20080501

Someone's MADD

I'm generally supportive of MADD and its attempts to curtail drunk driving. My mother was a member last that I could remember, and I agree that drunk driving is unarguably a Bad Thing(TM).

I distinctly remember playing with cars on one of my grandparents' oval rugs like it was a raceway. Along with one of my siblings, we crashed cars and joked about one of them being a drunk driver. My dad quickly curtailed that joke, lecturing us on the severity of the consequences of drunk driving. I must have been only four or five at the time. This was a Good Thing(TM) for him to do, as we were developing children.

However, MADD is currently attacking Grand Theft Auto IV for including the ability for the player to drive drunk. And I quote:

"'Drunk driving is not a game, and it is not a joke.'"


Taken by itself this is a reasonable sentiment. In the greater context of being a direct criticism of GTA IV I find it somewhat ridiculous. Here are several responses, in no particular order.

1. So, does this mean that prostitution, gang violence and drugs are games and jokes?
2. It's a game now!
3. I'm sorry, I couldn't hear your complaint over the sound of the tanks chasing me across the city.

Alright, those were all snarky and completely unhelpful responses, I'll admit to that. Pardon me for indulging in ridiculous answers to a ridiculous problem.

In short, I don't see drunk driving being a good enough reason to bump GTA IV from an MA rating to an AO rating, nor do I see the need to recall the game or stop its production. This is not because I love violence or feel that we should have a reverse prohibition wherein alcohol is available to all ages. It's because I believe that video games are a new media form that needs to be given its chance to grow and flourish.

We have plenty of books, cinema and radio programs that sport references to sex, violence, drugs, drunk driving and worse. They are appropriately judged and restricted from those who might be impressionable. There is an implicit understanding that what is contained within these media is not always appropriate for children.

My continual vexation is that people still do not have this implicit understanding when it comes to video games. We often hear the argument, "It will end up in the hands of children anyway." Why? Studies have shown multiple times that it is the children's own parents buying them these games, despite the warnings of both the box and the store clerks. Either these parents don't care, or they still make the bad assumption that video games are purely a child's entertainment.

I would no more buy GTA IV for my child than I'd buy them Memento. Some things are just not meant for children.

Eventually our sensibilities will catch up to the fact that video games are just another media form and should be treated appropriately. For now, I shake my head again as unnecessary controversy is stirred.

6 comments:

jocelyn said...

I completely agree with your assessment of the ridiculousness of being outraged at GDA for one of many infractions. Drunk driving is a serious issue, and I definitely think it's a good idea to not make it a game. Then again, you're right: we shouldn't make carjacking and prostitution a game either.

While the video game world does indeed need to flourish, as does the world of writing and art, makers should think through their responsibility to the public when they create games out of these things. The trouble is that violence and sex sell greatly, and gamemakers can become more easily motivated by the dollar than their consciences in order to keep their jobs and the industry moving.

I don't mean to make gamemakers solely responsible at all; it's abhorrent that parents would buy this game for children who are "underage" according to the label. The problem exists on both sides, and both sides need to evaluate their actions and motivations.

Matoushin said...

Not to diminish your kind response, but I think my point didn't come across well.

My point wasn't that drunk driving is simply part of a laundry list of issues with GTA IV, but that it isn't a sufficient reason in and of itself to change the game's rating, cease production or warrant a recall.

When it comes to violence and other controversial subjects in media I tend to err on the side of classification over restriction. While art can thrive in almost any situation, it's best to let the artists themselves determine their own restrictions. So long as they can abide by the classifications, there should be no issue.

The issue, as I see it, is that I perceive violence etc. as a function of setting and story, while many of the minds behind media see them as a selling point. That is the industry's irresponsible breakdown. Violence should not be artificial flavoring.

jocelyn said...

Ah, now I see what you're saying. You're absolutely right; the problems with GDA IV are so much more rampant than *just* the drunk driving issue.

Le sigh.

Matoushin said...

Gee TEE Ay! It's not Grand Deft Auto!

And just because I'm paranoid you're not quite understanding, my point isn't that GTA is full of problems, that's part of my point but not my target.

What I'm basically trying to say is that this is akin to being aghast that Huckleberry Finn mentioned Arabs, particularly blue ones. You're complaining about part of the core existence of the work of art.

Part of GTA is the grittiness of the setting. It's like the movie Sin City; an artistic, exaggerated caricature of American city life. To suddenly enforce prohibition would be like having mobsters serving sparkling cider at a speakeasy. It completely clashes.

That's my big defense of GTA. As much as I'd like to see more non-violent games, I think it's worth my time to give accolades to a violent game that isn't violent for the sake of being violent.

RAGE said...

So... no ringing endorsements for ManHunt?

Matoushin said...

None for Manhunt, but mostly because I didn't find it a particularly engaging game. As you recall, your description gave me a completely wrong idea of what the game was going to be like, and as such kind of spoiled it.

I keep thinking of picking up the sequel, but since I haven't gotten around to beating any console games recently I've shelved the notion.