Grand Theft Auto V’s recent release was a huge commercial success, raking in over a billion dollars in just its first few days. Anything that big is going to grab headlines, of course, and GTA V is no exception. And, one of the issues that routinely comes up with each iteration of the game is its use of violence.

Official Game Trailer

One of the appeals of a game like this is that it allows players to engage in all kinds of chaos, crime, and general destruction. I don’t have any problem with any of that as far as adults are concerned. The government has no business censoring games, or practically anything else that adults read or consume for that matter. And, I couldn’t imagine a scenario where it would be okay for one adult to tell another what to watch, read, or play.

Kids are a different challenge, though. Shortly after the GTA release, one video store clerk complained that parents were buying it for very young children, some not even big enough to see over the store counter, despite the ESRB 18+ rating.

That’s concerning.

The research on violent video games and real violence has been mixed, but a recent longitudinal study (PDF) did show that media consumption generally does not contribute to criminal behavior. According to the study’s authors:

The catalyst model suggests that adult criminality arises from the interaction of genetic and proximal social influences such as family influences, but that distal social influences such as media exposure have only negligible influence. This article uses data from a 13-year longitudinal study of adolescent health to examine the catalyst model. As expected by the catalyst model, adult criminality was best explained by a confluence of genetic and proximal social risk factors. The influence of media exposure on adult criminality was negligible. Implications of these findings for both theory and policy are discussed (emphasis added).

Still, there’s just something creepy and plain wrong about young children pretending to run over police officers, shooting everything in sight, and engaging in sex with virtual prostitutes. At some point, it’s not about whether a child would turn to crime over a video game, but whether it’s healthy generally for children to immerse themselves in realistic role play involving highly deviant behavior.

Again, I couldn’t care less if adults play GTA or any other game of their choice, and I’m absolutely against censorship of any kind. But, when it comes to kids, parents need to pay attention.

So, this week’s vid is the official trailer for GTA V. It’s pretty tame compared to other walkthroughs you can find online, but at least it will give parents a sense of what they’d be exposing their child to if they bought them this particular game.

Give it a look and weigh in with your thoughts.

Have a safe weekend!

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