I was fortunate enough recently to find myself caught up in the hype that was the launch of Grand Theft Auto IV. Even if you have never played it, no doubt you have heard of the brand.

The games themselves are idolized by gamers everywhere because they are created for adults. Then again, with content that falls in line with many of our favorite mobster movies, violence included, that has never really been a secret.

A lot of media outlets have used the series as an example of why America's youth are so screwed up. In fact, if these "experts" are to be believed, then GTA is the reason crime exists anywhere.

While I was at a local game store in Annaville last week, I watched a mother and what must have been her son, who looked to be about 9 to 10 years old, walk through the doors and up to the counter. She handed the rather excited-looking child about $60 and told him to hurry up and pay for his game - they were in a hurry.

The kid then proceeded to ask the clerk for a copy of GTA IV, which the clerk promptly handed over to him and sold. The transaction was pretty quick and the pair was out of the store in about two minutes it seemed.

Meanwhile, I stood in shock. The mother had shown a perfect example of why one of my favorite hobbies (next to writing and reading) has become a media and political punching bag the past few years.

Politicians, even the presidential candidates jostling for position this November, have used violence in videogames as a lightning rod for the problems in today's society. Some states have even tried to make it a crime for retailers to sell certain games to minors and punishable with arrests and fines.

Naturally, the laws have all been shot down since they are clearly a violation of our nation's Constitution and our right to freedom of speech.

The problem lies in how our nation perceives videogames. To many, it is still a childhood pastime, ignoring the fact that budgets for games today rival those of many Hollywood movies.

It is also interesting to note that the Entertainment Software Association, which works with game developers and publishers on public affairs, says that the average game player is 35 years old and has been playing games for 12 years. I myself have been a gamer for about 15 years.

Much as most adults enjoy the occasional R-rated movie, packed with action and violence (heck, one of the bloodiest movies I've ever seen - "No Country for Old Men" - just won an Oscar), adult gamers want games that appeal to them. GTA IV and others like it do just that.

To me, the problem arises when parents don't do enough research or pay attention to the ratings when it comes to videogames. There is a system in place from the Entertainment Software Rating Board that can help with that, but many parents might be unaware of it. If you would like more information, please visit www.esrb.org.

As for me, I can only hope that these words had some impact - good for the parents, not so much for the kids.

Tim Olmeda is the news editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at news@recordstar.com.