Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grand theft Auto

Recently there has been some eloquent defences of video gaming- this one in particular is a good read. For some reason though, during this, they will attempt to defend Grand Theft Auto.

Grand theft Auto is an excellent game. It's cleverly designed with a variety of different mission styles to keep you occupied, and an entire virtual world to be your playhouse. But it is not particularly moral. Many defenders of GTA mention that one is able to drive ambulances, fire engines and taxis. This is true. But you have to steal them first. You don't volunteer at the local station, you nick the things and then go out doing missions. Additionally, because the timing on these missions are quite harsh, you will inevitably end up killing more people than you save along the way, to earn the money the game inexpicably pays you.

GTA has some limits. There are no children in the game, although there are little old ladies, and you no longer get money simply for running people over in a row, as was possible in the first three games (which includes the first 3d title), although these avatars do drop money when they die. One lesson it does tend to teach you along the way is there is no way you could survive this in real life. Sooner or later you get gunned down by the police or rival gang members. You will die a lot....

Admittedly immediately after dying or being arrested you are free to roam the streets again, but it wouldn't be a very enjoyable gaming experience if you could not.

A lot of games give you the option to do bad things: they're games, and it's difficult to restrict what the player can do, but it is worth noticing that the missions do attempt some broad morality. Yes, many of your missions involve killing people, but they are rival gang members at least, often people who attacked you first. It's a broad morality, certainly, but perhaps it might be compared with films like the Godfather. Yes you can kill innocents too, but the game never tells you do this (although it did USE to, on optional extra missions called, tastefully, "kill frenzy").

Perhaps the best film to compare grand theft auto to, at least GTA3 anyhow, is Taxi Driver, where the action centres on a character you are absolutely not meant to sympathise with, and even when he does good, it is really for the wrong reasons.

Ultimately, the GTA games are violent and nasty, but they are games. The people are most definitely not real, and most people can detatch this from reality. The joy isn't in the idea that you are killing people, it's in the challenges you can do, in the meta gaming when you want to see what the game will allow, what you can get away with within the rule the designer created. This is not a game for children, but it never has been.

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