Sunday, April 27, 2008

Grand Theft Auto IV -- Not for kids. Duh.

I've read a lot of stories lately about Grand Theft Auto IV, out now for XBox 360 and the Playstation 3. I haven't seen the media backlash yet, but that's probably just because I'm blissfully unaware of domestic cable news.

Most of the stories will no doubt center upon its content. In this game, like the previous ones in the series, the player is cast as an anti-hero who commits multiple crimes in the pursuit of some goal -- usually honor or glory. The graphics and interactivity increased as the games went on -- as did technology in general.
What I can't quite understand is the automatic assumption that all computer games are meant for and marketed to kids. That's certainly not the case according to my own experience, nor to the industry. According to the Entertainment Software Association, the average player is 33 years old. I'm sure that stat is skewed by "casual games," like solitaire, minesweeper and downloadable arcade games. However, the same organization says the average game buyer is 38. Counting parents of game players, that makes sense.
So what we're really talking about here is whether parents should buy GTAIV, or whether they should allow their kids to surreptitiously do so. While there's an obvious answer, it seems that it's still in question. After all, the game box and rating does make it obvious. It's rated "M" for Mature, similar to an "R" in movies. As if that's not enough, the ratings board lists the reasons on the box: "Intense Violence, Blood, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Partial Nudity, Use of Drugs and Alcohol."
While that may sound awful -- and not particularly entertaining -- I thought of other media that could have the same descriptors:

  • The Godfather

  • The Wire

  • Fight Club

  • The Silence of the Lambs

  • The Killing Fields

I certainly wouldn't buy "Fight Club," for our kids, but it's one of my favorite movies. I'll likely buy GTA IV as well -- once it comes out on PC, so further minimize kid exposure. While I'm sure there are some parents that will buy it for their children, either intentionally or out of ignorance, that's their own fault. Even the game's developer, Rockstar, says it's not for kids.
On a final note, I want to put in a plug for a gaming site for parents, What They Play.

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