The Video Game Grand Theft Auto Has Riled Up the Critics
By Chris Cuomo
Welcome to Grand Theft Auto:Vice City, or "GTA," as fans affectionately call it. This Miami Vice-ish video game is the newest and perhaps most realistic first-person, shoot 'em up video game ever made. The rules? Ignore all peace-loving instincts. The more you kill and the more crime you commit, the better.
Here is the action in a typical game: Steal a police cruiser, and you're off. Kill a cop and take his gun. Kill an innocent — even better. Finish it all off by blowing up an ambulance and going down in a blaze of bullets. In short, it is a delinquent's dream come true. It is also the subject of heated controversy.
"I'm for freedom of speech but … Grand Theft Auto is heinous," Washington Post columnist Mike Wilbon said on ESPN's live commentary show, Pardon The nterruption. "The people who put it together should be stoned in the street." The game isn't intended for anyone under 17 years old, but nothing prevents a younger person from buying it over the Internet, getting it second-hand, or borrowing it. "There's a lot of stuff [in it] you don't want to see in real life," one 13-year-old said.
If you wanted to buy a copy of Vice City now, forget it. You would have had to call months ago. The new Grand Theft Auto video game is sold out nearly everywhere.
Rockstar, the maker of Vice City, has learned one lesson: Simulated crime pays — and it pays well. The game sold 4 million copies before it was even released — and an industry expert says it could eventually sell 10 million copies, bringing in $400 million. Compared to a top-grossing movie like Jackass, which brought in $22.8 million on its opening weekend, Grand Theft Auto has already earned blockbuster status: $160 million in sales before it even hit stores.
In a statement, Rockstar Games — the maker of Grand Theft Auto:Vice City said: "Rockstar Games is a leading publisher of interactive entertainment geared towards mature audiences and makes every effort to market its games responsibly, targeting advertising and marketing only to adult consumers over the age of 17. Rockstar Games submits every game and advertisement to the Entertainment Software Rating Board, and clearly marks every game with the ESRB-approved rating."
David Walsh, the president and founder of the National Institute on Media and the Family, a non-profit research organization on the impact of media on kids, says most parents he's talked to don't really know of the game's violent content, even though it's marked for mature audiences. "It's full of wonderful graphics and wonderful technology but there isn't enough attention being paid to the content," Walsh said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "There is killing and prostitution," he said. Walsh said he is concerned about how the game will affect kids' perception of what's normal in real life. "It's not so much the copy cat factor … but kids and teens are in the process of shaping their norms," Walsh said. "When you kill a prostitute after having sex with her — that's not something we want boys doing," he said.
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