USA

Grand Theft Auto: blood sex and drugs for the under-18s

GTA IV Trailer © Rockstar Games A computer game that contains blood, violence, sex, drugs and alcohol has sold more copies in its first day than any other in history. But not everybody is a fan of Grand Theft Auto IV. Available for children of any age in the US, critics warn that the game could lead to youth violence. Its fans, however, don't agree.

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GTA IV Trailer © Rockstar Games

A computer game that contains blood, violence, sex, drugs and alcohol has sold more copies in its first day than any other in history. But not everybody is a fan of Grand Theft Auto IV. Available for children of any age in the US, critics warn that the game could lead to youth violence.

Released at midnight on Tuesday, the fourth version of GTA is Rockstar Games' bestseller yet, shipping 9.5 million copies worldwide for the first week of sales. Despite a relaxed advertising campaign compared with other game launches, millions of people queued up all over the world to get a copy. Concern was heightened in the UK when in a "life-imitates-art" fluke, a man in a queue in South London stabbed a passer-by. But while the sale of the game is banned to under-18s in Europe, Americans are simply "advised" with a "mature" rating. The Parents Television Council says that is not enough, and is willing to go to court to stop the game being handed over to minors.

Screenshots from the game

"If the game were less violent then the artistic impression would be ruined"

Humberto is a 27-year-old Grand Theft Auto fan from Washington.

I spend all my free time playing Grand Theft Auto IV - it's tough with having to go to work. I've been playing GTA since '97 - it's my favourite game. You can go bowling for a bit and then go on a shooting rampage and see how long it lasts. This game is most popular with older people. If the game were less violent then the artistic impression would be ruined - it's about freedom of speech."

"The game simply isn't marketed at children"

Adam Sinclair, 23, works at the Centre for Virtual Environment at Salford University, UK.

This game is just incredible. It's a technological leap forward and the graphics and the scripts - the things the characters say - are fantastic. The game simply isn't marketed at children. It shouldn't be exposed to children because of adult themes - prostitution, drugs, alcohol - not because of this supposed link with violence. There might have been thousands of studies proving the link between computer games and violence in children, but there are just as many thousands that disprove it too. There's no violence incited in the adverts, and if a parent wants to ban it, they can go into the video console and set it so that certain games cannot be played using a password system."

"There have been thousands of studies that prove the link between violent media and aggression in children"

Gavin McKiernan is the national grassroots director of the Parents Television Council, a non-partisan educational organization advocating responsible entertainment.

There have been thousands of studies that prove the link between violent media and aggression in children. Plus they (the media) have advertising everywhere. You wouldn't see cigarettes or porn plastered across billboards near a school. There are plenty of good video games, for example flight simulators or surgery technique practice. We've been successful on things like this before and we're confident this time we can go even further in getting this game banned for under-18s."

Extracts from the game