Take Two, the publisher of the Grand Theft Auto game series, is once again facing a lawsuit that alleges its software was complicit in murder.
The legal action was filed on behalf of the families of police force staff shot dead in Fayette, Alabama in 2003, allegedly by one Devin Moore.
Moore was apprehended on suspicion of driving a stolen car. He is claimed by state prosecutors to have snatched a policeman's gun and shot officers Arnold Strickland and James Crump, and a dispatcher, Leslie Mealer.
The lawsuit maintains that Moore's actions that day were inspired by the GTA series, games he is claimed to have played obsessively. The games amount to "training" for the alleged killings, the families' lawyer told local paper the Tuscaloosa News.
Moore is now 18 years old, but at the time of the shootings he was 16. As such, the lawsuit claims, he should not have been sold GTA III and GTA: Vice City, which carry an M rating - for 'mature audience only', ie. anyone 17 years old or more. On that basis, the plaintiffs requested that the book also be thrown at retailers Wal-Mart and Gamestop for allegedly allowing Moore to buy the games.
It also names Sony, as manufacturer of the PlayStation 2 console on which Moore is said to have played the games.
This isn't the first time GTA has got its publisher and retail partners in trouble. At least two lawsuits relating to the game are currently pending against Take Two and, separately, BestBuy.
The lawsuit was announced in the same week that the US Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA) publicly criticised the California legislature's attempt to ban the sale of violent games to children.
The proposed bill, dubbed "redundant... frivolous... irresponsible [and] unconstitutional" by the IEMA, seeks to amend existing state law concerning content harmful to children to include games which "depict serious injury to human beings in a manner that is especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel". If the bill becomes law, retailers caught selling such material to children could faces fines of up to $1,000.
The bill was proposed by California Assembly member Leland Yee who last year suggested a similar bill only to have it voted down.
The IEMA said that games are already sufficiently labelled, though the US ESRB ratings scheme, to show the ages for which they are suitable. It claimed that it is already working hard to ensure its members do not sell games to under-age customers. ®
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