A little bit of Schadenfreude

Schadenfreude is defined as “pleasure taken from someone else’s misfortune.”

Jack Thompson, a Florida attorney, has taken the despicable practice of ambulance chasing to a national level in recent years. For those unfamiliar with his tactics, he seeks cases where young people commit acts of violence and then attempts to pin the blame on video games (rather than the individual who pulled the trigger or those who provided the guns). He preys on the families of victims, grabs as many headlines as possible, and files civil lawsuits against much of the game industry, including developers, publishers, manufacturers, and retailers. Mind you, he has never won any of these cases.

The latest headline case was that of Devin Moore killing three people in an Alabama police station, for which he was (appropriately) convicted and sentenced to death. Alas, he apparently told the arresting officer, “Life’s like a video game. You’ve got to die sometime.” That was certainly more than enough to attract the vultures. Testimony in his trial showed that Moore had a childhood full of mental of physical abuse, but somehow Thompson figures that his playing Grand Theft Auto III was the primary factor in the shooting.

During the resulting civil lawsuit (still in progress), Thompson’s spotlight seeking behavior prompted the attorneys for the defense to introduce a motion to have him removed from the case. In an attempt to avoid that outcome, Thompson attempted to remove himself from the lawsuit first. However, the judge in the case prevented him from withdrawing voluntarily and instead temporarily revoked Thompson’s rights to practice law in Alabama, according to this news item on Gamasutra.

To be very clear, I am saddened by the murders and my heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims. I am no fan of violent video games, either. However, Jerk Thompson and his crusade simply pour salt into the open wounds of the survivors. Video games are improperly scapegoated, while the focus is taken away from the real issues of poverty and child abuse. The only thing that benefits from all of this is one inflated ego, and I, for one, am pleased that the judge took this action.

Rant over.

For more insight into the background, one can read about how Jack Thompson reneged on a charitable donation pledge, and further, how he his now under investigation by the Florida Bar Association after accusing Penny Arcade of blackmail and criminal harassment after they had they unmitigated gall to make a $10000 charitable donation in his name, all of which gave rise to the I HATE Jack Thompson t-shirt.

Meanwhile, Penny Arcade actually makes a real difference with their Child’s Play charity, which accepts donations and provides toys and games for sick children in hospitals around the world. Better still, the charity take nothing for administrative overhead, so 100% of the donations go directly to the hospitals for distribution to the kids. In this season of giving, I encourage everybody to make a donation to Child’s Play. Or, at least, buy a t-shirt.

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