April 14,1999 -- Previous Mailbag

Letters are edited for spelling only, and may contain profanity.
Commentary by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman.

From: Noel (HB) Wade
Subject: Mailbag Material...

First off, I expect some people to have already written in regarding the Parent-id (among others like Nintendo and Sony) lawsuit. However, I'd take it in stride at this point. Unless a totally up-tight judge without a clue handles the case, I don't see any reason to believe that these entertainment companies will suffer. Why?? Well if you read the article, you'll notice two important things: First, the kid tried to plead that he was mentally ill - but still got life in prison without parole for at least 25 years. And second, the parents (who are obviously after money) ALREADY filed a large lawsuit against students and teachers at the school; blaming THEM.

This "anti-entertainment" lawsuit was only filed AFTER the Judge dismissed 24 defendants from the previous lawsuit. I would think that if the parents had targeted the entertainment industry (per the boy's defense) FIRST, then it might be different; but the fact that they're going for the companies with cash SECOND on the list, makes it much more likely that financial gain is in the plans. What I want to know, is where are the boy's parents in all of this? Not a single person has questioned what they've done with their kid; or how they might be responsible.

And therein lies the REAL tragedy in this (side note: I'm not trying to down-play the 3 deaths and 5 injuries; those ARE tragic - I'm comparing the parental responsibility to the "tragedy" of the lawsuit over "violence in the media"). The one that gets the shaft out of this is, you guessed it, the Internet! Why? Because no one questioned where the hell the parents were when this kid was allegedly viewing porn and "deviant material". Its a tragedy in two ways: First, the negative press and bad opinions of people not familiar with the 'net will increase. This may FURTHER push government agencies to try to regulate the 'net. If it's "public safety at risk", that's one hell of a convincing argument for lobbyists and law-makers to use on the general public, to pass a bill. Second, it shows just how little people still understand the 'net, and computers in general. It shouldn't dishearten me; since I've worked at an ISP for several months (I _AM_ Greg from "User Friendly"); and I've seen the darker and stupider side of many people - however, what I find particularly frustrating is the public's notion that computers are magical. They see them as these technological cure-alls; perfect and pristine. Forgetting that most adults can't even set their VCR clocks, they turn these even MORE complex objects over to their kids without a second thought.

I live for the day when people recognize (in general) that the computer is a TOOL. And like any other TOOL, you need to know how to use it right; and you need to know how it is dangerous. And parents these days are the WORST culprits of this. If you asked any one of them "Would you let a 6 year old kid go play alone with a running lawnmower?" - They'd be shocked and tell you "NO!", and maybe even point out the dangers of those spinning blades underneath. Or how about if you asked them if you'd simply give a 12 year old keys to your car? Or permission for a 12-14 year old to go to clubs/bars?? ANY one of these questions is likely to secure you an aghast response, with added comments about the dangers of drinking, sex, drugs, accidents, and injuries- fearing for the safety of their kids; and a desire to shield them from the more "adult world" until they are older. Yet the computer - definitely an advanced tool - and with the 'net as an open portal to ANYWHERE (including many aspects of the "adult world"), Parents toss their kids into it by themselves; and without supervision or restriction.

And whether or not the child is directly influenced or hurt by the material they access - the repercussions of this lack of responsibility, on the part of the Parents, will ONLY grow stronger and more problematic (especially as the 'net and computer technology grows) - until the general public wakes up and realizes what's at their fingertips. Its a shame that I don't see that happening for 10-20 years; when current "computer illiterate" adolescents and young adults become parents themselves.

--Noel "HB" Wade

From: czar
Subject: This lawsuit thing

I already sent something in for the mailbag this week, but I can't keep quite about this lawsuit. It would seem that if these parents had their way, we would all be carbon copies of the Flanders. Blaming TV, music, video games. movies, and pop culture in general is pointing the finger at the wrong person. I don't see how flicking your wrist to move a mouse translates into sharpshooter aim. I also don't see how Quake or Doom, or anything I have EVER seen on TV or in movies, heard in a song, or done in a video game would make me want to take someone else's life.

And since there are millions of copies of games such a Quake, Doom, and Mortal Kombat out there with very few homicides 'based' on these games, I would bet that there are a whole lot of people who agree that these games don't work them up into a blood lust. Instead, I think these parents don't want to hear the truth, and are also after a whole heap of cash. Instead ask the question of why did this student decide on his peers. If he was inherently violent due to these games, and random group of people should have proven just a good a target. But this was a planned act targeting his peers. Anyone who has been to high school and junior high can vouch for the amount of pressure that exists in these schools. The very nature of schools here in the US means that you have a number kids who just plain don't what to be in school, and figure they will have some fun so long as they have to be there, usually at some other student's expense. But unless violence breaks out little is done about the conditions that schools breed. Tensions can build, and the consequences can be this horrifying. But if you still are not convinced, think about this. Throughout human history we have killed each other. With clubs, with arrows, with swords, with knives, with cannons, with guns, and with many other horrible instruments of destruction. We have killed each other since before the invention of video games, since before TV, since before movies, since before radio, since before books, since before music, reading and writing. In fact we have been killing all sorts of things since before the birth of civilization. Video games can be useful as a modern and safe way to 'hunt'. We can instinctively hunt, it is part of our nature. Removing one outlet will simply mean people flock to others, and then others, until all outlets for our natural aggression are removed and we simply kill each other. Maybe it is time we examine society instead of the media as causes of violence.

From: Jason Johansen
Subject: RE: id Sued by Parents?

I don't usually sound off like this, but today I'm feeling extra spry (I just got done sending negative feedback to Oracle for their support site's impression of the final seconds of an NBA game -- read: arduously slow, with lots of timeouts). Anywho, it is a tragedy that 3 girls were killed by an apparent maniac. But it is even sadder that instead of accepting this one boy is an admitted loony (no offense, loonyboi), the parents have to make life all around miserable for people in industries that are symptoms of a sick, perverse society, not the cause. This has to be the inner workings of their respective minds: "It couldn't possibly be the fault of this one lunatic child, there has some conspiracy of game developers, movie makers....oooh don't forget the ever popular scapegoat --PORN behind this unholy crime." I understand that all of these industries have some tendencies to lean toward the bleak, darker side of reality, but if you can't differentiate between reality and fiction...

Oh, what's the use.

Thanks for listening, anyway

Jason Johansen
Software Engineer
Direct Tech, Inc.

No offense taken. :)

From: E-spots
Subject: id sued by parents?

Now the game industry can know what it feels like to be the gun industry.

I fervently hope this suit fails utterly and that reason reasserts itself in America, which was once a country where one was held responsible for ones own actions.

I don't in any way feel hyperbolic by saying this, but once these individuals and groups get through putting American Firearms companies out of business with unjustified lawsuits, they'll come after our games next.

This lawsuit is just an opening salvo because if lawyers and their clients get a taste money to be made, there will be more such suits.

There are very clever and insidious ways of getting around the First and Second Amendments and they will be looking for those ways.

Plus, they have powerful friends in Congress. Don't forget Joseph Lieberman, Charles Schumer, Diane Feinstein,Barbara Boxer (all Democratic senators) and also remember that the Communications Decency Act was also of Democratic genesis.

The one good thing that could come out of this is that gamers might finally have to become politically involved.

Thomas Quarles

From: Frank Kruller
Subject: re:id Sued by Parents?

When is someone gonna sue these parents for letting their kid ruin what we consider fun? Christ, what a fucked up world.


One of the things that's important to remember here, is that this isn't entirely the fault of the parents involved. No matter how you look at it, there's no denying that they have suffered a great deal, and they're looking for something, anything, really, to get back at. I have no doubt that 3/4ths of this suit is the result of some lawyer who saw the opportunity to cash in on their misery.

From: NuclearTear
Subject: id Sued by Parents?

(regarding the posting "id Sued by Parents?")
Why don't they sue CNN, NBC and all news agencies? Heck, sue the government for allowing these explicit materials.

Some ppl just take things a bit too far


From: Hidayat
Subject: Comments abt the news that parents are suing id Software.

Hi, I read with some sadness the news concerning some parents who are suing a whole bunch of people for the killing of their children by the 14 year old kid. Although its easy to fall into the common party lines of either supporting the parents against the "evils" of the computer game industry OR against them because "they're just buying into that whole naive TV-violence thing", I think the issue is more complex than that.

Frankly, from my point of view, the main problem is that the moral fibers of American society is unraveling and it seems to me that Americans are desperately clutching at straws trying to pinpoint exactly why this is happening and what is the cause of it.

That a 14 year old kid can have access to lethal arms, that his parents didn't know what he was up to, that he thought killing others was a-ok, it just shows how far down the road the traditional value systems have been eroded.

Obviously, the parents of the children killed are totally justified in their backlash against what they perceive as the elements which contribute to this moral decline. Porn is definitely a corrupting factor and Hollywood is also partly to blame for its many questionable contributions to American art, culture and thinking. Some portions of the computer games industry is also partly to blame I guess with their "its just a computer game so everything is fair game" mentality.

However, to pinpoint specific individuals and companies, especially industry leaders, and blame them specifically for the deaths of these children is not only unfair but also self defeating. id Software didn't put the gun into that 14 year old boy's hand and pulled the trigger, society as a whole did. If anything is to be blamed, its the apathy of the American society in the face of moral decline, its the American government which have time and again failed to implement effective gun control measures, it is the disintegrating American family unit which spawns so many socially flawed individuals.

What America needs is not more court cases and long drawn legal battles that end in payoffs and cynicism. What America needs is some soul-searching and real commitment to address real issues of society, without cynicism, without hidden agendas, without selfish causes. To that end, industry leaders like id Software must take the initiative to show that they are serious about such issues, that they are aware of the problems facing society and support the open discussion of REAL issues which are the cause of the problems of society, like gun control for example. In this way, id maintains its status as an industry leader in the computer game industry, not only by virtue of their code and sales, but also because they are setting trends and examples which chart the course of the future of the whole industry. Small efforts, given time, can greatly affect the outcome of things to come.


From: BeeRkEG
Subject: ID sued by parents

Hi I know you probably don't really care about feedback on articles but I really have to say something about this issue, so here goes.

How can they possibly blame anything which have warning labels on it?? I mean the box says on it that it's for ages 17 and up, or 16 and up in the case of the movie. If it's anyone's fault its the parents for letting there children use these things which are clearly stated on the box as not being for them.

And besides I've been playing and watching violence since I was like 6 and I'm not going to out and kill all my class mates. Ever thought of blaming guns and not video games?? That's what we do up here in Canada, and have you ever heard of anything that nutz from up here?

Well I feel much better, thx. -- Drew 'BeeRkEG' MacPhee

It's true, most gamers are hardly what I would call violent people. If anything, hardcore gamers are some of the tamest people I've met.

From: James Boswell
Subject: re: id sued by parents

The amusing part is, if parents raised their kids to actually THINK FOR THEMSELVES... instead of "You should try to be cool".. the shootings couldn't be blamed on anything other than the shooter...

but because people are stupid.... .... <I'll let you work the rest out>

-=- James Boswell

From: ]SC[DeathAngel
Subject: regarding the Lawsuit

Hello Blue-

I have been a ongoing reader of your site for too long to remember now.. and I have never written to you, till now.. I am completely outraged by this lawsuit you have informed us about. What is this world coming to when you can blame your own bad parenting on Game companies, and movies??? Now, they are saying that every MAJOR game company, or ones that started game entertainment (Atari) in the first place are responsible for making THIER son commit murder. Does Quake really SHOW you how to hold a gun??, Fire a gun?? No, they just give you a picture with a key, and say, here have fun. The fault is completely on the parents. I'm sorry, but I'm a strong believer that you have to RAISE your kids, not let them grow up on their own. If his parent's let him believe such things like Quake and things in movies are realistic and happen in everyday life, IM sorry but that is just really bad parenting! Games/movies/websites all have disclaimers and ratings, if his parents gave a damn about him, they would limit him to what he saw/played, or teach him not take things like that seriously.

Now yes ppl can argue that in this day and society with both parents working and blah blah blah.. well that is still bull, the fact of the matter is, parenting, it's their responsibility, not a game manufacturer's, or a movies.

I think you should start a poll on what ppl think about this so called "lawsuit" more of a joke to me, just another way for parent's to hide their own fault.

Oh well, Thanks for listening, and I hope I wasn't totally out of line by expressing my opinion to you!

Long Time Reader,
Mark Dalinis aka, ]SC[DeathAngel

From: littlemute
Subject: id sued by parents...

This should be read as:

We the failed parental units of a totally psychopathic fuck will do anything to defer blame on intangible environmental factors because it's impossible that our lax and inattentive parenting was the basis for this horrible crime.

Wooooah there son. The people doing the suing here are the parents of the victims not the shooter. Big difference.

From: Nexus-6
Subject: ATARI?

I just read that story about the kids parents suing all the companies. And did you notice that they were suing ATARI. Dear god has he been playing the ulra-violent PITFALL, or perhaps the realistic violence of BESERK. See what you can find out about that and post it. I think it would be interesting.


Well, it's certainly possible that that's the case...but more likely they're named because of one of their arcade machines. Atari Games is a subsidiary of Midway these days, and made the uber-violent Area 51 (a game, which puts you behind an UZI) as well as the more...relaxed game, San Francisco Rush.

From: Racerxt
Subject: The article you posted about id getting sued

Dear Blues News,

You posted an article where some boy went to school and shot is own classmates. Now the parents are blaming and wanting to sue certain game manufactures and a movie company saying that the games and movies he saw made him a killer. You cant not blame a game, song, movie or any type of product you use saying that it made you a crazy person and you just had to shot or kill somebody. Its almost the same thing that happened about five or six years ago where a teenager in Texas was hearing a rap song saying kill the cop. As he was listening to the song he got pulled over and shot the cop dead. He said the song made me do it. It did not hold up in court sorry. You are responsible for you actions or in this case maybe this kid needed help or the parents did monitor the kids to see what was happening in their life's or if they need help. Blaming something for your actions is wrong. I'm sorry to the parents and the kid in this situation. But not use a product or anything as an escape goat for the parents actions or their kids actions its bogus.