Well, it didn’t take long for the pissing and moaning over the latest Grand Theft Auto to kick in:
The release of “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” a game that draws heavily upon gang culture and violence, has sparked the ire of the country’s embattled gang counselors and educators who say the game not only celebrates the gang lifestyle at a time when gang membership is rising nationwide, but makes a mockery of a tragedy that’s all too real.
“They’ve done a great job in portraying the negative,” said Jose Perez, a counselor who works with gang members in the San Francisco Bay Area.
While game players cheer the realism of “Grand Theft Auto,” that same realism is embraced by by street gang members and wannabes who see the game as not only fun but a validation of their lifestyle.
Sometimes the kids are able to look beyond the game and recognize the repercussions, said Cuthbertson. But other times they reveled in their ability to wield automatic weapons.
“The same technology used to train the military and law enforcement is going into games. We are raising a society of natural born killers,” said Cuthbertson.
There’s a refrain we’ve heard too many times before. I suppose this means all those kids playing Madden 2005 will grow up to be natural-born football players.
Most of the counselors the reporter spoke with will admit that there’s nothing that guarantees that playing a game about being a gang banger will lead to someone becoming a gang banger, but the kids they deal with seem to think it validates their lifestyle. If you ask me, that’s more indicative of a problem with the kids than it is with the game. I’ve not gotten that far into the game as of yet, but what I have played in no way creates any desire in me to go out and emulate the game even setting aside the fact that I’m a middle-aged white guy solidly in the middle class. It’s not an attractive life by any stretch of the imagination. The main character comes home to find his mother has been killed as well as several of his friends in the time he was away and things get progressively worse from there.
I can see how the game could make the job of some of these counselors a lot harder if they’re dealing with kids who don’t have a well-formed concept of right and wrong, but I don’t think that Rockstar games is at fault for these kids having a messed up take on reality. I would think that a clever counselor might even find a way to use the game to illustrate why that sort of lifestyle isn’t the wisest choice for the kids they’re trying to reach. After all, life doesn’t have a reset switch.