Thompson Guns Down PAX Debate Proposal

By Nick Breckon, Jun 06, 2007 4:58pm PDT Just when you thought he was out of the spotlight, the creative duo from webcomic Penny Arcade have pulled him back in.

In an effort to squelch the rhetoric of anti-game activist Jack Thompson on their own stage, Penny Arcade writer Jerry Holkins and illustrator Mike Krahulik had covertly invited the Florida lawyer to a formal debate during the upcoming Penny Arcade Expo in August. Now a press release written by Thompson has declined the offer based on misgivings over the secrecy of the event, according to a report by GamePolitics.

"Penny Arcade said that it was concerned that too many people would want to go if word got out too widely that Thompson would be at the event," Thompson alleged in the letter. "One wonders what the real reason for the news blackout by Penny Arcade is."

GamePolitics reports that negotiations had been going on behind the scenes for days, with the PA crew planning to announce the debate an hour beforehand for "security reasons." Thomspon was apparently incensed at the idea, labeling it as hypocritical. "You guys are the ones who think that even adult entertainment materials should be marketed and sold to children because of "freedom of expression," and yet I am not allowed to tell media and others of this debate?" he remarked, apparently referring to video games as "adult entertainment materials."

"I've been in far more hostile environs than what you offer. You all need to grow a pair of what a kid can cut off in Manhunt 2," Thompson continued.

The news of the failed debate coincides with Thompson's recent attempt to rally government officials in opposition of Rockstar Games' upcoming title Manhunt 2 (Wii, PS2, PSP). The Nintendo Wii version of Manhunt 2 will reportedly allow players to commit murders using the Wii remote by performing a series of gestures which will execute gruesome special attacks. Thompson last month demanded that fast food chain Wendy's halt its promotion of Nintendo Wii products due to the game's content.

In a letter to Florida governor Charlie Crist (R), Thompson cited studies done at Harvard and Indiana University while claiming that "hard neurobiological science proves that Manhunt 2, with its hyperviolent content and motion capture technology on Wii, will be a teen murder simulator like the world has never seen."

A study by an Indiana University group last year found that children who play violent video games show a reduced activation in prefrontal areas of the brain when compared to kids playing non-violent alternatives. The prefrontal area of the brain is associated with inhibition, concentration and self-control. Researchers also found a comparative rise in amygdala activity, which is closely linked to emotional arousal. Despite the findings, experts classified the study as preliminary. "This is early evidence for a biological change supporting other research on violent video games," said David S. Bickham, a research scientist the Harvard School of Public Health. "This is a first step in this kind of research, but it isn't conclusive."

Although governor Crist has so far declined to comment on the subject, Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum has apparently given Thompson an ear. In a yet-to-air, on-camera interview with Fox News--which also features a segment with Thompson--McCollum reportedly expressed concern over the game's content. A GamePolitics source claimed that the Wii version of the game is being singled out. "That's where they're kicking up their heels," the source said.

"Attorney General Bill McCollum is concerned about any games which may instill violence in children, particularly games that encourage children to engage in violent behavior, even in simulation," read a comment issued to GamePolitics by McCollum's press secretary. "He believes it is important to help protect children from influences which may introduce violence into their lives and stresses the importance of parental involvement in the efforts to keep these influences out of our homes and away from our families."

Another anonymous GamePolitics source indicated that Nintendo specifically sought out a third-party deal for Manhunt 2 due to its mature content. "[Nintendo exec] Reggie [Fils-Aime] spent a fair amount of time soliciting [former Take Two CEO] Paul Eibeler to get the game on the Wii," the source stated. "Reggie did it to introduce more M-rated content, as he was afraid too many people would pigeon-hole [the Wii] as a kid machine."

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