Grand Theft Auto IV. Networks like CNN have made sure you have heard about this story and have made sure the focus remains on the role video games played in this incident. Why? Because it is "good" television.
It helps keep the ratings up to focus on this ongoing debate between violent media and violent behavior, but the consequence of this -- like with most things the mainstream media covers -- is we never have the right conversation. We never hear the right questions asked.
Should we ask if Grand Theft Auto IV had an influence on the mind of an 8-year-old? Absolutely. Shouldn't we also ask why an 8-year-old is playing Grand Theft Auto IV? After all, the game is rated Mature (M) by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) which means no one under the age of 17 can purchase the game from a video game retailer because of content that caters to a more mature audience -- hints the rating.
Stores like GameStop are required by industry rules to comply with ESRB ratings or they will face punishments that could hurt business. It is in the best interest of video game retailers to comply with ESRB rules and ratings just like it is in the best interest of movie theaters and video retailers to comply with the rules and regulations of the Motion Picture Association of America even if there are no laws that require them to do so.
Video game retailers will card consumers who do not clearly look old enough to purchase a M-rated game. So, someone had to buy the game for the child.
Why would a parent, guardian, or caregiver allow someone so young to play a video game like that, anyway? A game like Grand Theft Auto features stuff an 8-year-old is clearly not old enough to understand and, yes, younger minds are more impressionable. Why are we always so hesitant to question the parenting? In a case like this, it is a huge factor.Why didn't the grandmother, a caregiver for this child, store the gun safely or lock it up properly? It may come off as poor taste to question the negligence of the deceased, but it is still an important question to ask.
Why should CNN ask these questions? At the end of the day, it all comes down to ratings and as James Norton pointed out in his blog post on The Christian Science Monitor, the jump from video games to violence "is irresistible to the media -- it's catnip for debate and pageviews." It is either going to bring people in who agree with it or people who are so adamantly opposed to the leap they take time out of their day just to comment on it. Either way, it is about the viewership and the page views. Who cares if we are having the right discussion, right?