A hooded man queuing to buy the new Grand Theft Auto IV, the notoriously violent computer game, stabbed a passer-by in the head and neck. Up to 100 people witnessed the attack.
Like dozens of video-game sellers across the country, Gamestation in Croydon, South London, opened at midnight yesterday for the launch of the game.
Onlookers thought initially that the stabbing was part of a stunt by the store to whip up excitement about the release of the 18-certificate title.
The victim is thought to have struggled home to fetch his own knife for a revenge attack but collapsed in the street and was taken to hospital.
Malcolm Critchell, who was at the shop with his nephew, Jordan, said: “While waiting outside the store, a man stood next to us and was covered from shoulder to belly in blood. Myself and others thought it was a show to promote the game but when we looked closer, he had been knifed repeatedly. It was unbelieveable – there was blood everywhere, all down the street. It was like something out of a nightmare. We were told he had been rude to some bloke [for] which he was knifed. He then went home, grabbed a kitchen knife and went looking for this person.”
The 23-year-old victim was walking past the queue at about 11pm when he was attacked. Witnesses said that he sustained stab wounds to his head and back. He was treated in hospital and later discharged.
Marcus Henderson, 24, who was in the queue, said: “It was a scene straight from the game itself. In Grand Theft Auto, when you attack someone but don’t finish them off they’ll come and get you.”
The Metropolitan Police said that the man involved in Monday’s stabbing “appeared to be in a queue of people who were waiting for [Gamesta-tion] to open for a special event”.
Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Leices-ter East and a long-time campaigner against video games, told The Times: “[ Grand Theft Auto] is a violent and nasty video game and it doesn’t surprise me that some of those who play it behave in this way.”
More than half a million copies of Grand Theft Auto IV are expected to be sold in Britain in the next week, while more than six million copies will be sold worldwide, raking in more than £200 million.
Critics of the game, in which players can roam freely around a digital landscape murdering, pillaging and stealing, have long argued that it is a dangerous influence.
Since Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive Software, released the first Grand Theft Auto game in 1997, they have faced a series of lawsuits from the families of murder victims, claiming that the game inspired the killers.
Elsewhere, an 18-year-old from Ley-land, Lancashire, was reported to have suffered a broken jaw after being mugged by two older men. Lancashire police said that the motive for the attack was the victim’s new copy of Grand Theft Auto IV, which he had bought from his local Blockbuster store minutes earlier.
The bad publicity appeared to have little effect on sales. Play.com was taking up to 80 orders a minute and had to take on 90 extra staff to cope. Woolworths reported selling 200 copies a minute and said that it would be sold out by the end of the day.