Tuesday, July 26, 2005

An Open Letter to Jack Thompson cc: Will Wright

Dear Mr. Thompson,

I'm a 30 year old gamer and librarian. I've been playing the Sims 2 since it came out. I love the electronic dollhouse aspect of all of the Sims games, and loved being able to use my artistic abilities and love of design and architecture to create and modify furniture, wallpapers and carpets, and clothing. The Sims 2 is the most compelling, as it you can play as a character from infancy through to old age, with many opportunities along the way to practice critical thinking, strategy, and decision-making skills. The balanced life is the most difficult for a character to live, and the most richly rewarded. Furthermore, this game meets the Search Institute's developmental needs of teenagers by giving them a safe space to test out beliefs and form identity through game play.

I wanted to address your concerns with the game, as your stance that it is harmful to minors indicates you have never played this game as it was intended to be played. The nudity you are so concerned with is completely pixilated, no matter how close you zoom in. There is NO hack from the manufacturer, EA Games/Maxis, to remove the pixels or replace the pixels with genitalia.

Because the Sims is a simulation game of life, the characters one creates may reproduce. The act of reproduction is portrayed as a couple in a bed having a tickle fight under the covers. No nudity, no sex acts. I would argue that most teens understand that babies don't come from the stork and won't be shocked by the concept that if your Sims want to have a baby, they need to have sex.

As for pedophilia, the game tastefully does not allow adults to have romantic relationships with children and teen characters, or for related family members to engage in romantic relationships.

There are a number of modifications to the game, including nude patches with realistic genitalia, that can be downloaded from fan sites. The few sites that I have seen that offer this make it very clear the site (or that section of the site) is 18+ - for adults only - and may contain material appropriate for adults. EA has no control over the modifications people make; in fact, the support from the fan community to take EA's game and create amazing new objects, characters, homes and clothing is what makes this game so fantastic. I have downloaded items from over 400 fan sites in my 5 years of playing the Sims games, and would estimate that less than 1 percent of the fan sites are adult content.

It should be up to parents to determine what their own child reads, watches, listens to, and plays, and to monitor their purchases and leisure activities, and to engage in conversations about values and beliefs. This does not mean that you have the right to determine what is appropriate for my child or anyone else. Government should not be mandating the punishment of retailers who sell games to minors whose parents don't parent, or who don't parent according to your values.

I appreciate that Rockstar games is being held accountable for the adult content of Grand Theft Auto that the designers deliberately inserted into the game. The ESRB gave a rating appropriate to the information they had when the game was submitted for review, and they were right to alter that rating. The Sims and EA games are not all in the same league as GTA and Rockstar. Please cease and desist this video game witch hunt and focus on something that really matters: child abuse, violence against women, illiteracy, poverty, and hunger.

Thank you for your time.

Beth Gallaway

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