Okay, listen. Now, I’m not the biggest fan of the Grand Theft Auto series. In fact, I own only one from the entire series, and played it a total of 20 hours. If even that. I might get the newest instalment, but if I do, it’s only because a lot of my friends insist that I play it online with them. And to be perfectly honest, that’s just not a big enough reason for me to get it, so I probably won’t even then. Don’t get me wrong, I love the game mechanics (seeing as I loved Red Dead Redemption) and I will admit that they’re extremely well-made games. A lot of thought and effort goes into them, and for that Rockstar should be applauded. But the games just don’t hold my interest. The story always seemed so insignificant compared to the ability to cause complete and utter chaos that only comes from it being a sandbox game. And I get bored of that quickly, so they’re not my favourite games.
So now we understand that I am neither for nor against GTA in general, where am I going with this you might ask? Well, the same place I’ve gone before when I rant about these sorts of games. Censorship. The irrational belief that these games cause the kinds of idiocy that we saw in countless school shootings (or our most recent navy yard shooting) is its own brand of stupidity. Video games, music, tv shows, or even a painting. I don’t care what kind of medium of expression you think caused these, I’m here to tell you once and for all that you’re almost entirely wrong.
When a child is born, he (or she) learns everything from his (or her) parents. EVERYTHING. As he grows and develops, then individual thoughts enter and he can form his own opinions of what to do or how to live his life. But the parents’ influence doesn’t just cease to exist. For that child’s entire life, those behaviours, opinions, and even prejudices will continue to colour everything he decides or encounters. At least a little bit, anyways. And should the parent not take an active interest in what their son or daughter is doing through any type of medium, then odds are that child won’t fully understand right versus wrong. Or if they do, they won’t understand that there are consequences to those actions.
So yes, a video game can have an impact on someone, either emotionally or mentally. The best ones often do, even to the most mature human being. That’s what makes me love the art form as much as I do. But the mature audience will understand that it’s merely an artistic expression, not a life lesson (or at least not a lesson to be a violent sociopath). The child whose mother or father didn’t care to know the game’s rating was for an older audience won’t know better, and might likely take that lesson to heart.
But is it the child’s fault in this case? I would say no. The child likely won’t know the implications and distinctions between reality and video games, but the parent would. I would blame the parent for not taking the game rating system seriously, or not even understanding that some things are inappropriate for children. It’s not a difficult concept, but I find a lot of parents, especially those who had their children young, don’t fully understand a lot of things themselves and don’t know how to raise a child.
Now obviously, I’m not an expert. I have no children of my own, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of judging from the sidelines. And granted, there are a lot of factors I might not even see right now (although I always welcome any input that might lead to insight in the comments). But I just can’t believe that the video games are the root cause. All the evidence before me suggests that the root cause for most of these tragic stories is a lack of adequate parenting. And as to why we’re hearing about it happening more often than ever before? Well there’s more of us on the planet, competing for all the same resources, which at some point will not be enough for all of us.
Video games have been violent, racist, disgusting, heart warming, emotional, and any number of other things since they first existed (if you don’t believe me, look up Custer’s Revenge but be warned it’s definitely not child-friendly) and they get more and more real, more and more detailed as the years go on. They are an escape to an incredible and most times impossible world. A chance to make new friends or let loose your frustrations in a harmless way. A chance to live out your dreams, or give yourself terrifying nightmares. They offer us so much, that it would be wrong to ban the creation of such masterpieces as GTA V.
It’s simple: if you think it’s too violent, risqué or negative in some other way, then don’t buy it. No one is forcing you or your children to indulge. No one is forcing you to sell your soul to any devils. So don’t force us to miss out on something we believe is incredible or a work of the finest art just because of your fears.