We were all kids once. Kids do stupid things, and no matter what generation they are, they'll always try and pull a fast one over on their parents. A JB Hi-Fi review of GTA V uncovered today reminded me of the most embarrassing gaming story of my young life, and lo and behold, it also involved Grand Theft Auto. All of this has happened before...
The year? 1999. 12-year-old Luke Hopewell had a friend over to play video games on his prized PlayStation on a beautiful Saturday afternoon when the two boys should have been out riding bikes, fighting with sticks or something equally precocious.
Little did young Luke realise that this was about to become one of the most embarrassing Saturdays of his young life.
You see, I had quite a strict upbringing. I wasn't allowed to watch things that were beyond my age limit, ever. I didn't see an R-rated film until I was 18 (and as a result have a ton of gaps in my filmic knowledge); I didn't drink until I was of age, and I was under close supervision from my mother about what I watched and played. For example, my Mum made me take a copy of Donnie Darko back to the video shop when I was 16 because "it had a picture of a demon" on the cover.
That meant when I snuck a friend's copy of Grand Theft Auto: 1969 into the house, I was thrilled that I was getting around the Hopewell censorship regime right under the nose of my strict mother.
Grand Theft Auto: 1969 was pretty standard GTA schtick. Drive here, kill a bunch of folks, do illegal activities, get rewarded with money for it. One feature that blew my young mind about the early GTA game was how you could start kill challenges (I forget their actual name) that gave you unlimited ammunition for a certain weapon with the explicit instruction to kill as many people as you could in a certain time limit. As someone who loved Crash Bandicoot and Ridge Racer, I was blown away. I'd never played something so spectacularly violent before.
But you couldn't sneak anything past my Mum. We had spoken about GTA: 1969 before. I wanted to get it with my pocket money, but hadn't been allowed due to the graphic nature of the game. Smuggling a friend's copy of the game into my house had been a last resort, and one that would soon earn me a massive proverbial kick in the pants.
My Mum quietly called me upstairs to appear before the quorum of her and my father. I was charged with smuggling a banned game into the house, and the sentence was swift.
"You're going to have to tell your friend he's going home now, because you're grounded for a month," she calmly told me.
The 12-year-old before her tried to appeal his sentence, but Judge Mum wouldn't be swayed. She watched as young Luke trudged downstairs and experienced the humiliation of sending his friend home and telling him why he had to pack up and leave. The friend snagged his contraband disc from the console before scurrying home, hoping that Judge Mum hadn't phoned ahead to inform her of the crime. Thankfully for him, the storm was localised to the Hopewell house.
I spent the next month's weekends trapped at home, reflecting on my crimes in what was truly the most embarrassing moment of my young life up until that point.
The moral of the story? Kids are always trying to pull a fast one on their parents over what they can play. Despite the fact that I was hugely embarrassed that I had to ask my friend to leave because I had been grounded, it made damn sure I didn't play that game until I was of age for fear of invoking parental wrath. So this one's for the parents, really. Games have better labels these days about what is and isn't appropriate, which you should always read before buying a game for your kids. That, and the fact that Grand Theft Auto has been the source of contention between kids and their parents for years. I can certainly attest to that.
All of this has happened before, and all of it will happen again.