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Joystick: Games are rated for a reason

Published 11:02am Thursday, September 19, 2013

Parents, learn about “Grand Theft Auto V” before buying this game for your children.

The latest title in a heralded series is bound to attract controversy since its release last Tuesday. The game allows players to control three protagonists, all criminals with their own plans to get rich quick off daring crimes. As players complete more heists and amass more cash, the protagonists will come together in even more daring crimes.

The M-rated game has many long-standing features players know and love, from fun radio stations you can switch through when driving your car, to stealing whatever vehicle you can, to paying prostitutes to … restore your health, albeit through a shaking car which implies sexual relations.

You, in the game, will steal cars, weapons and cash. You, in the game, will murder many criminals, guards, police and others as you commit your crimes.

Parents, you need to know these things. As fun as “Grand Theft Auto” is — yes, the games are a lot of fun, and “GTA V” is one of the best games I’ve played this year — it is a mature game meant for players who are at least 17 years old.

There are already viral videos of adorable-looking children crying in happiness over receiving this game. Though each parent is the best judge for whatever games, movies and music are suitable for his or her children, it is disconcerting to see an 8-year-old boy get so excited about “GTA,” especially given recent debates about video games and violence.

Last month, police in Louisiana recently blamed a “Grand Theft Auto” game as the reason why an 8-year-old boy shot and killed his 87-year-old grandmother. The game was blamed for the boy’s violent behavior, though he had access to a loaded gun in his grandmother’s home, where he lived. To blame a game, or access to a gun, for such a horrible crime is to oversimplify what causes those crimes to happen.

Studies are inconclusive as to whether violent video games affect a person’s judgment. To me, games are no different than any other artistic medium used to tell a story, like movies, music or books. Yet there’s a reason why we have game ratings, and why it’s likely a good idea to follow those ratings when considering what game to buy for your child.

“Grand Theft Auto V” is a fun game. It won’t make your children commit violent crimes. It won’t make them into murderers, or thieves, or even bad people. It will have a lot of mature content, and it might not be best for everyone’s child. It will be up to parents whether to buy those games, but it’s incredibly important to find out as much as possible about games like “Grand Theft Auto V” before you buy them.

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