I can’t even go on Facebook or Instagram anymore without seeing someone posting videos of them playing GTA. It seems like all of my peers are obsessed with it.
Here are a few things I have heard from my peers about their game obsession:
-- A lot of my friends pre-ordered the game months before its release. Some bought the game, but don’t even own a PlayStation or Xbox yet.
-- I have a friend who told me he downloaded the game late one night, and woke up at 4 o’clock in the morning just to play it before school so he could talk about it with all his friends. Talk about obsessed.
-- Another friend of mine told me that ever since it came out, no one plays outside on his block anymore. He informed me that instead, everyone is at home, online, playing together.
Lots of people worry about whether there's a relationship between crime and GTA, like this recent story of an 8-year-old who shot his grandmother in the back of the head, minutes after playing Grand Theft Auto IV in August.
But I wonder if the opposite might be true -- that this game influences young people to think, “Why go out and commit crimes with your friends when you can just stay in your own room and do it on the game?” After all, you can play the game from your bedroom in your PJs, while interacting with your friends’ characters on your TV screen. Meanwhile, your friends are still in their own bedrooms. You can connect online with up to 16 of your friends from various locations.
But when I think about it, there are negative effects of that too. I see more of my peers losing interest in their outside life, such as their schoolwork and extracurricular activities. I have friends that will stay home from school because of their determination to beat levels in the game. Friends of mine even love getting suspended from school, because they get to stay home for a few days and play.
In my opinion, it’s not the game itself that is bad. But if the obsession takes over your life, then it becomes a problem. Then the game starts to own you, even though you own it.
What do you think about GTA’s influence on young people? Tell us @youthradio on Twitter.