"The devil made me do it" used to be the ready-made excuse you could trot out when you got caught being naughty. Society's views on personal responsibility have changed quite a bit since the devil was listed on everybody's rap sheet as an accomplice. The modern version is playing "Grand Theft Auto made me do it."Last month, the trio – all aged between 15 and 16, and as such may not be named – allegedly firebombed three cars in North Fulton County, Georgia with homemade petrol bombs. Each weapon was made from a bottle filled with a lighter fluid, with a rag stuffed into the spout as a fuse.
According to a report by local news service WSBTV, the trio were arrested by local police. When they were question, it's claimed, the kids said they’d learned "how to do it" from GTA.
The gang was subsequently charged with a total of 57 felonies, including arson and criminal damages.
GTA is not exactly wholesome entertainment, but the game's enthusiasts will be quick to point out that the game shouldn't be banned simply because a few people act out things that are best left to the fantasy world where they came from. But the shifting nature of personal responsibility has been accompanied by another change -- that you must be protected from things before they happen, not that criminals need to be held accountable for their actions after the fact. So the kids that firebombed their neighbors on a lark instinctively know to deflect a little blame from themselves by saying the GTA devil made them do it. The real problem might be that someone is prepared to listen to them. In 1950, "I snapped, and killed them," was a confession. In 2008, it's a defense strategy. Perhaps if you want to play the big kid games, you should be prepared for the big kid prison when you act it out.