The Grand Theft Auto franchise has always been known for its inappropriate content. Sex, drugs, guns and alcohol are just a few of the topics shown and abused in the series.
Because of this, every Grand Theft Auto game has been given an "M" rating, attempting to diverge underage kids from playing the questionable content.
It hasn't worked yet.
Certain parents just don't seem to care about the games their kids play. One sales clerk wrote a letter to Kotaku, saying that he sold over a thousand copies of Grand Theft Auto V, and that "at least a hundred of which were sold to parents for children who could barely even see over my counter."
A YouTube video was also released prior to GTA V'S launch, showing parents giving an early copy to their 11-year-old French son.
This sort of problem has been happening for years. From a personal standpoint, many of my childhood friends had a copy of one of the Grand Theft Auto games, and most of them were around 8 and 9. My parents didn't allow me to play Grand Theft Auto, but even they would buy me certain "M" games if I asked.
What is shocking is that the ESRB has not found a better way to keep inappropriate content away from children after all these years. Hell, the ESRB was created specifically for games like Grand Theft Auto that deliver a more adult experience.
In the Kotaku article, the sales clerk also explains that he constantly tried to tell the parents how violent and sexual the game was, saying "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."
Even after saying this, many of the parent still purchased the game.
And its not as if GTA hasn't inspired dangerous reactions in the past. Grand Theft Auto IV was banned from Thailand after a teen murdered a taxi driver, saying he wanted to "see if it was as easy as in the game."
Many lawsuits and complaints have also occurred, once again showing that GTA V isn't a game suitable for young children.
This brings up the question, should we just not sell games like GTA V to parents that are clearly buying it for their kid?
Yes, in a way. While it's easy to blame the parents, retailers also have an obligation because they are the ones selling the content. One suggestion is having the ESRB flag and record certain inappropriate scenes from violent games.
These recordings could be used by retailers to show parents and purchasers the type of content they will see in the title.
Either way, the ESRB and retailers need to reconstruct their policies while also informing customers of the issues in the game.
Retailers can't just keep blaming the parents for this kind of situation. It's the retailers job to fully explain the type of content that is being sold.