Since the popularity of home video game consoles grew in the 1980s, these machines have taken the brunt of staunch attacks. Their critics have accused video games of desensitizing children to violence through overexposure and their endorsement of misogyny and harmful portrayals of women.
The “Grand Theft Auto” franchise has been accused of all of these things. Given the infamous status of the GTA games, I was surprised to discover that Ned Luke, the voice actor for GTA V’s Michael De Santa, joined forces with States United to Prevent Gun Violence to inform people about the dangers of guns.
Luke and the organization opened a fake gun shop in New York City aimed at first-time gun buyers. When customers walked in, he would tell them horrific stories associated with each of the guns, including accidental toddler shootings and school massacres.
In response, some people took to Twitter to voice their outrage at Luke’s “hypocrisy,” citing the violent nature of the GTA games. As a gamer, though, I believe that video game actors should use their influence to spark social change.
The fact that Luke stars in such a violent video game makes his work all the more important. We shouldn’t condemn video games for violence as long as consumers are able to separate fantasy from reality, and Luke’s advocacy provides appropriate steps to bridge this gap.
While I empathize with the gamers who fear that “political correctness” will ruin the gaming industry, Luke’s work allows us both to enjoy GTA and to understand the harsh realities of gun violence.