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Grand Theft Auto a Bad Influence

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From the ridiculous file:

‘Grand Theft’ under fire in suit

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A fatal sniping spree by two teen-age Tennessee boys who said they were mimicking the video game “Grand Theft Auto III” has triggered a $246 million damage lawsuit against the game’s creator and others.

One person was killed and another wounded in the incident last June.

The case, filed Monday in Cocke County Circuit at Newport, Tennessee, named Sony Computer Entertainment America Inc., a unit of Sony Corp. (SNE: Research, Estimates), Rockstar Games, a subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. (TTWO: Research, Estimates), and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT: Research, Estimates), which sold the game, the parents of the two boys involved, and the boys themselves.

The lawsuit alleges that the parties being challenged should have known the game would lead to “copycat violence.”

The boys in a court appearance in August admitted they traded off firing a rifle from a wooded hilltop overlooking a highway, killing Canadian Aaron Hamel, 45, and wounding a woman motorist. A passenger riding with Hamel was also injured when his car ran off the road.

Prosecutor Al Schmutzer said the boys told authorities they were mimicking the video game by trying to hit the sides of passing trucks.

Joshua and William Buckner, 14 and 16 years old, respectively, have been ordered held until they reach age 19 after pleading guilty to reckless homicide, aggravated assault and reckless endangerment.

The suit was filed on behalf of Hamel’s parents, the wounded motorist and two people who were passengers in each of their vehicles. It seeks $200 million in punitive damages and $46 million in actual damages.

Take-Two said it would seek a dismissal of the suit.

“The Company believes that the claims against it are without merit and are similar to lawsuits brought and uniformly dismissed by courts in other jurisdictions where the plaintiffs’ sought to hold entertainment companies responsible for the violent behavior of individuals who used those company’s products,” Take-Two said in a statement.

A spokeswoman for SCEA, declined to comment, and Wal-Mart had no immediate comment.

Think of all the possibilities if this goes through. I could sue the makers of Mortal Kombat for giving me the idea of using a finishing move where I rip out another human’s spine. Spy Hunter has convinced me to attach guns to my car and drive like a madman. Ms. Pacman convinced me to put a bow in my hair and chomp on imaginary pellets of undeterminant makeup all the while avoiding ghosts in an attempt… oh wait, did I just say that out loud?

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About Craig Lyndall

  • jadester

    don’t worry, this kind of madness happened the first time around (with GTA 1) and also Doom and some other “excessively violent” games.
    The argument that any such games can be the cause of such real-life violence is utter shite bandied about by those who’d rather lay the blame on something that won’t affect them, than something closer to home. For a start, i’d look at the parents…

  • cocke county?

    guilty pleasure = tooling around Vice City, randomly running over hapless pedestrians in carjack booty.

  • Whatever you do Chris, remember it is ONLY A GAME! Please don’t carjack anyone and/or run over any pedestrians! I repeat… it is ONLY A GAME!

  • san

    Wait a minute… I’m not *really* mayor of SimCity?

  • No.. I am the mayor. Unless … (gasp) Sim City is only a game too!!!?!?!?! NOOOOOOOO!

  • Eric Olsen

    I believe you become what you pretend to be, and playing violent, lawless games makes it more likely that, when looked at in aggregate, these things will happen.

  • I don’t know if this is related at all, but there was some research (I can’t find the story anymore) about how people with phobias were helped in alleviating those phobias through video games (ie: scared of heights? play a flight simulation or airborne game). So there is some digital reality transferred to physical reality, but regardless, blaming something on a video game for creating “inspiration” is pretty lame. It’s like blaming music (oh wait, that’s been done too).

  • Eric Olsen

    I don’t think it makes sense on an individual level at all, and I don’t think the creators can be “blamed” in a legal sense, but looking at the total population, I am certain the prevalence of violence, etc in games, film, TV, increases the overall level of violence in the population.

  • Joe

    Hmmmm… violence in media, violence in life, which is the chicken and which is the egg?

    And if GTA is providing one’s inspiration in life, they’re probably bucking for a Darwin Award at some point.

    And Chris, that’s pronounced cock-ay.

  • BB

    If I read the headline correctly it says “they were mimicking the video game “Grand Theft Auto III”. That would seem to indicate they have already confessed to a copycat crime. Craig I don’t mean to rain on your parade but there are numerous copycat crimes on record and it is a for real phenomena. I don’t think it is a laughing matter and I am surprised you would take that so lightly. Call me a prude if you wish but I won’t allow my teenage son to play GTA III. (He plays it over at his friends house 😉

  • jadester

    no, they just sue it as an excuse because they don’t want to face up to what they’ve done. Avoiding responsibility for your actions seems to be ever mroe popular these days. Plus, they get the chance to try and get a huge sum of money off someone else.
    If they have real mental problems, like can’t see what’s wrong with just randomly going up to someone and shooting them (for example) then they need help. Otherwise they should be treated as what they are – criminals. It’s sad that some people turn out that way, but so many parents seem to not give a flying fuck about what their kids get up to, or teaching them that it’s not ok to shoot someone, and so many tabloid journalists are happy to lay the blame on whatever they can to gain more readers, and so many lawyers are happy to jump in and offer their “no win no fee” services to try and sue the thing that’s really responsible (cos it can’t be the parents. i mean, what kind of world would we live in if there were so many irresponsible parents as that would indicate?…) that most people never really ask the awkward questions.
    There was a documentary on tv a little while ago about some kid here in england who was locked up for murder at i think age 18. He’d been a troubled child, and in the docu his dad was trying to see if he could find the reason. In the end, painful tho it was, he came to the conclusion that the way he fathered his son was partly to blame. And there weren’t just people involved talked to – the guy also talked to a child psychologist (or behaviouralist or whatever) too.

  • BB

    Sure jadester, blame it on the lawyers and parents. Let me guess, you don’t have children of your own? I have to give you credit on one point. Persons who are psychologically challenged are more susceptible, and that to me is the point. There are a lot of kids out there that would fit that description. And if you met my teenager you would know why I don’t let him play. (Just kidding son 😉

  • duane

    This seems like an interesting and complex topic. But I’m way too busy trying to become a Level 10 Fighter/Mage on the Sword Coast to bother with all these posts. I’ll catch up when the parents are on Oprah (with luck, Josh and Will will be on closed circuit TV from their cell) hawking their book — lets’ see — “Grand Theft Innocence”? That reminds me, Elizabeth Smart is going to be interviewed by Katie Couric, who has assured the viewing public that she is not trying to exploit anyone. Then Oprah gets a crack at her. You go, girl!

  • jadester

    “Persons who are psychologically challenged are more susceptible, and that to me is the point”
    yes but the parents who are responsible, are able to make sure
    1)their kids understand the difference between real life and make believe
    2)can shield their kids to some degree from the kind of material out there (both as films and games)
    3)can tell their kids WHY it’s wrong to e.g. go out and stab the first old granny you see

    as i said, however, these days it seems to be more and more the case that some parents are prepared to simply let their kids discover everything for themselves, and if the kids make a big mistake, the blame is imemdiately aimed at anything but the parents. Whilst i do think some things you have to let kids find otu for themselves, equally the parents do need to do *some* parenting. I thank my lucky stars that my own parents did actually care about me AND THAT THIS WAS EASY FOR ME TO SEE, as i believe otherwise i would’ve become a criminal myself, probably amoral too.

  • BB

    Yes jadester and thanks for making my argument for me. That is precisely why I don’t let my kids play GTA III. So it appears we are in agreement after all.

  • I understand copycat crimes and actions, like this and the kids who wanted to be like Jackass, but what I was truly making light of is that no responsibility should be put on the creators. Maybe they shouldn’t have made the game, but they are doing nothing illegal that opens them up for liability in my opinion. Good parents like you who don’t allow their kids to play these games are the solution. I would be interested to hear who bought the game for the two kids in question.

  • BB

    Thanks Craig for the clarification. You have renewed my faith in you. But I’m not certain if I completely agree with your assessment with respect to liability. Society has the right (and responsibility) to protect itself from the whackos out there. Until we can certain that ALL of the parents, merchandisers and vendors are restricting access to this stuff there has to be some culpability on the part of the manufacturers.

  • Again, I might agree with you, but the game is rated mature.

    I got this from Amazon’s listing of the game.

    ESRB Rating: Mature (Content suitable for ages 17 or older.)

    The two kids who committed the crimes were 14 and 16. Clearly the game maker warned all comers that the game is violent and not appropriate for children under 17. Maybe the retailer is responsible and maybe one of the kids parents bought it for them for a gift. The game maker seems to be covered though.

  • BB

    I suppose that will be up to the liars (er I mean lawyers) to figure out.

  • GTA Vice City is great, having the best soundtrack of a game ever (80’s music!). For those who can’t tell the difference between a game and reality, I pity them.

  • BB

    Yes, but we are talking about impressionable children here.

  • The content of the game shouldn’t be limited. Parents and the stores that sell them should be following the suggested audience as it is rated for 17 year olds or higher.

  • If parents buy this game for their small children, then I pity them, BB 🙂

    As for older children being impressionable, they are much more affected by the actions of their parents (or inactions) then something inside a video game.

    It isn’t the responsibility of game makers to instill values, ethics and character into children, it’s parental involvement and concern.

  • BB

    Yes but it certainly makes it extremely difficult to be a responsible parent when there is no way of guaranteeing a child cannot get a hold of a copy. As you know all they have to do is Kazza it. Just look at the alcohol or tobacco industries which are even more regulated. There has to be some culpability on the part of manufacturers and I guarantee you will see more law suits over this one.

  • Vice City Addict

    Why should the games producers be held responsible? They clearly warn parents that the games are not for individuals under 17 years of age. Hell, half the time the parents are the ones who buy the dam game. I say the parents are responsible for not censoring what their children interact with.

    That’s not to say I don’t understand that censoring can be (and probably is) extemely difficult in some cases, I’m just saying that under the 1st Ammendment, these companies have the constitutional right to produce games containing content meant only for adults.

    It’s completely stupid in my opinion to blame the companies. You should instead look at the psychologica; health of the child in question. If they can’t tell the difference beteen real life and a game, then major steps should be taken to prevent them from having access to this type of game.

    It would be EXTREMELY difficult, if not impossible to win a civil suit against a game manufacturer for producing these games, when it would be very hard to prove the game caused the actions on the part of the offenders, and the fact that the game has a warning printed on the cover that says MATURE. The game is clearly marked, and the child should not have had access to it without permission from their parents.

    In short, the games creators cannot be helf liable for the actions of people, when it is impossible to concretely prove that they caused the actions.

  • For those parents here who’s kids want to play this game may I gently recommend a more child-friendly game: The Simpson’s Hit and Run. It’s one of the few Simpson’s games ever produced that works.

  • luke

    It ture! I had a clean driving record for years. I bought a acura integra type R and a few months later GT3 came out. I compleated the game on the hardes setting. month’s later I have no licence and its revoked for along time. Im going to sue… anyone want to go class action?

  • Eric Olsen

    Luke succumbed to the dark side.

  • your gay

  • Eric Olsen

    “your gay” what?

  • I love when someone sees a stupid movie, or a bad driver, or a bad band, or something because the one thing I will always know is that it has homosexual tendencies, and that my friends is an insult. A guy cuts you off on the freeway? He must like same-sex relationships. Lead singer can’t hit notes at a show? (S)He must be gay.

    What else would you expect from a nation led by a man who feels it is his duty to protect the “sanctity” of marriage from (looking both ways and whispering) the homosexuals.

    The terror. The horror. They are different therefore scary. That’s it. From now on if there is anything different than me, I will call it gay and assume it to be an indictment of that thing. It really is logical. Don’t you see?

    Yeah. Neither do I. But thanks for stopping into BlogCritics.

  • Silver

    I’m tired of my neighborhood having yellow 10 and other Grand Theft tags being thrown up with all the Hiispanic graffiti that just arrived in 2004. It devalues property.

  • I think that you could let your kids play but if i let them i would make sure they like dont kill and stuff then its just a game you can walk around and do whatever you want i mean its only a game i would say you have to be at least 11 years old and up or the young ones will just not understand and do something fucking stupid.

  • pink banana skins

    the violent kids are just reflections of their parents bad upbringing
    Everybody knows right from wrong regardless of a “game”!!!!!!!!
    Some people just tink that they can cross the line and its ok but they will soon find out when they drop the soap that its not!!!!!!!!!!



  • coolkid

    please u suck grand theft auto!

  • The Dude Abides

    I don’t really think the game affects kids as long as they have structured family lives. I’m 14 and have played GTA numerous times and I sure as hell am not going to go on a sniper spree. The fact that these kids got a gun and shot and killed a guy is clearly a sign of some sadistic character trait, not a sign of influence from a video game. Like they didn’t know what would happen. Anyways in GTA the cops come for your ass when you go on a killing spree, of all people they should know that. 😉 Believe it or not, this lawsuit is total bullshit.

  • aimee

    well i think any video games should be banned because its bad for kids and also it causes trouble ALOT ………SO WHO EVER TELLS ME THAT GTA IS GOOD THIS IS 4 U:fU

  • Terence

    Has anyone ever seen someone hit one another whether it’s in a video game or in real life?

    Blaming things is not the way to solve it. Admit that you’re a sinner and accept Christ.

    Blabbering on about useless nonsense won’t get you saved. Judgement day is approaching, so get saved by Christ or burn in the eternal fires of hell.

  • 8 year old

    I am onli 8 and i playe gta evwey daysi.