Sunday, 4 May 2008

any 15 year old can play GTA 4?

The Telegraph and the Times, two upholders of moral values in the UK both appeared to give the new game about car theft, gangland violence and misogyny a thumb's up recently.

Where is the line between gratuitous commercialism and satirical art form? In the Baby Boomer generation or Generation X there would be hippies, Zappa, Monty Python, Spitting Image or Now Show to rail against conventional values and make points about how we all live our lives. Where is the multi channel Generation Y equivalence to these perspectives?

This purported car chase game, with a 15+ predominantly male demographic (yeah, I know it says 18 on the pack), is already a winner for Rockstar Arts, Sony Corporation's Playstation and Microsoft's XBox360 (see the new bundled savings etc).

The target market has queued in lines to buy it at midnight throughout the globe and it will become a pervasive houseparty item amongst 15-35 year old boys. It paints a realistically rendered crime-based underbelly to New York complete with spoof TV and radio channels espousing bling and materialism. Is it so different from the real world?

From the early days of computer gaming whilst shooting blobs in mazes, via first person shooter-em-ups like Quake in the mid 90s, Lara Croft in the late 90s and to the 21st Century 3D rendering of Halo and this game, there's been a steady march to towards graphically realistic violence in the games and more latterly a sense of an elementary (im)moral structure interposed.

A strata of kids are already immersed in this multi player experience, ferrying gangland bosses at any cost through the streets of an alternative New York, using any form of weaponry they can obtain to complete their mission.

And in the new game, the 'women as objects' coding typified by the suppressed 'hot coffee' modifications to the previous version appear to be back in new forms along with cheats downloadable via 'Nico's phone ' in the game.

Which brings it to the question.

Is GTA IV a modern art form, portraying a tongue-in-cheek version of a New York City with some kind of mirror held up to exaggerate the values of early 21st century living? Or could it be a cultural virus, intended to push thinking to a new level of negative behaviour? Or simply the 21st century manifestation of Pacman?

I don't have the patience or interest to spend time playing these games, but I do wonder about the impact they have in modern thinking.

So, does this long term gaming in realistic environments affect behaviour? does it override or offset other social values? does the game stop at the off switch? Can the switch ever be reset once turned on?

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