Vice City

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This article is likely to cause a lot of contention, but I don't care. I like lively debate, and this particular subject really puts a bee in my bonnet, as my grand mother would have said.

On BBC1 on Tuesday at 10:30, there was a show about a game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. It is claimed that the game inspired teenagers in Tennessee to act out the game when they shot at vehicles.

Last summer, a man was killed and a woman wounded after being shot in their cars near the Tennessee town of Newport. William Buckner, 16, and his step-brother Joshua, 13, had taken two rifles from their home, hid in trees and started firing at passing vehicles on a busy highway.The pair pleaded guilty at a juvenile court to reckless homicide.

As usual in the US, people are suing one another1.

'We are suing the boys, their parents, WalMart who sold the game and the video games companies including Rockstar that are responsible for designing a game that they knew would result in these type of consequences.'
Jack Thomson


So, he's suing everyone then?2 Does he really think that the game designers deliberately made a game that would cause people to kill one another?

No-one from Rockstar would comment on the action against them but the Washington-based Entertainment Software Association dismissed any possible link.

President Doug Lowenstein said:

'The notion that they don't know right from wrong, that they don't know that picking up a weapon and shooting people is morally wrong and that somehow "a video game made me do it" is just ridiculous.'

He added:

'I think it's a fair point of concern, but I don't think the science even remotely supports the proposition that playing a violent game turns you into a violent person.'

The games industry has always maintained that there is no established link between games and violent behaviour. But if you want more independant analysis:

The Australia government performed a study a few years ago that showed there was no link between violent computer games and violent behaviour. The US surgeon general said there was no connection between violent games and violent behaviour; the games, at most, causing a short term rise in violent thoughts, not behaviour.

Several studies that seemed to show a link between the two have been debunked in recent years for using bad statistics, and dodgy science, yet these same studies are used by people to back up their claim that violent games make people violent.

Everytime I see one of these cases, I always think the same thing:

'What the hell are you doing leaving guns in a place where your children can get at them?'

Let's recap on the Rules of gun ownership.

  1. Don't own a gun.
  2. Seriously, don't own a gun.
  3. If you have children, don't even think about getting a gun.
  4. If you must have a gun, hide it as high up and out of reach as possible, preferably in a locked cabinet3.
  5. Hide the ammunition in a separate place, preferably in a locked cabinet.
  6. Make sure only you know where both are hidden.
  7. Never leave the gun loaded.
  8. Never leave the gun cocked.
  9. Unless you know otherwise, always assume a gun is loaded.

Just because your government lets you own a gun, doesn't mean you have to. I know several Americans, and none of them own guns. And one of them lives in an area where bears regularly wander through his back yard4.

The game carries an 18 certificate. Parents do not take the certificates on games as seriously as those on films.

Why were they letting their children play that game. In the UK, it is illegal for a child to watch an 18 film, it is also illegal to let a child play an 18 cert game. It is illegal to buy an 18 game for a child. There is no if, but or maybe.

The children in Tennessee were suggestable, and acted out what they had seen. They had little parent supervision, and don't seem to have been taught that most simple of equations: Guns = Death5. It could easily have been an Al Pacino movie, or a scene from the Terminator films. The problem is that you, because of your human brain, are incapable of accepting that random things happen. To you, there has to be a reason, a cause, someone to blame.

Well there is.


When it comes down to it, there's a very easy way to show that Vice City (and violent games in general) do not cause violent behaviour.

How many copies has the game sold worldwide? More than 30 million copies.
How many cases are there of people copying the game? 1.

It's time to start taking reponsibility. Parents have to start paying attention to what their children are doing. You don't let children talk to strangers, but you let them play an interactive game without any idea of the content?

The good news is that there's now an excuse for parents to hog the Playstation.

'I'm not playing the Playstation Timmy. I'm checking if the content of this game is suitable for you.'

The Atlantic_Cable


13.05.04 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1The rhyming lawyer was particularly amusing, although I think not intentionally: 'Guns are fun' and 'killing is thrilling.' He even sang.2Really, if you are trying to sue the person responible, make your mind up! Its not a pick and mix.3I should point out that a locked cabinet is essential if you apply for a licence to keep a gun in the UK... ed.4Seriously.5Nor do they seem to have been told that death is permanent.

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