew about video games and could argue from the creative freedom position.

Jack is in it for the money and he's a religous zealot. Of that there is no question and I thought Lorne was perfectly right to call him on it, because no one else has whenever he's been on TV. When it was over and people got up to applaud, they were really more applauding Lorne.

Jack can claim to have won all he likes. But if he comments on here, I will be the first to remind him that he LOST!

@Berg
“He asks about Jack’s comments in the film about the differences in violence in art or video games.
Jack says, ‘I draw a distinction between Beowulf and Grand Theft Auto.’
Lorne says, ‘Yeah, I think the distinction is six-hundred million dollars.’”

What about the BEOWOLF game to be made by UBISOFT, what then?

WHY DOSE PEOPLE NOT UNDERSTAND THE PERSON WHO COMES ON AS JACK THOMPSON ON THIS WEBSITE IS JUST KIDDING YOU ALL ON AND WHY ANYWAY DOSE PEOPLE GIVE THIS GUY SO MUCH ATTENTION WHEN THATS WHAT HE WANTS HES AN ASSHOLE WHO NEEDS PUBLICITY TOO KEEP HIM A CAREER

@ scott

It seems like every so often some idiot would come on to act like Jack Thompson.

Dennis usually gets rid of the fake Jack Thompson comments right away.

I could usually tell if it is the real Jack Thompson after seeing his several comments so I would have to say that most of the Jack Thompson comments that we see are from the real Jack Thompson.

I am sure that Jack Thompson will be on in a little while to brag about being at the VGXPO.

@ Jack Thompson

I still have not seen where a store let your son buy Manhunt 2.

WAS IT VERY HARD TO FIND A PLACE THAT WOULD SELL MANHUNT 2 TO YOUR SON? IF SO THEN YOU SHOULD STOP USING THE EXCUSE THAT M RATED GAMES ARE BEING SOLD TO CHILDREN SO YOU COULD MESS WITH VIOLENT GAMES.

@scott
Dennis IP checks whoever comes on as JT, and bans impersonators.

in general, i'm impressed, this interview shows a bit of the professionalism and general charisma expected of lawyers, keep it up JT :)

@ Scott

I can tell because I have exchanged emails with the real Thompson in the past and the writing style of the person who's IP Dennis has confirmed is Thompson's is consistent with those emails. It is also consistent with his style of writing in the court briefs we have all read that were penned by Thompson. His writing style is fairly distinct. Further the writer Dennis has confirmed as the real Thompson has pointed out stories that were later posted by Dennis in response to Thompson's words. He has also talked about things that were only known to Thompson, Dennis and a handful of others, such as the fact that Dennis filed a bar complaint against Thompson. Since it would be illegal for anyone involved in the Bar process to talk about those complaints and Dennis never said anything to keep from violating the Bar's rules himself it had to actually be Thompson. There are many people who try and impersonate Thompson but we usually can tell the difference and anyway Dennis usually deletes the imitators.

"As to Lorne’s allegations that I’m in this fight for the money–that was one of the funniest lines of the afternoon. It didn’t sit well with the audience."

Does that explain the applause? The fact that you are trying to blame these horrific events on an industry simply because you don't like it, it has deep pockets and is still relatively new and undefended compared to the entrenched movie and music industries is what didn't sit well with the audience.

WELL I THINK ITS PRETY SAD FOR A MAN TO COMPLANE ABOUT VIDEO GAMES JUST O KEEP HIMSELF IN THE SPOTLIGHT THATS SO SAD I FEEL SORRY FOR HIS SON

"Thanks to all who attended what was more discussion than debate."

From what little I have heard from the coverage, I think I can agree with that. Really doesn't seem to have made any inroads into the whole debate of gaming culture and legislation, which I thought it was set up to do. Sadly this is a bit of an anti-climax. We had Jack up on stage on his best behaviour answering questions and noone asked anything of note. Shame.

Jack Thompson, once again, you prove yourself a man of two minds.

You claim to thank GP, yet was it not even 6 months ago you were calling GP a "lapdog of the industry", "a propoganda site", and that "gp ought to stand for godless pissants" ?

last time I checked, when you call a website those kind of names, you don't thank anyone from that site.

ODDWORLD?

*nostaligagasm*

I freakin' LOVED the Abe games. Pure genius. Besides Crash, they were the first games I ever owned.

For the 100th time people.....

The ancient greeks are not the end all be all of civilization, if they were they would still be around as a major force in today's world, they are not.


Art is art, something that exists for the enjoyment of it's audience. It's subject to interpretation of course, but if you've a problem with it then it's your problem, not a problem with the peice.

Excuse me, Dennis. But as to my "rant" about Doug Lowenstein, Lorne Lanning brought him up, I didn't. Lorne said Doug is now representing arms dealers. Get your facts straight.

Also, as confirming the GDC offer, which I accepted: I have given Dennis McCauley the phone number and name of the lady who extended the offer, and he can confirm it or choose not to. I have accepted the offer. I'll be there. Jack Thompson

GP: My facts are straight. I never said you brought him up, but you did get into a rant about him, as you always do when his name comes up. Lorne is wrong about the arms dealer thing. Doug works for the Private Equity Council.

Dear TheGreg: First off, TheGreg, get a real name.

Secondly, the Greeks defined and practiced art. I'll take their view over Take-Two's gun for hire, Strauss Zelnick, anytime. Zelnick the shill, if you remember, told the BBC that M2 is "fine art." Incredible.

I didn't thank GP, dude. I thanked the attendees. GP was afraid to identify itself. Fine, I exclude them and it from my thanks. Happy now?

GP: GP is most definitely not afraid to identify itself. However, GP does not extend itself to those who are menacing it & its readers with frivolous legal action...

Thanks, Robb, for this:

"Jack Thompson most definitely won the debate. He didn’t win me over to his point of view, but he was professional, witty, and well-rehearsed."

Maybe my opponent at the GDC will stick with the issue and not slip into the ad hominem quagmire. I hope so. The former cheats the audience.

GP: it's quite ironic that you would cite anyone else for ad hominen attacks...

@jack thompson, attorney

"I had to go do a Spike TV interview, which was prearranged."

Spikes TV? Scraping the bottom of the barrel huh? Only worthy show I watch on there is Star Trek now.

"As to Lorne’s allegations that I’m in this fight for the money–that was one of the funniest lines of the afternoon. It didn’t sit well with the audience."

That explains the applause, however I'm surprised it wasn't flat out laughter, as the gaming industry makes more than the movie industry, is newer, and you ignore other factors in these events such as psychological trauma, mental problems, bullying, home problems, peer pressure, ACTUAL firearms training the person may have had. Ya, V Tech was great proof you aren't in it for the money ,since you blamed video games before there was even a body count, and ya, since Counter Strike WAS NOT installed on that computer, I"m sure Solitaire or Pinball is REALLY violent.

By the way, parts of the above were sarcasm, since it has to be eye bleedingly obvious for you to get it.

"Dear TheGreg: First off, TheGreg, get a real name."

This is the internet, we're entitled to our anonymity. You wanting us to give out our real names only shows your disregard for other's personal safety, like, I dunno, your son's?

"Dear TheGreg: First off, TheGreg, get a real name.

Secondly, the Greeks defined and practiced art. I’ll take their view over Take-Two’s gun for hire, Strauss Zelnick, anytime. Zelnick the shill, if you remember, told the BBC that M2 is “fine art.” Incredible. "

Well, storytelling is a form of art, and most games,Manhunt 2 included, tells a story as you play the game through dialogue and cuts cenes, so I guess to some people, Manhunt 2 can be art, because art is in the eye of the beholder.

Because ONE person doesn't see something as art doesn't make it arbitrarily not art to anyone else.

"Secondly, the Greeks defined and practiced art."

That does not mean they have copyright on it... They also defined the musical scales, that does not mean they define the only things that can be done with them.

“Jack Thompson most definitely won the debate. He didn’t win me over to his point of view, but he was professional, witty, and well-rehearsed.”

If you take a man wittily and professionally says in a well rehearsed manner that 2+2=5, and a man who stumbles over his words and says 2+2=4, who is right? Witty and well rehearsed does not win debates, facts do. Jack offered several of his own opinions (that Doom was responsible for the Paducah killings, that video games are not art,etc.) but no real facts.

We've seen that you can compose yourself in public, Mr. Thompson. Please try to do the same here.

@Jack

The Ancient Greeks would have never defined a movie as art for the same reason they wouldn't have defined a video game as art. They had never heard of one.

Any sane modern person would concede a movie can be art.

Therefore your definition is flawed.

Therefore a game can be art.

@jack thompson, attorney
“Dear TheGreg: First off, TheGreg, get a real name.”

Funny, I don't remember names in America not being capitalized, nor do I remember 'attorney' being part of your name.

@JT

I haven't had time to read everything here, nor at the link to a more complete description of the debate but I just can't let your comment about the Greeks go by unanswered.

The Greeks were incredibly violent in many ways, and along with the Romans, had plays where they would bring out convicted criminals and execute them for death scenes in plays. Though I think Valoharth was a little off on the Dionysia festival. I can't find anything at present, nor do I recall anything from studying the Greeks that said there was human sacrifice at this particular festival. There was animal sacrifice (which was also eaten), massive drinking, and city-wide orgies since Dionysis was the god of wine (and partying, man those Greeks knew how to party).

The long and the short of it though, Jack, is that you should make sure you at least have some sort of clue about what you are saying before you open your mouth. By your standards we can now include bound convicts and swords with games for children to execute them at the right point in the game, since the Greeks didn't care if the people viewing the play were 5 or 50. I'm sure that would make an interesting children's game, "after you finish this block puzzle take your convict and chop his head off to continue... "

I really don't imagine you managing to do this though since the above is fact, something you ignore completely on your ignorant "crusade to protect the kiddies".

I guess Asians Did not create Art. Or the African, Or Native Americans.


I wonder if Andy Warhol would be considered an artist by that definition?

Just a question, Jack: I understand that you don't find GTA/Manhunt to be art. That's fine, and I even tend to agree with you. However, do you believe there are other games with artistic elements out there that could be defined as "art"?

@Shoehorn

"If you take a man wittily and professionally says in a well rehearsed manner that 2+2=5, and a man who stumbles over his words and says 2+2=4, who is right?"

Unfortunately, in this case it was more like one man saying 2+2=5 in a well rehearsed manner and the other saying 2+2=purple in an off the cuff manner. Also, when it comes to debates, winning is not determined by what's right but rather by who most succesfully presents his point of view in a logical and well ordered fashion.

@valoharth

If that was the only thing you got out of oedipis rex than you weren't paying attention. The play deals with the aspect of fate. Can it be defied (by anyone but Kratos)? Do you ultimately seal your own fate by trying to defy it (it can be argued that that was the case with oedipus)? Then there is the ending scene which can be interpreted in many ways. So few works of the ancient greeks survive to this day, tragic.

"Secondly, the Greeks defined and practiced art. I’ll take their view over Take-Two’s gun for hire, Strauss Zelnick, anytime. Zelnick the shill, if you remember, told the BBC that M2 is “fine art.” Incredible."

Art is an opinion, Mr. Thompson. Not once in any school was it taught that we all had to follow the Greek ways of interpreting the world. America isn't that black and white. What a great country we have.

I was only able to speak briefly with folks after the long discussion, because I had to go do a Spike TV interview, which was prearranged.

... Wait a minute...

because I had to go do a Spike TV interview

For someone who has been on 60 Minutes and likes to constantly bring it up, you sure have had some interesting "main stream" coverage with G4, unknown blogs, etc and now this.

Makes me wonder what shows or programs were those three interviews on....

In C. S. Lewis' space trilogy, there is a sequence involving a demonic character who, when it suits him, can use logic and reasoning, but will quickly toss it away as soon as he can. His natural state is not only grossly offensive, but unbelievably stupid too. I don't think I need to say how this fits the present situation.
 
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MechaTama31Oh, ok, I was mixing up "on Greenlight" and "Greenlit".12/17/2014 - 8:23pm
Matthew Wilson@phx you beat me to it. how do you screw up tetris?! my ubisoft this is just stupid. no one should ever preorder a ubisoft game again! ps people should never preorder any game regardles of dev.12/17/2014 - 6:28pm
PHX Corphttp://www.ign.com/videos/2014/12/17/what-the-heck-is-wrong-with-tetris-ps4 I give up on ubisoft12/17/2014 - 6:01pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://comicbook.com/blog/2014/08/16/exclusive-original-unaltered-cut-of-star-wars-trilogy-to-be-rele/ Yeah, this'll never happen.12/17/2014 - 5:03pm
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E. Zachary KnightValve's editorial control comes from removing problem games and accepting games to Steam. They make no claim over any games otherwise.12/17/2014 - 12:52pm
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