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KidScore Rating System
KidScore Video Game Ratings
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

The Basics:
Platform: Xbox
Developer: Rockstar North
Price: $49.99 (November 2004)
ESRB rating: M

Summary: Raunchy, violent and portraying just about every deviant act that a criminal could think of in full, living 3D graphics- Grand Theft Auto takes the cake again as one of the year's worst games for kids. The premise - restore respect to your neighborhood gang as you take on the equally corrupt San Andreas police.

Note: There are no redeeming qualities in this game for kids. From glorifying drive-by shootings, to delivering prostitutes to their johns, this game teaches just about everything you wouldn't even want your kids to see.
Further Breakdown:

Overall rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Best for ages: 18+
Playability: Difficult
Graphics: Excellent
Entertainment value: High levels of exploration and variety
Educational value: None
Reading Level: 5+
KidScore Rating

Ages 3-7: Red
Ages 8-12: Red
Ages 13-17: Red
Violence Amount: Red
Fear: Red
Illegal/harmful: Red
Language: Red
Nudity: Yellow
Sex: Red

I can imagine the research for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

THE SCENE: Your City's state penitentiary. Prison cell 131X.

DEVELOPERS: So, Criminal X, we're looking for descriptions of subversive acts to include in our new video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas-we have some good ideas, but we need a few graphic details to flesh it out. Can you describe some of the activities you were involved in . . .

CRIMINAL X: I don't know why you are talking to me. I don't want to be here. I hate it here . . .

DEVELOPERS: No, no. [Laughter ensues]. You don't understand. See in our game, no one gets caught - they don't get put in prison. At the worst they might get "wasted", which means they have to start the mission over. We just need some detailed descriptions of how the blood splattered on the pavement when you shot those pedestrians . . . we're so close to getting the modeling just right, but we want to make sure. We're going for serious realism here.

CRIMINAL X: [Incredulously]. You want to put this in a "game"?! For kids?

DEVELOPERS: Well, not for kids specifically-I guess a few may play it, but that's for the parents to decide. We don't care about that . . . now about the time you stole the car to pick up some prostitutes.

CRIMINAL X: This is insane.

DEVELOPERS: Look, just help us out here. We heard you were involved in a gang. What is the "honor" system like? How many people did you have to kill before you gained respect from your cohorts?

CRIMINAL X: [Miserably]. There is no "honor" in a gang. A lot of times we were high . . . lots of drugs, fear, intimidation . . .death . . .

DEVELOPERS: [With building excitement]. That's it! See, in our game we are going to have the "good guy" exterminate drug dealers, you know, some of the "good" missions. He and his buddy will go into a house and beat some crack dealers with a baseball bat until they are dead. That way the players can feel like they are doing something good-help clean up the neighborhood, and get their local gang together again . . .

Criminal X: "What kind of a gang . . .?

DEVELOPERS: Well, certainly not some kids getting together to play a pick-up game of baseball. [Laughter again]. No, this is the real deal, of course. These guys will be involved in stealing weapons from the local national guard, drive-by shootings, working a prostitution ring, spray painting "tags" over rival gang members territory, killing rival gang members, police and pedestrians, robbing houses-the usual stuff. And, don't tell anyone, but they might smoke a little of "the weed" themselves-you know, crack is bad, but who cares about a little pot, right?! [With a knowing smile and wink]. But the end motive is really good-see, there is a corrupt cop that actually set the lead character up . . .

CRIMINAL X: But, he has to kill a lot of people, et cetera, to get there, right?

DEVELOPERS: [Rapidly]. Yes, yes. But, think of all the freedom: a wide open city to do whatever you wish! You can do "good" things with the "bad"-like driving ambulances and doing vigilante police work with a squad car. Of course you steal those vehicles do this . . .

CRIMINAL X: [Mournfully looking at the bars]. Freedom . . . I wish I had some of that.

DEVELOPERS: Look man, it's just a game-this is supposed to be funny, like tongue-in-cheek stuff. . . [Disgusted sigh]. Okay, this is pointless. We're wasting our time here-this guy doesn't get it. Back to the office-we can think up better stuff on our own.

Curtains close.

Jeremy GieskeJeremy Gieske has been an avid game player since the days of the Apple II+ and Karateka. Recently, however, his interests have developed beyond simply playing the games, but also trying to understand the historical, social and cultural impacts of video games. He recently acquired his Masters degree with distinction from the University of Salford in Manchester, England, where he conducted research on videogames. Jeremy has a background in design and marketing, and has worked with several Internet and publishing companies. Recently, he has written articles for DIGA-the Digital Game Archive and has worked with the Computerspiele museum in Berlin, Germany.
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