Wednesday, December 3, 2014

"The Game Encouraged Me To Do This"

So today while not paying attention in my environmental science lecture, I stumbled across an article about beloved Grand Theft Auto V being banned at Australian retailers for "encouraging players to commit sexual violence against women." I was baffled...partly because this game has been out for a year already, but mostly because never in any of the 5 Grand Theft Auto games I have played was I ever explicitly told, "Mission objective: sleep with prostitute, then brutally murder her to get your money back." The game never encourages violence on women, unless that woman happens to be in the police force, the army, or a gang that you must fight and/or defend yourself against. What a player chooses to do with the large amounts of pedestrians scattered about the world is exactly that, the players choice. Therefore, the problem does not lie with the game, it lies with the player.

It is absolutely possible to go through the entirety of GTA V without ever harming a pedestrian or soliciting a prostitute. And if only it weren't Trevor's headquarters for the latter half of the game, you would never have to enter the games strip club either. That is the beauty of the Grand Theft Auto franchise, everything you do outside of the games main missions is completely up to you. You can explore every inch of the worlds gigantic map. You can drive or fly around the world in every car, plane, or helicopter imaginable. You can explore the depths of the games oceans with a submarine and full diving gear. You can hunt wildlife in the forests below Mt. Chiliad, and then climb to the top and jump off with a parachute. You can search high and low for every little Easter egg left by the developers. You can blaze through the story and spend as much time as possible with each incredible protagonist. can go on murderous rampages gunning down civilian after civilian and pick up thousands of virtual prostitutes and then kill them to get your virtual money back. The possibilities are endless, and the number of incredible non-violent things to within the game world far outweigh the violent bad ones, yet those are the only things talked about in mainstream media.

Now I'm not condemning those who do these questionable deeds, because we all have. It's fun to see how the world reacts to your rampages, the physics when a pedestrian is punched is satisfyingly hilarious, and trying to survive a six star wanted level is probably the most challenging and one of the most fun aspects of the game. Are you forced to do these things? No. Are you encouraged to do these things? No. It's the equivalent of trying to sneak a peek at Christmas presents as a kid, it's fun but you know what you are doing is morally wrong.

The argument also put a focus on the age old argument of corrupting our youth. But, if these petitioners bothered to look at the very front cover of the game they would see the big M for mature rating. If you flip the cover over, you get to see all the reasons this game was rated mature. The reasons for GTA V are: Blood and gore, intense violence, mature humor, nudity, strong language, strong sexual content, use of drugs, and use of alcohol. If you feel your youth would be negatively influenced by anything listed in the rating, then the ultimate answer is not buying your youth the game. Why must it be banned for mature adults who want to play out the fantastically written story and perfectly polished game mechanics?

Ultimately, what most people don't seem to realize is the satire in it all. Nobody buys a GTA game
expecting to be a hero. You are an anti-hero thrown into a spoof of a real American city, surrounded
by the worst people society has to offer, and surrounded by social commentary and radio ads that draw parallels with some events in the real world. It is not a game for the easily offended.

However, if you must play a mature rated game with a sympathetic hero and strong female characters then look no further than another incredible Rockstar Game, Red Dead Redemption. It tells the story
of John Marston, who like almost every GTA character is out to turn his life around and leave the life of crime. Only difference is he's actually done it, he has a family and a ranch making an honest living when the government comes knocking. But unlike Michael in GTA V where you can tell pulling heists and other things is where he is truly happy, Marston's one a only goal throughout the whole game is his family and getting to be with them again. Along the way you meet strong female characters like Bonnie, Luisa, and Abigail. You can not sleep with prostitutes because you are a faithful married man. And what you do with pedestrians, whether it be help or harm them, has an affect on your honor and reputation. It is almost the exact opposite of everything Grand Theft Auto is about, but still just as good as their most popular franchise, if not better.

Ultimately, my point is after 16 years of GTA being an established, well-received, and widely publicized franchise, shouldn't we know what we are getting into by now. If you are offended by the content, don't play it. There is no reason to ban a huge, expansive, incredible, award winning game over something that is entirely optional to the player.

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