News To Us
Thanks to cop-out phrases like "People are saying..." and what can only be described as flagrant abuse of the question mark (“Does Grand Theft Auto cause cancer in infants? Film at 11.”), the mainstream news has been allowed to sling baseless allegations while skirting any and all accountability.
But the truth is crime, all crime, has been in steady decline every year since the 1970’s. Car theft, for one, has dropped over 50% since 1991 and continues to fall. (And this is according all according to official US Department of Justice statistics, so we’re not talking out of our asses.) As much as the non-gaming media loves to speculate a correlation between violence and GTA, the numbers don’t fib. Observe:
As each successive Grand Theft Auto game sells more and more, the violent crime rate in America - assault, rape, murder, all that fun stuff - has plummeted. Since the franchise’s inception, 2003 is the only year that saw a slight increase in violent crime in juveniles, and that was a year without a GTA game.
Studies done by the US Secret Service showed that only 12% of school shooters were even attracted to violent video games (books and movies proved twice as high, at 24% and 27% - HA!) Many surveys that directly correlate games like Grand Theft Auto to an increase in violent behavior are either based on limited information or set out to find a predestinated causality. If games are prevalent in 90% of American households, that leaves only a 10% window for juvenile crimes that can’t be blamed on video games. By that flawed logic, the news could just as well attribute a school shooting to Windex or iPods.
Wacky Jack is back!
"If it wasn't for ‘Grand Theft Auto,’ three people might not now be dead," Jack Thompson, in a wrongful death case against Take-Two Interactive. 14-year-old Cody Posey had gunned down his father, step-mother and step-sister and Wacky Jack was out to prove a video game starring Ray Liotta was the culprit. Of course, the defense managed to bypass Vice City altogether, and countered with more substantial claims of severe abuse, claiming the father frequently beat his son, burnt him with a welding rod, and even (allegedly) instructed him to have sex with his own step-mother. It’s a wonder the case was thrown out before they could ask why a 14-year-old had such easy access to a firearm and ammunition.
It’s easy to see how a politician, pundit or talking head can blame games like Grand Theft Auto, but it’s also important for everyone to recognize it as complete and utter horseshit. Imagine yourself in a position of power, someone charged with quelling a populace reeling from a Columbine-esque disaster and providing answers about what’s to be done in the future. Would you point the finger at adolescent cruelty, parents working longer hours, an overwhelming sense of hopelessness radiating through the middle class?
Maybe... but what about that plastic rectangle right with the disc in it right over there?! It's so tangible... yet without all that “old money” power of the gun lobby. Huzzah, the illusion of progress can be upheld!
A New Victim
And let’s remember the biggest victim within any GTA game is cars, which consistently kill tens of thousands of people every year, which is waaaay more than guns, and almost as many World of WarCraft.
Above: Actual auto theft - not easy to do, and even harder to get away with
It’s not all the fault of the media. Some people clearly know better. But if you’ve ever been arrested for something stupid, you’ll notice how easy it is to disperse responsibility on everyone but yourself. I know when I was picked up for shoplifting a VHS copy of Joe’s Apartment, I was quick to blame rising box office prices and less than stellar reviews.
So kids, do us all a favor, the next time you get in serious trouble for something, instead of blaming GTA, blame Steve McQueen. Or better yet - John Wayne! Let’s see how quick these old farts are to put their idols on trial.
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