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Grand Theft Auto 4: The Post-Release Debrief

Grand Theft Auto IV There is no denying that famed video game series Grand Theft Auto has had an enormous impact on today's culture. In fact, the latest installment in the highly controversial series has broken two world records including: "Highest Revenue Generated by an Entertainment Product in 24 Hours" and "Highest Grossing Video Game in 24 Hours." This entertainment juggernaut has continued to raise the bar with its open world environments, essentially creating its own genre, having what is often dubbed "sandbox" game-play. With each subsequent sequel, the GTA franchise has become more and more organic, providing the player with the ability to do just about anything imaginable. While such freedom is no doubt a technological marvel, many ethical questions and concerns arise as a result. With Grand Theft Auto 4 selling 3.6 million copies on the first day, concerns of negative influence have reached an all time high.

In a world riddled with tragedy and suffering, it is only natural to be weary of Grand Theft Auto 4's mature content. Gamers are given the ability to steal cars (hence the game's title), pick up hookers, drive a car intoxicated, kill civilians, and the list goes on. As a result, parents and politicians alike attack the game in fear of it poisoning our youth. First and foremost let me preface by saying that this is not a game for children. The game has been rated “Mature,” which requires someone at least seventeen years of age to purchase the game. If underage children are still finding ways to play this game, the issue lies within the home, not the game industry.

Much like the movie industry, many of today’s video games are not only a means to provide entertainment, but also provide compelling narratives that reveal a picture of today’s society. For example, the movie The Departed received “film of the year” and is highly respected because of its ability to accurately portray the Boston Mafia through a carefully crafted plot. Upon careful comparison one can see how Grand Theft Auto 4 portrays a similar scene of New York City, dubbed “Liberty City.” Of course the interactivity of a video game is the distinguishing characteristic between the two forms of media, and the ability of one to separate themselves from the actions on the screen is an indication of maturity.

One issue of particular concern has been the ability to drink and drive. Rockstar (the game’s developer) could have simply left this feature out and prevented gamers from acting irresponsibly. At the same time, one must consider the mechanic behind drunk driving in GTA4. When the character enters and attempts to drive the car, the ability steer is completely gone and the car begins to swerve all over the road. At this point, the game is unplayable and driving a car is no longer fun, not to mention the police will arrest you. If anything, one would want to take one of the numerous cabs that line the city’s streets as a means of getting around. Drunk driving is simply a means of immersion for the player and if anything it condemns such behavior.

Video games are a growing source of media in today’s culture but have yet to earn the respect of other established forms of entertainment. Ignorance in this medium can be dangerous on two levels, especially with a game like Grand Theft Auto 4 As a parent, one needs to be aware of the content their children are playing, realizing that video games are not only for children. Secondly, a certain level of knowledge is required in order to properly judge the legitimacy of anything. So I urge each and every one of you to stay informed with the latest news surrounding video games because they’re not disappearing any time soon.

[news data via 1UP]
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