Auto V is the latest edition of a popular video game that allows players to assume
the role of criminals as they steal cars and
run over innocent passengers in violent free-for-all killing sprees. The action
game, which explores the anti-hero POV, hit stores on September 17 and
reached more than $1 billion in sales after only three days on the shelves,
having already earned the monumental record of fastest selling entertainment
product in history.
Although the game is rated M, its appeal oversteps boundaries for its
target audience. According to one video game
retail veteran hundreds of copies of GTA V were sold to parents of children "who could barely even see over my counter."
Whether we want them to or not, our children have at some point been
exposed to the game through discussions with peers or actually playing it with
friends. Because of violent games like
Grand Theft Auto, our children's role play has shifted from playing the superhero to mimicking criminal behavior.
Dr. Kate Roberts, a licensed family psychologist, says
that children who play violent games may use them as an outlet for their
frustrations rather than coping in more productive ways, such as speaking with
someone and asking for help. Yet, she believes claims that this type of play
will turn our children into criminals is a bit far-reaching.
"It's not as bad as being part of real live gang, but it's not healthy either."
does not have any kind of a positive influence on kids—it has a ton of
violent, disturbing and criminal acts, plus the end goal of the user is to do
something criminal," Roberts says. "However, it is rated Mature, so if
children playing it are mature enough to know the difference between game and
reality, then perhaps its negative impact is overblown." It should be noted the M rating recommends players be 17 and over.
compares the influence of the criminal acts in this video game to any other
themed game. "A kid playing online NFL football will not make him an NFL
football player in reality," Roberts says. "Playing a thief and murderer
will not make him a thief and murderer in reality."
surrounding whether or not Grand Theft Auto V is OK for children is the
predecessor for a much broader question: Are kids mature enough in general to
know the difference between video games and reality? Is the M rating the right age restriction according to child development?
According to Roberts, typical kids
know the difference between reality and fantasy at age 13 or older. But many kids are developmentally immature. So even though
cognitively they may know the difference, emotionally they use these games
as an outlet for their frustrations. "It's like being part of a simulated gang. It's not as bad as being part of real live gang, but it's not healthy either." Roberts explains that games like Grand Theft Auto V offer kids a reference
for their frustrations, so they don't feel as isolated or ashamed of their
normalizes it for them, somehow validating for them that it's OK to feel like you
want to kill innocent people," Roberts asserts. So perhaps keep that in mind the next time you walk up to the counter in your favorite video game store, kid in tow.