Brendon Lindsey was one of the countless video game players frustrated by the current attacks on the medium. Instead of just thinking to himself or posting messages on a forum, he decided to start a website. In just a short time, this published writer has created something that has received an unexpectedly huge response. This interview was conducted through e-mail to see how this all came about, and just why anti-game crusader Jack Thompson is under attack.
Who are you and what do you do?
I'm the creator of, and editor of www.StopStopkill.com. Basically, that means I'm the guy in charge of making sure everything is (close) to being "perfect" so it can go online. I read all the submissions a few times, edit them for clarity (and grammar/spelling mistakes the writers miss), take out/fix dead links in them, etc. I also check all the facts and such mentioned in articles to make sure they're used correctly and not out of context/skewed.
When I have the time I also write things for the website along with my pal Jonathan. But, since the website came up there's been so many submissions/emails to take care of, I'm spending 6+ hours a night alone on just answering questions, editing articles so they can fit in the website (the HTML and whatnot along with what I said earlier), and doing interviews like this ;)
But if you ask buyable, my main job is trying to fix something wrong with the coding and mess it up horribly, causing him hours of frustration.
What made you start the site? At what point did you say, "Enough is enough, and gamers need a voice?" Was that even how it happened?
It's been bugging me for a while, but I never really did anything about it other than writing the occasional column about it one of the newspapers I've worked for. But about two weeks ago, I was talking with some friends who frequent a forum with me and we just couldn't take it anymore. There were too many news stories about it, and most of them used either horrible research on the subject or were just plain ignorant on the facts.
We noticed that while there were a lot of well-written pieces on the subject, most of them were scattered throughout hundreds of different websites, and unless someone wanted to spend a lot of time trying to find them they would never be seen. So, I came up with the idea of starting a website where we can sort of be a "stronghold" for the gamer's side of the issue. That way, even the laziest of people would be able to go to a single URL and find a plethora of items on the subject-everything from research papers to angry, sarcastic editorials/columns.
You say on the site that traffic has been beyond expectations. What is your usual daily hit count?
Let's see…as of midnight on Wednesday we had 273628 hits 8 days after creation. However, we lost basically one entire day because our host crashed due to the amount of hits (I didn't expect any more than 1000 for the first week…), and the first day we had only an article and editorial I wrote (and hastily, I admit…I just really wanted to have something on the site and it was registered and up sooner than I expected). So in 6 days of actually having content on the site besides just my own, we've had 270,000+ hits.
The biggest surprise to me is that so far people in 68 countries have gone to the site, and almost 35% of the people who have visited it have bookmarked it. That and the fact that the average visit is 304 seconds. So it's obvious they're spending time doing something on the website, not just clicking the link they saw somewhere.
Have you heard anything from Thompson himself (or some of his supporters)?
From Jack himself, not yet. There's a pool running between some people I know on how long it will take before he threatens to sue me if I don't shut the site down (I lost, my bet was 3 days).
I HAVE heard from his supporters, though. I've had a fair share of emails telling me that I'm "evil", and "trying to destroy our children's morals". But, those are easily cancelled out by the amount of emails I've gotten supporting the cause and thanking me.
I've also had a few emails from parents telling me that they were never actually aware of the facts. That they just believed what they were told about these "evil games", and that thanks to the website they're going to spend more time trying to learn about what their kids are playing and where they should cut off the limit themselves (and not just listen to an anonymous news report).
In the realm of video game violence, what had you done before starting the site?
Man, you can name pretty much any game since the Atari and I've played it. Mortal Kombat, Duke Nukem, all the GTA's, Manhunt... I even had a prerelease version of Thrill Kill one of my friends who wrote for a gaming website let me borrow (and then got relocated to a new city and forgot to take back).
I've owned (and still have lying around the house) an Atari, NES, Genesis, SNES, PSX, Saturn, N64, Dreamcast, PS2, Xbox, Gamecube, Gamegear, Gameboy, Neo-Geo Pocket, DS, PSP, Virtual Boy (I'm not too proud of that fact), and of course the standard PC as well. I'm sure there is some system I've forgotten, but you can get an idea that I've spent my fair share of time playing games growing up.
Why focus on just Jack Thompson? Video gaming has multiple critics.
The site doesn't technically focus on just Jack. So far, he just happens to be the main opponent that most people know of (plus I'd say 90% of submissions are related to him). We have plenty of non-Jack related articles/papers about the effect (or lack thereof) of violent games on children.
As for why there ARE so many pieces about him - and why so much of the content is about him at the moment - I would have to say it's because he makes it too easy. Any casual gamer can tell that most of the facts he uses, as well as examples, are wrong. I guess the whole human subconscious took over, and people just decided to take care of the easiest debate first.
This does go far beyond Jack Thompson, and in due time you can be sure the website will continue growing outward and taking on more critics than just him.
Do you feel he has a case against gaming manufacturers and their responsibility?
No. The responsibility rests on the employees who sell the games to underage children and the kid's parents. How can you blame someone who makes a product, and puts a warning explicitly stating on said product that it's not intended for anyone under 17, when a parent buys the game for them?
When someone gets in a car crash, the police don't show up and blame Dodge or Ford (unless it was a faulty model).
What is your actual goal with the site?
My goal is to get people to start paying attention to the issue now before it's too late. It's getting to the point soon where censorship and government regulations on videogames are going to be a big issue in politics. I'm not claiming this is the end-all website on the subject; I'm just trying to create one where people can find enough info easily enough to get them interested.
Also, another goal is to educate the parents out there. I think that if more parents pay attention and do their own research on the issues, we wouldn't be in this big of a mess. If I can help show them that videogames aren't necessarily devices which train children to kill, they'll realize that it's up to their child's maturity level if a game is too violent or not.
How do you feel about government regulation, or restriction?
In some cases, I believe it can be helpful. Such as things which can cause severe damage to people if there are any faults in the processing. Foods, drinks, automobiles, housing, etc. All of those types of things need a regulation because one mistake can cost someone a life. Things in the entertainment industry, however, don't need that. The one thing I think the government could do which may help is start fining stores that sell games to people not old enough to play them without their parent's consent. But again, let the industry and retailers try to fix it themselves first.
Government regulation should be a last-ditch effort. Hopefully, we won't get to the point where it's needed.
Does the ESRB do enough in your opinion? Does the rating system serve its purpose properly?
I've already said it once I believe (or something along the lines of it). The ESRB does its job. It rates the games, and based on set criteria lets parents know what age they suggest the person playing the game should be. If people actually followed it, or bothered to read the rating on a game before they bought it for their 7 year-old son, the entire issue would be over.
What are your thoughts on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas situation?
It's blown way out of proportion. The only reason people like Thompson are focusing on it is because it's such a big name. If a game like Disgaea or Katamari Damacy had the same "problem" GTA:SA had, there wouldn't be a single story on any non-gaming channel or magazine about it.
You're in front of congress. They are planning to pass a bill to restrict game sales in the US. You have been given one minute to say your side, and the entire industry is counting on you. What do you say?
Well, hopefully if that were the case I would have a few days or weeks to prepare a speech so brilliant it would end up with them unanimously deciding to make me president.
But, for now, I'd have to say something along the lines of that the fault doesn't lie with the videogame companies or producers. The system is fine, if it's implemented. Parents need to be educated on the subject. Instead of limiting the business of a nearly $10 billion industry, try spending a couple hundred million and set up awareness seminars in some of the larger cities.
Make it like jury duty. Parents with children would receive a notification with a date and time, and go to a mandatory half-hour or hour long meeting to teach them about the subject. Show the research done by scholars like Dr. Jenkins; show them clips (which aren't out of context) from the games which are so "bad", etc. Not only would it be much easier than trying to trim down such a large industry, but it would be cheaper (I'm sure there are plenty of people in this country educated enough to talk at these things who would be willing to do it for peanuts).
... on second thought, if I didn't have time to write a speech I would probably just read from one of Dr. Jenkins's research papers. Or use the minute to pass out copies of it to all of the congressmen so they could read it themselves. That would probably do the job just fine.