Grand Theft Auto Under Fire

Extremely violent and wildly popular, Grand Theft Auto is a video game that many people have in their homes.

It is also at the forefront of two major controversies:

Lawyers for 18-year-old Devin Moore, accused of killing police officers, are blaming that game for a cold-blooded shooting spree that took place in Alabama.

60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley spoke with attorney Jack Thompson, a long-time crusader against video-game violence, who is bringing the suit. And he spoke with Steve Strickland, one victim's brother, who wants the video-game industry to pay. Click here to read Bradley's report.

Grand Theft Auto is also coming under fire for newly discovered sexual content that can be unlocked by players.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is asking the Federal Trade Commission to look into the game's pornographic and violent content that reportedly can be unlocked from the Internet. She is also asking for a ratings change that would restrict young people's access to the video game.

David Walsh, president of the National Institute Of Media And The Family, which issued a "Nationwide Parental Alert" about the game, tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith that the reason his company decided to raise a flag on this game, in particular, was because of its sexual content.

"The alert that we issued on Friday was not just related to the violence," Walsh says. "Everybody has known about the hyper-violence in Grand Theft Auto since it was released. In fact, we thought it was misrated from the beginning. We thought it always should have been for adults only. But it did get an M rating. What we discovered last week is that there are explicit pornographic scenarios in which the player literally directs the pornographic scenes - becomes an actor in porn scenes of explicit sexual activity."

A game rated M would not have such content. But having the M rating makes it possible for the game to be profitable, since major retailers would not sell adult games.

Walsh says, "An AO rating is the commercial kiss of death in the industry because major retailers won't sell the game."

Buyers would have to get AO-rated game through the Internet or through magazines.

"Although, the country is filled with pretty obsessed players of Grand Theft Auto," observes Steven Johnson, author of "Everything Bad Is Good For You." "Many kids would find this information."

"Not only that," Walsh says, "but what we found on Friday and the reason we issued the alert is that the modules to activate the sex scenes are being promoted on teen-oriented Web sites. So the teen players all knew about it; parents were clueless."

Johnson cautions against using this one game to brand an industry. "The real problem is there's been such a fixation on Grand Theft Auto as the representative video game," he says. "David would probably agree with this: We're missing the fact that, in general, the most popular games on the list are nonviolent. Sims is very mentally challenging. And kids are getting a great mental workout from engaging in these games. By taking this one title, and saying this is what all video games are like, I feel that parents are missing out of all the good things."

Walsh agrees: "We say to parents,'Watch what your kids are watching.' Don't choose killer simulations now that we know they simulate sex, as well."

As for Grand Theft Auto being the culprit in the Alabama shootings, Walsh says very violent video games can make kids more aggressive.

"We know from different research that it can create aggression," Walsh says. "It could be one of the factors in a tragedy."

Johnson disagrees, saying this can happen in certain borderline psychopathic people who can be influenced by the media to do violent things.

He explains, "Mark David Chapman, who killed John Lennon, was influenced by 'Catcher in the Rye.' The Manson family was influenced by listening to the Beatles. Borderline crazy people will be influenced by the media. The question is: Is there a long-term, larger trend in society towards more violence or less violence, based on these video games? We all know the trend in society over the last 10 years is towards much less violence than there was before."
  • Tatiana Morales

Comments