Maybe it's because I haven't had my coffee yet, but I found myself scratching my head over something included in this piece about the class-action lawsuit against Rockstar Games for the hidden content in its Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game. What? You thought this was over too?
Most of the article is about the fact that the lawyers threw a class-action lawsuit and almost nobody came. I have a hard time getting exercised over the whole thing, personally--it's a violent, misogynistic video game, but anyone who claims to have been shocked by the content was willfully ignorant of the kind of game Rockstar had produced earlier in the GTA series.
This is what has me a little confused, though.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board reclassified the game in 2005 for “adults only,” a designation that means the game should be played only by people 18 and older. The game’s rating led some big retailers to stop carrying it. The game had initially been rated for “mature” audiences, meaning people 17 and older.Is this all we're really talking about here? A year? Does something magical happen between the ages of 17 and 18 that takes a "mature" video gamer to an "adult" one? I understand we have to have arbitrary lines for things like adulthood, and that these ages are meant to be guidelines for parents and the like, but based on some of the depositions taken in this case, it's clear that some of the parents who are suing weren't paying attention to the content in the first place.
For example, Brenda Stanhouse, who bought the game for her son, 15 years old at the time, said in a deposition that she did not know that a player in the game could “stomp to death innocent pedestrians.”Forgive me if I'm a little skeptical about claims that being able to control your character during simulated sex in a video game is somehow worse than being able to stomp an innocent pedestrian to death. But I'm even more skeptical about the idea that the difference between the average 17 year old and the average 18 year old matters here. It's a minor one at best. It's not like an 18th birthday suddenly causes a person to make wiser decisions. It doesn't make them smarter or help them exercise better judgment. It just makes them a little more liable for their decisions.
She also did not know that the game included prostitutes, that players could kill policemen or that “a player in the game can kill innocent pedestrians and steal money from them.”
“I’m aware that there is killing in the game,” Ms. Stanhouse said in the deposition. “I wasn’t aware of the stealing.”
If there were people who made bad decisions in this case--and this shouldn't be taken as a wholesale defense of Rockstar Games, for whom I have deep content--it's the parents who bought the games or let their kids play them without knowing what was in them.