Tag Archives | Grand Theft Auto

Earth to Chicago: Gaming’s “M” is Movies’ “R”

gtaivThere’s a storm brewing in the Windy City over the allegedly unconstitutional treatment of video game ads, with an industry trade group suing Chicago’s transit authority.

This turn of events stems from Grand Theft Auto IV. Last year, a rash of shootings led the Chicago Transit Authority to pull GTAIV bus ads, after a local Fox News report drew a tenuous link between the ads and the incidents. GTA Publisher Take-Two Interactive claimed breach of contract, and the transit authority reinstated the ads, but later banned all advertisements for M-rated games. It’s important to note that R-rated movie ads are still allowed.

That brings us to the Entertainment Software Association’s free speech lawsuit, and a question posed by the Christian Science Monitor: “Are ‘mature’ video games worse than rated-R movies?”

No. Let’s put the “games are worse because they’re interactive” argument aside for a moment and look at the ratings themselves. Here’s what the Motion Picture Association of America says about R-rated films:

An R-rated motion picture may include adult themes, adult activity, hard language, intense or persistent violence, sexually-oriented nudity, drug abuse or other elements, so that parents are counseled to take this rating very seriously.

Now, here’s the Entertainment Software Ratings Board on the M rating:

Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.

Looks pretty similar to me, especially the phrase “intense violence” in both descriptors. If the ratings themselves are so similar, the point of contention will surely be interactivity. But as courts have repeatedly found, it isn’t proven that violent video games cause violence because you play them, while movies don’t because you watch them.

Whether you like violent video games or not, their first-amendment protections should be a no-brainer to anyone who’s even dimly aware of past laws and lawsuits. I can’t see how the Chicago Transit Authority will emerge the victor in this case.


GTAIV Expansion Dubbed “The Ballad of Gay Tony”

gtaivApparently not satisfied with the level of controversy in video games lately, Rockstar has announced the next downloadable expansion for Grand Theft Auto IV, and it will be subtitled “The Ballad of Gay Tony.”

The add-on will focus on an assistant to the eponymous nightclub owner Tony Prince. Players will “struggle with the competing loyalties of family and friends, and with the uncertainty about who is real and who is fake in a world in which everyone has a price,” according to the press release.

So it’s only a matter of time before someone appears on cable news channels to complain and we start hearing appeals to bar the game from release — all for naught, of course.

Normally, I’d say “let’s not jump to conclusions,” but I’m willing to bet that this expansion pack will offend people because Grand Theft Auto has always relied on stereotypes for its characters. Like Comedy Central’s South Park, GTA is an equal opportunity offender, but instead of relying on satire, it mixes horribly offensive jokes with a thin layer of compassion that gently tugs at the player’s sense of decency.

For that reason, you won’t get a condemnation from me. I’m actually pleased to see Rockstar Games state its intentions so blatantly, especially in an industry whose fear of homophobia (no, that’s not a typo) has repeatedly caused problems. Besides, this is a game for mature audiences. Those who worry for our precious children might first want to check on seemingly innocuous games, like Punch-Out.