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Grand Theft Auto IV causes controversy

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Lawton_A controversial video game will be released at midnight, Tuesday, and around the country, lines have already started forming. Grand Theft Auto IV encourages the player to rob people, steal their cars, and run from the police. In the game you can also beat people up, hire prostitutes, and even drink and drive, so some people worry the game may be encouraging real street violence - but gamers say it's just that, a game.

A licensed psychologist confirmed that media violence can lessen the way your body physically reacts to real violence. But Lawton's police chief, who deals with this stuff everyday, says in the end it's just a game, and everyone is responsible for their own actions. "Most of the young people who play these games know they're only games, they're smart enough to know they're only games," Chief Ronnie Smith said. "It's that small percentage that don't realize, or that start thinking the wrong way, and end up getting themselves in trouble by thinking, 'you know, this is cool, I can do this in real life.'"

Though it's usually only that small percentage that is prone to violence, studies show that repeated exposure to virtual violence actually desensitizes you to the real thing. "A number of the people who have committed aggressive acts have played the video games," said Dr. John Batka, Ph.D., a Cameron University Associate Professor. "It's not the same thing as saying the video game causes the aggression, but it does create the apparent connection that the video games could cause this."

Chief Smith says if the player can just remember that it's only a game, he believes that violence won't spill out onto our streets. "In real life it's a totally different ball game," he said. "This is all fun and games when you're playing these games, but turn them off and forget about it, and know that that's not real life. Because in real life you don't get up and walk away."

If you're worried about the amount of violent media exposure your child gets, Dr. Batka suggests limiting the amount of time your child plays the game. He also says kids should balance it out by participating in other activities as well.

Grand Theft Auto IV is only available on XBOX and Playstation3 game systems. Estimates show the game may rake in more than $400 million dollars in sales.

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