Grand Theft Auto has long been a franchise that wants to bathe itself in controversy, shower itself off in heated debate and deodorize in wild accusations. Whether it’s the intentionally amoral gameplay or the amazingly unsexy “hot coffee” debacle, GTA has proved time and time again that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Gamers on both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are eagerly awaiting the most recent instalment in the GTA series later in 2010, and when the actual sequel to GTA III, the amazingly-named GTA IV launches (there have already been several spin-offs since GTA III, such as for instance Liberty City Stories, etc). The internet was alive with downloaders recently when RockStar finally allowed gamers their first peak at the overall game in the form of a teaser trailer.
Within hours though, while gamers dissected the footage, politicians leapt directly into criticize. What were they criticizing? The fictional setting, Liberty City, which resembles New York. A lot. City politicians were aghast at the idea of an item of fiction portraying violence on the streets on New York, apparently being ignorant of more or less the whole work of Martin Scorsese.
“Setting Grand Theft Auto in the safest big city in America will be like setting Halo in Disneyland,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone, chairman of the Council’s Public Safety Committee to The New York Daily News. He’s not the only one to have a go, either. GTA San Andreas Torrent Spotting an opportunity to look great, a spokesman for the mayor had a spin too: “The mayor does not support any gaming where you earn points for injuring or killing police officers.”
Oddly though, New York City hasn’t seemed to own had a problem with movie companies setting their violent and action thrillers in the city, with roads closed for the Die Hard 3 film, for example. Had RockStar turned up with millions of dollars to be able to shoot the city for textures for the games, would there were praise galore for the realism the overall game offered?
All this criticism, obviously, ignore the entire “it’s fiction” nature of the overall game leading to the question of whether future novelists, film makers, animators, artists and games companies is likely to be asked not showing the city with any violence in it. Because fiction needs to reflect reality apparently, somewhat destroying the purpose of fiction.
Regarding the trailer itself, there’s not a touch of violence. It’s undeniable that the overall game features a fictionalised version of NYC. Whilst the GTA IV preview in P3Zine, the free PlayStation 3 magazine shows, but already game commentators are theorizing that GTA IV will feature more realism and less violence without repercussions, as RockStar has supposedly been speaking with ex-cops about how much harder organised crime is to obtain away with one of these days.
RockStar has repeatedly pushed GTA IV with the tagline “Things is likely to be different” an expression echoed by the key character in the trailer, but it appears that criticism of the franchise isn’t planning to any different this time around, starting before the overall game has even appeared. It’s unlikely to damage sales. Even yet in NYC.