Video Games: Grand Theft Auto
Every year, there's a list published of video games that someone like the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility considers too violent. They insist this list is important because games are mismarketed, misrated, sold to children despite being rated "M", and generally a bane to civilization as a whole. Questioning how they arrived at the list reveals that they haven't actually played them and that their real motivation is to see all of these games removed from retail shelves and relegated to the tawdry obscurity of porn-like adult-only outlets, regardless of other factors. I scoff at the list, and find the organization's motivations questionable, if not downright repressive, and thus offensive.
|CJ and Ryder|
It's also prurient entertainment, giving the player a vicarious thrill by allowing them to do wrong with little or no boundaries. This is the main source of appeal to the game, the ultimate empowerment that makes the game feel so compelling. When you first sit down with it, you feel like you can do anything. Unfortunately, those social and legal boundaries are important for children to learn, and the false sense of security they provide is important for children to feel safe. (For example, they're the only thing that keeps people from entering your house when you're not there. The physical barriers are laughably easy to bypass. Heck, my house has hollowcore wooden front door, no deadbolt, and a picture window in front.)
In short, the game sets a poor example.
The protagonist is an African American, and the depictions of racism and sexism in the game make the experience seem more real, and thus the immersion in the fantasy more complete. Something about the interactive nature of the game makes this disturbing, but I can't quite put my finger on why it's ethically distinguishable from, say, reading a book with an urban African American protagonist. Furthermore, since the game is designed for you to empathsize with that protagonist, I'm not sure what the net impact of the title is on the worldview of the player.
I guess for grownups, I'd say the game is probably a guilty pleasure without too much evil attached. For kids whose worldview is still in formation, I'd say keep them far, far away.