Did a Florida predator use Fortnite to groom victim?

Did a Florida predator use Fortnite to groom victim?

I’ve previously posted about the potential of your child being approached by an online predator through the popular online video game Fortnite here. My conclusion in that previous post was that since Fortnite is popular with kids there is absolutely a chance that your kids could be approached. However, in my opinion, it’s more likely that your child would be approached through social media rather than a video game and I felt the media was making a mountain out of a molehill. Now, international headlines are proclaiming that a Florida man allegedly used Fortnite to groom his 17-year-old victim. The truth is a little more complicated than what the headlines use to try to lure you in.

Before we get started I just wanted to say that I’ve been playing video games for over 40 years. I do not, however, play Fortnite. I’m not a big fan of online games as there can be steep learning curves in short amounts of time and at my age, I just don’t have the patience for that anymore. Plus, I never said I was actually good at video games. So basically, while I have a working knowledge of gaming, I’d rather take a hole puncher to my eyelids than play Fortnite.

Anyway, on to the story.

anthonythomasjpg

Anthony Gene Thomas

The headlines would have you believe that 41-year-old Anthony Gene Thomas of Broward County, Florida groomed a 17-year-old girl through Fortnite. He did reportedly groom the girl and supplied her with money and a cell phone so he could keep in touch with her. He’s also accused of ‘having sex’ (child rape)  with the girl and taking explicit pictures of her. Those details I will not debate and if he is convicted of these charges he should be sentenced to a lengthy prison stay.  However, what the headlines don’t tell that is buried in the middle of the story is that Thomas allegedly used a go-between to approach the girl. Thomas reportedly has a Fortnite playing accomplice that set up Thomas’ interaction with his victim. Since none of the articles I read didn’t discuss any details about the accomplice I’m assuming that the accomplice is underage and may be a victim of Thomas themselves. Florida authorities are saying that Thomas may have multiple victims and are asking for the public’s help.

As is common in these cases, prosecutors believe there might be more victims. Those with information about this case can call BSO Det. Michael Joo at 954-888-5241.

So, the question remains are your children likely to be approached by predators while playing Fortnite? As I said before, Fortnite is as about as dangerous as any other online utility that your kids use. However, I don’t think it’s crawling with pedophiles like most mobile messaging apps are. If your kids use an app like Kik or Snapchat, it’s my belief that they’re more likely to be approached through there. That’s not to say you shouldn’t keep an eye out for who your kids are chatting with on Fortnite. Fortnite’s voice chat can be disabled if you’re more comfortable doing that.

In this digital age, you can’t be like my parents were who couldn’t get the clock on the VCR to stop blinking 12:00. Today’s parents need to be technologically educated in order to keep their kids safe from online predators who may approach your child without you ever noticing. Learning something new shouldn’t be feared and it goes a long way in keeping your child safe.

(Sources)
BBC
Miami Herald

The 2018 Trenchie Awards

The 2018 Trenchie Awards

I’m sorry that I didn’t get these posted yesterday as I was feeling under the weather. That’s a weird phrase. Aren’t we always under the weather? Anyway, on with the show.

Best Movie: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  I looked more forward to this then I did Avengers: Infinity War. Even though I’m a DC Comics fanboy, I had to see Spider-Verse shortly after its release and I have yet to see Aquaman. Animated superhero movies are so much more complimentary to the genre than live-action movies. I literally got choked up during several parts of Spider-Verse.

Best Album: I did not get a lot of new music in 2018 and some of the ones I did came out in 2017 like Ritual by In This Moment.  Halestorm had a pretty decent album with Vicious but there were a number of songs on it that I didn’t care for. If I was picking song of the year it would be Dance Macabre by Ghost. A very catchy metal song that I could not get out of my head but the rest of Ghost’s new album was bland, in my opinion. Anyway, my album of the year was an album called Thief by a band called Callout. A little different than what I normally listen to but the album had a lot of songs that I kept finding myself listening to over and over again. Here’s a sample.

Best TV Show: 2018 was a great year for TV, at least for me. Season 5 of Agents of SHIELD was the best season they’ve had so far. Season 1 of Black Lightning was awesome until the season finale where the villain literally said he wanted to “Make America Great Again”. While I’m no fan of the tangerine nightmare from where that phrase originated, but I found that episode to be a little too ham-fisted. Also, I’ve fallen off the Black Lightning train as I dropped off during season 2. Season 1 of Cloak and Dagger was really good too but I felt their season finale was rushed to an ending. However, I am looking forward to the second season. However, there was one series that hit on all cylinders for me and it was Titans. Even I thought it was going to be bad after the infamous “Fuck Batman” trailer but it turned out to be a really well-done series that kept me looking forward to each new episode. I also appreciate the fact that DC Universe released episodes weekly instead of doing it Netflix-style by releasing all the episodes at once. I’m not a binge watcher and didn’t watch Daredevil season 3 because of that.

Best Comic: Vertigo’s Astro City. If you haven’t read Astro City, it takes place in Metropolis-like city where many superheroes reside but Astro City oftentimes features just the normal citizens trying to live in such a city. The storyline that made me pick Astro City as comic of the year was one where a man’s wife was erased from time during a Crisis-like event but the man still retained his memories of her and he went on to start a support group for people who lost loved ones in superhero/villain related calamities. Astro City was a great title that deconstructed the superhero genre without relying heavily on gratuitous violence.

Most Inane Political Agenda of 2018: Arming teachers. Anybody who thinks that arming teachers will prevent school shootings is a few McNuggets short of a happy meal. Arming teachers just puts guns even closer to the hands of would-be shooters.

Dumbasses of 2018: All the troglodytes who put any stock in the QAnon conspiracy theories. Because when I think of investigative fact-finding my first thought is always of 4chan.

Biggest Jackass Celebrity of 2018: I don’t know if he really qualifies as a ‘celebrity’ but it’s NRA President Oliver North for suggesting that Ritalin causes school shootings. This is who represents you, responsible gun owners.

18 years in a row now. I guess I’ll keep doing these after all.

In defense of Titans

In defense of Titans

First, I want to apologize for indulging my geekier side lately. I’ll hopefully be getting back to my crime side shortly, but without superheroes, I would have no crime side. Secondly, I wanted to write this post last week after the first episode came out but the second episode hasn’t really changed my opinion on the matter. Anyway, on to the matter at hand.

When the trailer was first released for Titans, there was a lot of trepidation on the internet because it looked like the fun and lovable Teen Titans were being turned into grim and violent characters and it would ruin the childhood of everyone who watched the early 2000s cartoon. It didn’t help that the trailer contained the infamous “Fuck Batman” line uttered by Robin.

That line has become almost as famous as “I’m the goddamn Batman!”

I get it though, I was a fan of the cartoon too. As a matter of fact, I was a fan of the 1960s Filmation Teen Titan cartoons where everything was “Gee whillikers” and they called Kid Flash ‘Twinkle-Toes’.

When I watched those episodes as a kid it was less than ten years after their original airing and I thought it was the best thing ever.

What I’m getting at is, not everything stays the same way as you remember it. The Titans have been around for 50 years and in that time they have gone through some drastic changes both in the comics and on-screen.

The other argument I keep hearing is that the Teen Titans are supposed to be light-hearted and fun. Yet if you dig deep into their history, you’ll find that many of the Titans come from tragic backgrounds. Robin’s parents were killed in a horrific accident that he witnessed. Starfire’s entire race was enslaved by an invading force. Beast Boy was abused by his parents who experimented on him. Most importantly, Raven is the daughter of a literal demon. That’s not even taking into account Speedy/Red Arrow/Arsenal who became a heroin junkie in a seminal 1970s comic storyline, although I’m pretty sure Speedy isn’t going to be in the Titans series. Let’s also not forget that the most well-known Teen Titans comic storyline, The Judas Contract, had a number of adult themes that weren’t exactly kid-friendly. As far as the level of violence in the show goes, without getting into spoilers, is an ongoing issue through the first two episodes.

Then there are those who argue that the series is not faithful to the comic. I never understood this argument because a lot of things that work in comics don’t work in movies or TV. Comics and live action are two entirely different mediums and have to be treated as such. Besides, taking characters out of their normal routine have led to some of the greatest graphic novels such as Superman: Red Son and Kingdom Come.

So far, the two episodes of Titans that have aired have been enjoyable for me. The series so far has done the one thing that a lot of TV series fail to do and that’s to keep me coming back for the next episode. Something that Luke Cage and Jessica Jones could not do. While it’s too early to call Titans my show of the year, as of right now that goes to season one of Cloak and Dagger, it has the potential to be a really good show.

Then again, I liked the Green Lantern movie so take that for what it’s worth.

South Park takes on school shootings

South Park takes on school shootings

I haven’t watched an episode of South Park in a number of years. Not that I think the show is bad or anything, it’s just that there’s a plethora of entertainment choices out there and there’s only so many hours in a day. However, when it hit the headlines that they were doing an episode about school shootings, I just had to watch.

As can be expected, South Park took a serious subject like school shootings and made a very poignant point in their unique and politically incorrect way. Without getting into too many spoilers, the episode centered around a number of school shootings that kept happening at the school Stan, Kyle, and the gang attend. Anytime a shooting happened at the school not only the students but most of the town acted like it was just something routine that just happens.

Sadly, the episode portrayed a very real problem in our country. School shootings and mass shootings have become so prevalent in our country that we’ve become almost numb to them. Politicians and the media are no help either as politicians on both sides of the aisle are trying to protect their respective pet causes while the media calls any shooting within a 20-mile radius of a school a school shooting.

I could see someone potentially being offended by the episode, but once you get past South Park’s typical crudeness you’ll find a sad but accurate commentary on the state of our country.

Are your kids in danger from predators while playing Fortnite?

Are your kids in danger from predators while playing Fortnite?

If you’re not familiar with Fortnite, it’s the most popular video game going right now. It started out as a really bad zombie survival game, then it ripped off a better game, PUBG, and became the sensation it is today. Fortnite is what’s called a battle royale game. Basically, 100 players are dropped into a map and the last surviving team or player wins. The main reason why Fortnite is eating PUBG’s lunch and why it’s so popular is that Fortnite is free to play.

Recently, a big deal was made about sexual predators being on Frotnite because, in New Jersey, a number of online predators were arrested in an online sting. It became a big deal when it was reported that some of the predators may have been grooming their victims through games like Minecraft and Fortnite. While it wasn’t reported how many of these predators were allegedly using Fortnite, since it’s the most popular game right now, Fortnite was very prevalent in most of the headlines talking about this sting.

So, that takes us back to the headline’s question. Are your kids in danger from predators while playing Fortnite? Well, yes and no. Fortnite is as about as dangerous as any other online utility that your kids use. Do I think it’s a pedophile playground like messaging app Kik? I don’t think it’s even close, but since Fortnite is where all the kids are, odds are there will be a predator here and there.

As a parent, you should treat online games just like you would social media. Know who is on your kid’s friends list. Make sure they’re not chatting with someone they don’t know in the real world. Most importantly be honest with them that not every person they may talk to on the internet has their best interest in mind.

Thank you Steve Ditko for creating me

Thank you Steve Ditko

The Question as created and drawn by Steve Ditko

It was reported yesterday that comic book legend Steve Ditko passed away at the age of 90. Most of his online tributes talk about how Ditko was the co-creator of such legendary comic book icons like Spider-Man and Dr. Strange. Others will talk about how Ditko shunned notoriety and just wanted to draw comics. Even others will talk about how he was a devotee of the Objectivist philosophy. Instead, I’m going to talk about how Steve Ditko indirectly influenced me into the writer I am today.

I’ve been a fan of comic book heroes since I was young. From watching the Batman ’66 reruns to the Super-Friends cartoon to picking up my first copy of The Flash from a 7-11 in the 70s, I’ve always been a fan on the superhero genre. In the late 80s as a young adult, I came across a comic at my local comic shop that caught my eye because of the protagonist’s aesthetic. It was Hub City’s trench coat and fedora-clad vigilante, The Question as written by another comic book legend Denny O’Neil and drawn by gritty artist Denys Cowan.

The-Question-Denys-Cowan

For those who may not be familiar with the character, news reporter Vic Sage dons the faceless visage of The Question to get the answers a journalist just can’t get. While Ditko wrote him in the 60s as a vigilante with a black and white moral code, O’Neil took the very unique approach of writing The Question as a Zen detective dealing with various shades of gray. While O’Neil’s take was a far cry from Ditko’s, he stayed true to the character’s core principle of an insatiable need to find the truth.

I first got on the internet and started creating websites back in the late 90s before blogs were even a thing. Back then mostly everyone used screen names to protect their identity. Influenced by The Question, I chose the name of TheTrenchcoat. (Not a typo, all one word with two capital Ts.) As many of you know, when Columbine happened, this led to me being confused with the so-called Trenchcoat Mafia. This was the impetus which got me into writing about crime online since I wanted to dispel many of the mistruths of that fateful day, which many are still told today. You might even say that I had an insatiable need to find the truth. The rest is history.

As I posted on social media yesterday, had it not have been for Steve Ditko creating The Question there probably would not have been the Trench Reynolds you see today. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you, Mr. Ditko.

Steam pulls ‘school shooter’ game from its store

Steam pulls 'school shooter game from its store

This is a follow-up to my post about the most recent ‘school shooting’ video game which I posted here. If you haven’t read it yet, I ask that you please read that first before continuing.

Over the holiday weekend, there was a slew of news articles about the parents of school shooting victims who were outraged over the game. I was all ready to write a post asking them to just ignore the game. I understand that it’s a slow news weekend and the media is shoving microphones in your face looking for a sound bite. I also understand that you’ve endured a pain that only a few but increasing number of people understand and your outrage is understandable.

However, that post was rendered null and void after the video game platform Steam removed the game from its store. That does allow me to talk about the game by name since I doubt the so-called developer will be making any money from the world’s largest online distributor of PC games. The game was called Active Shooter and Steam has pulled the game from its store not due to any outside pressure, or so they say, but because the developer was a known troll who had been banned from the platform previously.

Steam said in a statement that the creator of the game that simulates a school shooting had previously been banned from the popular platform but changed the name of his business to return to selling games. The company called the game’s creator a “troll with a history of customer abuse.”

That developer has published other controversial games called “Tide Pod Challenge” and “White Power Pure Voltage.”

As an aside, I looked at the Steam page of White Power Pure Voltage and it wasn’t a game about anything racist. It seems that only the name was designed to court controversy, but I digress.

My point is, we’re at a time where video games can be made by just about anyone. They’re no longer the sole domain of giant game companies. So when one of these games comes out that’s designed by a basement-dwelling edgelord, the best thing to do is ignore it and it will wither on the vine. I realize the media is constantly throwing controversy in our faces, but as a society, we need to reserve our outrage for more serious matters. If we’re outraged at everything then we’re actually outraged at nothing.

By the way, Hatred is still available on Steam.

Can we unclench over ‘school shooting video games’?

Can we unclench over 'school shooting video games'?

So there’s this video game coming out next month that has the media and various other pearl clutchers up in arms. It was announced shortly after the recent school shooting at Santa Fe High School in Texas and it’s being referred to as a ‘school shooting game’. I’m not going to link to the game or any articles about it or mention it by name because it doesn’t even deserve the attention it’s getting. The game is centered around a mass shooting. Supposedly, you can play as a member of a police SWAT team responding to the shooting, or, of course, you can play as the shooter. Distasteful? Yeah, pretty much, but as a society, we need to stop being so sensitive about things like this without knowing the facts.

First off, it’s been over 40 years since video games have been able to be played at home and still there are too many people who think video games are just for kids. Video games have been made for both kids and adults for over 20 years now. Having said that this is not a game that is going to be released by a major publisher where it will be on every store shelf waiting to be played on your kid’s Nintendo Switch. As far as I can tell the game is being made by one man and is only being released on Steam for the PC. This is the equivalent of some nobody making a controversial YouTube video in their basement and everyone else reacting to it like it was a major motion picture.

The creator of the game claims he’s not trying to cash in on a tragedy, but we’ve heard that story before. There have been several instances in the past where after a major school shooting some attention seeking troll tries to get everyone riled up by making a game based on the shooting. They either claim it’s art or they’re making some grandiose political statement when in reality it’s more like sophomoric mass murderer fan fiction. The only difference being is the killer doesn’t have some kind of weird fetish sex with the game’s developer.

As for the people who might get a sick thrill out of this game, they’re already lost to us, but they are a very small minority of gamers. This or any game isn’t going to turn your kid into a school shooter. However, if I had a kid of school age, I would not let them play this game. Since it’s only available on Steam it will require a credit card or PayPal to be purchased. If you allow your young children to run amok online with any of these forms of payment then the real problem is you.

When games like this come out what we should do is ignore them. Media outrage and social media conniptions are exactly what these Philistines are actually after.

Comic of the Week: Red Hood and the Outlaws #13

I haven’t done one of these in a while. Don’t expect them regularly because I suck at keeping schedules, and there aren’t really that many good comics worth noticing out there right now. Plus I have space to fill since a lot of the crime content has been moved to Social Mayhem and Crime Classified.

Anyway, I’m a huge fan of the Jason Todd character. I liked him as Robin, I voted for him to live in the Death in the Family storyline, and I loved it even more when he returned as Red Hood.

However, I have been a little disappointed with the character since the New 52. I’d rather see him as DC’s version of the Punisher than another member of the Bat-Family.

I still read Red Hood and The Outlaws since Jason Todd is still one of my favorite characters. The most recent issue isn’t spectacular or groundbreaking, but it made me laugh when Lex Luthor threw out the following quote after promising to heal Bizarro.

Comic of the Week: Red Hood and the Outlaws #13

If that quote doesn’t ring any bells, it’s a quote from the horrible movie adaptation of the video game Street Fighter. The only saving grace of the movie is when Raul Julia, playing M. Bison, turns to Ming-Na Wen, playing Chun-Li, and says…

For you, the day Bison graced your village was the most important day of your life. But for me, it was Tuesday.

Here’s the entire scene for reference.

And for that reason alone, issue #13 of Red Hood and the Outlaws is my pick for comic of the week.

Trench reviews Batman: The Killing Joke

batman-killing-joke

Normally I don’t review things that are bad. I don’t believe in spreading negativity about a project that a creative team probably poured their hearts and souls into. However, The Killing Joke was such an iconic comic that I felt I need to do a review of it that’s not your typical internet nerd hate-fest.

***SPOILERS AHEAD***
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