Commentary

'GTA' Lawsuit: Gamers' Offense Actually Underwhelming

The biggest fuss that's been made so far over "Grand Theft Auto IV"'s content has been the Mothers Against Drunk Driving getting into a tizzy about the fact that your character is able to get tanked and get behind the wheel of a car. Weigh that against the $500 million Rockstar and Take-Two raked in during he game's first weekend -- the largest entertainment launch in history -- and it's a relatively minor hiccup in the game's lifecycle.

The previous installment, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," was not nearly so lucky. In 2005, a huge furor exploded over hidden sexual content in "San Andreas," and a massive class action lawsuit was filed by lawyers from 12 different firms on behalf of the roughly 12 million people who had purchased the game before the revelation of the hidden content and the re-rating of the game to "Adults Only." Now, three years later, we finally have an accurate account of the number of purchasers who were offended by the game's content: 2,767. A tiny, tiny fraction of the total customer base. Those claimants will receive roughly $30,000 (total) for their offense, and the lawyers who filed the claims are requesting $1.3 million in legal fees -- pay that's obviously well-earned.

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The lesson here is that concerns over offending people with game content are totally overblown. The lawyers who filed the suit couldn't get people to claim they'd been offended by the game by paying them off. Even parents who purchased this game for their kids were eligible for the money and didn't seem to want to collect. One hopes that politicians who are eager to regulate the video game industry will take the hint from this case, and learn that most modern video gamers are adults who can choose for themselves what sort of game to play.

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