Nearly a week after slamming the Xbox 360 role-playing game “Mass Effect” on Fox News for its sexual content, author and psychology expert Cooper Lawrence backed down on some of her comments and took gamers to task for their chosen method of revenge.
Lawrence’s response followed several days of Internet frenzy that made her the most disliked person in the video game blogosphere and resulted in several hundred scathing reviews of her newest book on Amazon. While Lawrence hasn’t completely retracted her comments, she has offered some clarification.
“In hindsight, I would have liked to have had the opportunity to play this game before appearing on the program,” Lawrence said in a statement released to MTV News by her publicist. “As a developmental-psychology expert, I was asked to appear on this particular show to discuss the broader issue of video games and their impact on developing adolescents, not as an expert on ‘Mass Effect.’ ”
Lawrence had earned gamers’ scorn because of her appearance on Fox News’ “Live Desk With Martha MacCallum” on January 21 opposite game journalist Geoff Keighley to discuss the report that “Mass Effect” allegedly features “full digital nudity and sex.” Keighley — and later, thousands of gamers on message boards — said the report was inaccurate, that the M-rated game was not filled with sex, just one network-TV-friendly sex scene late in the 30-hour game. Electronic Arts, which owns the studio behind “Mass Effect,” called upon Fox News for a correction.
On Saturday Lawrence told The New York Times that before the Fox News report about the game’s sex scene began, she “had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said, ‘It’s like pornography.’ But it’s not like pornography. I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.”
In her statement provided to MTV News, Lawrence didn’t back down completely. She said she recognized she misspoke when she had said the game involves a man “deciding how many women he wants to be with.” But she said, “I firmly stand by the research I cited that violence and sexual content in video games has a desensitizing effect on young developing minds.” Among her research was a University of Maryland report that found male gamers more willing to accepting stereotypes in games than female gamers.
Lawrence’s comments were only part of the story last week. Gamers took matters into their own keyboards by attacking her where they thought it would hurt — on the Amazon.com listing for the book that was plugged during her Fox News appearance, “The Cult of Perfection: Making Peace with Your Inner Overachiever.” Within a few days, the listing featured more than 400 scathing user reviews, many by gamers who admitted to not reading her book but said they should be allowed to lambaste it anyway, as they felt she had done to the video game.
As of today, however, most of those reviews have been deleted, and Amazon now only lists 52 reader reviews. They still have a negative slant: There are 45 one-star reviews; seven two-star review, all written after Lawrence’s Fox News appearance. But any reviews that mentioned video games or “Mass Effect” by name are gone.
Typical of those that do still appear is a review that states: “How can you judge something, without ever doing it? Well, this woman seems to make a living off it. Please do not let yourself be wrapped up in this woman’s shenanigans. You will save yourself the headache.”
In her statement Lawrence, whose name was dragged through the mud for days, addressed the review-revenge strategy. “I believe that the customer-review feature on Amazon.com is not the appropriate forum to discuss an unrelated news segment. I appeared on a news program that provides an opportunity for debate on topics that have been previously covered by the media. Amazon’s customer-reviews feature functions as a platform to review a product sold on their site, in this case my book, the topic of which does not relate to video games and/or ‘Mass Effect.’ ”
An Amazon spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment about the removal of the reviews by press time. But a debate about their removal has already stirred in the message board attached to Amazon’s “Cult of Perfection” listing. The Amazon page in question also reveals insight into just how gaming-focused the people visiting Lawrence’s listings are. After viewing the listing for “Cult of Perfection,” customers typically don’t buy a book. They buy the video games “No More Heroes” or “Advance Wars: Days of Ruin.”
Fox News has not offered a correction to the piece. A spokesman for the company told MTV News last week that the outlet is offering representatives from EA an opportunity to come on-air and say their piece.