Play the game, pay the price - Shannon Jenkins

Don't blame the game makers. It's not their fault.

News reports revealed that U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman want some answers about pornographic content that can be "unlocked" in the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."

The senators reportedly demanded the government or the game's maker, Rockstar Games Inc., do something about it. Rockstar spokespeople have claimed the gaming hackers are to blame for the unauthorized modification, and the politicians want the game maker to turn over the game to independent analysts so they can decipher how the content was added.

I say the lawmakers are picking on the wrong people. Now, I'll admit I'm biased. I'm an avid fan of anything Rockstar makes, especially the "Grand Theft Auto" series. So you can understand my frustration when it's been published that Clinton has asked the Federal Trade Commission to launch a probe of my favorite game.

Now I applaud Clinton for her desire to protect children, but I just can't support her efforts to introduce legislation to keep games like "Grand Theft Auto" from these children. Before you call or leave nasty e-mails twisting my words as some readers have done in the past, please allow me to elaborate.

Clinton apparently wants to financially penalize any retailers who ignore or fail to enforce the ratings system rules already in place for games, which video manufacturers do on a voluntary basis. Since most Rockstar games carry "mature" labels, retailers aren't supposed to sale them to minors anyway, and these games were never intended for youngsters in the first place. What's a $5,000 penalty going to do?

According to news reports, Clinton said, "The disturbing material in 'Grand Theft Auto' and other games like it is stealing the innocence of our children, and it's making the difficult job of being a parent even harder."

Just how many kids has Clinton met recently? I encounter kids every day, and sweetie, they not all that innocent. I've heard language I didn't even use until I was 21 from kids half my age. Kids are having sex at age 11 and younger these days.

Video games aren't to blame. Movies didn't do it. Even the parents aren't really guilty. It's everyday life that's the culprit.

Kids can't swing a stick these days without seeing violence and anything else that kills their innocence. Are we going to financially penalize terrorists? They did a heck of a job stealing our youth's innocence with 9/11.

We can't slip blinders on these kids in this day and age. We can't stick labels on everything and hope it does the trick.

Clinton reportedly suggested that the FTC determine if the mature rating should be replaced with an adult only rating. Oh, that will solve the problem. Adult warnings have sure kept the kiddies from sneaking peeks at pornography in magazines and movies.

If we slap "adult only" on a package of chicken gizzards, kids will want to eat it. Hasn't anyone figured that out yet?

Kids want booze, they find a way to get it. Kids want a pack of smokes, they find a way to get it. Yet society penalizes retailers.

These "innocent" children don't care that these people pay the consequences. They enjoyed smoking that cigarette behind the shed and gulping down that alcohol.

What lesson did they learn when the retailer was penalized for selling that junk to some 21-year-old the kids paid to buy it for them? Come on.

How about we slap a fine on the youngsters who wanted to smoke and drink? How about them pay $5,000 for playing "Grand Theft Auto"? Isn't it time we started teaching kids that there are consequences for their actions - that their the ones who have to pay? I'd bet they'd learn their lesson then.

Shannon Jenkins is the education reporter for The Daily Herald. He can be reached at sjenkins@henryherald.com or (770) 957-9161.