"It teaches them to kill prostitutes"

"My students play GTA V instead of studying. It teaches them to kill prostitutes and demean women in the game – and beyond" - Guardian.co.uk (Cassie Rodenberg)

I get why people who don't play these games are alarmed when they see what people can do in these games. But to suggest the game teaches you any of these things is something I'll never properly understand.

I played all the way through Grand Theft Auto V and I never interacted with any of the in-game prostitutes. I was never asked by the game to do so. So I was never taught to kill prostitutes nor demean women.

Grand Theft Auto is a sandbox game - players can do as they wish outside of story-based missions. I'd say what people choose to do in that sandbox is probably more a reflection on the individual than the game itself, but even then - I don't think that is a fair statement to make.

People probably do act-out this famous scenario (made famous by Fox News and other articles such as this one) of picking up a prostitute and killing her afterwards. But for most people I suspect this is more akin to gruesome shock comedy than any sort of real desire to do so. Egged on by journalists and broadcasters manufacturing controvesy in the press.

But this last part is just conjecture on my part, I don't want to distract from my main point. The idea that this sandbox game teaches players to kill prostitutes is about as valid as saying Grand Theft Auto teaches players to drive safely and help victims of street robbery get their possesions back (both of which you can do in GTA).

Writing a response to such articles is probably silly, they're the same old tired arguments where the writers or talking heads make it absolutely clear they have yet to actually sit down and play through the game themselves - which makes the edit note at the foot of this article so disappointingly unsurprising:

This article was amended on 27 December 2013 to clarify that killing prostitutes does not give a player additional points in the game, but having sex with them does.

Which is a pretty big thing to mistake when much of the premise of your article is the idea that the game /teaches/ people to kill prostitutes. Even the idea that the game rewards you for having sex with them is a bit of a stretch - there is a minor stat reward (health) but it's such a longwinded way to go about it that I can't see it as any more than a bit of "sick" comedy from the developers (have sex with a prostitute -> gain health! That's how it works, right?!).

The rest of the article is about a real story about a prostitute who was murdered, her life and the lives of other prostitutes as a result of that. I disagree with the obvious shoehorning of this into something about GTA - but it grabs attention.

I'm not here to give an opinion on whether such mechanics (being able to hire prostitutes) should be in the game or not. I'd just like some honesty from people who write such articles, it makes for a better discussion when we aren't arguing over details that otherwise aren't important. That is if we're trying to talk about the attitudes to women and the society which creates an environment such as the one the prostitutes in Cassie's example live in.