On my way to work today, I killed seven civilians, three hookers, eluded a police chase and blew up a mall.
No, this is not what I did in my real life (at least not today), but rather, this is a typical five-minute stretch in the universe of Grand Theft Auto. In the epic Rockstar video game, killing people is as trivial as breathing.
Given the opportunity to roleplay and live vicariously through a character in an expansive world that tries to emulate the one we live in, there are no rules. Okay, fine, if you kill someone, you get a star, which means the police are after you. But then you just kill the police. Problem solved.
In Grand Theft Auto, nobody is watching you. No one is judging. So why wouldn’t you commit murder, arson and thievery? It’s as harmless as stepping on one of those walking mushrooms in Super Mario. Except in this game, you’re killing people who more closely resemble actual people.
Even the older classic games, like Asteroids, involved the act of harming other entities. Just because the graphics were shitty doesn’t mean there weren’t little people or aliens in those triangular shaped flying saucers.
I no longer play video games. The last console I owned was Playstation 2. I was mostly a sports gamer, but I played the prior GTA installments, Vice City and San Andreas, and for hours at a time. Rockstar spends years creating these impressively large worlds, and it’s a lot of fun to go to all four corners and explore them.
When I wasn’t doing missions, I did what everyone else did — create as much mischief as possible so that not only is the police coming after you, but the freaking military.
It’s always impossible to predict what we will do in our lives. We live a long time and anything can happen. However, I can safely say with the utmost certainty that I will never go on a killing spree. So why not do it for fun on Grand Theft Auto?
And yes. It is fun. You’re killing fake people. Again, it’s no different that overcoming villains in any other video games.
People look at the game and see the violence, and they say that it’ll have an adverse effect on our society. They say that some will get ideas from it, and transfer it to real life.
My belief, though, is if someone is that easy to manipulate — that they could play a video game and be inspired to commit crime — than they were probably bad news to begin with. If it wasn’t Grand Theft Auto, then it would have been something else. Any sane, stable-minded person knows the difference between video games and reality.
There will inevitably be at least one story that comes out in the next month about a 16-year-old boy who committed a crime, and, to mask the fact that her kid is a psychopath, his mother will say to the media that she believes it was Grand Theft Auto that influenced him. And the media will run with it. I’m just telling you to be prepared, because it’s going to happen, and it’s a load of crap.
In fact, I think one can even make the argument that these games prevent crime. I say this because who knows what sick and twisted fantasies are in people’s heads, and maybe this game gives people an outlet for that. I’m not hailing Grand Theft Auto as a crime stopper just yet, but I think that argument has just as much validity as saying the game causes crime.
But anyway, the point is that these games are awesome. Rockstar spent so much time working on this game, that the map in Grand Theft Auto V is bigger than the maps of three previous games combined. And considering how large the worlds were in the previous games, that’s pretty amazing.
So it doesn’t surprise me at all that the game made (cue Dr. Evil) one billion dollars in three days, the fastest video game to do so.
It just shows that people like having a respite, an escape, an outlet for their stressful day-to-day lives. There’s already plenty of mediums out there to fulfill that need, but when a popular, acclaimed video game company gives people the opportunity to wreak havoc and cause mayhem in a shockingly realistic world to the one that pisses us so often, well, you’d be stupid not to participate.
And, I don’t know… just talking about Grand Theft Auto gave me the sudden urge to go for a walk outside. With a baseball bat. And brass knuckles.
We’ll see how this goes.