David Kushner on His New Book, 'Jacked: The Outlaw story of Grand Theft Auto'

April 17, 2012 -

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.

Source: CNET


Comments

Re: David Kushner on His New Book, 'Jacked: The Outlaw story ...

I agree with Kushner in the the mistake of dealing with of Jack Thompson was that he often went on cable news outlets unopposed, and that the industry by and large took a hands-off approach with him.  Whether that was because they felt they didn't have anyone who was qualified to go up against him in terms of knowledge of law, or because they figured it was best to ignore him I don't know.  Probably the latter, though.  And a large part of the blame could be laid at Doug Lowenstein's feet, as he refused to directly engage him despite Jack attacking him at a personal level.

The real tragedy is that he could have been ended a long time ago by simply having someone go up against him to debunk his claims, and it never happened.  Instead it was left to us, the gaming community, to do all the heavy lifting.  The ECA was formed to counter Thompson and people like him, and GP's formative years in which Thompson trolled these boards and we sparred with him is the stuff of  legend.  As it turned out, GP had a hand in exposing Thompson and his antics.  I think it was even one of the few news outlets who even bothered to keep track of what he did.  And ultimately this exposure of his practices led to his judicial review and his disbarment.

Personally, I think he was less a true believer and more of an opportunist.  He often liked to choose high-profile media targets who were difficult to defend, whether it was 2 Live Crew or Howard Stern.  In my mind, that made him a bully, as he picked on those who weren't in much of position to do a lot of fighting back.  There's little doubt in my mind that he was motivated by his faith, as his behavior was consistent with that of any religious fanatic.  But he was also a lawyer, and knew how to game the system...ultimately to his detriment.  But that's why I thought he was potentially dangerous to the industry, for as much as some would laugh at him and dismiss him, he knew how to manipulate the media.  It didn't matter whether he won any of his cases or not.  The coverage got him exposure, and every opportunity he got to be on camera was an opportunity to spread his message about how video games were bad.  And while I'm glad his claims were ultimately debunked and he was shut down, he shouldn't have been allowed to go on for as long as he did.

Re: David Kushner on His New Book, 'Jacked: The Outlaw story ...

I guess I know what book I'll be reading in the next few days.

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Managing Editor at TheBestGameSiteEver.com

 
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