GTA may be rated Mature (17 and older), nevertheless a substantial number of grade school kids are playing it. so if your child wants a copy of GTA (probably since their friends are playing it), just be aware that the game includes murdering unarmed people purely for kicks and/or to make a few bucks.
Yes, concerned teenage boys of America, if your parents are irresponsible enough to let you get your hands on this, you can still kill and maim and plunder and screw until your heart is full. But there’s a difference this time: The violence is no longer cartoonish. Shoot an innocent bystander, and you see his face contort in agony. He’ll clutch at the wound and begin to stagger away, desperately seeking safety.”
GTA is setup so that at any time, the player, as part of the “sandbox” experience or if he or she just needs money they can murder any unarmed bystander and get whatever money is on their person. Additionally, the player can also murder an unarmed prostitute with the added advantage of a potentially greater payoff (more money) and the added thrill of killing a scantily clad woman.
“Although not encouraged to do so, main character Claude may utilize the services of prostitutes, and then subsequently murder and rob them if the player wishes. This utilization has been subsequently carried on in every single game in the series and is more graphic in IV.”
Defenders of GTA point out that players don’t have to kill anyone, and that killing bystanders and prostitutes doesn’t provide the player with any big advancement in the game. True enough, nevertheless, this form of extremely cowardly killing is definitely part of the appeal of the game. Some players enjoy the thrill of killing someone not in a position to fight back (i.e. unarmed). But I think that for most players the thrill come more from doing something that their parents would not approve of, and to show how tough they are. But regardless of their reasons, killing (of which GTA is chock full of), and particularly this form of killing (purely for kicks and a little bit of cash) does have a desensitizing effect. Making those who partake, more jaded and more callous toward the suffering of others.
Children are Playing GTA
They interviewed and surveyed 1,254 middle-school students in the United States… The results may shock some people: Among the boys studied, 44 per cent listed Grand Theft Auto, which is rated for players aged 17 and over, among their regularly played games; it was the most popular choice by some distance. It was the second-most-popular game among girls, just behind The Sims.
Why do so many parents allow their kids to play this game? I think a big reason is that descriptions of the game tend to downplay more violent features, and completely ignore it’s downright evil features.
For example What They Play is a website designed to give parents extensive information on thousands of different video games so that they can decide which games they would be willing to allow their kids to play.
This is a laudable idea, but in the case of GTA they seriously fall down on the job and give a highly scrubbed description of the game.
As with previous games in the Grand Theft Auto franchise, the game has been designed so that the player is able to work through the storyline with an enormous amount of freedom. This style of experience is often referred to as “sandbox” game design, meaning that the player is free to experiment with what the game world has to offer, much like playing with toys in a sandbox.
They completely fail to mention in their description that part of the “sandbox” experience that GTA provides is the option to kill unarmed prostitutes and unarmed bystanders.
Here, I think, is a much more accurate description:
Grand Theft Auto is a game where you fantasize about being an urban criminal sociopath running through town, stealing cars, killing cops, beating up innocent bystanders and engaging in gang warfare. Famously, players can visit a prostitute (the encounter is not shown graphically), and are rewarded for murdering her afterwards so they don’t have to pay.
Update: here’s an excellent article in Adbusters, Virtual Morality: Are we free to do absolutely anything (torture, murder, rape, etc.), or will we conclude that morality does indeed have a place in virtual life?