Grand Theft Auto happens to be 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 the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 are eagerly awaiting the latest instalment in the GTA series later this season, and when the real sequel to GTA III, the amazingly-named GTA IV launches (there have already been several spin-offs since GTA III, such as Liberty City Stories, etc). The net was alive with downloaders recently when RockStar finally allowed gamers their first peak at the overall game in the shape of an intro 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 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 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 a chance to look good, a spokesman for the mayor had a chance 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 trouble 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 in order to shoot the city for textures for the games, would there have been praise galore for the realism the overall game offered?
All of this criticism, obviously, ignore the complete “it’s fiction” nature of the overall game that 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 purpose of fiction.
Regarding trailer itself, there’s not a hint of violence. It’s undeniable that the overall 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 conversing with ex-cops about how much harder organised crime is to have away with your days.
RockStar has repeatedly pushed GTA IV with the tagline “Things will be different” a term echoed by the key character in the trailer, but it seems that criticism of the franchise isn’t planning to any different these times, starting before the overall game has even appeared. It’s unlikely to damage sales. Even in NYC.