Video game suit requires ‘Grand Theft’ of common sense

A $246-million lawsuit shifts the blame for the actions of two teenagers on the makers and sellers of a video game. According to the lawsuit the video game Grand Theft Auto is directly responsible for the teenagers’ actions, a claim that could not be more far-fetched.

William Buckner, 16, and his step-brother Joshua, 14, had been playing the game for a year until they decided one day that mimicking the actions portrayed in the popular video game would be a good idea. It was their decision to break into a locked room in their parents’ house, take some .22 caliber rifles and go on a shooting rampage that killed two people. Neither Sony, the marketer of the game, Take-Two Interactive Software, the company that designed the game, nor Wal-Mart, the location at which the boys initially bought the game, forced these two to these actions.

The asinine attempt to cast the blame for the youngsters’ behavior on the makers of the game is made worse by the fact that the lawsuit is spearheaded by their parents.

Parental supervision could have easily prevented the two boys from running amok with mom and dad’s firearms. And even if the parents did not have the time to supervise them, it is their responsibility to ensure their children understand the difference between a game set in a fictional universe and the real world.

The Buckner brothers’ lawyer, Jack Thompson, takes their argument further into the realm of fiction, saying, “It’s not like this is coming out of the blue. (Wal-Mart) chose to ignore this danger.” Thompson’s suggestion that Wal-Mart’s refusal to stop selling the game led to the death of two people lacks any basis in reality, much like the video game.

The controversy of violence in entertainment is an old one. There is no conclusive evidence, though, that depictions of violence in a work of fiction can lead to teenagers copying the events in real life. It is much more likely that violent tendencies were present before.

Children’s misunderstandings are more likely to arise from how the actions they see in any medium, be it film, video game, or even books, are put into context by their parents. To attribute violent behavior solely on a video game without considering any other influences is too simple an answer; how else can one account for the millions of teenagers who have played Grand Theft Auto without losing their ability to differentiate between fact and fiction?

To sue Wal-Mart and other companies for selling such games is another example of a culture too willing to cater to people who refuse to accept responsibility for their actions.