More Grand Theft Common Sense

I used to think that the groups and individuals that sat around eagerly anticipating the launch of a new Grand Theft Auto (GTA) game were the fans.  I was wrong.  I am now positive the people salivating over these releases are those that intend to create an uproar over the games content and how it ‘endangers our children.’

Most recently to the forefront is media watchdog Common Sense Media.  The group that stated that HALO 3 was less violent than other first person shooters because, “there’s something a bit less impactful about killing creatures that don’t really exist.”  Just a hint CSM, but the characters in GTA IV don’t really exist either.

CSM’s recent review of GTA IV: The Lost & the Damned—episodic downloadable content (DLC) available exclusively on Xbox Live—highlighted the newest GTA controversy: FULL FRONTAL NUDITY.  Full frontal male nudity, to be specific.  As the scene has been described by countless outlets, it involves a politician in a steam room having a meeting with associates.  At some point in the scene it is revealed to the player that he isn’t clothed.

Hide your sons and your daughters!  They may see a digitized, pixelated version of something they’ve seen a thousand times on themselves, in the boys locker room, or health class.

Once again, this is an issue of parental supervision.  If you don’t want your kid playing it, don’t allow them to play it.  The Entertainment Software Association, the predominant trade association of the video game industry, reported last year that 94% of gamers under 18 were accompanied by a parent when they purchased their video games. Additionally, and more specifically, GTA IV: The Lost & the Damned is DLC off of Xbox Live.  You can’t go and buy it in a store.  You have to download it on your Xbox 360.  To do so, a  credit card transaction has to take place to purchase credits that you can exchange for online content in the Xbox Live store.  Or you can purchase a points card in a store to redeem on the system.

The bottom line is the DLC expansion of GTA IV must be purchased on Xbox Live.  What’s the significance?  Well in the first scenario.  If you child is purchasing content on Xbox Live with an adults credit card, there should be supervision over their purchases.  Secondly, and more importantly is that games have built in coding indicating their rating to the game system.  A parent can go into the game consoles settings and tell the system that it is not allowed to play games of a certain rating.  Then when the child puts a game into their system or tries to play downloaded content of a rating they are not allowed to play, the system doesn’t allow it to be played.

When parents are involved in what their kids are playing and watching on tv, common sense just tells us, that the children are less likely to be involved in content their parents don’t want them to be witness to.  I believe this message is beginning to get out, especially when considering some of the figures the ESA released in their report.  So there is a good chance that the message of watch dog groups advising parents of game content like Common Sense Media, the ESRB, and is reaching its intended audience.

But at the same time, it seems like some groups are trying to use bigger shock value to get people to their site or talking about their work at the detriment to the software.  However, if that is the method in which we are able to keep the ratings board unregulated and maintained by an impartial committee, I don’t have that big of a problem with it.