As a result of his vigorous crusading, Thompson may just be the most hated man in games. He’s traded barbs publicly with journalists, developers, and, most famously, the former head of the Entertainment Software Association, Doug Lowenstein. In 2005, Thompson wrote an open letter to Lowenstein titled “A Modest Video Game Proposal.” He offered to donate $10,000 to charity if a publisher would create and sell a game in which an angry father beats the employees of a video-game company to death with a baseball bat. Although the satire was muddled, at best, several amateur game-makers took him up on the offer.

The results, while justified in the minds of their miffed creators, illustrated a fatal flaw within the gaming community. Thompson’s hysterics should have been greeted with the attention they deserved — that is, none at all. He’d given himself enough rope. To actually make such a game — or to modify existing games to include Thompson's visage — merely proved his point about video-game violence for violence’s sake.

080425_masseffect_main
UNIDENTIFIED FLYING ORGASM? If you played things right in BioWare’s Mass Effect, you could have sex with a comely alien.
As a matter of fact
This past winter, a Fox News program called The Live Desk with Martha MacCallum devoted a segment to the Xbox 360 game Mass Effect — specifically, to a scene in the game in which the playable character has sex with a comely alien.

It’s important to note that certain fairly specific conditions have to be met for this allegedly lurid cinematic to appear. Every action the player takes over the course of the game, including what responses he chooses in conversations, can open up differing dramatic paths. It’s possible to play the game and not encounter the sex scene at all. If you do chance upon it, it’s because you’ve taken the time to establish a relationship between your character and the alien. Bared purple flesh notwithstanding, it’s one of the more responsible depictions of carnal relations ever found in a game.

None of these precautions, however, seemed to sway the opinion of author and self-esteem evangelical Cooper Lawrence, who was a guest on The Live Desk. She characterized Mass Effect as a sex simulator — a game in which “It’s a man deciding how many women he wants to be with.” When a befuddled Geoff Keighley — the games journalist who was brought in to provide Fox’s legendary fair-and-balanced coverage — asked Lawrence if she’d actually ever played the game, she answered point-blank: “No.”

Lawrence’s misrepresentation led to an outcry in the gaming community. Besides savaging Lawrence in the insular world of forums and blogs, gamers set about plastering negative reviews on the amazon.com page for her self-help book, The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace with Your Inner Overachiever. Electronic Arts, which owns Mass Effect developer BioWare, fired off an angry open letter to Fox News management, demanding a retraction of the demonstrably false claims Lawrence had made.

Then a funny thing happened: Lawrence admitted she’d been wrong, telling the New York Times, “I recognize that I misspoke. . . . I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes, it’s kind of a joke.”

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