Common Sense Media Fearmongers GTA IV for Donations

GamePolitics received an e-mail ealier this week with an unusual subject line:

Keep Grant Theft Auto IV Away From Kids – Donate Now

The solicitation was from watchdog group Common Sense Media, which awarded itself some of the credit for the video game industry’s recent impressive gains in retail ratings enforcements:

When Common Sense Media was founded just five years ago, the latest data from the FTC suggested that kids could walk into a store and buy an M-rated game, like Grand Theft Auto, nearly 70% of the time. That figure was simply unacceptable.


Since then, we’ve worked closely with other advocates, parents, legislators, and retailers to end the sale of M-rated games to underage gamers. New data from the FTC shows that number has fallen to just 20%. We’re proud to see this vast improvement, and with your help, we can bring that number to zero.

CSM also accused GTA IV of the now-standard litany of offenses:

Games like Grand Theft Auto IV promote murder, sexual exploitation, and violence towards women. Exposure to this type of violence, which is common in most M-rated games, at a young age has been shown to make children anti-social, numb to violence, and more aggressive.

Of course, what CSM’s message is really about:

Donate today…

The picture at left, which suggests a pair of adolescents playing GTA IV, accompanied the e-mail.

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  1. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    Uhhh…okay, here I go…Just because a game has violence doesn’t mean it encourages or condones it in real life, the game doesn’t make you commit acts of violence against women, the game is M rated for a reason, you are fearmongers and should be ashamed of yourselves, blahblahblah…see you fear-pimpers next week.

    -GRIZZAM PRIME(c)is property of the U.S. Marine Corp. Wetworks Dept., and also The Incredible Hulk-GRIZZAM PRIME is not to be associated with GRIZZAM 512 or any other GRIZZAM entity under penalty of law, so sayith ZARATHOS.

  2. Necromancist says:


    Haven’t got a reply though. I don’t think I ever will get one, though If I do I will post it here.

  3. Necromancist says:

    Yees… in 2 years California, the day after that THE WORLD! RAAAHAHAHAH… *cough hack* I mean…

    Vote for Necromancist 2010!

  4. Sai ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Hey geniuses, GTA4 isn’t 2 player local.

    I really don’t see how donations will help or prevent anything, other than resulting in them profitting off their crusade. As usual they completely miss the problems here. Even if sale of M-rated games to minors was cut down to 0 that won’t stop parents from buying it for their under-aged kids. And some parents will never be convinced not to placate their sweet spoiled little angel’s every whim, nor is there any foundation urging them not to. Why don’t we start one?

    And again with the violence against women, all because you can shoot prostitutes, if you so choose, as they conveniently forget you can shoot everyone else as well. They are also completely oblivious to female gamers, many of which do indulge in the GTA series, myself included.

  5. Adamas Draconis says:

    I like it. Straight to the point, honest, logical. Want to move here and become a governor once you turn 18? (You would probably turn out better then Ahh-nuld)


    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  6. Smarty Pants says:

    Common sense is a endangered species, I tell you. They pretty much don’t know anything about the game and don’t really care. Btw, Necromancer’s letter ftw (for the win)

    Don’t they have anything better to do than just join a bandwagon and search for scapegoats.

    I mean, one of my friends plays GTA and he’s not 17. Yet, he’s not a psychopath. You wonder why, CSM?

    It’s because his parents raise him right and tell him the difference between right and wrong.

    Sheesh, whatever happened to parenting!? Those kids don’t look like they should even be playing GTA4.

    This article by CSM is a big example of selective morality.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I’m guessing it’s a stock photo. I doubt they found some kids and put them in front of an Xbox just for this one photo.

    That being said, they’re all numbnuts.

  8. Necromancist says:

    I just sent this email to CSM via their website… hopefully they’ll respond. (Warning, wall-o’-text ahead!)


    Recently you have sent emails to, among others, the news website GamePolitics. After reading if not all, then a good part of the email (I could only access what was displayed on GamePolitics, but I’m sure that will suffice for what I am about to say) I have some comments to make.

    First off, the image you used in your email ( in case you’ve forgotten). In this picture we see two adolescents, supposedly playing GTA IV. Anyone who has played and/or knows anything about the game can tell that they aren’t. First off, they use wired controllers for the original Xbox system, which cannot be connected to the Xbox 360, which is one of two consoles the game has been released for (the other is the PS3, whose controllers do not look anything like that, and the PC, which don’t use controllers at all).

    Another thing about the picture. We see not one, but two adolescents, supposedly playing GTA IV together. Then let me remind you that, if you had played and/or read anything aobut the game, you would notice that there is no offline multiplayer feature in GTA IV.

    Hence, those children are not playing GTA IV, the are certainly not playing it together, and you are not using material relevant to the matter at hand. I am not very familiar with the laws that govern things such as this in America, but common sense tells me that it is punishable.

    Another thing I’m concerned about is your lack of proof to back your statements. Allow me to quote.

    "When Common Sense Media was founded just five years ago, the latest data from the FTC suggested that kids could walk into a store and buy an M-rated game, like Grand Theft Auto, nearly 70% of the time. That figure was simply unacceptable.

    Since then, we’ve worked closely with other advocates, parents, legislators, and retailers to end the sale of M-rated games to underage gamers. New data from the FTC shows that number has fallen to just 20%. We’re proud to see this vast improvement, and with your help, we can bring that number to zero."

    You’ve got the numbers right, I’ll give you that. However, you claim working with a number of people and organizations to bring this number down.  While I’m not saying you haven’t (you probably have worked pretty hard), I would like to see some cold, hard evidence here. Also, it seems to me as if you’re taking credit for the entire improvement, since you are not citing any other efforts made by retailers, parents, store clerks and a number of other people.

    "Games like Grand Theft Auto IV promote murder, sexual exploitation, and violence towards women."

    The point I’m about to make can not be stressed enough. The game never tells you that you "will", "should" or "must" take violent actions against women. In fact, you are not encouraged in any way to be more violent towards women as you CHOOSE to be against everyone else. And the "sexual exploitation" line, which I’m sure is supposed to be read as "rape", is completely wrong. There is no way to rape women in GTA IV and there hasn’t been a way in earlier games either.

    "Exposure to this type of violence, which is common in most M-rated games, at a young age has been shown to make children anti-social, numb to violence, and more aggressive."

    You’re not citing video game violence in particular here, but I know you’re pointing at it, referring to the rest of the email. There has been several studies on this subject that has confirmed what you say, and just as many (if not even more) that contradicts it. These can be found after 5 minutes of searching on any major search engine, therefore I’m shocked that you didn’t cite any studies to confirm your claims here. Though you got the part about M-rated games right here; they wouldn’t be rated M if they didn’t contain this kind of violence.

    Back to the topic. By making these wild claims without facts to back them up, it seems to me that you are only calling for attention from overconcerned (and possibly lazy/irresponsible) parents. Anyone who knew what you were talking about here could dismiss the email completely; most of today’s parents don’t have the will to look up facts and evidence, and hence they take what you feed them. To cut this short, you should be ashamed for exploiting such a blatant weakness.

    As a last note, I wish to tell you that I am 16 years old, and from Sweden. Yes, I am but 16 years of age and I know all this. Why? Because I make it a point to back my statements with fact as to protect them from counterarguments like these. As a media student, the disregard for facts in your email is even more shocking and appalling to me than it normally would be.

    The following is not to be considered a threat of any kind, but if you do not answer this email I will regard the entirety of information contained in the email as lies and work to bring this to attention elsewhere.

  9. Freyar says:

    Ah, it’s pure bull. I laughed when I saw a kid "playing" on a 360 in a magazine advert, only to find it the console standing vertically,and upside down. I have to say, that was the best screw-up ever though.


    As far as this group goes, I wonder if there’s a contact back address to (politely) explain to them why they are stupid.

    —- There is a limit for both politicians against video games, and video games against politicians.

  10. Father Time says:

    I don’t think spamming and whatnot will do much good, better to have intelligent discussions.

  11. TBoneTony ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Well when you really play the game, Grand Theft Auto IV

    1. You are a Russian Imagrint who is trying to live a better life,

    2. You are helping a Mayor who is trying to make Liberty City a better place.

    3. You can shoot at people and even at cops, only to have more cops come after you and eventually you are shot down.

    4. The women that you ‘pick up’ are not really strangers but they meet the main character in the story and he has to date them before anything sexual happens

    And considering all this, these Family Groups think they can just spurt out lies and fear propoganda like this and think they are doing a good thing???

    Sorry but Common Sence Media never ever makes any sence at all.

  12. Cortex says:


    They lie about statistics AND openly ask for money

    Could those Anti-media groups have gone any lower?


  13. Shufflefield says:

    I like how they always try to find the brattiest looking kids they can for these kinds of photo ops. Where do you think they found those 2 losers? To save money I can only guess that they came from the depths of the CSM employee gene pool.

  14. Adamas Draconis says:

    And this is why the last people that called me about a similar "donation drive" wound up listening to me tell them exactly what I thought of people who have no better things to do with their lives then to try and convince me to give them MY money to fund THEIR stupidity.

    They never called or came by my door again.



    Hunting the shadows of the troubled dreams.

  15. gs2005 says:

    Desperate times calls for desperate measures.  They are obviously not seeing what they want, so they may as well make something up to try to get more support for their witchhunt.

  16. Chaplain99 says:

    I like how the kids are using X-Box controllers to play an X-Box 360 game.  Oh, uninformed and misguided authority figures, you make me smile…

  17. Loudspeaker says:

    Solicitation translation:

    Our free lawyer is about to be disbarred.  Please send money so we can hire a new one.

    "Volume helps to get a point across but sharp teeth are better."

  18. Void Munashii says:

      I love how everybody takes credit for the fact that stores are being more careful about selling adult-oriented games to kids, espeically the groups/people who have been trying to get the games banned outright, not just keep them from kids.

      Remember, it takes money to spread lies and misinformation to scare those uneducated on a subject. This bull manure does NOT spread itself.


  19. Kris O. says:

    My personal belief is that if someone takes credit for something that’s gone well, then they should also take blame for when it goes wrong. There are a several politicians who are claiming that stores are still selling GTA4 to toddlers and fetuses. If this is the case, then this group should stand up and take some tomatoes to the face.

    On a side note, I’ll donate to keep the group away from children.

  20. Twin-Skies ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    The tragedy about Common Sense (the word, not the group) is that it’s actually quite rare these days.

  21. qAaRoN ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If the game makes children "anti-social", then why does the picture show some kid playing the game with a friend of his?

  22. Aliasalpha says:

    To be fair, the game has obviously had a massive effect on those kids. Firstly they’re so stupid that they’re trying to play it on the wrong machine, the left kid has clearly suffering extreme constipation & the right one is so hungry he’s trying to eat the controller.

    Are there any fairness in advertising laws in america? Surely the fact that the kids are using the wrong controllers makes this at least borderline deception. The fact they then take credit for the improvement of rating enforcement makes it a pile of bullshit lovingly moulded into the shape of a bull taking a giant shit. If anything the game is an example of misandry, you HAVE to kill hundreds of men, I don’t THINK you’re required to kill a single woman in the entire game (correct me if I’m wrong).

    You have to really work to make GTA4 mysoginystic, a mate & I have a game we like to play called "Keel De Wimmin!" where we try to see how many women we can run over before we accidently kill someone that counts (IE: A man). Also you CAN’T kill Michelle & I suspect you can’t kill Kate either, thankfully you CAN kill that nurse chick you can date, DAMN she’s annoying, the vacuous blogger bimbo has more personality…

  23. Tye The Czar says:

    HEY ALL!

    It’s not effective really ranting here. You all need to go to their webpage and spam their inbox or comments.

  24. Anonymous says:

    Parenting and becoming a parent is becoming more and more impossible to do effectively now-a-days.  Effectively, I mean that they are able to fully enjoy their own individual lifes as an adult as well as look after their own children as a parent.

    This is due inpart to how high-tech society has become.  Because we are in an age of cellphones, e-mails, computers and what not, work requires you to get everything done at near break-neck speed.  This usually means your job requires you to get things done ASAP or risk being fired or whatever.  Add in the fact that they need to provide clothes, food and miscellanious stuff for your child.. ontop of your rent, car payment, computer payment, house payment, taxes, insurance, etc etc.. for themselves, parents (whether single or a couple) are basically required to live at their jobs so that they are able to afford a standard level of living. 

    Now, because they are sacrificing so much time at work, and being like you and me, they require some downtime after work so they don’t go insane and climb the clocktower.. Unfortunately, this usually means they end up neglecting their children and not giving them the proper education and upbringing they need. 

    Now, to the point I am (hopefully) trying to make.  Should we really place all the blame on parents for being poor parents?  Or should we blame them for being poor parents on the way society has become?  The former is much easier to do because we can reason that they should have known about this before they had the child, while the latter is harder to do because we would have to pinpoint an exact reason to blame it on, which in itself is hard to do.

    How does this relate to games?  Simple, parents buy games for their children so they are distracted with something to do which would leave the parents with time alone for themselves. 

  25. MonkeyFace says:

    Wow…why didn’t I think of this sooner!
    Create a bogus email full of lies with a "Donate Now" link that feeds their donations into my bank account.

    Then! for everyone who donates you send fake weekly progression emails and the occasional we need your help email simply asking for more dough.

    Seriously though I wouldn’t be supprised if this was a scam not in the slightest.

  26. IllegallyMindedJohn says:

    Yup.. those are originals (you can see the memcard slots). 

    Maybe they obtained a copy of GTA4 for the original, this special last gen console build came w/ a splitscreen feature.

  27. Video Game Otaku says:

    Yep, the good OLD wired controllers from the first gen XBOX…nice way to stay up to day, and dont you love that expression on the kids face? What really is going through his mind is:

    "I cant belive I have to play this ancient piece of crap system…wait…is this GTA 3~? what loosers! Where’s my ten bucks you promised!?"

  28. TheEdge says:

    "I guess men don’t count as important family members anymore."

    You might be surprised how very,very right you really are good sir/mam.

    As I’ve done research on,men and boys are falling behind on every demographic group.

    Girls are succeding on all fronts,and they excel and move on to college,where three out of five students are female,while boys,who don’t really do well behind a desk 6-8 hours a day,usually get diagnosed for all sorts of "diseases"that hardly even existed a generation ago,and they get put an harmful psycho-drugs like Ritalin.Boys are twice as likely to drop out of high school as girls,50 percent more likely to have a learning disabillity,and the suicide rate among boys is far higher than that of girls.

    Did you know that in only 10 percent of all divorces,the men get custody of the kids,the women get custody all the rest of the time?While these carpet-licking meatheads are saying games are causing violence against people,teaching sexual immorality,and all sorts of stupid shit,it’s really the fact that these kids don’t have dads that’s causing it.

    Have you ever noticed that in popular culture,in TV shows and commercials and other things in culture,that men are painted as bumbling egomaniac buffoons?Only the women and gay men are smart,while the straight men are always in some sorta rut of some kind.

    You see,men are beeing painted as stupid ass idiots,while the other demographics get everything.

    On TV shows,you see a women who survived domestic abuse,or some other thing like that,and they get a new house and a new life,where you have a Veteran man,who,let’s say for hypothetical purposes,lost his legs in Vietnam.He gets no pity,no help of any kind,and has to live the rest of his life on the street begging for change despite the fact he gave upi his legs so we could keep our own goshdamn freedom(not that I’m saying all Vietnam Vets.are homeless people)!If your a lady and you survive some tragedy,you ge ta TV special hosted by Oprah,if you’re a dude,you get shit.

    Now I’m also not saying dudes get no help pf any kind,but usually it goes to the women,because they’re "fragile,helpless,and defenseless".

    I’m not trying to offend any women or gay people who might read this,but I’m just pointing out that this how thing are right now,not very good time to be a boy.

  29. nightwng2000 says:

    Women and Children first.

    Of course, if you’re a boy, once you turn 18 (21?) you’re free to die now.

    And it’s hard to raise my son with the idea of "don’t hit anyone and no one has the right to hit you" when the rest of society is telling him "boys don’t hit girls".  Of course, that tends to contridict his value with his status as "child" in the women and children first ideal.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  30. Father Time says:

    What’s even worse is that if i remember correctly, women are the majority but they act like they’re the trampled abused minority.

    As a general rule of thumb I refuse to take any feminist group seriously unless they also advocate for putting women on the draft and/or getting rid of the idiotic double standard ‘don’t hit girls’ and/or making the justice system no longer favor women in divorce cases.

    If they fail to meet those criteria (or something similar) then I will openly mock them for it.

    Oh and encourages violence against women? Funny I haven’t encountered one mission where you are required to kill girls in all of San Andreas or in Grand Theft Auto IV (although I’m nowhere near finished on the storyline).

    Although even if they had a ton of missions where you kill chicks it would only encourage violence against women if you were killing them BECAUSE they were women or because they refused to obey men (barring mob bosses who want everyone who disobeys them wiped out).

  31. Jack Wessels says:

    Selective Morality is actually all the rage now. I think it started in Asia or Europe a few thousand years ago. But we as Americans have taken it and refined it into something truly spectacular.

    But seriously. They sound like those televangelists:

    "Now my gentle viewers, I ask you, what is God’s worth? We need contributions from people like you so we can spread our word to our brothers and sisters. If you’ve got ten dollars, send us ten dollars. If you’ve got a hundred dollars, send a hundred dollars. And, if you’ve got a thousand dollars, then by God, send us a thousand dollars."

    Just replace the first God with "the very future of our society."


  32. Aragorn ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I know! What is it about the "morally superior" who feel that they’re exempt from having to display any morality themselves?

  33. Waffles says:

    Doncha just LOVE how deception plays a part in such "morally superior" organizations?

    "violence against women"?

    Dude, I’m putting with some similar crap now at my current job. Everytime we ring up a customer, we have to ask if they want to donate to the "Family Violence Prevention Fund" to "help stop violence against women and children".

    I guess men don’t count as important family members anymore :/

  34. nightwng2000 says:

    Doncha just LOVE how deception plays a part in such "morally superior" organizations?

    "violence against women"?

    Reality check:  NPCs of ALL types (race, gender, sexuality, religion, etc, etc) can all be victims of violence in the GTA series.

    Oh, wait, I forgot.  A guy killing a guy?  That’s ok.  No big deal.  Guys are expendable.  Uh huh, right.

    This coming from an organization who didn’t condemn FOX News for lying to and deceiving Parents and others regarding Mass Effect.  Selective Morality I guess.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  35. Jabrwock says:

    It feels like that bit from "Interesting Times", where Cohen the Barbarian, faced with the 6 great armies, nicks a natural event as his own and claims the gods are on his side.

    Anyone see CSM members in stores, helping to enforce ratings? See them doing much more than the occasional press release, touting their partnership with… was it Best Buy Online? And yet now they’ve been toned down to a "family friendly review site", rather than a *real* ratings source.

    — If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap…

  36. nightwng2000 says:

    I seriously thought about writing a Press Release for my group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" and putting all those "we take credit" groups to shame.

    But I decided against it.

    I do need to update my groups pages though.  Several stories very much apply to the group.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  37. Chandalen says:

    I feel like anyone who takes credit for the decrease in sales of M rated games to minors and doesn’t at least mention the outstanding job done not only retailers, but gamers themselves, is just in it for the money.


  38. KayleL says:

    In a way, I think that the more ID check thing is partly becuase of them. What really help is the huge collective attack against the gaming industry. It’s not just because of one party, but many parties that made the pressure for high standards. If it was just one politician, or one anti-video game activist, then we would of seen no difference in how often people are IDed.

    I just wish that these people would start attacking the movie industry because the rate of ID check is far worse, but no, video games are much more anti-moral.

    For something that is Common Sense Media, they sure lack common sense.

  39. PHOENIXZERO says:

    One more for the circle jerk that is people/groups taking credit for the ESRB’s success… It’s starting to get messy.

  40. DeusPayne ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    CSM, when straight up religeous zealotry won’t get you what you want.

Comments are closed.