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Grand Theft Auto 5
Rockstar Games Puts Hedonism in High Gear
An article from Jonathan McKee and David R. Smith at TheSource4YM.com
10/3/2013


Dynamic ImageFranklin runs up to a car, swears at the driver, and tells him to get out. The driver resists so Franklin pulls a gun and executes him in traffic. Franklin then takes the stolen car to the Vanilla Unicorn where he gets a topless lap dance. Later that night, he has sex with a hooker in the stolen car…then runs her over three times.

Welcome to the gameplay of Grand Theft Auto 5.

Crime Is Big Business
Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTA5) is the fifteenth and latest installment in the Grand Theft Auto series. The game allows players to control a trio of hoodlums (Michael, Trevor, and Franklin) through their graphic and unchecked crime spree in Los Santos, San Andreas, a fictional city based on real towns in Southern California.

Details on those crime sprees will be discussed in a moment.

The developers at Rockstar Games, the team behind the design of GTA5, predicted the release would break all the records…and they were right. Take-Two, the parent company, announced that GTA5 raked in $1 billion in just three days of sales making the game the fastest-selling commodity in entertainment history. By comparison, it took Grand Theft Auto 4 a full week in 2008 to accrue just half that amount. (You can read our summary of GTA4 here.)

From a playing standpoint, early reviews of GTA5 have used the words extraordinary, astounding and epic in spite of a few glitches in the system.

But as we took a few hours to play the game, those “glitches” were the least of our concerns.

Whores and Gore
When GTA5 came out, we received a lot of questions at The Source for Youth Ministry from parents and youth workers about the game’s content and appropriateness for teenagers. The overarching question was, “Is this game OK for my kids to play?”

In answering that question, we thought it best to spend some time interacting with the game, so my youth pastor and I (David) borrowed a copy from a 12-year-old boy in our church whose grandmother had purchased the game for him a week earlier.

In spite of the “M” rating (for Mature) meaning it’s only for players 17 and older….

During the first seven minutes of play, our character had executed a security guard, killed 30-40 cops, dropped the F-word approximately 70 times, and verbalized enough racial slurs to make us squirm in our seats. Twenty minutes later – while we’re driving our sixth stolen car that was blasting insanely crude rap music across its speakers – our character is told to “get a new haircut” so that “maybe you can get some bi***es on your d**k.”

Within the first hour of play, we’d wandered into the Vanilla Unicorn, an upscale strip club located next door to Horny Girls. We were told by one of the scantily-clad girls working up front to “follow my sweet ass” to the back of the bar. There, in a private room, our player received a topless lap dance as he fondled the girl’s body between check-ins by the watchful bouncer.

As she danced and our player caressed her, she said things like, “You’re making me all hot,” and “Oh God, this is making me horny as hell.” As West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys played over the club’s sound system, our lady friend suggested we up the ante by bringing in a second girl. When her friend appeared – also topless – the two girls began to fondle, stroke, and pet each other as they moaned salaciously. Our character was clearly enjoying the entertainment, saying things like, “She feels so soft.”

Yes, this was all virtual nudity… but the two of us began feeling really awkward witnessing this even for the sake of reviewing this for parents. We couldn’t help but think, “Grandma bought this for a 12-year-old?”

Moments later, our character got kicked out of the club, we jumped back in our stolen car and went looking for prostitutes. It didn’t take long to find one. During the short ride, the DJ on our car radio kept giving out advice about (violent) sex. He said over and over again, “Squeeze the love into them and the life out of them.”

We picked up a girl at a street corner and drove into a dark alley. There, we had several options. I won’t go into detail here, simply because it’s just too crude. But if you want to know what the 12-year-old kid in my church had at his fingertips, check out these VERY graphic and hypersexual in-game videos and tutorials. (Be warned; you will hear incredibly vulgar language and see graphic sex acts ending with the murder of the prostitutes.)

These are just a few of the sidebar activities that players (young and old) can get in to while completing the “missions” in Grand Theft Auto 5. From stealing cars, to robbing banks, to murdering pedestrians and motorists, to navigating extra-marital affairs, to arson, to torturing other characters, to dealings with drug cartels, the gameplay of GTA5 has just about everything your grandma warned you about. We’ll put it this way: the game developers took full liberty with their M rating for GTA5.

So, back to that original question: should our kids be playing this game?

Halting the Heists in GTA5
In a country where over 90% of young people between the ages 2 and 17 are playing video games, it’s unwise to ignore what they encounter on these gaming platforms. With a franchise as popular (and controversial) as the Grand Theft Auto series, parents and youth workers need to take long, hard, serious looks at the elements within the game, and not make assumptions about content.

The entire concept of GT5 is built on theft, from boosting cars, to stealing personal property, to robbing banks. But as we’ve interacted with the game, we’ve asked ourselves, “What else is being stolen in these heists?”

  • Does the game rob teenagers of a healthy understanding of sex?

  • Can the game cheat young people out of their sensitivity toward violence?

  • Does it swindle them out of a sense of morality?

  • In short, what is the total price teenagers are paying to play this video game?

For all those reasons, we’d strongly suggest skipping GTA5. In other words, do all you can to put a halt on the heists.

Sadly, many parents don’t have a problem with this game.

A few weeks ago Common Sense Media posted a review of the game citing many of the harmful elements. In the comments section, parents responded in droves with justifications of why their 12-year-olds and 14-year-olds are okay to play the game.

    “My only problem with the game is the swearing.”

    “There’s no mission in the strip club, so you should be able to trust them enough not to go in there.”

Or one of my personal favorites (misspellings included)…

    “As long as kids know it is obviosly not real and the laungue and actions on the game should not be repeated it should be fine for kids 14 and older.”

And you wonder why so many kids have access to this game.

Luckily, not all parents feel this way. Check out this “testimony” of a life-long gamer who shared his thoughts about GTA5 on the gaming website GameZone.com. Here are a few excerpts from his article:

    GTA 5 doesn't hold back at all. Strip clubs are now virtually fully interactive, and in first-person. That means I can enjoy a virtual stripper rubbing up on my TV screen, topless, in all her glory. I can even choose to feel her up, if the bouncer isn't looking.

    Many might scoff at this and say, "So murdering innocent people by driving them over and shooting them on the street is OK, but now sex is taboo?" I'd like to think it's a little bit more of a slippery slope than that. I wouldn't mind my daughter eventually sitting down with me and watching the
    Terminator or Rambo flicks, but I certainly wouldn't turn on a porn movie for her.

    The drugs, the incredible amount of "N-bombs" dropped, the prostitution, the violence, and even a rather graphic torture scene, the clear display of sex is just the cherry on top of this adult-oriented game. This is the one GTA game that I can honestly and finally say that no kid, ever, should get their hands on. Seriously, parents, don't even think about it.

Another review of GT5, this one in a newspaper, was issued in an article with the title Parents, You’ve Been Warned.

Remember, as parents and youth workers, we need to manage all the media our kids take in, not just TV shows or music. We need to keep a close eye on what they’re playing…especially since young people are spending between 9 and 13 hours every week with controllers in hand.

Lastly, we need to bear in mind that “no” is an acceptable answer. Our kids may not understand our answer, and even if they do, may not like our answer. But we are the ones who are responsible for them. That responsibility calls for responsible decision-making on our behalf.




Jonathan McKee Jonathan McKee, president of The Source for Youth Ministry, is the author of over a dozen books including the new Get Your Teenager Talking, The Guy's Guide to God, Girls and the Phone in Your Pocket, The Zombie Apocalypse Survival Guide for Teenager, and youth ministry books like Ministry By Teenagers, Connect: Real Relationships in a World of Isolation, and the 10-Minute Talks series. Jonathan speaks and trains at conferences, churches and events across North America, all while providing free resources for youth workers and parents on his websites, TheSource4YM.com and TheSource4Parents.com. You can follow Jonathan on his blog, getting a regular dose of youth culture and parenting help. Jonathan and his wife Lori, and their three teenagers Alec, Alyssa and Ashley live in California.


David R. Smith David R. Smith is a 15-year youth ministry veteran who helps youth workers and parents through his writing, training, and speaking. David specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. He co-authored his first book this year, Ministry By Teenagers. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, DavidRSmith.org. David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.


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Comments on this post

   Thebigone         7/15/2014 11:14:05 AM

This is why I like Need for Speed as it focuses purely on the racing/driving aspects. What games are there that either don't force you to do missions in order or let you drive freely when completing them as I love games that allow exploration for all those shortcuts/parking garages.etc In fact is there any games that have parking garages to drive up on and fly over the roof doing stunts and also with long freeways to pick up maximum speed?

   RichardB         5/18/2014 10:28:42 AM

I have been playing shoot-em-games for as long as I remember and would now have to say that I am very desensitized. However, I am in my forties and have always found shoot-em games a relaxing way to my day, that's just me! There are many parts of this game that just plain fun and entertaining - I could do without the sexual content because most games I have played in the past just have shooting and such. What got me to turn GTA5 off is the cursing of Christ every where I go in the game. Sure I have much room to grow and am slowing trying to figure out another pass time instead of gaming. I am glad I never had these kind of games in my youth and only started gaming later in life. My thinking for buying this game is that I have plenty of young family members who go online in this game and that we could chat to each other while playing. I guess this demonstrates another area of my life that I want to surrender to the Holy Spirit, that is, my passiveness to gaming that indulges into everything opposite a Holy lifestyle.

   E.M.         10/18/2013 6:00:46 AM

I have been informed that there is the choice not to do some of the 'missions' in the 'game' and that they are only options, but the root of this and any 'game' like it is based in evil. I know there are good kids out there that would choose not to do the options presented, but they should not have to be presented with those options in the first place - a lot of kids will be curious enough to 'try' them out-it's only natural. Also, it is bad enough that there are these kind of people employed with the sole purpose of developing and designing this garbage that goes into the 'game'-they already have problems. It is the employers themselves and the CEOs and higher-ups that are at least equally degenerate to employ these designers, promote, package and sell this stuff to the public-no better than porn. Words used loosely and even misused or abused are 'mature' and 'game'. There is nothing mature about the content or intent of this game, the other misused word. Thanks for the review. GTA5 and any other number should be banned, but in a free democracy with freedom of speech and other rights we are loosely hanging on to, Parents and any adults young or old should be aware of this content and make the right choice to keep it away from kids. Thanks again. May God forgive us, bless us, and protect our young since we don't seem to be up for the task ourselves. Grandmas - read labels!

   Kyle         10/17/2013 5:16:33 AM

What I don't understand is why play a game that you know is going to be vulgar to exploit it and thrash ? I am just curios! And I have some knowledge of the game. U are able to turn the gore off. U can edit out the curse words. U do not have to kill the security guard, and you don't have to even go for a lap dance , u go to the back of the club for Trevor lol, I can understand not to let younger kids or children play it. But the game is about choices but this is just my opinion u can disagree but hey if I'm a bad person for playing gta then maybe so

   Reuben         10/9/2013 8:37:39 AM

Guys... a little more selective editing might have been in order here. I just about reposted this to my churches Facebook page to pass it along to other parents. Just because you put something in quotes does not make it okay. If it was then a paragraph or two earlier you wouldn't have edited the "harder" words out. This is a fantastically detailed article with information that I think parents could use. A little disappointing. Well, more than a little. Because now I have to scour everyone of your articles before I pass them on. Before I just trusted that this was a Christian article written to Christian Pastors and Parents. Shame on me for assuming. Shame on you guys for not being more discerning.

   Sean         10/8/2013 4:36:19 PM

LOL!!! I was just giving you a hard time. I can't get the image out of my head of seeing you guys take a character into a strip club for a lap dance. I'm sure it was for knowledge of the actual content, and was very proffessional, but man it's just to funny to think about. Did you guys actually play through the entire game? I'm only about half way through.

   Jonathan McKee         10/8/2013 2:29:57 PM

Sean... glad you agree this game is too much for young kids. I agree... the sex and violence are both too much. As for us actually playing the game, that was actually my suggestion. I was afraid you would criticize us for reviewing something we didn't have any personal knowledge of... so that was for you! :)

   Scott Murray         10/8/2013 12:24:57 PM

Thanks guys. I am a Junior High youth pastor. Video games are very important to our students and their friends. I am amazed at the lack of care that some parents show towards this kind of stuff. It is the same way with the type of movies that they are allowed to watch. Not only with their friends but with their whole families. Thanks for the research, now go and burn that copy of the game! Scott Murray Junior High Pastor Wheaton Bible Church

   Dave Van Lant         10/7/2013 4:04:54 PM

Shouldn't the concept of a video game centered around stealing cars be enough to earn a "thumbs down" from a pastor and a youth pastor?

   Sean         10/7/2013 2:23:21 PM

I would have loved to have been there to watch you and David actually pick up a prostitute. That would have been hilarious. At the same time, couldn't you have just researched example of the content on the internet rather then actually going out of your way to perform these things yourself in the game? GTA has always been a social commentary about American, and all it's many foibles. In saying that, I agree that this game doesn't belong in the hands of a 12 year old. Maybe 15 years is okay, but definitly not 12. The sexual content itself, although something you can participate in, is as bout as bad as something seen in your late 80's action film. Although this is indeed the first GTA game to have virtual nudity. As for sex and violence. If your going to ban a game for sex, then you need to bad a game for violence too. Sorry, you can't have it both ways. Saying it's okay to go down a street killing random people for fun is okay, but going into a strip club for a lap dance is not, is ridiculous. The example used about slippery slop in terms of having your kid watch Rambo, but not Deppie Does Dallas, was stupid. The sexual content in GTA is not that graphic for one thing. Terminator has a sex scene that shows frontal nudity for example. Die Hard has a brief glimps of frontal nudity, Leathal Weapon. Conan the Barbarian, and the list goes on. Some of those movies have as much sexual content as GTA. This is of course beside the point. The main point is that the consequences of sexual activity, those being deseases, pregnancy, etc are not worse than taking a LIFE. If your willing to accept the practice of going down the beach running over people, then you can accept the topless virtual lap dances, or the humorous prostitute scenes. You either ban the game for both, or you don't at all.

   dan manns         10/7/2013 11:04:55 AM

a 12 year old? really G-ma? well my 16 year old doesn't have the game even though most of his friends do (and most of them are church friends). when i explained why i did not want that game in my house he understood why. though his first response was "Dad, you don't have to do all those sick things." thanks for writing this article guys. i am going to pass it along to some parents. ...and youth leaders. ...and teens.


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