Grand Theft Auto happens to be a franchise that wants to bathe itself in controversy, shower itself off in heated debate and deodorize in wild accusations. Whether it is 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 the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are eagerly awaiting the newest instalment in the GTA series later in 2010, and when the true sequel to GTA III, the amazingly-named GTA IV launches (there have now been several spin-offs since GTA III, such as for instance Liberty City Stories, etc). The net was alive with downloaders recently when RockStar finally allowed gamers their first peak at the game in the form of a teaser trailer.
Within hours though, while gamers dissected the footage, politicians leapt into criticize. What were they criticizing? The fictional setting, Liberty City, which resembles New York. A lot. City politicians were aghast at the thought 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 person to truly have a go, either. GTA San Andreas Torrent Spotting an opportunity to look good, a spokesman for the mayor had a go too: “The mayor does not support any game where you earn points for injuring or killing police officers.”
Oddly though, New York City hasn’t seemed to possess 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 countless 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?
This criticism, needless to say, ignore the complete “it’s fiction” nature of the game which leads to the question of whether future novelists, film makers, animators, artists and games companies will be asked not showing the city with any violence in it. Because fiction needs to reflect reality apparently, somewhat destroying the idea of fiction.
As to the trailer itself, there’s not a hint of violence. It’s undeniable that the game features 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 speaking with ex-cops about simply how much harder organised crime is to get away with your days.
RockStar has repeatedly pushed GTA IV with the tagline “Things will be different” an expression echoed by the key character in the trailer, but it appears that criticism of the franchise is not going to any different now, starting before the game has even appeared. It’s unlikely to damage sales. Even yet in NYC.