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A pre-emptive strike
Posted on Tuesday, April 29 2008 @ 19:26:18 Eastern

Well it's sort of a pre-emptive strike, it can't be a real pre-emptive strike because there have already been articles about the evils of Grand Theft Auto IV (what? You thought it was going to be about the new Brawl?). So what is this, an... emptive strike? Whatever, I'll grant you that the article I linked to is from the Daily Mail, for anyone who reads or knows of that pile of trash they'll understand that the sort of people who read the Mail are also the sort of people who spend their days running away from the Polish 'invaders' and coming out with priceless catchphrases such as 'back of the net' (you'll have to have watched I'm Alan Partridge at least once to get that one). Anyway, the article doesn't hold much (any) reputable ground given its fearful and ignorant origins but it exists and that's the point. Another article indicates that someone was stabbed while queuing for the game, in other words they hadn't got it yet. Why were they stabbed? Buggered if I know but maybe the fact that it happened in Croydon, a rough as houses area of London, might be a clue but they were and now it's in the news. Was this motivated by the game? I can't see why but clearly it's another black mark on the franchise's already darker than dark reputation.

Honesty time: Grand Theft Auto is violent. It's a violent, violent game and I can't deny that without lying. Let's take a look at some other games though before I go into why violence isn't everything. First let's look at Bioshock, a fantastic game that's received rave reviews but no one felt like kicking off about smashing people's faces in with a wrench, setting them alight or electrocuting them. Assassin's Creed focuses on, well the clue's in the name and there's a lot of blood that goes with it but no biggie there, right? Of course we also have games like Rainbow Six: Vegas. Other types of media has violence too, films like Natural Born Killers and A Clockwork Orange are almost solely about violence but these are now accepted into the medium of film. The real point here, though, is that violence isn't actually everything in the GTA world. We, as gamers, already understand that, but I feel that it is our duty to explain to non-gamers who may actually be genuinely misguided on this fact.

I've played the game for almost ten hours and in that time I have killed several people (all who were trying to kill me), blown up a building, caught some criminals, had some involvement in drugs... oh, and saved a man. I didn't have to do this last one, I could have let him fall to his death but I chose to save him and this one incident sums up the whole Grand Theft Auto experience. Choice. The GTA universe places you in the centre of a living, breathing world and says "ok, you're no one to these people, go about your business". You can do whatever you want, you can stick strictly to the missions or you could search every nook and cranny before talking to your first contact. You can go grab a prostitute off the street or you could stay away from the filthy ho bags because you don't want syphilis. If you really wanted to you could beat the ***** down and get your money back afterwards. Unsavoury? You betcha, but so is life and if recent reports in Austria are anything to go by it's a hell of a lot worse at that. The important thing here is that the game never forces you to do something that debase but the way it is portrayed would have the casual observer believe it's a non-stop tour through filthsville, right the way through to the torture chamber in the basement. Choice exists all over the place in real life, if we really wanted to we could steal a car and drive it off a cliff. The repercussions are what stops us from doing this, as well as the extreme immorality of it all and games provide a beautiful escape from these restraints. Some may argue this makes it more likely for a person to commit atrocities in real life, I would argue that it allows normally minded people to excise their frustrations in a harmless way and abnormally minded people go about their abnormal business regardless, if they fancy a bit of GTA before shooting the school up then they'll play some, if their 360 RROD'd and is in the shop that week they'll probably go ahead with their plans regardless.

I've heard games being described as 'murder simulators' (see the Daily Mail article linked above for one of these ignorant statements in a comment). This is one of the more uneducated criticisms of any game. Apparently all we need to do to kill someone is point the gun in their direction, press LT to lock on and then hold RT. Fuck the concept of recoil and **** the ideas of wind speed and bullet arc, we only need two buttons and a vague recollection of where a person's head sits.

I suppose it all comes down to blame. In a standard school shooting (because these things do seem to be standard now) who should we blame for the bullets which have flown? The list of nominees include (but is not limited to) the fellow students-did they bully the shooter mercilessly? The teachers-giving all that homework is just unacceptable! The neighbourhood dog-listening to that barking all night would get to anyone. The parents-upbringing is (almost) everything. Finally, perhaps the shooter themselves is kind of liable for the shooting, it's an outlandish thought and one lacking acceptance where it matters. Perhaps people just can't accept blame lies with the person pulling the trigger but what really bugs me is that they use their naivety as an excuse to attack the people who use games as a way to vent anger and lead totally normal lives. You want to say GTA is violent? You'll get no argument from me. Want to ban it for the safety of the children? How about getting off your ass and doing some parenting instead of punishing mature adults for your failings?
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