My 12-year-old son has been begging me to let him get the Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA5) video game for the past year or so. I get the usual pleas and guilt trips that most 12-year-olds offer up when they want something: "All my friends have it." "I can't join in when they're talking about it at recess." "I'll use my own money." He even made a PowerPoint presentation outlining all the reasons I should relent.
It was worth a shot. There have been dozens of other games that he's wanted that I've held off on letting him play until I've done the research. Games with M for mature that I've read the reviews of, watched gameplays of on YouTube, scrolled through hundreds of parent and user comments and decided that he's old enough or mature enough to process.
But not GTA5.
Because I watched a gameplay video yesterday on YouTube where the first-person player receives a blow job from a prostitute in the front seat of a car and then follows her out and shoots her in the back, leaving her for dead, screaming in terror.
That's a game that children are playing. The very same children that we are trying to educate against exactly this type of violence.
How does adding a hashtag or marking one out of 365 days to recognize this pandemic compete with a game that allows it?
My son came home last week, excited to tell me that his school had exceeded their fundraising goal for their End Violence Against Women drive. And he's looking forward to coming with me to the Women's March on Washington on Jan. 21, 2017.
November 25 was International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted:
Huge efforts are being made to change the horrifying statistics of gender-based violence, sexual assault and discrimination.
But how does adding a hashtag or marking one out of 365 days to recognize this pandemic compete with a game that allows it?
This year, Forbes ranked GTA5 as "one of the most impressive stories in gaming history" with 65 million copies sold to date. That's the word they used -- "impressive."
There are 65 million people, mostly men and boys, playing a game where it is an option to pick up a prostitute, select a sex act from a drop-down menu and, if you feel like it afterwards, punch, kick or kill her.
There are many people who are actively criticizing and working against the misogyny and sexualization of women in video games. I am writing this quite simply as a mother.
When I explained why I will not buy GTA5 for my son and why he is not allowed to buy it even with his own money, he replied, "but it's just a game."
He's too young to understand why this made me want to cry.
It's just locker room talk.
It's just boys being boys.
It's just a joke.
It's just what men do.
There is no place for this content in a video game.
He's 12. I can't get angry at him for wanting a game that nearly all his friends have. I believe him when he says he wouldn't play that part of the game. But I cannot, and will not, give in. There is no place for this content in a video game.
The makers would argue that it's the responsibility of parents to ensure children under 17 do not have access to the game. I would argue that it is their responsibility to discontinue a game for any age of player that so blatantly, so gratuitously, so horrifically, profits off the promotion of sexual violence against women. All under the guise of entertainment.
The holidays are just around the corner. I am sure that thousands of kids across Canada have put GTA5 on their wish list, possibly millions more around the world.
But before you buy this game, please click on this link or do your own research. Google "GTA5 + Sex" and there are thousands of other videos of gameplay and tutorials. *WARNING* the images and the language is sickening. But unless you see it with your own two eyes, it's almost impossible to believe that this game exists.
My son, however disappointed, will get over it. He'll get another game for Christmas. It might even be horribly gory with way too much profanity. But he won't score points for degrading and abusing women. And I hope in a few years when he's older and able to understand why he was the only kid in his gang who never got to experience GTA5, he'll thank me. By which time, I hope it'll no longer be available.
This article, as with everything that I write that references my son, has been cleared with him.
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