The 14 Most Scandalous Legal Battles in Gaming History

GTA leads to real life crime?

Strickland vs Sony (2005)

In 2003, Devin Moore killed two police officers – Arnold Strickland and James Crump -- and a dispatcher named Leslie Mealer with one of their guns whilst in the Fayette, Alabama police station. He then stole one of the station’s police cars to escape.

Several hours later, he was stopped by police in Mississippi. According to the Gadsden Times, when he was captured, he said: “"Life is a video game. Everybody's got to die sometime."

It was these comments that led attorney Jack Thompson to file a lawsuit on behalf of the families of two of the three victims. In a 60 Minutes special on the case, Jack Thompson said he believed that Sony’s hit Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, which was developed by Edinburgh-based Rockstar Games, was to blame for this sort of violence -- as Moore had tried to re-enact the game in real life. Segments of the game were shown on the 60 Minutes program, as well as an interview with Moore himself. Moore was found guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection.

Thompson withdrew from the case on November 7, 2005. The Alabama Court threw out the lawsuit on the basis that it interfered with Sony’s First Amendment right of freedom of speech.

As we noted from the creation of the ESRB, violence is a common problem in video games. It subsequently became known that Moore had battled family problems -- and these could in part have led him to his decision to kill the police officers. Striking a balance between freedom of speech and inciting violence through media is an important issue not just for the video game industry, but also media as a whole.

Published Jul. 6th 2017

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