Since Rockstar launched Grand Theft Auto IV, the latest instalment of its sprawling video-game epic, the web has been dominated by GTA-related opinion.

Most of it falling into two camps: one-eyed conservatives demanding that we Ban This Sick Filth; and one-eyed gamers honking about free speech and demanding the game be distributed in playgrounds. You know what? They're all idiots.


There was a thought-provoking opinion piece on American TV a few nights back - you can see a clip of it here - in which a right-wing commentator attempted to warn parents against the dangers of playing Grand Theft Auto. He also made some fanciful claims about pop culture bringing about the downfall of Western society.

The interesting point he raises is this. In modern society, most human beings have developed a powerful revulsion against the act of killing, to the extent that soldiers in World War I were widely unable to pull the trigger even when their lives were at stake. Then the US military discovered that this revulsion could be conditioned out of the grunts by putting them through simulations of killing - and that the more realistic these simulations got, the more willing the soldiers became to kill. So by playing video games which contain highly realistic and detailed simulations of breathtaking acts of brutality - such as, I don't know, Grand Theft Auto - gamers may be to some extent reconciling themselves to violence.

Now, I don't agree with this guy. Some of his points contained factual errors - one example was his misapprehension of how many games there have been in the series, not that this affects his argument - and it was a scaremongering rant that offered no solutions. But it's an intriguing way of looking at the issue, and gamers need to engage with people like this, respect their views and either take them on board or refute them. What does the gaming community do instead? Call the piece "a one-two punch with ignorance-coated knuckle-dusters".

The truth is that kids are still buying games with 18 certificates - and when it's a game like this, we've got ourselves a problem. So when Glenn Beck warns parents to stop their children from buying Grand Theft Auto, he's got a point. And even if only adults were playing the game - which isn't the case - it wouldn't hurt to think about what effect it's having on their behaviour.

No, I don't think we should Ban This Sick Filth. But maybe we should Think About The Effect This Sick Filth Is Having On The Way We Interact As A Society. Or just conduct the debate like adults. Come on, people.