I’ve always held to my claim that the critics of media violence are in fact the ones profiting most from real-world violence and fears of virtual violence. Their fearmongering fuels book sales, uptake of training materials and demand on both the lecture/speaking circuit and media appearances (never mind political drives to garner more votes).

(Just as one example, check out the packed speaking schedule of David Grossman, a long time game critic, along with the over-commercialized feel of his web site.)

The rush of critics to blame games soon after the Virginia Tech tragedy has been well trodden. And, earlier, I posted Jack Thomspon’s challenge to debate me. Knowing that he’s done this before (though sometimes has backed out) and that he actually has an agent and production company on board, I took his bait and started asking questions about how such a debate would work.

The unedited log of emails between Jack and I are below. As you’ll see, the discussion quickly moves toward getting an agent, negotiating revenue, getting paid (likely $3k each per debate, plus expenses), etc.

Personally, I’m not interested in getting paid under such a controversy-for-profit model. As you’ll see, my “counter challenge” of coming up to Montreal to do a free debate at Dawson College (where a school shooting took place last year) was declined by Jack. Oh well.

To his closing remark about being paid to defend the industry, the opposite is more true. In an ironic twist of economic fate, the IGDA is not directly rewarded for getting involved in the censorship/violence struggle. Since any such work cannot be excluded to non-members, and that everyone in the industry benefits from progress, such work is by definition a “collective good”. In short, because you can reap the benefits of such work without paying for it, you don’t! Of course, economics is messier than that, but does add an interesting wrinkle to the “take money” accusations…

Anyway, here’s the unedited log of emails:

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From: “Jack Thompson”
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2007 14:35:15 -0400

Jack Thompson Challenges Video Game Industry Flak to College Debate about V Tech Massacre…. [this was the original challenge email that I already posted]

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From: “Jason Della Rocca”
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 10:36 AM

Hi Jack,

Good to hear from you, and thanks for sending across your various news bits, etc.

Gotta say, being called an idiot (advisedly) and jackass on national news feels like a special milestone for me.

I’m intrigued about your challenge to debate. Can you provide any details on how things work logistically and such?

Regards,
Jason

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From: “Jack Thompson”
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 10:42:01 -0400

Sure, you agree and then we get an agent to book it or them. Nice of you to characterize me as worse than an ambulance chaser. I was trying to stop these ambulances from being dispatched over the last eight years. You can apologize at our first debate. Do you agree or not?

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From: “Jason Della Rocca”
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 10:49 AM

> Sure, you agree and then we get an agent to book it or them.

An agent? How does that work? Sorry, I’m new to this kind of thing. Generally, I just lecture at game industry conferences and handle everything directly.

> You can apologize at our first debate. Do you agree or not?

Let’s save that for the debate :)

Jason

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From: “Jack Thompson”
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 12:29:18 -0400

So, do you want to do it? I can then, if you agree, get an agent, and we’ll see what we can do. Let me know. thanks

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From: “Jason Della Rocca”
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 12:36 PM

I’d like to understand how this all works before committing to anything.

Regards,
Jason

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From: “Jack Thompson”
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 12:45:59 -0400

First, you agree to debate. Then we get an agent who gets us a venue, or more than one on college campuses, and we get paid to debate. We negotiate the venue and the revenue.

The sine qua non is the stated desire of both parties to debate. If we can’t come to terms then there is no debate, but I can’t go to a college events organization and ask to book one or more debates without your stating that you want to debate.

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From: “Jason Della Rocca”
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 12:55 PM

Hi Jack,

Thanks very much for the additional info. Very helpful.

I didn’t realize this was a paid-for affair. Where does the revenue come from? Am I to guess that attendees to the debate pay an entrance fee? Or, is there some other magical way these events generate revenue? Again, admittedly, I’m a novice when it come to these things. Sorry.

Also, I live/work in Montreal, Canada. Would my travel expenses get covered, or would you come up to Montreal?

Jason

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From: “Jack Thompson”
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 13:51:55 -0400

Colleges collect activities fees from their students for each school year. They are looking for events like this. They pay all expenses. We could expect to net approximately $3000 or more per event. Obviously, I’m not in this issue for the money and neither are you, but that’s how it works. The agent gets paid out of the gross fee for the event. I think it would be great. Let me know

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From: “Jason Della Rocca”
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 3:03 PM

Wow, not bad for an evening’s discussion. Still, I’d feel bad about taking the money and would prefer a money-less debate.

Would you be willing to come up to Montreal. I could probably get us into Dawson College for the debate. Of course, we wouldn’t ask for fees, or get our expenses paid for, or charge at the door or anything…

Jason

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From: “Jack Thompson”
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 16:32:41 -0400

That isn’t how it works and I can’t justify leaving my family to go to Montreal on a freebie. Sorry. Have to pay the bills.

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From: “Jason Della Rocca”
Sent: Tuesday, April 24, 2007 4:48 PM

Right, I understand.
Regards,
Jason

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From: “Jack Thompson”
Date: Tue, 24 Apr 2007 18:22:19 -0400

Money is evil but games to practice killing people are not?

So your answer is no. too bad.

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From: “Jason Della Rocca”
Sent: Wednesday, April 25, 2007 11:51 AM

Hmm, still thinking about it.

Again, I’m uneasy with the idea of profiting from this…

Regards,
Jason

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From: “Jack Thompson”
Date: Wed, 25 Apr 2007 12:40:45 -0400

You’re uneasy with being paid for your time, while take money from an industry that has you defend its sale of mature-rated games to kids?

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