WhatTheyPlay.com is a resource site for parents, and interviews with children find they like the series for its wide-open play, particularly the vicarious experience of the thug life. "I'm never going to be a car-jacking, whore-murdering gang member," said one, "so I guess it's very interesting to see what your life could be like, if you chose that path. It's amazing to become so immersed in the game experience and really be able to feel like a criminal."
I don't know the answer to this, but out of curiosity, I have a question: What percentage of car-jacking murdering gang members were committed to this life as children?
The violent content also attracts children as a way to vent anger or stress. One boy explained: "Last week, I missed homework and my teacher yelled at me. When I went home, I started playing [Grand Theft Auto] Vice City, and got a tank. I ran over everybody. And I smashed a lot of cars and blew them up."
So it's a good thing Rockstar Games hasn't invented the game yet where children get a tank and drive it back to school and blow up teachers.
There's something odd about our culture when we try to prevent children under 17 from seeing violent or sexually overt material in a two-hour R-rated movie, but we're cavalier about selling the same experience -- actually, a more offensive experience since it's entirely non-judgmental -- in an M-rated video game that will be played every night for months.
There's only one word to describe parents who would buy this game for their children: Disgraceful. But retailers, too, must be pressed to check ID before selling the game to children who most assuredly will seek to purchase it. Legally, stores cannot sell children pornographic magazines or handguns -- but they can legally sell video games to children that contain pornographic content or that teach children how to gun down cops.
They can choose to line their pockets with the proceeds of the sale of this cultural poison to youngsters. They can join the chorus of consequential deniability, too. All they have to worry about is their conscience, in the dead of night, something the P.R. wizards can't touch.