Question of the Day: Did GTA IV Miss The Teachable Moment?

Justin Berkowitz
by Justin Berkowitz

With the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, the internet and nonprofit sector are abuzz about the game's "inappropriate" content. No surprise there; GTA is designed around the commission of felonies. In fact, if there weren't a slew of outraged press releases decrying something about the game being overly-violent, sexist, racist, homophobic, etc., Rockstar Games (owned by the NASDAQ-traded Take-Two Interactive) would have been mightily disappointed. This time 'round, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has inadvertently aided and abetted Rockstar's PR efforts. Not-so-surprisingly, MADD slams GTA IV for the simulated drunk driving portion of the program. Not to take a shot at MADD's important real life message, but this is a little overboard, isn't it? I'm not going to ask the most obvious question– does driving drunk in a videogame encourage impressionable teens to think drink driving is acceptable– because I trust that TTAC's Best and Brightest aren't morons. So here's the more complex question: could GTA IV have been both anarchic and didactic?

Justin Berkowitz
Justin Berkowitz

Immensely bored law student. I've also got 3 dogs.

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  • Chris Haak Chris Haak on May 04, 2008

    I heard someone on the radio a few weeks ago saying that they'd better buy this game as soon as it comes out, because inevitably Take Two will be pressured to water down some aspect of the original GTA IV into a tamer/lamer version. I don't have a PS3 or XBox 360 yet - or the free time to play the game - but maybe there is something worthwhile in that advice.

  • GS650G GS650G on May 05, 2008

    First , It's a game not a documentary nor a textbook. It's a game. Second, I'm not sure what people get out of video games beyond entertainment. It's bubble gum for the brain in my opinion. Third, we can choose not to buy it, no one is delivering GTA4 to our doorstep requiring us to open it before leaving for work.

  • Rev0lver Rev0lver on May 05, 2008

    For an expert opinion on videogames and youth violence you should read "Grand Theft Childhood" by Kutner & Olson. These two psychologists were commissioned by the government and worked at Harvard Medical school. They ran a study examining the link between youth violence and videogames, and guess what? From Wikipedia: "They point out that even the majority of kids who played 15 or more hours of M-rated games didn't have significant behavioral problems. Kids who didn't play video games at all (violent or non-violent) actually had the greatest behavioral problems."

  • Pixel Pixel on May 05, 2008

    I've played the drunken section of GTA4, roughly here is what happens. Your character and his cousin (the first time, after that it could be any friend or girlfriend in the game) go to a bar, there is a cut and they stumble out barely able to walk. The scene wavers back and forth, your character stumbles around in a way that barely corresponds to your controller inputs. Any attempt to get him moving with any speed generally results in him falling over. You're character AND his cousin talk about how drunk they are and you are prompted to hail a cab to get home. SHOULD you decide to not hail a cab and instead get in a car you are told by your cousin some variation on "You have to be the biggest idiot in the world to drive drunk." SHOULD you then try and drive drunk the car weaves about erratically, and once again your controller inputs have only a tenuous connection to the way the car drives. It is virtually impossible to drive without hitting something. And ANY cop who spots you will immediately chase after you and attempt to arrest you. If however you wait a few minutes (which is a few hours in-game) the weaving stops and your character becomes normal again as he sobers up. So drinking causes you to stumble around like an idiot, it is suggested you get a cab, trying to drive gets you called a fool for trying makes you crash into things and the cop want to arrest you. Yeah sounds like a ringing endorsement of drunk driving on the part of Take Two.