I Sold Too Many Copies Of GTA V To Parents Who Didn’t Give A Damn

I Sold Too Many Copies Of GTA V To Parents Who Didn’t Give A Damn

Dear Parents… We need to talk. There is something that has been eating at me for a while, and I have had enough.

I have been working in video game retail for almost 10 years now. I love my job. Some of my best memories begin with loving, bewildered parents walking into our store, naïve to the gaming world but eager to learn. I would find myself talking to them about platform choices, game franchises, and getting started online. I’d then enlighten them with my own gaming experiences with my kids. This approach got them interested in what their children were doing and encouraged them to play the games alongside their kids.

There is no better feeling than a happy parent returning to my store, pleased with my previous advice, and wanting more product.

So, when a new Mario, LittleBigPlanet, Pokémon, or any kid-friendly game comes out I will be there, excited to sell that game to your kids. The Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), rates these games as being appropriate for kids.

Was it your son that came in with a giant jar filled with change to buy Minecraft? He was a couple dollars shy, but don’t worry, I covered it. His look of excitement as he ran out of the store was more than enough to cover the shortfall.

Last week my store sold over a thousand copies of GTA V, at least a hundred of which were sold to parents for children who could barely even see over my counter.

Now that you know the best part of my job. Let me tell you about the worst part.

Every week, new M-rated games are released. Some are more of an M than others. I have no problem letting my kids watch me play M-rated games like Halo, Skyrim, and Fable. Then there are the games like Duke Nukem, Saints Row, and Grand Theft Auto, which are the very reason I am writing this letter today.

Last week my store sold over a thousand copies of GTA V, at least a hundred of which were sold to parents for children who could barely even see over my counter.

Over the years, I have watched the size, story, and graphics of games evolve to provide better player immersion and realism. This is true for all kinds of games, including M-rated games.

I Sold Too Many Copies Of GTA V To Parents Who Didn’t Give A Damn

When I recite the phrases from the ESRB ratings box on the back cover of an M-rated game and it just goes right over your head I feel the need to be more specific. So I mention things like a game having a first-person view of half-naked strippers or that the game has a mission that forces you to torture another human being.

In response, I often hear things like, “Oh, it’s for my older son” or “All his friends already have it.”

Then I wonder to myself how often the youngest child watches the “older son” playing and if “all his friends” were to jump off a cliff… I don’t tell you these things because I don’t like your parenting style. It is because, when I look at little Timmy there in my store, I can’t help but picture him as the little boy sitting across the table from my daughter in her first grade class.

I often hear things like, “Oh, it’s for my older son” or “All his friends already have it.”

Now this is where those of you who are not parents will sound off with “you should let them judge” or “I killed hookers in GTA III when I was five and I turned out fine.” That is great. I accept your opinion. Although, when your daughter comes home from elementary school crying because someone called her a b***h, you might change your tune.

I love the things that people like Mike from Penny Arcade are doing to educate parents about game ratings and games that are good or bad for kids. I love that the ESRB has been pumping out more advertisements to raise awareness of game ratings.

I just ask that you look at the box, ask an associate for guidance, or just be more involved.

Lastly, when I try to describe the content and warnings of an M-rated game to you, please don’t ignore me and nod while scrolling through your iPhone.

We are there to help.

Thank you, Kotaku, for letting me speak.

Sincerely, – Your Average Video Game Retail Veteran

Top photo: Pavel L./Shutterstock.


  • I feel ya bra! It is truely disgusting the parenting there is out there. I myself as an older brother will not let violent games that you have mentioned in their sights until they are old enough. I have a couple of brothers that are and is fine to play, but I only let them play it when the youngest isn’t around.

    Sigh parents, just sigh. “All his friends have it” – well be the smarter parent -_-

  • Great article, but it won’t do much of anything. Parents such as these don’t care so long as little Timmy shuts his mouth. What will shut him up? Giving him the game he’s whining about, regardless of its rating and content.

    Also, I thought I’d mention this seeing as it was brought up in this article; I used to play M rated games as a kid (and watch horror movies). Sure, I turned out alright, but that’s not the point. As an adult I know that that was wrong and that mum should have taken more interest in me and what I was doing and put her foot down and told me to shut it. People need to take more responsibility for their kids and do the right thing. They only complain because they know they’ll get what they want eventually. Don’t give in and they’ll learn. Remember, you’re not your child’s friend – you’re their parent, so act like one.

    • People need to take more responsibility for their kids and do the right thing. They only complain because they know they’ll get what they want eventually. Don’t give in and they’ll learn. Remember, you’re not your child’s friend – you’re their parent, so act like one.

      Flawless reasoning and that is how parenting should be. Alas, you are talking of an age that is now extinct.

      • +1+1
        agree with both of you.

        i mean im only the father of a 1 year old,

        but the amount of times i see kids get their way coz they’re parents take the easy option out to get some peace and quiet, frustrates the Sh!t out of me. i was one of those kids that kicked an screamed to my sole parenting mother when i was little, and she caved every time, now ive had to learn hard lessons as a 28 year old, with a wife and child, that i cant kick and scream to get my way (and a multitude of other issues raised from a broken family).

        too many people are breeding that have no idea what they are in for. im all for procreation, but please, dont enter into parent hood irresponsibly, you arent doing society any favours, just raising another generation of shirkers and short cut finders.

        i wanna be a father that teaches my kids boundaries, respect, how to be polite, how to stick up for others who cant stick up for themselves, how to be generous, how to work hard and work for your earnings and most of all that they always know they are loved and important and that i will be proud of them just for being my kids, and its these last three things that i think are the most important.

      • Not extinct. Just not commonly practiced. So. Definitely endangered.
        I have a 4yr old.
        I don’t even play Diablo 3 when he is awake. When my son is awake/in the house, I play things like Simcity and Open Transport Tycoon Deluxe. All appropriate.
        When he goes to be, the demon slaying begins. (Yes. Diablo 3. I don’t get a lot of time to play, so having an insta-gratification game is good. Couple with me hating FPS’s, it probably makes sense)

      • It’s not extinct at all, you just don’t notice it. A vast majority of parents I know are capable, loving and competent, but no one will write articles about them or upload videos to youtube called ‘ordinary parent doing a satisfactory job’.

        The fact is, most parents understand what GTA is and their kids were in bed at midnight on September 17th.

        The whole idea of good parenting is that if someone is doing a good job parenting, you’re not supposed to notice them.

        Have faith. Good parenting is alive and well and it’s happening all around you =D

    • I used to play M rated games as a kid (and watch horror movies). Sure, I turned out alright, but that’s not the point. As an adult I know that that was wrong and that mum should have taken more interest in me and what I was doing and put her foot down and told me to shut it.

      I have to disagree with you slightly on this point. Like you, I too watch M rated movies when I was a kid, but it wasn’t because my Mum didn’t take an interest. Quite the opposite, in fact. She’d taken a keen in what I watched and read since pretty much day one. As a result she had an excellent grasp on what I could and couldn’t handle. As a result I saw some movies (like Predator) long before the government recomended age.

      She was also quite adamant on stuff that I couldn’t watch. R and most MA stuff was off the table completely, and everything else she judged on a case-by-case basis. This is one of the reasons I didn’t see the original A Nightmare on Elm Street until I was 22. She almost didn’t let me play Double Dragon because she had objections to there being female opponents. She eventually agreed to let me play the arcade version under her supervision. Once she’d seen what the game was actually like she got me the Master System version for my birthday.

      I guess my point is much the same as Soulless-Shadow’s: Take responsibility for what your kids watch. My perspective is just a tad different.

      • Yep, your perspective is completely different. I’m sure my mum thought I was mature enough for what I was watching and playing (I was a precocious little shit who was reading adult level novels long before starting high school), but other than that, she didn’t set any boundaries for that sort of thing, nor did she discuss any of it with me. I probably should speak to her about that and get her point of view about things… That could be interesting.

  • Hopefully it will be better in the future when 80s & 90s babies become parents. I think most people/parents born before the 80s still see video games as an activity for children. Unfortunately there will always be bad parents no matter the generation though.

    • I’m 28 and it seems that all the people I know who are older than me still think that games are for kids. Anyone my age or younger gets that they’re not, regardless of whether they play games.
      Is being born in 1985 the threshold or something?!
      The amount of f****ing times my mate’s 30-year-old girlfriend has said in her whiney voice, “oh my god, I can’t believe you play games. Do you tell girls that you play them?”

      • Is being born in 1985 the threshold or something?!

        It must be. Shortly after I was born, the 1983 Videogame crash happened. I was still on the bottle then so no, you can’t blame me.

        I didn’t become a serious gamer until around the late 90s so a lot of what I know has been through second hand copies or what I read online.

        Even though though I found that adult games have existed even back as far as the Atari 2600. Seriously, there were pornographic games on that console back in the day by a company called Mystique.

        It you want a short hand primer, looked at the AVGN episode, Atari Porn.

        The amount of f****ing times my mate’s 30-year-old girlfriend has said in her whiney voice, “oh my god, I can’t believe you play games. Do you tell girls that you play them?”

        Unless I am mistaken, aren’t there people well into their 40s that play the likes of the original Super Mario Bros.?

        The mark of a good game (also book, cartoon, etc): it is just as fun for the adults as it is for the kids. If the content is only fun for kids, there there is something wrong with it.

        • I’m 35 and I understand well that there are adult games and kids games. I moderate what games (and even what youtube videos) my kids have access to. They have an Xbox 360 in a bedroom but internet can only be accessed where I can keep an eye on what they are doing. I don’t even have Xbox Live active because I don’t want my kids subjected to the torrents of abuse people tend to scream at each other whilst playing first person shooters online.

          I have been using the internet and playing video games for years so I know what is out there. Its unfortunate so many parents still see video games as being for kids because they are way out of touch with the reality of modern gaming.

        • The mark of a good game (also book, cartoon, etc): it is just as fun for the adults as it is for the kids. If the content is only fun for kids, there there is something wrong with it.

          Pixar has their shit sorted. 😛

      • Not all 30 year olds are like that.
        Personally I love gaming (so do my friends) but I find that it’s more a gamete vs non gamer thing, recently a workmates was talking about another workmates who had taken a week off from work “just so he could play gta v, how lame is that?” My response was to tell her about all my experiences wih queuing for midnight launches and countless leave apps I had submitted over the years for the exact same reason, the look I received from her was as if she was looking at an alien lol

        The sad truth about this letter is that a large majority of parents simply don’t care what their kids are doing and it’s this lack if guidance that leads to news articles the blame gaming for violence, it’s not the games they play that lead them to violence it’s the parents who never taught little time that it’s never ok to take what isn’t theirs and it’s never ok to lay a hand on another person just because they Loki different/have a different opinion/every other reason that is used to defend a violent action out in the real world

        • I was at a party hosted by a friend who’s a little bit… hipster. Into the indie music scene, has similar friends. One of them was trying to explain to me this band she liked, and she knew it was a little bit underground, so she was referencing other bands to explain the style.

          Reference totally flew over my head. I’d never heard of any of them. When I mentioned this, she looked a little concerned and tried broadening her references. Nope! Perplexed, she exclaimed, “But they’ve been all over the radio and TV, how can you not have heard of them!”
          “Ah! There’s your problem. I don’t listen to radio or watch TV.”
          Her eyes widened and jaw dropped. “But how do you know what’s new and cool?”
          I was going to explain how I get music references for friends, but decided that was boring. Instead I tilted my head and asked, “Why would I want to?”
          She looked at me like I was an alien and I laughed and observed, “We are completely different people, aren’t we.”

          Being completely different people doesn’t mean you can’t still get along/do the nasty with.

      • I’m 34, have been gaming most of my life, starting with “Pyramid of Doom” a text based adventure played on an Apple IIe Euro plus with a mono screen ( no colours, just shades of green )

        I guess when I was growing up, it was seemed as a Kids pastime, but as we grew up, it matured into a pastime that everyone can enjoy.

        Parents are also allowed to make these decisions for their kids, based on their knowledge of how capable they are of handling this stuff.. I had heaps of friends that were allowed to watch R rated movies when they were 12 – we all turned out fine.

        Children these days are exposed to everything at an early age and by the time they are 12 or 13, they have most likely seen hardcore porn, extreme language and probably some type of snuff film. Joys of the internet age.

        Unfortunately I don’t think it’s possible to shelter kids from this stuff, and parents having frank and open discussions about the difference between reality and fantasy is VERY important.

        Because lets be honest, you can stop your kids doing it in your house, but if you do, you can practicaly guarantee that they will be doing it at someone elses house instead.

    • I’m a parent from the mid 70’s generation of babies, and I am more of a gamer than most people I know younger than myself.
      I don’t think it’s the era you were born in that dictates your views on gaming to be honest as I know plenty of 80’s babies that are now parents that have no idea on gaming culture. In that vein I know how to choose games for my children. I have 3 boys and they are not allowed to have carte blanche over the games they can play. My 16 year old is allowed to play games that my 14 year old is not, simply because I don’t believe he is mature enough to handle the experience.

    • 80s babies are parents these days, the youngest 80s baby would be approximately 23 now, edging on 24. 90s kids, well, anyone born around 96 and back, have the potential to be parents now (legally).

  • Obviously small children shouldn’t be playing GTA V, but…

    “Although, when your daughter comes home from elementary school crying because someone called her a b***h, you might change your tune.”

    Did the child learn the word bitch from GTA V? Or is it ubiquitous in modern culture?

  • There definitely needs to be more parents taking responsibility for how their children are raised, and i know people cant refuse to sell to parents if they know its going to an underage child…. but maybe… just maybe that should be a law…. MA15+ upto the parent, but R18+… that needs some form of rule that states its not ok for you to let your 10-11 year old play/watch it.

    • There is a law. Enforcing it may be problematic.

      The following classification categories are restricted categories. This means there are legal restrictions on viewing or playing these films and computer games.
      Children under the age of 15 may not legally watch, buy or hire MA 15+ classified material unless they are in the company of a parent or adult guardian.
      R 18+ classified material is restricted to adults.


      I let my under-15 daughter watch when I play some MA15+ games (eg, FPS’s and Assassins Creed). But I won’t let her watch me play Fallout 3. It was R overseas, it should have been R here, except we didn’t have one at the time.

    • I agree with this. After all (in Western Australia anyway), you get heavily fined or possibly sent to jail for secondary purchase (AKA selling something for someone who has the intention of selling it to someone underage) for Alcohol and Tobacco, or hell, even movies, and yet the retailing of games still doesn’t have this law. I really hope they fix this soon. As my friend who works at EBGames asks her customers every time she sees them buying R rated games for kids: “Would you take your child to a strip-show?” “No.” “Would you take them to see a Cage Fighting match?” “No.” “Then why do you think it’s alright to let them play R rated games? It’s the same thing!” It is getting ridiculous and there needs to be something done about this quickly.

    • Not sure what you’re suggesting – there IS a law that you cannot sell to a minor, but above all, film and literature classification is purely advisory; it’d be pretty fucked if there were a law that prevented you from making your own parenting decisions altogether. Whether or not the content is appropriate for your child is rather subjective, it differs per household and parenting approach.

      It really just boils down to awareness of subject matter as well as discipline. It takes a parent at least attempting to explore if not give the go-ahead for their child to be exposed to certain content, or to put their foot down if their child is simply not mature enough to cope with what they’re being exposed to. The problem is that the majority of parents who are unaware of the true nature of the content – or who could care less otherwise – will make the purchase simply to stifle their child’s incessant nagging. They continue to give in, without putting in the effort to solidify their place as the parent, not a friend. As a result their child only learns that they can get whatever they want, regardless of the intended maturity level.

      Faffed about a bit with my response, but essentially I just want to disagree with your assertion that the government should directly intervene when it comes to the matter of raising your children. Their place is as a content advisor; it’s the parent that ultimately makes the decision.

      • and if the parent is too incompetent to make the safest decision for the child?

        Im all for the parents deciding if there child is mature enough at a younger age to view the content, but in most cases it is poor or lack of judgement from the parents.

        • Then their poor parenting is on them; despite this article I hardly think their being exposed to inappropriate content has much of an effect on mere observers. It’s not alcohol nor any other potentially harmful substance so I don’t think it’s a matter of it being an “unsafe” decision just because you completely disagree with the parents’ allowances regarding their child.

          I get a bit miffed whenever I see poor parenting, but I would not support something that allows the government to step in like that – especially since we’re only talking about media. I appreciate their position as an advisor, and I would rather that more parents take the time and effort to teach their children what the word ‘no’ means, but honestly it’s not so utterly devastating that there should be a law drawn up over it.

          True, in a lot of cases it is poor judgement, but until it is proven that children exposed to mature content are either put in danger or as a result put others in great danger, I don’t think it’s quite worth a complete law reform. I can get as frustrated as the next guy, but ultimately it’s not that big of a deal. :/

          • See as someone who came from a… lets say “less than good childhood…” i have a lot stronger feelings about bad parenting than most people… i practically raised my brother and sister from the age of 9… and did a better job than my parents.

            And i understand where you are coming from its not upto anyone but the parents, but i believe that in some cases it needs to be removed as being the parents choice… child welfare should have a higher say in these sorts of things, even if not a law, at the very least there needs to be more accountability put on parents and if the only way to do that is via legal action…. then personally im for it.

  • I played violent stuff when I was a kid, but I never actually played GTA. For the most part I’m an advocate for letting kids play violent games because it eventually leads to a conversation with their parents about differentiating between video games and reality and I would probably not be the pacifist I am today if not for playing violent video games and the ensuing conversation with my father.

    But GTA5 is much worse than just a little shooting, It’s definitely not for kids under the age of 13-15. I’d be really concerned if parents didn’t have a problem with the stuff in the game when letting their kids play it. If you’re going to teach your kids about violence in video games let them play something with “moral” violence, where you play as the good guys, like Halo or something, not something like GTA which is just senseless violence for the most part.

  • LOL come to australia, its rated R here and guess what? parents still buy it for there little kids, one guy at worked picked up a copy for his 8 year old son, WTF i asked would he let him watch porn, he says its not the same and its just a game WTF?!@$%

  • I’ve experienced similar scenarios, after explaining the content of the game there isn’t much more you can do. If the child is present I tell them ‘I cannot sell you this game in the presence of a minor’ but I’m sure they just go someplace else to get it.

  • I work in retail and I can’t stress enough how much joy comes from hearing a parent telling their child “no”. So many times you see the child going “I want this and I want that” and having a cry about it and almost without fail the parent, usually the mother in my experience, will load up with some 40+ dollars of crap that you know is going to hold interest for less than 2 days. I can handle your child if they are screeching and squealing over not getting their way providing you as the parent don’t cave in. If you do fold however…

    It seems the age of entitlement is beginning earlier and earlier.

    • in defense of mothers, they’re still more likely to be the child’s main carer. It’s a lot easier to say no if you’re not the one dealing with the consequences 24/7.

  • Very well written wish more parents would pay attention to this and stop being peer pressured into buying these games for their kids. The amount of parents I have explained the content of GTA V to and they just come back with “I don’t care keeps him out of my hair” all I am trying to do is make you aware of what you are subjecting that 7 year old child to! Im sorry but if I had kids there is no way they would play this. Most kids that are coming through now cannot tell the difference between a video game and reality because no one has sat them down to explain it. As a game shop owner myself it frustrates me when parents do this maybe its parents who should be better educated not just the kids.

  • It’s fantastic to hear that at least someone is out there in retail, informing and giving advice to parents about these things. Keep it up, and I do hope that others out there will be just as proactive!

  • Im 15 right now and i am very guilty of asking older friends or my parents to buy me games that are restricted for people my age. I do think that some parents should take more responsibility for their children but not base it on age but rather on maturity of the individual. If you see your child understanding
    And mature enough then give them the greenlight and if not, sit down and tell them why they cannot play the game. Personally my parents never put much restriction on me because they know im mature enough to understand whats going on and when it crosses the line. This is my opinion as a teenager that grew up with no restriction on what media i watched and played.i could write alot more but since i am writing this on a phone, its a bit difficult.

    • I had much the same experiences when I was in my early teens.

      Hell.. 5 of us for Grade 6 graduation went and saw Die Another Day in gold class with no parental supervision.

      The only restriction placed on me was watching a 15 yo play GTA when I was about 11. I’m 23 now, and didnt get any restriction while I was a minor.

      • Just to clarify this, Die Another Day is M rated, M rated is the equivelant of a PG13 in America. M15+ is not restriced, just recommended. There is no legal obligation on anyones part to stop a 9 year old seeing an M rated movie. After all, one of the Star Wars movies, Revenge of the Sith, was M rated. Personally, I have no issue with my son who is 9, sitting through any of the James Bond movies prior to Daniel Craig (Post Brosnan I do) as they were more of an adventurous nature, Craigs Bond though, is a different animal.

        This isn’t slack parenting, this is realistic parenting, across the board restriction of M ratings from a child are silly. Deathly Hallows 1 and 2 were M rated from memory, and contained nothing in it a child could not see. Now, if a movie is MA rated, I won’t let my son near it. M rated? I’ll generally view the movie or at least look some clips up on youtube, read some reviews etc before he sees it. A grade 6 is what, 12 years old approximately, heading to 13 by that stage? Die Another Day, M rated movies, are perfectly acceptable.

        Had you said however you went to see, say, PREDATOR in the cinema we’d be having a different conversation lol. M rated or not…

    • I grew up with very relaxed parents. I saw pretty much all the Arnie movies and stuff when I was a kid. I can remember some things that really burned themselves into my memory (I saw Toxic Avenger when I was about 6 or 7). Interestingly, as an adult, I like REALLY violent video games and I quite enjoy gory films. But I get really faint with blood in real life, if my kids get a cut I start to freak out too. When the wife watches medical shows I cannot even glance at the TV.

      I guess it goes to show there is, for me at lest, a real tangible distinction between fiction and reality.

  • Great article and I understand your frustration. Some people are just plain ignorant and should’ve been castrated at birth!

    I myself have a couple of toddlers and the only time I play GTA or any other violent video game is when they are asleep!

  • Well, parents who buy GTA for their kids and then complain about the themes in the game are no longer valid to do so.

  • Looks like he is fulfilling his civic duty.. still have to let the parents decide what is right for their children. A co-worker was going to buy this game for her 13 year old son and I gave her an education of what this game contains. It’s still her choice if she chooses to buy the game for him.. and I do feel a little guilty for potentially ruining his life (for a short time).. but people need to know that that R18+ rating on the game box is not there just for show. Think of it like buying a dirty magazine off the shelf in a newsagent (do people still bother with that…?).. it’s R18+ rated and wrapped in plastic for a reason. Would parents buy these magazines for their children? Would they buy alcohol and cigarettes for their children? Encourage gambling?

    Some small percentage of parents would, no doubt.. but the majority wouldn’t.. and so, they need to be educated in the content of such games.

  • As stated, it is a breath of fresh air to us retailers that have to deal with this type of stuff. People coming back in really pissed off regarding the content of these games and how dare we sell them to them and their kids, used to make me laugh, especially after trying to convince them when buying for 20mins that these games are not for kids. Its not just GTA, COD Assassins and such are all in the same boat. When I was at GAME, we only had MA15+, and trying to convince a parent that this game is not for kids was an uphill battle most of the time. I think a big black R18+ rating will help these days, but parents still think “Its just a game”. These games are made by adults, for adults, people need to realise this and the mainstream need to open their eyes more to the content that their kids are consuming. Kids used to fucking hate me when I told their parents that GTA was for adults too, true rage in their faces.

    • I think they need to make some of those annoying adverts, in the same style of the anti-piracy ones at the start of all the legit DVDs, saying stuff like “Would you buy your child a porn magazine?” or “Would you buy your child a packet of cigarettes?”.. Reminding them that these products are all designed and rated for Adults, not for kids, and then show a few flashes of the game content.. the lap dances, the brutal violence, the amount of language and so on.

        • You’d be surprised. Working at a gamestore you find quite a few people legitimately think that the rating on the box is how hard the game is, for instance, an R18 game is only for 18+ because of it’s difficulty.

          Explaining that they’re rather more like movie ratings than difficulty ratings can be helpful, but honestly a lot of non-gamers just don’t have a clue.. Or just don’t care.

  • I had to shoot down my 11 year old nephew on the weekend. He was banging on about how he can’t wait to get GTAV. His parents seemed fine with it until I mentioned it was an adult game with very adult content. Pretty sure he’s not getting it now.

    Also the same can be said about movies. On buying 2 tickets for World War Z a few months ago the ticket person asked ‘Two Adults?”. My reply “Well I sure ain’t bringing a kid along”. The double take between himself and the other ticketer said it all. Before they explained how often parents do bring kids along to even R rated movies.

    • If I read the classification board website correctly, they should refuse to sell tickets to under 18s for an R rated movie, whether they’re with a parent or not.
      MA15+ is OK for under 15s as long as the parent is with them, but R is 18+, no exceptions.

    • my 11 year old nephew on the weekend. He was banging on about how he can’t wait to get GTAV. His parents seemed fine with it until I mentioned it was an adult game with very adult content. Pretty sure he’s not getting it now.

      Aw man, doesn’t it suck to grow up to be the dream killing bad guy? It makes you rethink all the times you were a kid and found yourself thinking how terrible adults were huh? You did the right thing, GTA is just overflowing with adult content.

  • The Annoyed Gamer over at GT said something similar and proposed that the AO(Adults Only) rating be enforced on games like GTA in the US. In Australia, we recently introduced the R18+ rating for videogames. I dont think it has done much to deter Parents buying GTA for their child though.

    There needs to be penalties for supplying R18+ content to minors, and much more awareness for the general consumer.

    • Penalties to the seller I would agree with much like selling cigarettes to children, if it was being sold directly to the kid. But the onus really should fall on the parents. Often it’s parents that are simply unaware of the content, as they have not been exposed to it first. So really it comes down to educating the parents. Heck my folks still think Mahjong on the PC is intense and would consider Mario Bros too violent.
      Not every parent sat in front of a console or PC growing up. So at times they are oblivious to what games contain. It’s a bit like how I can name all the AFL team due to my interest in the sport, but I’m so oblivious to soccer I couldn’t even tell you the name of one Aussie soccer team. But then not every parent either takes a vested interest in what their kid does. Especially if it keeps them out of their hair for 5 minutes.

    • I had a bit of a chuckle at the irony of that too, I mean…

      …the graphic, interactive torture scene seems to be ‘fine’ with the R classification, but it’s important to have a warning on the box if you’re gonna have a bit of smoke. Because, you know, that shit’ll fuck you up just by witnessing it. Contact high! :p

      • Don’t forget they were cool with all the topless strippers, hookers giving you hand jobs, blow jobs and having sex with you in your car and also they were cool with you filming a celebrity having sex in a public place..

  • Thank you very much for your article. Everytime I hear or read about stories of younger kids playing m and ma games it made me angry, we put this rating on the box for a reason and not for show.

    Living in Australia, it was a fantastic feeling when we received the r rating because it means that the government recognized that there were adalt gamers and the ma rating was not as effective anymore to say “this was for just adults”

    My younger brother turned 11 recently and my mum got him call of duty black ops and grand theft auto 4 which bewildered me, so I asked her why she got them for him and she responded because he wanted them and that the ratings shouldn’t matter. This made me so angry that I left early not to start a fight.

  • I remember the days when you would walk into the video rental store, and the people would just plain refuse to rent movies or games to you if you are not of the age on the rating.

  • Yeah great article – I definitely agree that it’s frustrating to see kids aged around 10-14 talking about GTA V I just don’t get why they need to play it over all of the other great games out there.

    I also think there has been a bit of a shift in how we need to deal with video game violence now as opposed to say 10 years + ago, when the content was no where near as graphic and real as it is today.

    This is coming for a life time gamer who’s played all ranges of games for the past 20 years.

  • The morning GTA released Sunrise did an interview with a parenting expert… I’ll see if I can find a link to the video and I’ll come back and include it if I can.
    Samantha Armatage, who is in her 30s, decried the game as being disgusting.
    The expert agreed with her, and I though… here we go again… however…

    He then proceeded to talk about how the average gamer is in their 30’s, how 40% of players are girls… and how every console comes with parental controls.
    He mentioned that the game was rated for adults, and that legally they were entitled to play whatever they want.

    At no point did he look happy about that mind you… but I still found it interesting that the people who only a year ago were calling for our outright banishment are now ,somewhat reluctantly, supporting our position.

    It should also be noted that the next day David Koch was practically salivating when he announced the sales it had taken on the opening day.

  • Great article.

    I think the approach in selling games like GTA to parents and knowing that the child present at the place of purchase is going to be the one playing it needs to change.

    “When I recite the phrases from the ESRB ratings box on the back cover of an M-rated game and it just goes right over your head I feel the need to be more specific. So I mention things like a game having a first-person view of half-naked strippers or that the game has a mission that forces you to torture another human being.”

    The above quoted is simply not enough, you have to relies that most people need to be shocked to pay attention, so i propose the following solution.

    When they hand you the game tell them in no uncertain terms that “This is a horrible game for kids” not are you aware that the game has a R18+ rating and has violence and drugs and torture and is not suitable for kids, that’s the government talking and you will rarely find a parent that cares about what the government thinks.

    So you have told them that “This is a horrible game for kids” you will then have there attention (positive or negative depends on the person) you need them to ask “Why?” to engage them in a small conversation about it, tell the parent that the game objectify’s women and is a murdering simulator which glorifies violence (don’t be afraid to embellish a little), tell them you won’t let your little brother or sister play it, but the choice is up to them if they want to buy it.

    You will probably get some anger directed at you, but at least you would have engaged them in some sort of a conversation rather then them looking at the iPhone while you ring up the game for them.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • My 7 year old loves Halo and he and my 11 year old love Minecraft. I have already told them while they are allowed to play GTA and GTA2 (the old top down view ones) on the PC I will not buy any GTA games on Xbox 360 because they are inappropriate.

    I would love to try some of the Saints Row games (they sound so fun) but I won’t in case they decide to watch me play.

    Its all about analysing the information out there and making the best decision for your kids rather than giving into whims and tantrums. I let them play some games rated older but I’ve looked into what the game is about and the overall content so I know its fine for them.

  • I think people do overestimate the impact video games can have in affecting the development of their children. When I was 12, I barely swore at all because mum always had a big thing about it and went berserk if we ever swore. She might sound strict but she let me play GTA 3 without batting an eyelid. This was because she, unlike seemingly everyone else in the world, had faith that I was able to set apart reality from fiction. What she taught me about life overrode what I saw in a video game. It’s safe to say I’m also not a drug addict or murderer. In fact I haven’t ever gotten a speeding ticket.

    I’m not saying we should completely ignore classifications but for the love of all that is holy, don’t put on Fox News level of weight on the effect these games have on us.

  • Retailers need a mandatory pre-sale parental education booth featuring a save game from Trevor’s story….

  • I’m loving GTA V..

    But lets be serious…

    Last night I got on the job with a prostitute in a carpark behind a service station. Then I got out of the car and killed her to get my money back.

    I was deeply disturbed after that…. not something I’d allow my kids to play.. if I had any.

  • I too am in game retail and it pisses me off selling to parents who don’t care.
    Some get all defensive that we’re trying to give them some insight into a world they don’t understand. (“it’s just a game”, “it can’t be that bad”) They fail to realize that it’s our job to let you know, just what you’re buying for your child.
    There are those that actually do listen and see I’m simply trying to educate them.
    They’re the ones that give me hope for the rest of them.

    • You’re going to be terrified when you here about all the kids sneaking into the drive-in and watching the Exorcist.

  • It’s the parents prerogative as to what media their children consume and when they consume it. I agree with the sentiment that ensuring the parents are as informed as possible about the tentative purchase, but they are under no obligation to indulge your preaching stentorian from the mount about what you consider appropriate.

  • TLDR: More parents need to avidly preach the definition of the word “no.” to their children. (Instead of taking the easy way out)

  • “Now this is where those of you who are not parents will sound off with “you should let them judge” or “I killed hookers in GTA III when I was five and I turned out fine.” That is great. I accept your opinion. Although, when your daughter comes home from elementary school crying because someone called her a b***h, you might change your tune.”

    May surprise you but some of us parents use that line too – while I agree parents should take an interest in what their kids are buying, that’s really just an argument for better parenting

    It’s the parents choice as to what to allow their kids to see and when, and it needs to be informed, but simply because the government says you have to be 18, or 16, or 15 to view certain material doesn’t mean they’re right – my kids aren’t anywhere near old enough to play GTA (or anything with a controller) but at some point before they’re 18 I’d let them play the newest GTA (right after Daddy’s had a go), I’d be a massive hypocrite if I didn’t

    and the government can butt out, frankly

  • As a parent of 2 gamer girls under 11 and a long-time gamer myself (I’m 47 and play pretty much every day) I despair at parents who don’t participate in their children’s choices of media of any kind.

    I regulate their book, TV, movie, music, game and internet on an ongoing basis, I talk to them about why some things are not suitable for them yet and try to understand what it is that they’re motivated by. Most of the time when they want to see a movie or play a game that’s unsuitable its down to peer pressure. My eldest, who’s in year 5, told me that all 4 boys that sit in the same group as her at school have GTA V, their parents either don’t give a shit or can’t be bothered to find out what their kids are spending time doing.

    I’ve encouraged my girls to enjoy games, and they do, but I don’t want them exposed to things they’re not ready for, it’s hard to encourage experimentation while setting boundaries, luckily both my kids are pretty sensible and trustworthy, though I expect that’ll be more of a challenge when they are teenagers.

  • I understand the Retailer’s point but “Do the Right Thing” does not automatically translate to “Don’t let you Kids play this game”.

    Informed Parents are the people best positioned to make a judgement about the media that their children can/can’t view. My parents allowed me to play GTA growing up because they knew that I fully understood the difference between fantasy and reality.
    Also the quote: “That is great. I accept your opinion. Although, when your daughter comes home from elementary school crying because someone called her a b***h, you might change your tune.”
    So what? I’d bet this stuff happened long before video games even existed. I’ve worked in elementary schools and most children I have met know that this kind of speech is wrong (if they don’t there are deeper parenting issues going on).

    Overall, a fair article but I don’t accept that a retailer sitting behind a desk can make blanket judgements about parents / children they briefly meet.

  • Im in games retail myself, its incredible the amount of young kids getting this game, I found a lot of parents think its just like the last one, still MA15 but toned down a little. I have convinced only 4 of around 1000 people that its not for their kid, even showing them a clip from the strip joints private dance. Parents buying it know its not right for them but have this need to try and please their kids making excuses like “its nothing worse then what’s on the internet”, trying to justify buying it to make themselves feel worse then they should.

  • parents not caring about the ratings on games is like one of the main reason why we have the issue that “games have bad influences on kids”.
    theres a reason why those ratings are there and people just ignore it, and some even have the nerve to blame the games for being so violent after kids learns things from these games and start using them in their everyday life!

  • I could not agree more with this letter. I work in a game store in Australia, where GTA V has been given an R rating, for people 18 anbd over. We have to check IDs for any prospective customer. More than once we wanted to hand out a bad parent sticker for anyone buying this for their child, especially after we have made the content explicitly known to the parent.

    What really irks us in the store is that for a long time we did not have the R rating for games, and so discerning players would have missed out on games like this because they would just be banned. This was certainly what happened with the most recent Mortal Kombat title. The last thing we need is poor parents like this making us lose this rating category all over again due to sheer irresponsibility.

  • To the author of the article. If you felt the parents were purchasing games for under 18’s you legally are supposed to reject their purchase arent you?

  • Thank God, I recall when I was putting some money for my pre-order BF4, I recall a mother asking about ‘how bad GTAV…’ and I prepared a whole argument in my head for any future incidence of a 8 year old almost getting GTAV, but aside from the THANK GOD, there is other people out there that believe little children shouldn’t be playing GTAV!

  • I’m my friend’s Son’s Worst enemy currently, my mate asked me if GTA V was ok for his son (Age 12) because all of his other 12 year old friends already have it. I gave him a run down of some of the activities and he decided not to get it for him. The kid knows I’m responsible so I’m the worst person in the world, which is fine by me because I’ve been playing GTA V (already racked up almost 50hrs) and I do not believe a 12 year old should be playing it at all.

  • I gave my little brother gta sa, i didn’t know how i felt about that because i was so young when i first played it, but after playing gta v ( and loving every second of it ) i’m not so sure my little bro would handle this one, i remember he was afraid of the spider scene in one of the harry potter movies LOL.

  • That’s disgusting that many parents simply adhere to their child’s rants and tantrums of “I want THIS”. I’m 35, have 4 kids, eldest is a 9 year old boy. His favourite is minecraft and Mario Kart on the Wii. And that is because they are age-appropriate. I would never let him even look at me playing games like Assassin’s Creed or GTA (they’re for when they’re all asleep!)

  • games, and jumping off the cliff. they are both different, and how would you feel if your parents didnt allow you to go this amusement park with all your mates. and online is gonna be the biggest fun they are gonna have in gta. chill out man, its just for a good time.

  • are there laws that prevent you knowingly buying R18 games for kids, akin to how it’s illegal if you’re caught provided minors with alcohol?

  • I am 12 years old and all my freinds have gta but I am not allowed it, but unlike most kids who are not allowed it I understand why my parents don’t allow me to play it and I don’t want the game because I think it’s sick and not right. At first I wanted it because all my friends had it and you can do lots of other kinds of activities that we’re not violent like BASE jumping and driving in amazing scenery but when my parents told me about why I’m not allowed it and after I watched a few YouTube videos of it I thought it was wrong that people my age could interact with this bloody and violent content. I have one call of duty but I never play it because it simulates you getting to kill another human being. I think mature games like gta are disgusting and offensive to those who are serving are country and we are sitting at home impersonating this horrible environment and for fun! Our country’s brave army are traumatised by war and risk their lived and gta takes the mic, you gta fans make me sick and it is not healthy to play these games non stop. Thank you for taking the time to read this and this is my opinion.

  • I can play Some M games like Skyrim, or Halo, or any of those mild games. But I have played GTA V and I really understand why my parents say no. I hate going to gamestop, begging for the dang game, then seeing some little 8 year old by GTA V when all im asking for is assassins creed 4. Im 12 BTW. Nice speach

  • What does it matter who parents are buying gta5 for I would buy it for myself but even though I love and give a shit about my kids I would allow them to play it just because I would never be able to play it if b I had a stick up my ass and to over protected of them since they like watching me play games

  • Seriously who the hell cares i played violent Games since i was 6 and it was fun! Just why Is this a big deal Its just a bunch of Pixels Fake not real get it ? games a made my for Entertainment now im 21 and just a normal person like everyone else xD stop bieng so ridiculous do you seriously think you kid will murder People just because he ran over some old lady with a car i gta xD then watching Action Movies or Horror movies Is the Same thing. Oh Dady look this 007 Is shooting People going to do the Same thing because i Love this movie yay! -_- really this Is just ridiculous and by the way sometimes People die in real life stop hiding your Kids from the real world there Are good and Bad People out there Bad things Happen sometimes you learn from them a Lot more then watching retarded Cartoons and Talking about rainbows and unicorns all day

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