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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In other words, the boy was playing a game that had guns in it. Then when he stopped playing the game, he found a real gun that he thought was a toy, pointed it at his grandmother and pulled the trigger. Grand Theft Auto IV didn't turn him into a mindless killer without empathy. It didn't drag him into a virtual reality world that was "worse than heroin" or make him "intentionally" shoot his grandmother like the Sheriffs claimed. While it's true he might've been modeling his behavior on Niko Bellic, his intention wasn't to cause harm. He was just a kid, practicing imaginary play like so many kids do, not realizing that he did so with a real weapon. Would he have picked up the gun and played with it had he not played GTA? Maybe, maybe not. He's hardly the first young man to shoot another person with a gun he thought was fake.

Everything else, every talking point and expert opinion, was just conjecture spun in the absence of any real information. A hundred straw man arguments and false assumptions, "facts" that were never true repeated ad nauseum, old quotes journalists dug up that had little connection to the circumstances, all of them were creations of the mind that did nothing but smear a poor kid during the worst week of his life. Was the boy living in a distorted reality? Perhaps - but we know cable news was.

Here's what to take away from all this: Go home and hug your kids. If you have guns, lock them up far out of reach. Talk to the young people in your life about how guns aren't toys, and teach them never to touch a "toy" gun they're not familiar with until they've asked an adult. Know the videogame rating systems and buy them age-appropriate games. If you're worried about them borrowing violent games from a friend, tell them they're only allowed to play a game after showing it to you.

Or better yet: play games as a family. That way you'll always know what your kids are into.

Robert Rath is a freelance writer, novelist, and researcher currently based in Hong Kong. You can follow his exploits at or on Twitter at @RobWritesPulp.

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