On October 18, one of the biggest critics of the video-game industry, Jack Thompson, sent an alarming fax to Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske. Best known as the Florida attorney who led the legal campaign against 2 Live Crew in 1990, Thompson now lobbies against violent video games. In his fax to Kerlikowske, Thompson called for the arrest of two Seattle business partners, Jerry Holkins and Mike Krahulik. Thompson's fax also described Holkins and Krahulik's Northgate-based business and popular web comic, Penny Arcade (which features the pair's alter egos Gabe and Tycho), as a "little extortion factory."
Thompson's histrionic "extortion" charge was evidently a reference to a $10,000 charitable contribution that Holkins and Krahulik had made in Thompson's name—the result of a challenge Thompson made one week earlier.
On October 10, the antigame activist sent an open letter to Douglas Lowenstein, president of the Entertainment Software Association, a video-game-manufacturing trade organization. Titled "A Modest Video Game Proposal," Thompson's letter dared game makers to create a game in which a bereaved father whose son had been killed because of a violent video game seeks vengeance on game developers. Thompson's proposed game included the brutal murder of "Paula Eibel" —a thinly veiled reference to Paul Eibeler, the president of Take-Two Interactive Software, which puts out the Grand Theft Auto series. Thompson also wanted the game to include a massacre at E3, the game industry's annual convention. If the industry would "create, manufacture, distribute, and sell a video game in 2006" that fulfilled his proposal, Thompson said, he would donate $10,000 to the charity of Eibeler's choice.
Word of Thompson's proposal spread quickly. Shortly thereafter, a group calling themselves the Fighting Hellfish created a modification for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas—titled Defamation of Character: A Jack Thompson Murder Simulator—that some gamers claimed met Thompson's criteria. They pounced on Thompson, asking when he would make his donation.
Thompson refused, he told The Stranger, because "the game had to come from the industry, not from some pimply faced 13-year-old in his garage. Number two, I specified the date had to be 2006, not 2005."
On October 17, a week after Thompson made his proposal, Holkins and Kahulik made Thompson's donation for him. Using profits from Penny Arcade—which also hosts a gaming convention and has an upcoming book—the two donated $10,000 to the Entertainment Software Association Foundation, a video-game-industry group that facilitates charitable giving from game developers and publishers, in Thompson's name. The ESAF, not coincidentally, is also an organization for which Eibeler has raised funds. One day later, Thompson made his call for the pair's arrest. (Seattle police have not yet responded.) On October 21, Thompson also went to the feds, faxing a similar demand to U.S. Attorney John McKay.
In both faxes, Thompson neglected to mention Penny Arcade's donation, even though his letter came immediately after the contribution. Instead, Thompson claimed he wanted the pair arrested for e-mail harassment and for selling "I Hate Jack Thompson" T-shirts on their website.
"We're both dads," Krahulik says of himself and Holkins. "We can all agree here, I think, that kids shouldn't play violent video games. Where we disagree with Jack is that we think developers still have the right to make them."
"He's always been this sort of weird moral scold," adds Krahulik. "His career is punctuated by publicity stunts like this. We made him look pretty bad."email@example.comIN OTHER NEIGHBORHOODS
INTERBAY: Advocates for the skate community were shocked last week to hear that planning for a new Elliott Avenue skatepark has been halted, setting back plans to boost the city's skate infrastructure. Eight months ago Seattle Parks and Recreation chose a King County–owned parking lot on Elliott Avenue to replace Seattle Center's SeaSk8 (which is about to be displaced by the new Gates Foundation headquarters). Last week, however—after spending $62,000 of the new skatepark's budget—the parks department announced the mayor decided to suspend work on the Elliott Avenue location. The city, it turns out, just discovered they'd have to buy the site, instead of leasing it long-term. —SF