Jewish World Review August 5, 2005 / 29 Tammuz,
Grand Theft Auto and Us
If you don't have children in the house, you may not know about
the latest contribution the video gaming industry has made to our society.
My 11-year-old son keeps me apprised.
The best-selling video game in the United States last year (5.2
million copies) was a piece of work called "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas."
The National Institute on Media and the Family described its content as
follows: "Raunchy, violent and portraying just about every deviant act that
a criminal could think of in full, living 3D graphics. Grand Theft Auto
takes the cake again as one of the year's worst games for kids. The
premise restore respect to your neighborhood gang as you take on the
equally corrupt San Andreas police."
Well, yes, you wouldn't want your kids to be anywhere near this
thing, but frankly, it's disgusting for anyone. Game play in the San Andreas
and earlier versions of Grand Theft Auto also features buying and selling
drugs, stealing cars, foul language, racial slurs, running down pedestrians,
attacking people with chainsaws, sexual jokes, evading and killing police
officers, and feeding people into a wood chipper. (No, my son does not own
None of the foregoing was enough to cause a stir. But one day, a
Manhattan grandmother bought the game for her 14-year-old grandson and was
shocked to discover that a modification of GTA, downloadable from the
Internet, permitted him to see graphic sex acts on the game. (In the normal
version of the game, sex is offstage.) Initially, GTA's creator, Rockstar,
denied responsibility for what hackers would do to its product once it had
entered the stream of commerce and took refuge under the mantle of "art."
The company was "disappointed by comments that misrepresent Grand Theft
Auto, detracting from the innovative and artistic merits of the game.
Unfortunately, the recent confusion only serves to suggest that games do not
deserve the same treatment as other forms of creative expression." Within a
few days, that statement was rendered "inoperative" when it became clear
that the modification only unlocked material already lurking in the game
itself. Eric Pfeiffer of National Review Online notes that skilled players
of the Playstation 2 and Xbox versions of the game could unlock the sexual
content without a special download from the Internet.
Manhattan grandma is suing Rockstar, which has slapped an Adults
Only label on the game and apologized, sort of. Acknowledging that they knew
the content was there, company spokesman Rodney Walker explained, "We didn't
want it in the final version so we followed the industry practice of
breaking up the code and hiding it." Oh.
So, a kindly 85-year-old lady has no qualms about purchasing a
gang-glorifying, violence-soaked, sick entertainment for her teenage
grandson, but is shocked when it turns out to contain explicit sex? Wasn't
the rest enough? Sigh.
Well, yes, we should. But surely we can find a better spokesman
than Sen. Clinton. In the first place, we know the Clinton technique quite
well by now. Make conservative-sounding noises (remember "End Welfare As We
Know It"?) and then hand power to the very liberals who created the mess.
Second, the senator's husband is a national dirty joke who did as much to
debase the culture as any video game squared. Finally, the problem is not
retailers selling directly to children. That rarely happens. In fact, adults
are buying these games for kids.
Bill Bennett and Sen. Joe Lieberman had a better idea a decade
ago. Shame them. Shame the manufacturers, the retailers, and yes, the
parents who buy the trash. Put their faces on television. Let them feel the
wrath of the majority of parents (liberal and conservative) who truly detest
what this anything goes culture has wrought.
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