By: Stephen Duetzmann, Editor in Chief
Grand Theft Auto has found itself in the news again. This time it is being implicated as having helped drive an 8 yr old to murder his grandmother. No one has made a claim that the game or the developers are legally responsible (yet). BUT, the police stated that the child was playing Grand Theft Auto and then stated (falsely) that you earn points for killing people. They might not have mentioned the name of the video game at all if he were playing Mario Kart.
This has led to a number of knee jerk reactions about the video game industry and violence in media and its impact on children. It has also led to a number of people debating the nature of a video game franchise based on erroneous information. In the interest of fairness, I feel that I need to take a minute to clear the air and dispel some of the myths about this game and what it is “about.”
You might be saying to yourself, “Why is the editor of a family gaming website defending a game like GTA?” The answer is that this site isn’t here to spread, or support the spreading, of falsehoods. I think that parents need the truth about the games on the market so they can make informed decisions. That will occasionally result in me coming to an M-Rated games defense for the sake of accuracy. Believe me when I say that I am not endorsing this game for young children to play.
Myth #1 – You earn points for killing people.
It is true that you play as criminals in these games and are given the freedom to kill other characters in the game. But, the image that there is a score being calculated on top of the screen that counts like you are playing Galaga every time you kill someone is false. In fact, there are no points in the game at all.
The reality is that the game does not encourage indiscriminate killing at all. There is a narrative that involves a criminal participating in a number of violent crimes. That is all true. But, the image of earning “points” specifically for killing little old ladies is just untrue
Myth #2 – It is different from movies about organized crime because it doesn’t have a story.
Each of the games in the series feature a narrative that follows the trails blazed by movies about organized crime like The Godfather, and Goodfellas.
Grand Theft Auto IV is the story of an Eastern European immigrant who comes to Liberty City (NYC) in an attempt to escape his violent past and finds himself thrust into the path of violence again. GTA IV explores a part of the human experience many of us would never see.
The interactive nature of video games makes the story a little difficult to follow, but it is there.
Myth # 3 – It’s just a game.
Look. I may disagree with the idea that exposure to violent media will make children more violent, but I don’t believe that all kids should be playing everything. This game highlights mature themes and story elements that would have no value to a young child.
Even if we ignore the violence there is always the problem of foul language. I know that my kids repeat everything they hear, this is not a game I want them listening to. (The looks I would get at church would be horrendous!)
We can’t just let “it’s just a game” be an excuse to be lax in our parenting. We need to be active participants in their lives. We do it with sports, homework, and school functions. Why would we ignore the games they play?