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Gromotka: The Case for Grand Theft Auto

BY ADAM GROMOTKA | NOVEMBER 06, 2013 5:00 AM

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In its first three days, Grand Theft Auto V  — developed by Rockstar Games — sold millions of copies, raking in more than $1 billion in sales. In that span of time, it also ushered in a sense of unrest for millions of parents, concerned by the amount of joy their children found in running over pedestrians with a fire truck. Outrage has arisen — from both credible news sources and bloggers — over many aspects of the game including its violence, misogynistic themes, criminal focus, and general political incorrectness.

Having finally picked up a copy of the game for myself, I can confirm that all of this is completely true. Without spoiling too much, I’ve already killed countless virtual citizens, stolen a virtual helicopter, tortured a virtual hostage, and robbed several virtual businesses — all within the first 10 or so hours of play. If you’ve read and agree with criticism of the game, it may surprise you to know that, while it’s been a blast, I have no desire to commit any of the aforementioned crimes. In fact, I’ve been happier the last few days, causing me to be a better person. While the shock value might be easy to criticize, you should also acknowledge how harmless, even beneficial, playing a game such as Grand Theft Auto V can be.

We play video games to escape. Whether it’s gunning down policemen in Grand Theft Auto V or stacking virtual blocks in Tetris, the point is to break the humdrum of everyday life by doing something we aren’t afforded the opportunity to do in the real world. This is why we enjoy gratuitously violent games so much: We know it would never happen in our day-to-day.

Violent video games aren’t training manuals on how to be a ruthless criminal. For example, when I fly a biplane into the open cargo bay of a jumbo jet, kill the crew, and hijack the aircraft, I’m not thinking: “Wow, now I’m more informed on how to pull this off.” Instead, I stare at my TV in wide-eyed disbelief. I might let out a small cheer or sit up a little in my seat. I enjoy the chance to do something like that, because I know I wouldn’t find it elsewhere.

Another beneficial aspect of the game is the message it shares about society. Listen to the in-game radio for 10 minutes, and you’ll be treated to advertisements satirically making fun of silly consumerism like toe-shoes and Viagra. The banner for the game’s news source, Weazel News, bears a suspicious resemblance to that of Fox News, and its tagline is “Confirming your prejudice.” The blunt, politically incorrect environment of the game is a refreshing break from the niceties that hide actual messages we hear in the real world. Imagine the number of teenagers who, after conducting the game’s graphic torture scene, have a better understanding of what the word means when it’s said on the 6 o’clock news.

When the NRA released its statement about the connection between video games and violence — tastelessly close to the events in Newtown — it was overlooking the fact that tens of millions of users play Grand Theft Auto V without behaving violently. Statistically speaking, if we were to ban things that could make us want to harm others, guns and alcohol would have been out the door years ago. A game isn’t our biggest problem.


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