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The Life Lessons of ‘Grand Theft Auto’

The Exchange

The "Grand Theft Auto" video game series has for years drawn the ire of critics for its graphic violence, adult situations and foul language. GTA encourages all manner of criminal behavior, they say, and version 5, which launched last month, might even be described as "a sprawling tale of criminal maniacs self-destructing on a blood-splattered career trajectory to hell," as per The Guardian's review.

Grand Theft Auto V image: Credit Yahoo Games

None of this has ever deterred fans – quite the opposite, in fact. And that's not changing with the latest installment. All GTA V is doing is reportedly claiming seven Guinness World Records, including being named the fastest video game to reach $1 billion in sales, the best-selling game in a 24-hour period, and collecting the most revenue for an entertainment product (which would include movies) in a one-day span, at more than $800 million.

As for who's done all the buying, there's no doubt that young men are a major part of the GTA audience, but one report figures about 15% of the game's players are women (research firm IBISWorld estimates that women make up about 40% of the entire video-game industry's player count). A spokesman for GTA publisher Take-Two Interactive (TTWO) said in an emailed statement that the company didn't disclose demographic information on game buyers and that it didn't have any comments beyond the two press releases on sales issued just after GTA V's release. A representative for game seller GameStop (GME) didn't have a specific breakdown on GTA players at hand.

GTA's haters, who might see the ongoing tale as a means to ruin Western civilization, may be flummoxed by all this, but they can take heart, too. That's because GTA can, in fact, be used to impart a few valuable life lessons. You just have to know where to look. Here are a few.

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1. Money management. If you want the new GTA, save for it. Expect an outlay of $60 pretax. In this economy, that’s not pocket change.

2. Aim high. Get a career in software development. The pay's good, the work's steady, and if you choose not to do graphically rich video games like GTA, you still have plenty of other options.

3. Start a business. If you create an in-demand product or service, you can make a lot of money – not a guarantee, but maybe. GTA title owner Take-Two Interactive is expected to have revenue of $1.9 billion and net income of $333 million in its current fiscal year.

4. Have a plan. It's not the end of the world if you don't know what you'll be doing in 20 years, but a rough map won't hurt. Don't just wander around with zero idea of where you're going.

5. There are consequences. If you commit crimes in the game, the cops will come after you, and running from them is going to make it worse. The same goes for life. Now, games are one thing, but the outcomes in the real world are vastly more serious. You can pay dearly -- with money, your health or your freedom, and you don't get to respawn.