GTA:V - A Parent's Guide - The ESRB Rating Dissected

With the release of Rockstar Games' highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto:V round the corner, consumer-hype is at an all-time high, and for the parents of children who have succumbed to the roof-lifting levels of anticipation, this article is for you; so join us at CGUK as we closely examine the contents of Grand Theft Auto:V and what they mean to you as the parent.

As is the case with every game, film, audio and book released, the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board - an American firm dedicated to the analysis of video game content) rate the product before launch to assure the item is aimed at the right audience. In Grand Theft Auto: V's case, the official ESRB synopsis is as follows:

"Rating Summary: In this open-world action game, players assume the role of three criminals whose storylines intersect within the fictional city of Los Santos. Players can switch between each character to follow his storyline, completing missions which often include criminal activities (e.g., stealing cars, executing heists, assassinating targets). Players use pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles, and explosives to kill various enemies (e.g., rival gang members); players also have the ability to shoot non-adversary civilians, though this may negatively affect players' progress as a penalty system triggers a broad police search.
Blood-splatter effects occur frequently, and the game contains rare depictions of dismemberment. In one sequence, players are directed to use various instruments and means to extract information from a character; the sequence is intense and prolonged, and it involves some player interaction (i.e., responding to on-screen prompts). The game includes depictions of sexual material/activity: implied fellatio and masturbation; various sex acts that the player's character procures from a prostitute—while no nudity is depicted in these sequences, various sexual moaning sounds can be heard.
Nudity is present, however, primarily in two settings: a topless lap dance in a strip club and a location that includes male cult members with exposed genitalia in a non-sexual context. Within the game, TV programs and radio ads contain instances of mature humor: myriad sex jokes; depictions of raw sewage and feces on a worker's body; a brief instance of necrophilia (no nudity is depicted). Some sequences within the larger game allow players to use narcotics (e.g., smoking from a bong, lighting a marijuana joint); cocaine use is also depicted. Players' character can, at various times, consume alcohol and drive while under the influence. The words “f**k,” “c*nt,” and “n**ger” can be heard in the dialogue."

If we dissect this rating then we have the chance to focus on the important stuff, the aspects of the game that really give it the M/18 rating. Starting from the top, the very first paragraph claims that the game includes the generic, expected content from a game like this; by this we of course mean violence, theft and partaking in illegal activities (assassinations, heists and murder. If you're new to the world of Grand Theft Auto then this is the standard type of content for a game of this caliber, furthermore, as the rating relates to 'shoot non-adversary civilians' then expect this to be done commonly whether it be accidental or on purpose.

Moving on, the overview also refers to "blood splatter effects" occurring frequently. As shown in gameplay videos, Grand Theft Auto: V does not cut short in the violence department, and as a result, the player will bleed, leave bullet entrance-wounds on victims and blood will pop-up on the screen when the player is injured. 


Another graphic area stated by the overview is heavily-sexual material. For example, as quoted from above, 'The game includes depictions of sexual material/activity', this is evident in gameplay as videos of a sex-scene emerged, however, no sexual organs were shown. In addition, "masturbation" and "fellatio" are referred to in the overview, this means Grand Theft Auto: V will have "blowjobs" and "handjobs" - in other words, sexual simulation from the mouth or hands. The rating also refers to nudity as was the case in Grand Theft Auto: V's predecessor: GTA:IV.


Finally, the rating also relates to obscene language and drug-use, additionally, mature jokes are also mentioned which implies that the conversations in Grand Theft Auto: V will  be nothing less than aimed at entertaining adults. Be warned, if the previous Grand Theft Auto games are anything to go by then the game will  have sexual jokes, racial jokes and the like. 


In short, Grand Theft Auto: V will be a violence-fueled, obscenity rich, gore-infused crime-romp through a modern-day satirical vision of Los Angeles updated with elements poking fun at monotonous tasks we all partake in day-to-day.  If you're a parent considering to buy this for your child then I personally highly discourage such an act. As I've played every Grand Theft Auto game from the beginning I have witnessed the evolution of the series first-hand, and as the series has evolved, particular aspects of the games have really been enhanced, and with this, things seem more lifelike. Back in the early days of the Grand Theft Auto series the violence was acceptable for a child to experience, not because it was portrayed in a certain way, but because the poor graphics and inaccurate animations allowed for a comical perspective upon the games; however, if we move forward and land now then it appears that that is most definitely not the case. 

The incredible graphics, multiple approaches and explicit content are all brought to life by the HD sounds, HD graphics and spectacular effort by the team at Rockstar Games, these games have come so far that they're no longer acceptable for children. Rather than thinking it as a game, think of it as a film, an animated film. If your child is under 14 years of age then I, among many others, would highly discourage the purchase of this game for a minor for the reason stated previously: the technology allows for this game to seem very realistic, and if your child is raised on doing these acts in their spare time on such advanced technology then it's possible that some side effects may pop up somewhere down the line in their life.

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