Wil Wheaton has a great post about moral panic and GTA, sparked by the fact that GTA IV comes out today. Before the game is even out there’s people freaking out about bus ads and screaming WON’T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN and whatever other nonsense. Cue eye roll.
The fact that kids shouldn’t even be playing the game and that, if they are, then perhaps the problem is their parents’ inability to parent never comes up in certain circles. Go fig.
But what really annoys me is the panic about how horrible and morally degrading the game is. Not because of the violence, necessarily. People rarely ever get up in arms about that. But because the character can have sex with and also kill prostitutes. OH LORDY.
First of all, the player does not have to kill prostitutes if they don’t want to. Second, the player can kill just about anyone, not just prostitutes. Why are people so concerned about pixilated prostitutes and not pixilated old ladies?
I think we all know the answer.
Anyway, I only care about this because I love me some GTA. Oh yes! I own GTA: Vice City and GTA: San Andreas. Surprised? Maybe not. But it may surprise you how I play these games.
When I fire up GTA, I do pretty much the same thing. I first activate a cheat so that the cops will leave me alone. I then activate a cheat to get a bunch of dangerous and fun weapons. Then I walk out of my safe house and find a car. I then carjack it. Then I drive off in a random direction and explore the city while hitting pedestrians, running into other cars and making their occupants angry, and trying to find new ways to travel to San Francisco and Las Vegas (if I’m in San Andreas). Sometimes I get out of the car, pull out a weapon, and randomly kill people just because I can. I particularly love the flamethrower. When nighttime comes, yes, I go around looking for prostitutes. I enjoy the little having sex/car jumping animation. Sometimes, if I am in the mood, I kill the prostitute. Sometimes I kill the ones that won’t get in my car. After about an hour of flying the plane, killing people, picking up prostitutes, and causing general mayhem, I turn the game off and go do something else.
I could make a joke about how doing this in a game keeps me from doing it in real life, but the truth is that I have never had the desire to find a flamethrower and go to town on some random folks. I don’t drive, but if I did I think I could refrain from crashing into cars and running down pedestrians. I don’t have any interest in prostitutes or in killing them, or killing anyone. Playing this game has not made me more likely to knife anyone. I am not more hostile than I used to be (I’ve always been pretty hostile, just ask F. Paul Wilson). I bet this is true for most people. But I am sure there are plenty of moral outragists who will pass out from the vapors upon reading my GTA routine.
These are the same people who are convinced that Harry potter will turn kids into Wiccans and/or Satanists. Basically people who themselves are unable to distinguish fantasy and play from reality and right thinking. People who, because they listen to whatever some authority figure tells them without applying their own critical thinking skills, are convinced that everyone else is the same. Sorry, but no. I can think for myself, I know right from wrong, and some book, tv show, or video game isn’t going to change that.