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GTA3 Lawsuit: A Trajedy and a Travesty

Thursday, September 25, 2003 by Helly || [4 Comments]

There’s blood in the water and the sharks are getting frenzied. The blood this time is, as usual, of the innocent variety and the sharks are, as always, the lawyers.

The story goes as follows: two boys, aged 16 and 14, grab a .22 rifle and head out to the highway where they start taking shots at cars. They kill a man and severely injure a woman. When they’re arrested, they don’t take responsibility for their actions and instead blame the video game they play, namely Grand Theft Auto 3.

With me so far? Good. Now here’s where it gets weird. Instead of dismissing these statements as coming from irresponsible, misguided, criminally negligent kids who are blaming anyone or anything in order to get off the hook, the families of the victims took their words as gospel and are now suing Take-Two Interactive for a reported $100 million. The tragedy is obvious and that it should not have happened goes without saying, but suing a video game publisher? The motives become clear when you hear the family’s attorney, Jack Thompson, speak: 'The industry needs to cough up money so victims and their families can be compensated for their pain... The shareholders need to know what their games are doing to kids and their families. They need to stop pushing adult-rated products to kids. These products are deadly.'

That’s right, these products are deadly. The same video game that I’ve played and probably many of you have played is a killer. Here’s more of the evangelical Thompson: 'We want to tell the video game industry that if they're going to continue to market adult-rated games to children with these horrific consequences, then we're going to take their blood money...In the past few days I have been contacted by dozens of other people, and there may be hundreds more cases. This will send a message that they have to stop this practice or there will be other suits on behalf of other people, killed by these games.'

I’d like to repeat that last bit: “killed by these games”. That’s right folks, the video game industry is all about developing a product that will wipe out their customers, either by killing them outright or by twisting our widdle minds until we all end up in jail or the funny farm. This lawsuit is nothing more than a money grab. The lawyer knows that the parents of the teens aren’t going to net him any cash, so he decides to aim high and go for the golden cow, in this case Take-Two Interactive.

Let me be real clear here: the crime that was perpetrated is senseless and horrible. The fact that a man is dead and woman is wounded due to some random sniping is one that should trouble us all. The fact that the criminals are 14 and 16 years old is one that should really make us stand up and take notice. What we don’t need to do is deflect attention from the real root causes of the problem onto some lawyer’s dirty attempts to grub money from a large company.

Jack Thompson wants you to believe that one video game is responsible for the actions of two boys. Somehow a video game managed to subvert the decision making process of two humans and turn them into mindless automatons bent on doing nothing more than shooting at anything that moved. The boys couldn’t possibly be responsible for their actions. The parents couldn’t possibly be responsible allowing two teenagers unsupervised access to a rifle and ammunition.

Is Grand Theft Auto 3 a violent game? Without a question, which is why it is rated M for mature and why no parent should buy it for their child. Were these two boys influenced by the video game? I wouldn’t be surprised if, by playing the video game, they were exhibiting more aggressive tendencies than they normally would. Should they have been playing the game? No, I don't think they should and I hold the parent's responsible for allowing their kids to play this game (why else do we have a rating system, people?). Is GTA3 to blame for their murderous actions? Unequivocally not. We need to stop blaming companies and institutions for the actions of individuals. We need to start taking parents to task for the actions of their underage children. We need to start believing that teenagers are not zombies who take stimulus in and spit out the exact same actions, but are instead intelligent humans capable of making decisions. The game isn't to blame, it's the people who have the power.

We need to start holding individuals responsible for their own actions. We need to value truth and work towards truth instead of taking the easy road to a settlement and some sense of meaning in a meaningless and tragic death. It’s hard, but the truth is two kids were allowed to play a violent game intended for adults. The truth is two kids were left with access to a rifle and ammunition. The truth is these two kids made a terrible decision and chose to shoot at cars. The truth is, it doesn’t matter what game these kids were playing, the decision to do what they did came from inside their own heads and not from the images on a computer or TV screen. They probably didn’t even intend to hit anyone when they started taking shots, let alone kill them, but they chose to turn a blind eye to the possible consequences of their actions. The truth is hard to face, but two kids are responsible for one death and one injury. What’s more, their parents are responsible for not teaching their children better, for allowing access to their rifle and ammunition and for apparently having no idea what the mental state of their kids was.

Video games do not kill. Movies do not kill. Music does not kill. Even handguns do not kill. People kill, and people need to be held responsible when they kill. Take-Two Interactive distributes a game that thousands enjoy without ever feeling the urge to recreate the on-screen action, and a shark like Thompson is feeding off the pain of a family embroiled in tragedy in an effort to make himself a nice chunk of cash. Thompson’s actions on behalf of the victim’s family are a travesty within a tragedy, and we should watch the progress of this case with a great deal of suspicion and trepidation.

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