OpEd Columns

Videos Provoke Violence? That's Silly (Indianapolis Star 7/31/04)

Recently Congress re-opened the case against the video game industry, discussing measures to halt the increasingly violent nature of the country’s X-tremely escapist adventures for adolescents. The worry? Violent games promote violent behavior.
Gee, that’s silly.
I can speak for the 13-year olds out there blowing holes in the heads of Playstation prostitutes in the wildly popular and audacious game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.
Leave ‘em alone. They’re playing. They’re acting out their fantasies. They’re learning good hand-eye coordination. Just ask our Marines in Iraq.
When I was 12, all it took was a summer afternoon in the arcade and I owned the universe. The Asteroids universe.
I can certifiably tell you that I was capable (in my quick trigger thumb days) of firing off more white dots of ammunition per second from the tiny triangular Asteroids spaceship, than any hotshot today loading his AK-47 to blast police officers off the asphalt of Vice City.
Did I go outside the bowling alley after engraving my initials atop the Asteroids leader board and wildly shoot white dots at falling two-dimensional cauliflower-looking things from outer space? Of course not. So why do legislators think that after playing Grand Theft Auto seven days a week, teens might take their newly acquired lawbreaking skills to the streets, rape young women, steal cars, and fire a couple rounds of Dad’s shotgun.
Gee, that’s silly.
First of all, adolescents don’t play video games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, rated M for mature audiences, not to be sold to the under 18 crowd. Anyone who’s seen an R rated movie knows that.
So the only teen buying and playing Grand Theft Auto is the mature teen. A young adult. He’s completely capable of understanding that the woman in the thong bikini he’s having sex with in his Xbox has no correlation to the girls in the bikinis at the community pool.
Isn’t he? Just ask any of the 250,000 victims of sexual assault in our country each year what they think.
Thank goodness for Grand Theft Auto. A game that’ll turn any passive pansy into a full bred Rambo. Precisely what America’s cities and suburbs need. Because if there’s one thing this country lacks, it’s aggressive young males.
Yeah, right.
Here are some facts. Male gamers have turned the GTA franchise (there are four installments of the game) into one of the most successful video games ever. Over 30 million units sold.
GTA oozes testosterone and attitude. Power and control. It’s the essence of gaming. The essence of male adolescence. From casinos, to pitchers mounds, to joysticks, males want power and control.
That’s the secret ingredient in Xboxes and GameCubes …and Playboy magazines hidden under the bed. If that wasn’t the case, Gandhi: Master Pacifist would be vaulting up the charts of best selling PS2 games. Where’s GI Jeremy: Conscientious Objector?
We have Rockstar Games to thank for GTA. Managed by 34-year old COO Terry Donovan, whose father directed Robert Palmer’s Simply Irresistible music video, Rockstar has a general disdain for things anti-violent or respectful to females. But they know how to make slick, money-making video games.
They’re artistic. They’re creative. They have no conscience.
Since Rockstar excels at teaching good citizenship, I have an idea for their new installment of GTA due out this fall. If they’re going to sell 30 million mature-rated video games, supposedly aimed at the over 18 demographic, provide a voter registration form with the game.
Better yet, make voter registration a reward for completing a gun wielding, police slaying episode of GTA. I used to get an extra spaceship for scoring 100,000 points. GTA players should be automatically registered to vote when they commit enough felonies.
After an hour of ransacking the neighborhood, “killing Haitians” (a reprehensible slogan GTA used when Vice City was released), and stacking up the body count, wouldn’t it be great to put the dual shock controller to better use…and register those mature video game players to vote?
Rockstar claims their games are about realism. What’s more realistic than being a responsible citizen? Hey, if you’re old enough to play Grand Theft Auto, you’re old enough to vote for the President of the United States.

Ted Mandell teaches in the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre at the University of Notre Dame.

Copyright 2004 Ted Mandell

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