Grand Theft Auto is definitely a franchise that loves 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 newest instalment in the GTA series later this year, and when the true 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 web was alive with downloaders recently when RockStar finally allowed gamers their first peak at the game in the shape of an intro trailer.
Within hours though, while gamers dissected the footage, politicians leapt in to 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 virtually the entire work of Martin Scorsese.
“Setting Grand Theft Auto in the safest big city in America could 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 alone to really have a go, either. GTA San Andreas Torrent Spotting a chance to look great, a spokesman for the mayor had a spin too: “The mayor doesn’t support any computer game 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 resulted in with millions of dollars to be able to shoot the city for textures for the games, would there have been praise galore for the realism the game offered?
All of this criticism, of course, ignore the entire “it’s fiction” nature of the game leading to the question of whether future novelists, film makers, animators, artists and games companies will undoubtedly be asked not showing the city with any violence in it. Because fiction needs to reflect reality apparently, somewhat destroying the point of fiction.
As to the trailer itself, there’s not a touch of violence. It’s undeniable that the game includes a fictionalised version of NYC. As 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 talking to ex-cops about how much harder organised crime is to obtain away with your days.
RockStar has repeatedly pushed GTA IV with the tagline “Things will undoubtedly be different” a phrase 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 game has even appeared. It’s unlikely to damage sales. Even in NYC.