Matt Damon, you big fat jerk!
TomChick - News - 04/30/08 - Link

You know telephone, right? Everyone stands in a line. The guy at one end whispers something to his neighbor, who passes it on. By the time it reaches the other end, the original comment is all but lost, replaced by some sort of gibberish.

Imagine the online media as one big sloppy game of telephone. Guess where you're sitting? At the far end of the line, like a chump. It's a problem with blogging in general, but videogame blogging/crosslinking/cut-and-pasting/incest seems particularly egregious about it.

For instance, I noticed yesterday that Blue's New says "Matt Damon [Is] OK With Movie Violence, Not OK With Game Violence." Hmm, interesting. I wonder where they got that idea. Let's click and find out.

Ah, Kotaku. Wouldn't you know it? Blue's was simply quoting a headline presumably penned by Brian Ashcraft, one of Kotaku's contributors. In the Kotaku entry, Ashcraft notes that "apparently" Damon had issues with violence in the upcoming Bourne game and he opted not to appear in it. Ashcraft then quotes Damon's mother whoa, he actually brings the dude's mother into it! who says that she and Damon have different ideas about movie violence, but that they both support regulations to keep violent games from being marketed to children. Ashcraft's editorial comment at the end of the whole shebang consists of the following three words, plus a comma that seems to have wandered in from another sentence: "Double standard, much?"


So let's check out Ashcraft's source for the Kotaku story, shall we? An unattributed link takes us to an entry on MTV's gaming blog, where Patrick Klepek provides a quote from the PR rep for the Bourne game's developer. This PR fellow says Damon pulled out because he took issue with the game's violence. Klepek then provides the quote from Matt Damon's mother, sourcing an online chat conducted by the Boston Globe.

Okay, let's head to the online chat. It's a pretty straightforward series of question for Nancy Carlsson-Paige, an author and educator whose area of specialty is the effect of the media on childhood development. Oh, she also happens to have a famous son. So included in the chat is a confrontational question about her son starring in violent movies and therefore being a part of the problem. Carlsson-Paige politely deflects the issue by saying that she and her son differ on movies, but they both believe in preventing the marketing of violent content to children.

So here's the bottom line: nowhere in this train wreck of a telephone game does Matt Damon ever say he's not OK with game violence! Furthermore, he doesn't even say he's okay with movie violence. You'll note that Jason Bourne kills relatively few people, and he certainly doesn't shoot them. In fact, he takes pains to disarm his opponents and throw away their guns.

If you take the hearsay at face value, then Damon simply took issue with the level of violence in one specific game and he decided not to participate. But consider that the PR rep may very well be glossing over some private business matter like being unable to afford Damon, or perhaps a scheduling conflict, or perhaps a AAA celebrity uninterested in lending his name, likeness, and voice to what seems barely a single A game.

But for the most part, gamers are young, stupid, and gullible, more than happy to embrace any ignorant Internet-propogated misinterpretation about the suppression of violent games. It's especially sexy when you can call it government censorship, and when you can attach names like Hillary Clinton, Joseph Lieberman, and Leland Yee, all of whom want to ban violent games along with Jack Thompson. If those guys have their way, all we'll have are My Little Pony games and edutainment! Gamers love a siege, because it means they're the center of attention.

Given Kotaku's popularity and lack of accountability, I fully expect this to work its way into a meme about Damon wanting to ban games. I'll file it right there with Wal-Mart refusing to sell M-rated games, which still rears its head from time to time.

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