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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 May, 2004, 10:48 GMT 11:48 UK
Grand Theft Auto comes under fire
GTA: Vice City
Vice City is modelled on a 1980s Miami
One of Scotland's biggest hi-tech success stories is facing increasing pressure from campaigners against violent video games.

US lawyers are bringing actions against Edinburgh-based Rockstar North, the producers of Grand Theft Auto (GTA).

It follows claims by teenage boys in Tennessee that they were acting out the game when they shot at vehicles.

But games industry representatives say there is no established link between games and violent behaviour.

Last summer, a man was killed and a woman wounded after being shot in their cars near the Tennessee town of Newport.

William Buckner, 16, and his step-brother Joshua, 13, had taken two rifles from their home, hid in trees and started firing at passing vehicles on a busy highway.

We are suing the boys, their parents, WalMart who sold the game and the video games companies including Rockstar
Jack Thomson
The pair pleaded guilty at a juvenile court to reckless homicide.

They were sent to a detention centre, but in their defence they told investigators that they got the idea to shoot cars from GTA3.

Their parents also blamed the industry and are calling for the GTA series to be taken off the shelves.

Miami attorney Jack Thomson has tried to build a link between violent games and several killings carried out by teenagers.

Mr Thomson is representing the victims killed and wounded in the Tennessee shootings and is suing for 60m.

He told the BBC's Frontline Scotland programme: "We are suing the boys, their parents, WalMart who sold the game and the video games companies including Rockstar that are responsible for designing a game that they knew would result in these type of consequences."

'No scientific link'

No-one from Rockstar would comment on the action against them but the Washington-based Entertainment Software Association dismissed any possible link.

President Doug Lowenstein said: "The notion that they don't know right from wrong, that they don't know that picking up a weapon and shooting people is morally wrong and that somehow 'a video game made me do it' is just ridiculous."

He added: "I think it's a fair point of concern, but I don't think the science even remotely supports the proposition that playing a violent game turns you into a violent person."

Vice City
The games are sold with an 18 certificate
The GTA series has been one of the world's most popular games, selling more than 30 million copies since its launch in 1997.

Speaking last year, Sam Houser, the president of Rockstar Games, said how people behaved in the game was their own choice.

Mr Houser said: "We try to put people in a world, let the world exist around them, and then let them make their own decisions.

"So if you want to go out there and use a gun and do bad things you can, but, at the same time, if you want to go round there, just cruise and get in a car, get on a motorbike or just meet people you can."

Another Miami lawyer, Barry Silver, represents several Haitian community groups upset over a mission in the GTA Vice City game where players have to hunt down a Haitian gang.

Multi-million pound industry

Mr Silver said: "When you find out what your kids are being exposed to you will shudder in horror.

"It's a training film for mass murderers and it has no place in anybody's home who cares anything about their kids."

Rockstar has agreed to remove the reference to Haitians, but Mr Silver wants existing copies withdrawn.

The case is waiting to be dealt with by the circuit court in Palm Beach County.

Any successful legal action could have a serious impact on the games industry in Scotland which employs about 500 people and has a multi-million pound turnover.

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16 Nov 02  |  Scotland


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