Tuesday, April 29, 2008

How to handle a GTA IV press request

On the eve of the latest release in this celebrated and vilified series, here's all you really need to know in order to handle 
a question about Grand Theft Auto from the press:

1) The question they all want to ask: "Aren't these games too violent for kids?"

2) The answer: "Yes. Hence the M rating for Mature. (click as you hang up)

I wish there were national headlines each time a new crime movie 
came out, saying "Is this movie too violent for kids?"

The unspoken implication: All videogames are for kids. And videogames twist kiddie minds.

Yet note that as videogames proliferated throughout the Nineties and 2000s, the rate of violent crime among American youths fell dramatically.

(Duke Ferris's excellent summary of the decline in youth crime 
as it paralleled the rise of 
; and here's a link to  the plummeting rate of violent crime in U.S. schools.)

Paris Hilton gets her head harpooned in the movie House of Wax and that earns no more outcry than some jokes on Talk Soup. Carjack somebody in a videogame and it's the front page of the New York Times.

All of which is to say that I'd wish the media would relax.
Gamers -- mature gamers, that is --love Grand Theft Auto for all the same reasons that they love gangster movies and 
Stephen King novels...y'know, all the things everyone loves.


rakiel said...

it's Paris Hilton, why would there be an outcry...?

besides, you know the "violence" question is just a sound bite. noise to get a rise.

Rob said...

One of my communications professors back in college postulated that the true problem with media violence is that there's actually not enough of it, it's not realistic enough, and there's no meaningful consequence to it. Think of the anvil falling on Wile E. Coyote, or Bruce Willis brandishing his rifle despite a perpetual, curiously bloodless shoulder wound. Because of these things, we do not have a sober appreciation for violence, and most of us would vomit our bowels out if we had to endure the slightest skirmish in Iraq.

Based on this premise, GTA4 may be the most socially responsible game on the market today. As Slate's Chris Baker writes, "the violence is no longer cartoonish. Shoot an innocent bystander, and you see his face contort in agony. He'll clutch at the wound and begin to stagger away, desperately seeking safety" (http://www.slate.com/id/2190207/). By contrast, every innocent bystander in "The Matrix" is forgotten as quickly and casually as he's slain.

I actually think *more* people should play GTA IV, not fewer. They may be visited by a strange lurching sensation in their guts-- their conscience. It's something that we rarely have the opportunity to test in these strange times.

Full disclosure: my brother did voiceover work in the game, so there's a tiny family interest in people checking it out :-) (but I do mean what I say).

Daniel Morris said...

Rob: that's awesome that your brother's in the cast.

I've seen studies that strongly imply that people (even small children) inherently possess a "sober appreciation for violence."

The classic example is kids when they're "playing war"...as soon as one of the kids *actually* gets hurt, the game stops, everyone becomes upset, and they run to find adult help. Even though they've been engaged in "violent" play for hours, they are deeply upset by real injury when it occurs.

Rob said...

The funniest episode of "South Park" *ever* was about just that. But in that scenario, the kids were more worried about getting in trouble than the fact that Butters had a ninja star lodged in his eyeball.

...But that's just "South Park," not some high falutin' psych study...

Kim Morris said...

Hey Dan... So I agreed Brotherman can use "Bush's bullshit check" to get either ps3 or xbox 360...Any reccomendations on which one he should get? And of course he'll be getting the new GTA...to my dismay (insert heavy sigh here)......

Daniel Morris said...

Rob: Is Mike in New York? I just opened up the GTA IV manual to the credits and sure as shit there he is, Michael Baker. Sweet.

Kim: You can't really go wrong with either system...the Xbox has a larger games library for the moment, but the PS3 is the better hardware (and more expensive).

Brotherman said...

Most people rub one out to good old fashioned porn, but for me there's nothing like gratuitous violence. Nothing gets me in the mood like beheading law enforcement and slaughtering innocent ,although mindless bystanders. (innocent assuming ignorance and stupidity are an excuse for being part of the problem.)
Now the question of PS3 or Xbox360.
Either way I'll have to prioritize the expense of a new gaming console before the never ending mountain of bills. I'm partial to Play Station and for my sanity I can hardly afford not to spare the expense.

Brotherman said...

Dan: Could you track down a copy of Need for Speed Porsche Unleashed for PC. A friend was asking.

Daniel Morris said...

Hmm, I think I can probably dig up a copy somewhere. I'll poke around on Monday.

rakiel said...

at the risk of sounding like mom..... why don't all you boys go be a big brother to some hapless kid who didn't get a break when it came to parents and teach them how to throw a ball... or drive safe. it's cheaper and far more productive.

Rob said...

Thanks, Dan. He is indeed living in NYC now, and I've passed along your exclamation of praise. I'm to understand that he sings at least two songs with titles such as "Republican Space Rangers" and "My Drunk Uncle." I think he also sings little chimes during a few mini-games.

If I may chime in on the console issue, I would also recommend PS3 over 360 at this point given the monstrous problems with the latter's power supply. I don't know whether Microsoft has solved this problem with newer machines, but it certainly warrants some research.

Besides, you can play Blu-ray DVDs on the PS3 right out of the box, so that's a two-fer. The 360 was allied with the now defunct HD-DVD (through a separate adapter, no less), so there's no added value there.

Unless you're wed to games like Halo, which eventually come to the PC platform anyway, go with a PS3.

Apologies in advance for any inaccuracies (I haven't read the most recent articles about this stuff).