Apr 30, 2008

On the Social Cancer That is Grand Theft Auto IV

I read with some surprise that analysts expect the video game Grand Theft Auto IV to generate first-week sales of up to $400 million, and that lifetime sales of the game may approach 20 million units.

The media buzz for the game undoubtedly helps fuel consumer demand for this appallingly amoral electronic dystopia, where players beat prostitutes and kill police officers while they simultaneously steal and destroy a variety of vehicles. A player "wins" at Grand Theft Auto IV by becoming the biggest, baddest thug in Liberty City, a place that bears a striking resemblance to New York.

Now, I am far from a moral prude, and I generally adopt a live-and-let live attitude toward the lives of other people. But what does it say for the United States when our leading form of entertainment is a video game that promotes wanton violence, drug use, and criminal activity?

I have not played this version, though as adolescents my sons managed to get their hands on copies of previous editions of GTA before we found out what they were playing. What I saw in these games was disturbing enough, but the sound of my children laughing as they shot an innocent bystander was surreal and frightening.

The sense of indignation I feel when I see television reporters chatting aimlessly about this repugnant game is hard to describe, save to say that an otherwise easygoing person like me feel the urge to wear a sackcloth and stand on the corner, preaching about the pestilence upon the land. I simply see no merit to a game that promotes the very social ills we supposedly want to eliminate.

Perhaps there is a hidden value to this game, an angle I am missing, and maybe Grand Theft Auto IV has redeeming features that I have overlooked. If so, please inform me about the ways in which I am mistaken, and reassure me that the popularity of the Grand Theft Auto franchise is not a looming sign of moral collapse in our once-great nation.

Because from what I see, this game is a harbinger of social decay.


Anonymous said...

Just a game, dude, chiil out.

DA said...

Excellent post HistoryMike.

microdot said...

Very interesting, there has been a buzz here in France about the personality problems being encountered by violent video games and Grand Theft Auto is being discussed on talk programs and the studies are making the news casts.

I personally believe that there is a dangerous interaction taking place involving the violent virtual fantasies of video games and the over prescription and uncontrolled use of mood altering drugs like prozac.

To be fair, I cannot play video games...sure silly games are no problem, but these virtual reality games with soundtracks and violence are over whelming to me.
I don't find them entertaining, I find them disturbing. Really, I've tried!

Collin Williams said...

I wrote a long post the other day about how video games are the scapegoat of bad parenting... they take a lot of heat. I think they are good way to release stress personally... GTA has always been controversial, but always been an enjoyable franchise. If you haven't, maybe you should try it and see if you can figure out why it's so popular?


dr-exmedic said...

This guy took some FBI crime graphs and marked them up with the release dates of these games, which are said to promote violence, and it's pretty instructive as to how much "debasing" of the culture these scapegoats are doing.

"Of the 20 movies that got the widest circulation in 2007, only two were rated R." That's from this article on the epidemic of more tasteful stuff coming out of Hollywood. "In September 2006, Fox established a stand-alone division called Fox Faith to distribute movies with strong Christian themes....During their tenure at Miramax, Harvey and Bob Weinstein released movies like Priest, Kids, and Dogma, and were only slightly less reviled than gay marriage amongst the family values brigade. At their new gig, the Weinstein Company, they’ve signed a multi-year first-look deal with Impact Entertainment, a Christian production company."

steve said...

the game'z the ultimate trickle down symptom of unregulated neo-crony capitaljisms yo! What's the difference between a hi placed gang member protecting his turf of crack soldiers against encroaching gang competition -vs- the ultimate crony GWB protecting the worldwide crack --> oil from encroaching competitors "the mandarin gang". It's time to pull a drive by an dey Iranian asses yo!

Jake said...

How is GTA any different from Family Guy or the Godfather movies? Didn't you want to go rough some people up after you saw the Godfather or Pulp Fiction? Well, now you can for only 59.95!

historymike said...

Dr ex-medic:

Perhaps "cancer" is an inappropriate metaphor, as I consider fascination with violent video games to be much more of a symptom of social ills than a causatory factor.

historymike said...

Jake points out a logical inconsistency (or perhaps an element of hypocrisy) on my part with regard to my enjoyment of Family Guy and assorted mob movies.

I will defend my Peter Griffin-philia as evidence of my appreciation of Seth McFarlane's ability to skewer and satirize American pop culture.

However, I am guilty as charged with regard to enjoyment of Pulp Fiction, Goodfellas, and Reservoir Dogs, though an urge to commit great bodily harm has never crossed my mind from watching mob films.

Andy Walpole said...

In my youth I played the Atari 2006.
But that stopped at an early age when I became interested in other stuff - primarily, music.
Don't you think it's weird how many adults play these games?

Brian Maxson said...

I...umm....hi everybody....my name is Brian and I am 42 years old and I have no children under 18 residing with me and I have 60 Playstation 2 games and just purchased a media chair in preparation for the purchase of a 40 inch LCD Sony TV, a Playstation 3 and GTA4.

I have an extensive library of PC games, from Flight Sim X to World In Conflict and Rainbow 6 Vegas, and I can tell you how relaxing it is to me, being of sound mind and having the the natural ability instilled, to know the difference between a video game and reality.

These statistics you've presented just shows how weak many minds are to enjoying a medium designed to enhance your media experience by allowing you to be submersed within your own movie.