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.