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Grand Theft Press

The GameCore inbox has been overflowing since Tuesday, when CBS Evening News ran a piece covering the "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" controversy. Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reported that game-cheat devices and downloadable patches could unlock x-rated scenes in the game.

At the heart of the debate was whether or not federal or state governments should step in to regulate video game sales to minors, and whether violent games are detrimental to children.

Reaction to the Evening News piece has all been similar: They hated it. As one correspondent wrote, "This is ENTERTAINMENT."

After countless years of inaccurate, one-sided reporting by the mainstream media, video game journalists barely bat an eye when we see yet another shoddy expose on the current state of video game violence. It was hard not to squint, however, after watching Cynthia Bowers bludgeon a dead horse with another misinformed, wildly biased stab at this issue. The inaccuracies are blatant, from the very first sentence (GTA doesn't reward players for killing cops, and does, in fact, throw you in prison for it) to her mystifying choice of data suggesting that far too many children have played Mature games. Try asking how many of those kids have seen an R-rated film and I'm sure you'll be stunned all over again. She fails to mention that precisely zero studies have found any substantial link between violent video games and violent behavior. While she interviews a high-school teacher and the governor of Illinois to represent a concerned society, she chooses a fifteen year-old boy to represent the video game industry. Hope he was an honor student.

The most telling aspect of this report, however, comes in her Web-only addendum, in which she admits that the real problem is her inability to keep up with her kid's technological savvy and her outright fear of losing touch. I appreciate the honest admission, but you're worried about video games? Guess what - in a few clicks on the Internet, he can find the kind of pornographic filth most thirteen year-olds only dream of (try doing a Google search for the word "sex." I imagine he's tried sketchier lingo that that.)

Frankly, Ms. Bowers, this kind of fear-inducing hooey only furthers the public's misunderstanding of contemporary games and gamers. You should spend less time filing sloppy reports about topics you know little about and more time telling other parents to touch base with their kids. Just as they don't want Johnny eating candy all day long, it's healthy to be aware of what films he watches, television he enjoys and games he plays. And more than anything, they shouldn't believe everything they read.

-Ben Silverman, Editor in Chief of

Jesus Christ, if you're a national news program covering a national issue you would think you would devote, I don't know, five seconds to a bit of research before making a complete ass of yourself.

Apparently, not if you're CBS News.

In a show that airs tonight the once respected news organization takes on video game violence and gets it wrong before the first sentence is out of their talking head's mouth.

A particularly pointed-toothed Kotaku mole shot me a transcript for the show, and it was a stomach-churner to say the least.

They start with this magnificent lede:

Welcome to the dark world of "Grand Theft Auto San Andreas"- where killing cops earns you points, not prison.

Points? Does GTA have points? Even if you take this at something other than its literal meaning, the game sure as hell doesn't reward cop killing, in penalizes it. You kill a cop, two come for you, you kill two, a SWAT, kill more, the FBI until eventually you are taken down.

The story goes on to quote a woman who was on the now infamous Illinois task force that worked to create a soon to be enacted unconstitutional state law banning the sale of mature video games to anyone under 18.

The woman says that GTA had scenes more graphic that the "most graphic movie" she had ever seen. She must stay in a lot. I know she didn't see Sin City, or Saving Private Ryan, or Colors, or The Godfather, or The Goodfellas or any slasher flick.

The story eventually makes it way to the sex hidden in GTA and ends with a quote about how hard it is for a parent to keep up. God forbid they try, I don't know, parenting.

- Brian Crecente, editor of, writes about crime and video games for Rocky Mountain News and freelances for Playboy and

Brian also has a petition:

We the editors of various video game publications are tired of covering controversy. We the editors would much rather write first person accounts of finding Katamari Damacy knitted caps or cakes in the shape of assorted consoles. We the editors are very tired and have a headache that won't go away. We the editors want a nice backrub and perhaps a cold beer.

This commentary also appears on

Well, welcome to the 21st century. Ignorance has always existed...but with new generations comes a new scapegoat. Think of it ... back in the 50's, Rock and Roll was evil, and was to be banned. Heck, Elvis was considered a monster by most.

However, once people "got over" rock, then the emphasis went to violence on TV, Violence in movies, then, like a revolution, back to music. All of a sudden, music was EVIL, but it was no longer good ol Rock and Roll, it was rap. 2 Live Crew got a lot of publicity with their otherwise horrible album, as did a lot of artists in that time. The people who hoped to publicly crucify these people actually made them martyrs...and millionaires.

Hit the fast forward button again ever so slightly, and TV is evil again. "How dare MTV show Beavis and Butthead!" "That kid with the blond hair just screamed 'fire!' My poor children!"

So, we fast-forward ever so slightly once again...and now, it's all about videogames. Now, you might think that this all started years ago with Mortal Kombat. To a degree, you're right. However, back then, the public just didn't care as much. Sen Lieberman did his best to get a big following to denounce games like this, but not many people showed interest. In the end, the ESRB was born, and all of the media went away. However, this has gotten further out of hand. Politicians, parent and church groups, talk radio and TV talk shows, and just about every other special interest group out there are speaking out against the evil that is Grand Theft Auto. Now, what kills me is the following:

1) GTA is nothing compared to what else is out there. There are some very messed up interactive media out there that went under the radar. I guess with success comes a bulls eye. However, for those millions who've played the Sims, did anyone ever realize that those pesky little Sims are having loads of sex right in front of us. Sure there's a little blur in front of there naughty parts, but I think we all know what's going on. Not to mention, there is a code to remove that blur ...

2) Most people who are complaining have NEVER PLAYED THE GAME. When one woman said you beat the game by RAPING kind of get the idea she did not know what she was talking about.

3) I'll use GTA as an example, as many other people seem to be. GTA is an open world game. A player can do whatever he wants to basically. So if he wants to drive a fire truck and put out fires, he can! If he wants to drive an ambulance and save people, he can! However, most people choose to run people over and shoot at cops. What does that say about the person playing the game if this is where he gets off? The game merely gives you the choice ...

4) This is ENTERTAINMENT people. There are tons of choices out there. I'm over 30, this is what I want to play. I want to play God of War, I want to play GTA, and I want to play just about everything else that suite my mature taste. Who is anyone to tell me I cannot? I think Bruce Campbell said it best when talking about how outrageous our views on society have become... in a nutshell, how crazy we get over sex, yet seem to be cool with violence. To paraphrase, "We can shoot a boob, we just can't show one."

Hey, I'll try to sum it up as simple as I games DO NOT make people do anything. If a guy is a killer, he's a killer. If a game did not set him off, someone honking his horn at him in traffic would have. HE'S CRAZY!

As a kid, we all used to play cops and with cap guns in the streets and shoot at each other. We used to watch Tom torture Jerry on TV, and play violent games like King of the Hill. Yet, no one seems to realize that those games and shows did not turn us into killers. In our overly PC environment...where people fear what they do not understand (gay people, anyone? LET THEM MARRY!), where people jump down someone else's throat for saying something they do not feel is "PC", or people sue companies for just about everything...people seem to want to be parented again. To have some entity to tell us what we can and cannot do. It makes them feel "safe."

To those people: **** you. Go feel safe somewhere else...I'll be playing Resident Evil 4 in the meantime.

-- Game developer employee who wishes not to be named.

Unfortunately, the article starts off with a wrong statement. "Killing cops" in GTA does not earn you points. In fact, such actions lead to making the game difficult and if the player continues to do so, he/she will eventually be facing a force that will eventually end their characters life – they experience negative reinforcement for their actions. The player is then wiped of all weapons, unless, of course, codes are used in the game.

Second, it is unfortunate that Gov. Rod Blagojevich has never done research on the "harmful impact that playing violent and sexually graphic (games) has on young children," that's because there is none. Granted, it is feasible that one could be influenced by witnessing violent and sexual acts, but that could be said for any medium. Why wouldn't a child be influenced by the violent and sexual content in a movie or comic book? His statement has no supporting evidence.

That aside, the whole industry is troubled by the fact that 50% of boys age 7-14 have bought a game rated "M". My concern is that the study might not have looked into how many of those games were purchased with a parent nearby, or how many were purchased with funds given by parents when their children ask if they can purchase a videogame Granted, it is the responsibility of the seller to make sure underage children are not purchasing these titles, but I can assure you that parents are often right next to their children when these "M" rated titles are purchased or well aware of their children playing them. If not, then I think we've found the problem.

The problem is a complete lack of understanding of this new medium called "videogames" that has become apart of cultures all over the world. The days of children coming home to watch television are over, something parents themselves grew up with and understand. Instead, they come home to their home console and parents have no clue how to interact with that. Perhaps its time they start.

And if Deb Perryman needs help to stay ahead of the game, perhaps she should start playing one to "keep up" with her children. More importantly, she should take a look at the rating before she starts – just like any movie.

Side note:

I would like to say that the ESRB should add additional ratings. Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto are both rated Mature. Putting both these titles with same rating could raise some confusion. Most would agree that GTA is far more mature than Halo 2. Parents might assume that a GTA game would be at the same mature level as Halo 2.

- Cog.

This editorial is rated "T" for Teen. (I'm just covering my hide...don't want to get unnecessarily sued or anything.)

See, this is exactly why the World Wrestling Entertainment got banned, and good riddance.

Can you believe all that violence that made that poor 12 year old kill his sister by practicing the moves he saw on TV on her.


As you can see, having such violent entertainment in the hands of unwatched youth can be devastating, and should be controlled by the government. It's not like the WWE is regulating themselves. They should have had a watchdog over them to protect our youth from acting out what they see on TV.

What do you mean "televised wrestling entertainment isn't banned in this country"?

That 12 year old child was unsupervised, and was diagnosed as having some slight mental issues. Also, let's not blame the parents, they are trying to get money from someone, not sue themselves for negligence. It isn't as if they *had* to be watching their children entertain themselves.

But he shot 3 cops dead! That's different. He learned it by playing the game.

The young man had mental issues waiting to be brought out and it is not the game's fault for doing so.

It was the fault of the family for not being aware that he was playing a game he should not have been playing. I'm sure the parents would have taken note if he was watching "Scarface" twice a day, everyday after school. If you as a parent hear gunfire erupting from your child's room for more than 20 minutes a day, everyday, and you never check on that, don't blame me for their behavior...

Oh wait. I'm in America, so I guess you can.

The ESRB did their job of warning the population that the content of the game had "content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older." Why he had this as a minor is not the store's fault, as they have had policies in place to card game buyers for quite some time.

Let me repeat this point.

They identify *video game consumers* with an age verification check when buying a game rated "M" for Mature or higher.

Consumers who buy *uncensored* DVD's of R-rated material do not get carded at many of these establishments.

So if I tell you and your child the bridge is out up ahead, and throw up a small police horse to stop you from walking, and check to see if you should be walking by yourself, but your parent says "he can walk fine on his own, it's ok" and the child falls off the bridge, it's still my fault because you as a parent didn't take the time to understand the clear warning I gave you?

Only in America.

Yet one can search the Internet for racist supremacist games, which firmly quote and reference the 1st amendment by the way, and no one is screaming. I'm sure that all the people who play and enjoy these free and easy to find games are of "sound mind and body."

But hey, those are just my opinions, which I will probably be sued for because I hurt someone's feelings.

- Alejandro, Gamer

Most of the thoughts I have are the obvious, but I'll put 'em down just the same.
  • There's a freaking rating system already! What's the point of having a rating system if everything is going to be homogenized PG-13 content? If people really believe that kids cannot separate real violence from make believe, perhaps they should consider taking a look at Fox-TV, TBS...or any WWF on TV.
  • Is porn the problem? Let's see. The argument is that the game console (PS2, Xbox, etc.) is targeted at kids and therefore there should not be any 'adult related material' available for them. Umm, hello? According to a survey by the ESA "the average age of game players is 29 and the average age of buyers is 36, with men making up 59% of the playing audience." Well, these 'kids' are allowed to see ANY kind of movie they want. Violent, pornographic, you name it.
  • First Amendment? Maybe Microsoft or Sony's amendment? In the case of Sony America, they could just (and pretty much do) stop any title from ever seeing the shelf at an EB if they think it is questionable material. All they have to do is say no. Did they say no to GTA:SA? Quite the opposite really. They tied themselves in knots making sure they got that title out on time...if it sells Sony doesn't care (as long as the press doesn't effect their stock too much).
  • Most important of all of course is that if they win this, then how will we ever see Mario and the Princess getting it on? My dream of Leisure Suit Mario (Will the Real Plumber Please Stand Up?) will never come to fruition! Pixel love, baby. Pixel love.

    The "ESRB independently applies and enforces ratings, advertising guidelines, and online privacy principles adopted by the computer and video game industry." . If there role is to essentially establish, apply and enforce ratings on video games aren't they responsible for miss rating GTA:SA? When submitting a game to the ESRB hours of video footage and game playing on their part are combined with a form (and a walkthrough) filled in by the publisher to 'rate' the game. Yet, the ESRB relies primarily on the input of the publisher themselves to establish the rating. All this for a (hopefully) 1 time fee of $4k.

    That's $4k per game for pretty much every game on the shelf now. Not too bad for a 'not for profit' organization that is located on the 22nd floor of 317 Madison Ave down the hall from the freaking British Consulate! I guess if you're running a 'not for profit' you can afford to spend a little extra on rent. It's not like they spend it on staff. In my experience it's typically up to two guys to follow the walkthrough for a couple of days to find out if the publisher lied on their form.

    That is the full extent of their 'rating' enforcement.

    I believe that it doesn't matter what was on the disk hidden or not. Rockstar Games didn't rate the game M. The ESRB did.

    - Trevor
    By William Vitka

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