Monday, August 01, 2005

'Grand Theft Auto', Hillary, and the downfall of civilization.

In case you're over age 45, or are otherwise totally ignorant of pop culture, 'Grand Theft Auto' is a hyper-popular series of video games that allow you to participate as a violent criminal, walking through expansive digital cities committing crimes and random acts of violence with the ultimate goal of making money and climbing the ladder to the top rungs of the underworld.

I have to tell you that honestly, I am a huge fan of the series, and have spent much time and many brain cells in front of my playstation, hopelessly addicted to these truly well-produced and engrossing games.

Now, with that having been said, you may have heard in the news that the latest installment of the series, called 'San Andreas', has been taking a lot of heat from many people both here and abroad (it's been banned altogether in Australia), and quite frankly, I have no idea why. Sure the game is violent, it uses graphic language, depicts women and minorities in a demeaning manner, and it can probably be argued that it glorifies vice and crime. This is no secret; the game (and the genre) has been around for several years now, and it is rated MA - Mature Audiences (not suitable for children under 17). But this is not where the story ends; it seems that in the latest game, some hackers have unlocked (gasp) some hidden parts of the game which allow the main character to actually have graphic (as graphic as possible on a PS2) sex with his 'girlfriends'.

Now this is not too much of a shocker to fans of the series; in fact it's fairly tame when compared with some of the other scenes in the game, which have involved beating prostitutes to death with a bat, full scale gang warfare with automatic weapons, and killing police officers with a flamethrower or chainsaw (among other things).

Mind you, I don't advocate any of this in the real world, nor do the people at Rockstar Games (the firm that produces the series); no more so than Martin Scorcese and his audience advocate the mafia, or Quentin Tarantino advocates any of the twisted things you see in his films. It is simply a piece of entertainment, no better or worse than a movie. Is it somehow more reprehensible to make a character shoot a gang member in a video game than it is to watch Ray Liotta, Robert Deniro and Joe Pesci chop up a mafioso with meat cleavers in 'Goodfellas'?

Of course not; it cannot be reasonably argued that there is any significant difference between watching a violent movie or playing a violent game. The interactive nature of modern games, though engrossing, simply allows you to view what is in essence a theatrical experience from a different perspective.

Now enter Hillary Clinton and the nanny state who is calling for a federal investigation into this game. Quote:

"There is no doubting the fact that the widespread availability of sexually explicit and graphically violent video games makes the challenge of parenting much harder,"
Well thanks for that, Hillary. Glad to see that you're so concerned about morality and parenting. How about when your husband was having oral sex with an intern in the Oval Office, then lying under oath about it. How about speaking out against that? How much harder did THAT make parenting? But an even more salient point to be made on this issue revolves around the fact that highly explicit, real-world sex and violence permeates the under-18 pop culture so tremendously that it seems extraordinarily disingenuous, and somewhat silly to go after something like this. Hollywood, MTV and the music industry peddle sex and violence so shamelessly that a stupid (and appropriately rated) video game is nearly inconsequential, regardless of how realistic the graphics and storyline may be. All you need do is watch a half-hour of MTV (target age 12-19) and you will be exposed to everything from Gucci-clad gun waving rappers singing about smoking pot and killing people, to scantily-clad teen girls singing lyrics with a degree of sexual innuendo that would make Larry Flynt blush, to R&B and Hip-Hop artists vocally and visually glorifying any and all means of hedonistic gratification. On top-40 radio (also geared towards the young demographic), these same songs are played in heavy rotation, albeit the lyrics are minus the accompanying visuals. Hollywood does a little better, recently discovering that family-friendly fare (like 'Finding Nemo' etc.), can also make big box-office dollars, but still does more than it's fair share of polluting our pop culture with vacuous smut geared towards young people. These are not abstract video game characters, either. These are real-life flesh and blood individuals who exert tremendous influence on the youth culture of this nation. When 50-Cent waves a gun and talks about shooting people in his songs (or an interview), it's quite a different thing then hearing it from the mouth of a video game. When Christina Aguilara writhes around naked singing about how 'dirty' she is on MTV, is really seems to be much more impactful than badly animated sex scenes in a mature-rated video game. The list goes on.

So where is the Clinton outrage about these things? Where are the calls for federal intervention? Why are we not bringing Carson Daily and the Weinstein Brothers before congress?

The answer, of course, is simple. The video game industry is an easy target; sure they are a billion-dollar business, but they don't have nearly the political clout that the rest of the entertainment industry carries. Compound this with the fact that Hollywood acts as Hillary's private cash cow, and we have a set of circumstances that basically guarantee we will never hear such sharp and specific criticism leveled anywhere near the direction of the big Hollywood crowd.

Hillary is, of course, posturing for a 2008 presidential run, so she needs to score a few points with the morality demographic if she has any hope of being competitive, so she figures that bringing down Grand Theft Auto will help make her look like she has something that resembles a set of moral principals. Unfortunately, her track record thus far has not been stellar in that department, and it will take more than a video game to make all of that go away. Her attempt to seem more conservative by censoring an already mature-rated video game while ignoring the child-oriented smutfest that appears on every basic cable package in America will only serve to point out her continued, unabashed hypocrisy and the leignths she's willing to go to fulfill her boundless political ambition.

UPDATE: Irish John at Evil Conservative has written on this subject also; have a look.

4 Comments:

Blogger champ said...

Hey Guy,

you have some very valid points, but it could have been more concise. Too much circumlocution to get your points across. If at all possible, you should try to take your more concise statements public.

7:26 PM  
Blogger Der Tommissar said...

Of course not; it cannot be reasonably argued that there is any significant difference between watching a violent movie or playing a violent game. The interactive nature of modern games, though engrossing, simply allows you to view what is in essence a theatrical experience from a different perspective.

Except to the point where a video game allows you to become a participant in, rather than an observer of, such actions. You're doing more than viewing the action from a different perspective when you're smashing the "use chainsaw" button repeatedly

Personally, I'm a huge video gamer, and I've worked in the industry. I'm just naturally leery of games in which such anti-social behavior is rewarded. Rockstar did an incredible job of meshing gameplay with action and really taking advantage of the technology available for making this series, however.

6:41 PM  
Blogger Karol said...

I figure evolution will take care on anyone that can't tell the difference between a video game and real life.

-Karol at alarmingnews.com

12:03 AM  
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