The trailer was released for Grand Theft Auto IV yesterday. Besides making the game look like a whole lot of fun, it has sparked quite a controversy. Quite a silly controversy might I add. An immature, mind numbing controversy. In a story as old as time itself, some old men are blaming something that they can't understand or control for issues (such as crime, drugs, and poverty) that they can control but fail to do so.
I should start off by saying that I am qualified to write about this. I have appeared on television dozens of times to discuss the effects of video games on violence (and vice-versa). I have written extensively on how video games affect our society's psyche. I steadfastly believe that there are issues in our society that are far greater than video games, but video games are an easy target when someone is looking for a scapegoat. There has never been a scientifically viable study that indicates that video games cause violence.
Games don't kill people, people kill people. If a child is raised properly, then he or she can learn the difference between right and wrong even in they play video games. It is a parent's duty to raise their child properly and instill a firm sense of ethics. Walling off your child from video games will not make up for a lack of parenting skills.
I'm also a New Yorker. I love my city. I would never do anything to harm it. We're fourth generation New Yorkers and I was raised to respect my city. But facts are facts. The city is filthy. Many areas are not safe. People get shot to death. People get mugged. Drugs are rampant. Children are raised in poverty.
In a statement, the mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “The mayor does not support any videogame where you earn points for injuring or killing police officers”.
Guess what, Mr. Mayor? Video games don't need your support. I know that you are rich and powerful and think that you're the king of the city (and maybe someday the world), but the video game industry is doing rather well despite lacking your endorsement.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly went on to comment, “It’s despicable to glamorise violence in games like these, regardless of how far-fetched the setting may be”.
And do you want to know what I think of you, Commissioner Kelly? I think that maybe you should stop your men from shooting unarmed minorities 41 times. Maybe you should focus your attention on why your men have to shoot and kill a man on the night of his wedding. Maybe you could ask your men to stop dragging shackled prisoners down flights of stairs. Maybe you should train your men to be courteous and responsive and to stop acting like thugs. (although, as an aside I did have a positive interaction with the NYPD a few months ago). Maybe, just maybe, you should focus on the real life issues faced by your department and not try to sidetrack everyone by blaming a game.
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