I got an interesting take on American society this week. In the wake of the latest mass shooting, I was visiting with a family with connections in the States. A friend from down there had sent a birthday present to the 11-year-old: Grand Theft Auto.
I don’t usually give reviews of products on this site, but this product has social implications far beyond its intended market. I thought that perhaps it was a rather violent game for one so young, so we sat down with the kid to check it out.
It started out with a standard heist scene. Masked robbers break into a bank, brandishing automatic weapons and shouting, “Get on the floor!” with appropriate expletives. People cowering in terror, desks kicked over, the whole nine yards.
This was bad enough, but then I realized that the point of view of the scene was that of one of the criminals. This 11-year-old was helping rampage through a bank, terrorizing people. Then they shot a guard. Then the police showed up, and they began killing policemen.
The game continued, with high-speed car chases, gun battles and huge amounts of collateral damage in terms of bystanders and buildings.
All from the point of view of the player.
And I said to myself, “This is brainwashing. This child is being subjected to a barrage of images of violence. Constant positive feedback for breaking the law, committing acts of violence, killing policemen, with a background of constant vile language and at the end? No punishment beyond a mild sense of disappointment for not having passed to the next level. He’s being trained to be a criminal!”
And this game was given as a birthday gift from an American adult, a father of several children, a university-educated professional in charge of a crew of forty to sixty men on an important job. How could he not know what he was doing?
With the legalization of marijuana, much is being made of the influence of that drug on the developing minds of teenagers. Can anyone deny the effect of hour after hour of this sort of training on normal youth? Then start thinking how it will work when it’s the only emotional outlet for a victim of bullying and abuse.
And let’s not blame this all on the Americans. This game is for sale in Canada as well, in countless versions on multiple platforms. The ESRB rating: Mature, which means 17 years plus. If anyone pays any attention, which obviously many don’t.
We are brainwashing our children in the ways of violence. Given the evidence recently being circulated about the addictive effects of this sort of game, I can guess the effect of too much of this experience on a fully formed adult mind. Anyone under the age of 17 is doubly vulnerable.
This game should only be allowed for people who don’t need to play it.
If I could give negative stars, I would. This game is bad for all of us.