Thailand is urging retailers to pull Grand Theft Auto IV off shelves following the murder of a taxi driver by a teenager who claimed he was trying to recreate a scene from the game.
The 18-year-old high school student, described by police as an "obsessive player of Grand Theft Auto," attempted to rob a 54-year-old taxi driver over the weekend, stabbing him to death when the driver resisted. Police said the teenager exhibited no signs of mental issues during questioning, and confessed that he committed the crime because of the game. "He said he wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game," said Veeravit Pipattanasak, chief police investigator.
Thailand's Ministry of Culture has been seeking more stringent restrictions on the same types of videogames as well as limitations on when "youngsters" can play games in public arcades. "This time-bomb has already exploded and the situation could get worse," said Ladda Thangsupachai, director of the Cultural Surveillance Center, a branch of the Culture Ministry. "Today it is a cab driver, but tomorrow it could be a videogame shop owner."
Sakchai Chotikachinda, of videogame distributor New Era Interactive Media, said the company was already taking steps to remove the game from retail outlets. "We are sending out requests today to outlets and shops to pull the games off their shelves and we will replace them with other games," Sakchai said. "We are also urging videogame arcades to pull the games from service."
It may sound crazy, but it strikes me as perhaps possible that the government of Thailand could be manipulating the circumstances of a robbery gone wrong to fit its own agenda toward videogames. Claiming "GTA made me do it" might give the government adequate pretext to crack down on a politically problematic game, but my confidence in the veracity of confessions extracted within the walls of a Thai prison is not, I must admit, 100 percent. Of course, the reverse could also be true; the killer could be setting up a GTA defense in hopes of mitigating his sentence after he's found guilty, which he will be. Either way, it's a safe bet that Grand Theft Auto is less causal than convenient.
The suspect, described by his parents as "polite and diligent," faces the death penalty if found guilty - another good reason to spread the blame around.