More on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

From http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/22/technology/22game.html

The developments could spell trouble for Take-Two, but they also reinforce the company’s bad-boy image, a reputation that has made it a darling of gamers seeking raw, violent content.

The New York Times is rightly questioning the value system that says ‘violence is okay but sex is not’, but in this quote they show just how far there is left to go for the games industry to be understood.

The real reason that the Grand Theft Auto series has been so popular is simply that they are excellent games. GTA: San Andreas has a great storyline, better than many films; it shows the value and strength of friendship across class, racial, and age gaps. There is even some questioning of the morality of the previous games in the series as the lead characters struggle to make as close to a legitimate business as they can with the resources available to them. In the violent denouement to the game they fight against the oppression of abused authority to try to free their families and old friends from corruption in the police force… But still, such a great story with strong acting wouldn’t have been enough to make the game sell if it weren’t for the simple fact that it is really a very good game indeed.

I have never bought a GTA game ‘seeking raw, violent content’ and, while I admit that it has been an excellent promotional tool for the games, no-one would play them if there wasn’t a rock-solid game behind the crimes. When the NYT argues that the reason for the series’ success is the violence they are missing the point entirely. They are brilliant pieces of modern design that call on the social meme for excessive violence that happens in every other artistic genre from books to films. Gamers, like anyone else, enjoy good design. This controversy has simply highlighted how far developers have yet to go before their products are understood by the wider media.

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