Review by Inigo Pipkin

"A very nasty and immoral little game"

Grand Theft Auto was a game that came out in 1998 on the PlayStation. It casts you in the role of a petty criminal who takes on jobs to earn money and respect across three US style urban sprawls. This mainly involves stealing cars and carrying out jobs for criminal gangs. The action is in fairly crude 2D and the cars and map are viewed from a birds eye view perspective. When it came out it caused a huge controversy due to its violent content and its casting of the player in the role of a criminal.

For me Grand Theft Auto and the general reaction to it and its sequels sum up much of what is wrong with gaming culture today. The ideas behind Grand Theft Auto are basically an incitement to commit some of the most anti-social behavior a civilized person can. Namely car theft, murder, pimping and drug running to name but a few.

Now I am not going to take the controversial position that playing a game like Grand Theft Auto would encourage a person to imitate the actions of the game. People who blame the media for their murderous and antisocial behavior are merely using the general prejudice against videogaming for their won ends. However I have to question the desensitizing effect regular exposure the the Grand Theft Auto series would have upon a person.

GTA was hailed as a milestone in gaming for allowing the gamer to do the kinds of things that videogames had previously shied away from. Although videogames have involved killing and indiscriminate murder since they were first conceived this has mainly taken place within historical or fantasy settings. By bringing the action up to date and setting it within a recognizably modern US cityscape, GTA removes the layers of fantasy that previous gaming violence and thrust the player into a modern day spree of thuggery and crime.

Perhaps due to the cartoonish nature of the top down visuals and the crudeness of the gameplay, the immorality of the game was lost on many players. But it is hard to see how a game that asks you to blow up police stations, run prostitutes across town, hide drugs in your vehicle and murder rivals can have any redeeming features especially when we see the real human misery of the actions of the kind of character you are playing cause to people everyday on the news.

The addition of bonus for killing members of a religion (running over all the Hare Krishnas at the beginning of a level is particularly repugnant) and the way the running over and shooting of innocent bystanders is very lightly treated makes you wonder what kind of society we have become when this is considered entertainment. The 3D update which I have not had a chance to look at but which has received the kind of praise that makes it sound like the pinnacle of modern gaming proves that for many people gaming is obviously an outlet for the frustrated murderer, thief and pimp that resides inside them.

And then they wonder why gaming is still considered by many to be the domain of the anti-social, single male? We deserve better than games like Grand Theft Auto and the cynical way they pander to the worst aspects of human behavior to gain sales and notoriety. Very, very poor.


Reviewer's Score: 1/10 | Originally Posted: 01/01/02, Updated 01/01/02


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