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.