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The real ‘horrifying discovery’

On Sunday mornings, my other-half and I tend to sit in the kitchen with a cup of tea while looking through the news headlines. Yesterday our conversation centred around how Israel could have possibly won this year’s Eurovision contest with Toy and the effect of Brexit on the UK’s poor placing (yes, I’m a fan). But then Pete came across a story with the headline Boy, 11, makes horrifying discovery in the case of his pre-owned copy of GTA.

The article began: “A mum was left fuming after her 11-year old son found a bad of deadly methamphetamine in the case of his pre-owned copy of Grand Theft Auto V. Kayla McAllister discovered the white power inside a booklet in the copy of the game he bought at a GamesStop store in Tallahassee, Florida. A police report filed with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the bag contained .6 games of meth, Kotaku reports.”

Who’d have thought that we’d have another gaming controversy so soon after ITV News’ Fortnite scandal a couple of weeks ago? As usual though, this story isn’t as straightforward as it first seems there are a number of points The Sun needs to be called out on. So here we go again: let’s set the record straight and once more discuss the failings of both poor journalism and parenting.

First: this story is over a year old

Grand Theft Auto V, book, drugs, receipt

The Kotaku article referred to was originally published on 09 May 2017 so why on earth is The Sun bothering to highlight it now? Having a slow-news-day isn’t an excuse for unjustified reporting or giving your audience something to be ‘outraged’ about in order to attract views. True, the newspaper is never going to be the pinnacle of investigative journalism; but this is just lazy and smacks of incompetence.

Second: it was more than just the drug the kids were exposed to

According to the report, McAllister said she was ‘confused, nervous and scared’ that her son and three-year old daughter may have been exposed to the drug. What she failed to mention was that they were also potentially exposed to scenes of bloody violence, torture, addictive substances and sexual gratuity. I’m not hating on Grand Theft Auto here because we all know what kind of game it is; but I want to make its content clear before moving on to my next point.

Third: the real outrage isn’t totally about the drugs

Sure, GamesStop made a huge mistake and were rightly called to account for what had happened in this situation. A representative said in a statement to Kotaku: “Unfortunately, in this circumstance our thorough process fell short. We are extremely concerned that this incident occurred and are working with the local police department to support them in their investigation.”

However, there’s more than one avenue down which we should direct our anger. As McAllister herself pointed out in a Facebook post made on the day of the incident: “Today i took my son to gamestop in Tallahassee to trade in games and get some new ones. When he opened the booklet inside one of the pre owned games he ( MY ELEVEN YEAR OLD SON!!!!!!!) found this.”

Yes, Kayla: your 11-year old son. Forget the drugs a moment; why the hell did you allow him to trade for title rated as ‘Mature’ by the ESRB? There’s a reason for that ‘M’ icon being displayed on the game’s box and the Board defining it as being suitable for ages 17 and up (it’s rated as 18 here in Europe). Maybe it has something to do with the fact it contains ‘Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol’.

The Sun failed to pick up on the fact above in their news report last weekend but thankfully a number of commenters were available to point this out to them on both their website and Twitter feed. Not that I’m saying GamesStop were completely blameless in this case but as mentioned by mark clayton: “Wouldn’t have happened if the idiotic mother didn’t buy the 11 year old an 18 rated game.”

I’ve said it several times before and I’m sure I’ll say it again in the future: know what your children are playing. It’s up to you to understand the content of the video games they’re choosing and find out for yourself whether it’s suitable. As I wrote in my post about Fortnite earlier this month, don’t leave it to an age-rating on the packaging or some poorly-researched report on the evening news to do your parenting for you.

*sigh*

I’m guessing it won’t be long before we have another similar news article about video games being the downfall of our children thrust before us. So I guess I’ll see you again in a few weeks’ time for another similar post.

4 thoughts on “The real ‘horrifying discovery’ Leave a comment

  1. I’m going to have to disagree with you on one point of this post. I can’t place any fault on the mother for the drugs being in the case. Sure, a parent should use strict discretion when considering the purchase of an M-rated game for their child (in the States, 17 is the cut-off age), but it isn’t like she could’ve known the drugs were inside.

    If anything, the entirety of fault lies on that GameStop’s staff for not checking the case (assuming one of the staff members didn’t intend on those drugs being in there). If anything, they should’ve checked the case and called the police upon discovering the drugs.

    The key thing to remember however is that the content of Grand Theft Auto and the drugs are separate issues entirely. It’s not like the reason the drugs were in the case was due to the game being Grand Theft Auto after all.

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    • I should issue an apology here: I feel I may have missed the mark with this post. The point I was trying to make was that in the coverage I found, the media hadn’t highlighted the fact that the mother had allowed her son to purchase an ‘M’ game and GameStop had sold it to him.

      It’s certainly the store’s fault for the drugs being inside the booklet (especially when you consider similar incidents have happened previously, according to other news reports) and the mother couldn’t have known they were there. I agree that the drugs issue and game content are separate matters; it just feels like only half the story was reported on.

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      • You’re okay. I feel like I may have just picked apart your post unfairly. I find the tendency of traditional media to sensationalize gaming-related issues to be frustrating as well. In this case (pun intended), it seems like they just wanted to find a way to connect a video game with drugs in order to capitalize on the fear of parents the world over that their kids could be harmed directly by video games.

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        • Considering they used the tagline ‘High Score’ – and picked up on a story which was actually over a year old – you might be correct there. Sounds like something pretty typical of The Sun here in the UK.

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