Grand Theft Auto: Satirising The Downfall of Society, Not Causing It.

1 05 2008

On Tuesday El P discussed the Miley Cyrus controversy and in that post he said that this had been a change of plans. He had originally planned to discuss another topic on Tuesday, and the Miley Cyrus discussion was planned for Thursday (today). Instead he switched them over, because the Miley Cyrus controversy seemed to be getting a lot of comments. Boy was he wrong!

So today, rather than pandering for comments, he’s decided to give you a piece of his mind instead. He’s realised that it was a bit foolish to expect you people to propose opinions when we all know that you lot are incapable of thinking for yourselves. You don’t even know what your opinion on a particular topic is until he tells you what it is.

This morning, in light of the release of Grand Theft Auto 4, and the huge controversy that still surrounds that franchise, we are discussing violence in video games. Of course this isn’t the first time the topic has come up, but with the argument still raging on in the rest of the media, he is going to keep banging his drum until people dance to his beat.

We start with a statement: GTA is just harmless fun. Arguments over its suitability for children miss the point; it’s a game targeted at adults and has an 18 certificate. So what if children younger than that will figure out a way to get hold of it? You could say the same thing about adult rated movies and post-watershed TV, should we ban those?

Actually, scratch that, some mother’s group somewhere will probably respond “yes” and we’ll end up with the most puritanical society known to man. Which will probably lead to a huge spike in the suicide rate as people kill themselves to ease the boredom. People need to get off the violence in video games bandwagon, the wheels are falling off.

It is not symptomatic of a degenerate lifestyle, or the decline of society and civilisation as we know it, it’s not even a modern phenomenon. The Romans had the Gladiators, the Medieval English had jousts, and more recent generations (often those berating this sort of game) had bare knuckle boxing and street fighting. Even things like Bear Baiting, Cockfighting and Dogfighting are still legal and popular in parts of the world.

Adults in society have always craved violence in their entertainment. It’s a fact about ourselves that we like to deny but we actually enjoy it. It keeps at bay the very natural violent instincts that we all possess from our days as hunter-gatherers. We all feel rage and temper at times, have stressful times at work, and need a release. GTA provides a relaxing fantasy environment where you can express your creative aggression.

Besides, if we look specifically at GTA, rather than the more general topic of violence in video games, to simply label it a violent video game doesn’t do it justice. Those who use the game to berate violence in video games have picked the wrong target. Unlike many games which simply use violence gratuitously, GTA uses it to make a point.



4 responses

2 05 2008

For anyone who has ever played a game in the series, or even this one, knows that your title says it all: GTA – Satirizing The Downfall of Society, Not Causing It.

All the dialogue in the game is satirical of the crap we hear from our congressmen and media. If someone wants to really take aim at protecting children, they should look at Fox News and CNN and see how desensitizing they are!

2 05 2008
Mr President

I thought I might need to spell it out for people because clearly some (those who want the game banned) don’t get the fact it’s satirising the very things these people hate about our current society.

We live in a violent world, we can close our eyes and pretend that stuff you can do in the game doesn’t happen in real life but it won’t change the fact that it does, albeit maybe not as exaggerated. But that’s what satire does, it takes true facts to the extreme to make a point.

And getting away from the violence, the dialogue, whether it’s on the radio or between characters, is always satirical. There’s a bit about socialised medicine on the radio, which is obviously a hot topic at the moment in the presidential race. I also read there’s talk of an “upcoming election” in the game too, a reference to November.

2 05 2008

I couldn’t agree with you more on this Mr. P! Personally, I am not at all a fan of the GTA series, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s the root cause of all of the problems in the world. You don’t like it, don’t buy it! It’s a mature game targeted at a mature audience, and it’s the parents’ responsibility to ensure that their kids don’t play it.

Incidentally, I am a gamer. I play lots of games, and almost all of them involve violence of some type or another. I’ve been playing them for roughly two decades. Does that mean I am a violent person? Umm… no. If a video game has the power to affect a person on such a level, I have to conclude that the person had some kind of problem to start with. Don’t blame the game for the flaws inherent in the player.

2 05 2008
Mr President

Exactly. Not everyone has to be a GTA fan, and I agree with you; don’t like it, don’t buy it. It’s a game intended for adults, if kids are playing it then someone somewhere is responsible for getting it into their hands.

What else can the game manufacturers do except put warnings and ratings on the games? If we made every game suitable for kids, what are adults supposed to do to entertain themselves? In fact the adult share of the video game market is quite sizeable because many of us grew up as kids playing games, so we want the same sort of entertainment now.

Anyway, as you say, most of us have played violent video games, and yet we’re not all going on the rampage to murder people. Like you I think if someone is so unable to tell right from wrong that they think they should be copying violent acts from games or movies then their parents probably haven’t given them a moral compass.

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