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.


Comments

    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 agree completely! Somebody had to finally say it!

    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.

      Here's a link to that interview. Wouldn't it be good if all parents realised this. http://au.tv.yahoo.com/sunrise/video/watch/18966341/parents-warned-over-grand-theft-auto/

    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....

    Hey, I just realized that I'm 17 as of a few days ago :D Welp, only a year left for me!

    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!

    If you spend more than 4 hrs a week playing video games you are a loser.No matter the age

    For those interested in following this discussion more, this article has also been submitted and is being discussed over on slashdot
    http://games.slashdot.org/story/13/09/24/1755213/gta-v-proves-a-lot-of-parents-still-dont-know-or-care-about-esrb-ratings

    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.

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