A History of Violence
Is there anyone out there, besides hippies, opposed to kids playing with Army Men? As long as there’s been guns and bad guys, there’s been children pointing finger weapons at friends and yelling “BANG!” Hell, the image is practically Rockwellian at this point. So, what is it about doing it in digital facsimile that gets people’s feathers all a’ruffled? You’d think they’d applaud Grand Theft Auto for the dramatic decrease in grass stains and skinned knees alone.
Violence has existed in American culture since the start. Generations grew up on entertainment like The Three Stooges and cartoons pictured below, now considered unacceptable, despite spawning very little as far as undesirable incidents. Of course, they’ve been sacrificed as well, officially declared unfit for youthful consumption regardless of decades of enjoyment.
Above: Perfectly acceptable family entertainment, 1940-1990
Perhaps if Bugs Bunny, Moe Howard and Donald Duck were a little more contemporary they could’ve benefited from today’s hypocrisy. CSI and its ninety different spin-offs get to display brutal depictions of murder, oceans of blood and the occasional shower of semen when it airs on CBS - for free, unrestricted and accessible to any age group. But when CSI makes a game, it’s rated “M for Mature” - not for sale to anybody under 17.
The Standard Double Standard
Movies? The Governor of California has amassed a higher cinematic body count than most GTA players, so why all the kerfuffle? It’s partially because the people who seek to control entertainment, don’t play games. They’re old, and they frighten easy. But even so, doesn’t Grand Theft Auto take a little more flak than just about any other game on the market? In terms of spoken obscenity alone, GTA came in 9th in our list of the 10 most potty-mouthed games.
No one gets up in arms at 50 Cent: Bulletproof or Saints Row. And Mortal Kombat? That’s almost cute, nowadays. The media doesn’t seem to bat an eye at the wonderfully graphic kills in Halo 3 or that Gears of War 2 is using a chainsaw to the groin as part of its marketing campaign. As far as explicit gore goes, GTA has never been that big an offender.
Above: Oustanding violence, but where's the outcry?
Well, we’re talking specifically about the games pre Grand Theft Auto IV. After all, GTAIV isn’t even out yet (even if the allegations are.) But it’s still easy to observe that the violence found in San Andreas seems quaint by next-gen standards. Of course GTAIV will doubtlessly up the ante, though, the context will be the same.
Part of what Rockstar does well, arguably better than anyone, is creating a world that reacts to the player’s personal method of violent behavior. From what I’ve seen, more of today’s processing power has been put towards creating a living, immersive city then facilitating explicit kills and exploding heads. Fat chance the media see notice that.
Above: Fallout 3, a game to keep your eye on!