Hello users of Common Sense Media,
My son Jonathan recently turned 13. He has asked me for this game many times since it's release in September of 2013. Knowing the Grand Theft Auto series to be notorious for explicit content, I denied it without further consideration.
My son continued on for awhile, but came around to asking me for the game again. I decided to look on Common Sense Media for parental and child reviews on the title. Still unconvinced that the game was suitable for my son, I denied his request.
Keep in mind that I had let my son play Assassin's Creed and Call of Duty in the past.
Some of my son's friends of the same age had gotten the game. Jonathan is mature for his age, more mature than most of his peers. However, because I trust the parents of his friends that they had made a logical decision in letting their children get the game, I decided to take a risk. I told Jonathan that if he made excellent grades for the nine week blocking period, than I would allow him to purchase the game with his own money.
He exceeded my expectations of "excellent grades" that month. As I had promised, I allowed Jonathan to buy Grand Theft Auto V.
My son is one of those boys who will play on his Xbox for hours straight unless we stop him. So we immediately put a limit on his play times. He could play for 30 minutes on weekdays, and 2.5 hours on weekends, once his chores are done. Also, if we ask him to do something while playing the game, he must pause and do the task immediately. If he fails to do the task the first time we ask, exceeds the daily maximum play time, or plays before he gets his chores done, than we can take the game away for as long as we want, usually a week or so.
After watching him okay the game for awhile, I made the following observations on the most controversial issues in the game.
Throughout the game, you will kill many people with a variety of melee weapons, firearms, and explosives. This can't quite be avoided. But the deaths are rather unrealistic, as the body's fly backwards as rag dolls and disappear after a few seconds. Most of the people killed are "bad guys". I make sure my son doesn't kill too many people, so that he will not be desensitized to violence. Also, blood splatters from killed characters, staining their clothes and the environment. This was an issue that concerned me, as the gore was necessary only to achieve maximum realism. I think violence is still an issue for me. For the parents reading, it would be wise to go onto the game's menu, and look at the game statistics. On that screen, it will show how many police officers, gangsters, and innocent bystanders killed. It is also advised that you have a serious discussion of the reasons that killing people is a bad thing to do, even in a simulation
Most of the language comes from the story's many cutscenes, which can be skipped with the simple press of a button. Other language can be heard while other players are in your vehicle during missions, or while driving around the fictional city of Los Santos. You can turn off the subtitles in the settings screen, and have your child play with the TV volume off.
Drugs and Alcohol
There are several opportunities to smoke marijuana during the story. The simple solution is to ignore those opportunities. They are not necessary to the completion of the game. Also, players can get drunk at bars, with simulating dizziness and a wonky camera as the player stumbles. He can also drive this way. As long as you trust your child to not do this, it should be okay. There is also a statistic stating the amount of beer consumed.
Another large issue. Besides many sex-related cutscenes (can be skipped), there are several strip clubs and many prostitutes throughout the city of Los Santos. The only solution to this is trust your child to ignore them and not visit the clubs. If this is not enough, there is another statistic showing the number of times a strip club has been visited, and how many times a prostitute has seduced the player. If you see your child has done this, you should punish accordingly.
I have no regrets in buying my son this game. He keeps up the good grades, and follows all of my terms. He is super happy and has tons of fun with the game. Even to my surprise, he shows more respect to me and my wife than he did.
You can read Jonathan's review in the kid section as well.