When I play Grand Theft Auto…

When I play Grand Theft Auto, I remember three things:

  1. Remain calm; it’s only a game
  2. No, the drug dealers will not be able to come and find your whole family for blowing up their warehouses
  3. Try to avoid, unnecessarily, killing civilians…they did not do anything wrong, and unless it is part of a level requirement (when would that happen?), then leave them alone.

I have been playing games inside the Grand Theft Auto series, since 2007 (Freshman year of high school). I won the old, original computer games in a raffle. Then, for the first and only God-Daughter’s Day, I was given the Grand Theft Auto 3-pack (GTA 3, GTA: Vice City, GTA: San Andreas). I have yet to beat Vice City and San Andreas, but my cousin and I play GTA 3 all the time. I remember the first time I ever watched someone play Grand Theft Auto. It was the summer right before my uncle’s wedding. We were in my grandmother’s basement; he turned the game on, and I was promptly asked to leave the basement. I remember thinking, “What is so bad about these video games? I watch television and movies…so, why can I not watch them play this game?”

I screamed at my mother…I remember. I was 9 years old, at the time. Children have no business seeing that level of violence and debauchery.

The game is marked MA (Mature Audiences), but how do we know when exactly we are a mature enough audience? I know some older men and women who still do not enjoy seeing movies with violence or sexual content. Are they not mature? Does maturity mean that we have developed the thick skin you need to play these games? Does it mean we are numb to the violence of Grand Theft Auto? Are we numb to the fact that these men are violent gangsters that run around stealing cars, drugs, money, and shooting people, at the request of others?

The Grand Theft Auto franchise has been blamed for many mass shootings, in the past. Now…not so much, which is good, because as violently disturbing as these games are, it is not Rockstars fault that the Columbine boys became obsessed with the game. Rockstar did not set out to develop a game that would awaken a violent beasts inside individuals. Anger, rage, violence…those things build inside you after a long list of incidents. The game does not create the darkness inside someone, but I do wonder if maybe it opens the gate to certain darkness. That’s crazy…right?

Take me, for example. I am a perfectly normal, non-violent 22-year-old college graduate who just plays this game because it is just that…a game. It is meant to be entertaining – a way for me to pass time.

When I play the game itself, I play music (Justin Bieber’s new album, Purpose is this weeks playlist). The music helps. 99% of the time, when I play Grand Theft Auto, the death and mayhem start to get to me. I start to think to myself, “Why am I killing this person?”

Is it wrong to listen to music like Justin Bieber’s, while playing a game like Grand Theft Auto IV? I mean, surely he must play it himself. He is 21 years old, but – what if he is like the older folks I know that avoid violence and sex in media? I doubt it, but then again, I do not really know Justin Bieber, do I? Not even that, but kids listen to his music. So is listening to Purpose while holding a virtual sniper rifle, while over-seeing a drug deal, a dirty thing? Does it taint the innocence of the music?

So how do we know when we are mature enough for this game? What is the correct age at which we can allow our kids to be in the same room as this game? Is it based on personal preferences, of the kids, or the parents? Do we just follow the game rating association and at 17 we say, “Okay. You’re old enough. Your choice.” When does the flip switch and we say “Let’s go buy Grand Theft Auto today” ?

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