Grand Theft Auto blamed after taxi driver murdered in Thailand

The controversial Grand Theft Auto is once again the focus of worldwide attention, after being pulled from store shelves in Thailand following the stabbing death of a taxi driver by a student who said he was acting out a scene.

According to the Bangkok Post, 19 year-old Polwat Chinno told police he was addicted to Grand Theft Auto and that robbing and killing looked easy in the game. In GTA, players can kill a taxi driver and take his vehicle in order to escape from police.

Take-Two Interactive recently released GTA IV, selling over 6 million copies of the game in its first week of sales. Developed by Rockstar Games, GTA enables players to engage in beatings, killings, drunk driving, prostitution, and carjacking as they complete missions to move up the ladder of the criminal underworld.

But Polwat said he initially didn't intend to kill the driver, only rob him because he needed money to keep playing GTA in the local arcade. However, 54 year-old Kuan Pohkang tried to fight back with a metal bar that was stored under his seat, and Polwat then stabbed the taxi driver about 10 times.

Polwat attempted to flee in the taxi, but he had never learned how to operate a vehicle and was struggling to drive when police showed up. Police eventually convinced the student to exit the taxi and surrender, whereupon he explained the connection to GTA.

After media reports on the killing began to circulate, New Era Interactive Media, Thailand's distributor of Grand Theft Auto, asked retail stores to remove the game from sale. The company also urged arcades to take the game out of service, although it's not clear how many complied with the request.

Thailand's Culture Ministry responded by saying the murder was a wake-up call for the country to pay more attention to violent video games. According to Reuters, the ministry has pushed for video game ratings and restrictions on who can play the game in arcades.

This isn't the first time Grand Theft Auto has come under fire for its violent gameplay. A Japanese state banned the game in 2005 for being too violent and harmful for youths.

Later in 2005, Take Two and Rockstar became embroiled in a scandal over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas after individuals discovered how to unlock sexually explicit scenes in the game. The company was forced to reissue the game after it was pulled from store shelves for two months due to the so-called "Hot Coffee" scandal.

The FTC said it would investigate Take-Two over the hidden scenes in GTA: San Andreas (the two sides later settled), while a group of Senators including Hillary Clinton (D - N.Y.) pushed for legislation that would make it illegal to sell violent video games to minors. California promptly banned the sale of such games to individuals younger than 18.

The city of Los Angeles and a group of angry shareholders sued Rockstar Games and Take-Two in early 2006. Violent games including GTA were blamed later in the year for a shooting spree at a German school. Take-Two ended up modifying its Manhunt 2 game last year following controversy about the title's intense violence that earned it an "Adults Only" rating. Rockstar's "Bully" game was banned from Brazil in April.

Critics of the growing pressure against violent games like Grand Theft Auto say there has been no specific connection made between playing such games and an increase in violent behavior. They also say legislation is unnecessary and unconstitutional, with parents being responsible for what games their children play.

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