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My hand hurts.

By Scott Tibbs, July 29, 2005

While walking under a brick ceiling the other day, I jumped up and punched it as hard as I could, hoping that the bricks would shatter to reveal a huge gold coin. I wound up breaking my hand instead. I think I am going to sue Nintendo for making me think that is possible through all the times I have played Super Mario Brothers. I deserve compensation for my medical bills, pain and suffering, as well as punitive damages.

The above story is fiction, but I hope it illustrates the absurdity of a cop-killer who is arguing that he was influenced to murder police officers by playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. (GTA: SA is the fifth game in the GTA series, after the wildly popular Grand Theft Auto III spun off Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and San Andreas.)

I have not played any of the GTA series, but this is how I understand it works. As you commit crimes in the course of the missions you are asked to complete, you become higher on the "most wanted" list. If you choose to commit especially heinous crimes (like killing police officers) your level goes up and the game becomes more difficult. In short, you are punished for taking things too far because you become a high priority target for arrest or death. Those who are saying that players are rewarded for killing cops are either lying or uninformed.

This, of course, is not new. A decade ago, video game critics claimed that the goal of the Sega CD game Night Trap was to kill the young women in an old house. This was not true. The player's goal was to save the women. If the women died, the player either intentionally failed or was not good enough to stop the monsters. Critics of Night Trap were either uninformed or lying.

But there is more to the controversy surrounding GTA: SA. An 85-year-old woman named Florence Cohen is suing the makers of GTA: SA because of recent revelations that players can access more graphic sexual content through an Internet download. She bought the game for her 14-year-old grandson.

There are two problems with Cohen's complaint. First, GTA: SA is rated "M", meaning that no one under 17 should be playing the game. "M" is the equivalent of an "R" rating for a movie. (Not that an "R" rating means anything anyway; I observed pre-teens walking out after a showing of the horror flick Freddy vs. Jason.) Second, GTA: SA already had warnings for the sexual content of the game, before the most recent controversy erupted.

Cohen' lawsuit should be dismissed by the judge and her attorney should be disbarred for abusing the legal system.