Critical Intel

Critical Intel
Grand Theft Auto IV Didn't Drive an 8 Year-Old to Murder

Robert Rath | 28 Aug 2013 12:05
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This is not to put the blame on the shoulders of Ms. Smothers, or say she was a bad caregiver - from all we know, she was doing her best. It's possible that the gun was tucked away in some corner of the trailer, perhaps even in a box, and that she had forgotten about it. It's not uncommon for children to find forgotten guns that are still loaded, and sometimes it ends in tragedy.

But the Kid Probably Shouldn't Have Had Access to GTA IV Either

In case you're not aware, Grand Theft Auto IV is rated M for Mature, meaning you can't purchase it if you're under 17. That's not an idle prohibition either. Videogames have the highest compliance rate for its rating system across all media, it's much easier for kids to buy an R-rated movie or PAL CD than a game meant for adults.

Of course, retailers can't do everything. Parents are ultimately responsible for the games their children play. Not only is Grand Theft Auto IV blatantly a game about car theft, but even glancing at the cover tells you it's not a game for 8 year-olds. There are four men with guns on the front cover, plus a woman suggestively licking a lollipop. The rating box on the back says that the game contains "Blood, Intense Violence, Partial Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, and Use of Drugs and Alcohol." Plus, anyone bothering to read the back cover would probably come to the conclusion that a story about an immigrant's disillusion with the American dream isn't a topic for kids. Basically, there's no reason a child should've been playing GTA IV and no reason an adult would've mistaken it as age-appropriate.

Police: No Motive, No Details, Just GTA IV

Because the boy is under 10 years old, we cannot - and likely will not - ever know the exact circumstances behind the shooting. Because of the way juvenile cases go through the legal system, any court appearances are confidential and even the boy's name was withheld. As a result, news reports in the aftermath of the shooting had very little to go on except a statement from police. As we'll see, this proved a breeding ground for speculation.

East Feliciana Parish Sheriff's Department didn't release much information after the shooting, except that they believed it to be an intentional and that the suspect had played Grand Theft Auto IV mere minutes before shooting his grandmother in the back of the head. Originally the boy said that the gun discharged accidentally while he was playing with it, noted the Sheriffs, but after probing his story they decided to investigate the incident as a homicide.

However, the element the news media latched onto wasn't the fact that a child had unimpeded access to a handgun, it was the presence of GTA. The Sheriff's Department didn't help matters, since it provided the following statement to the media: "Although a motive for the shooting is unknown at this time investigators have learned that the juvenile suspect was playing a video game on the Play Station III [sic] 'Grand Theft Auto IV,' a realistic game that has been associated with encouraging violence and awards points to players for killing people, just minutes before the homicide occurred."

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