Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto

Wil Wheaton has a great post about moral panic and GTA, sparked by the fact that GTA IV comes out today. Before the game is even out there’s people freaking out about bus ads and screaming WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN and whatever other nonsense. Cue eye roll.

The fact that kids shouldn’t even be playing the game and that, if they are, then perhaps the problem is their parents’ inability to parent never comes up in certain circles. Go fig.

But what really annoys me is the panic about how horrible and morally degrading the game is. Not because of the violence, necessarily. People rarely ever get up in arms about that. But because the character can have sex with and also kill prostitutes. OH LORDY.

First of all, the player does not have to kill prostitutes if they don’t want to. Second, the player can kill just about anyone, not just prostitutes. Why are people so concerned about pixilated prostitutes and not pixilated old ladies?

I think we all know the answer.

Anyway, I only care about this because I love me some GTA. Oh yes! I own GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas. Surprised? Maybe not. But it may surprise you how I play these games.

When I fire up GTA, I do pretty much the same thing. I first activate a cheat so that the cops will leave me alone. I then activate a cheat to get a bunch of dangerous and fun weapons. Then I walk out of my safe house and find a car. I then carjack it. Then I drive off in a random direction and explore the city while hitting pedestrians, running into other cars and making their occupants angry, and trying to find new ways to travel to San Francisco and Las Vegas (if I’m in San Andreas). Sometimes I get out of the car, pull out a weapon, and randomly kill people just because I can. I particularly love the flamethrower. When nighttime comes, yes, I go around looking for prostitutes. I enjoy the little having sex/car jumping animation. Sometimes, if I am in the mood, I kill the prostitute. Sometimes I kill the ones that won’t get in my car. After about an hour of flying the plane, killing people, picking up prostitutes, and causing general mayhem, I turn the game off and go do something else.

I could make a joke about how doing this in a game keeps me from doing it in real life, but the truth is that I have never had the desire to find a flamethrower and go to town on some random folks. I don’t drive, but if I did I think I could refrain from crashing into cars and running down pedestrians. I don’t have any interest in prostitutes or in killing them, or killing anyone. Playing this game has not made me more likely to knife anyone. I am not more hostile than I used to be (I’ve always been pretty hostile, just ask F. Paul Wilson). I bet this is true for most people. But I am sure there are plenty of moral outragists who will pass out from the vapors upon reading my GTA routine.

These are the same people who are convinced that Harry potter will turn kids into Wiccans and/or Satanists. Basically people who themselves are unable to distinguish fantasy and play from reality and right thinking. People who, because they listen to whatever some authority figure tells them without applying their own critical thinking skills, are convinced that everyone else is the same. Sorry, but no. I can think for myself, I know right from wrong, and some book, tv show, or video game isn’t going to change that.

9 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto

  1. You turn the cops off? Running from them is the best part! I like to see if I can get all five wanted stars lit up at once. It ain’t easy to last that long!

    1. I turn the cops off mostly when I want to steal a plane and fly to Vegas. I really don’t care about advancing in the storyline of the game, so I actually can’t get 5 wanted stars just from acting badly. I also am restricted from some parts of the game until I unlock them, which means playing the storyline. Go outside of those boundaries, they send the army after you. If you’re in the plane, they will send a bomber! and while that is cool, it also means I don’t make it to The Strip.

  2. Already they are calling for a ban on GTA4. This is all about the censorship. After all, censorship is becoming America’s favorite past-time. The US gov’t (and their corporate friends), already detain protesters, ban books like “America Deceived” from Amazon and shut down Ron Paul. Free Speech forever (even for games).
    Last link (before Google Books caves to pressure and drops the title):

  3. People reacting far more to sexual content than violent content has always annoyed me. A lot of the complaints I’ve seen about prostitutes in the GTA series have focused far more on “OMG you can have sex” than “…and you can kill them!” It’s as if the chance to kill them is just a dollop of added moral outrage on top of the real crime.

    As for parents letting their kids play games they’re not ready for, I put my own take on that up at

  4. I think the concern with killing prostitutes has to do with real life dynamics. In real life, being a prostitute does put you at a huge risk of violence from johns, whereas in real life being an old lady does not generally put you at a higher risk of having some schmuck run you over on the sidewalk (you’re at higher risk of abuse from your own family, but that’s a different story). So there’s that. There’s also the continued association of sex with a woman’s death, with fucking a woman with violence against that same woman, which is a cultural dynamic that is alive and well and fucking people up.

    1. This is the same argument my roommate Maya gave when she became outraged at my activities in the game. I would be more inclined to be as concerned if this was a part of the storyline of the game. (For those who don’t know, you can either drive around doing your own thing or participate in missions to advance your level.) As far as I know, there is no mission where you have sex with a woman and then kill her. This is a choice the player makes.

      perhaps that choice reveals bad things about me!

  5. They put up this huge GTA wall-painting on the corner of Canal and Greene Street. It evolved through three different formats. Girl with lollipop, wanted poster, and now full color. IT IS BEAUTIFUL. Let alone the skill it takes to put those things up – yeah, it’s paint by numbers but they have to use a f’n scaffold. Anyways, I wish I had taken pictures of it.

    Oh yeah, and you’re a menace to society. You and your flamethrower. (GTA looks rad ’cause you get to wreak havoc in NYC.)

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