'Tis the season of comfort and joy, family warmth and religious
rebirth. What better way to celebrate than buying your precious young son a
video game that lets him imagine himself as a murderous, whoring cocaine
The game is "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," and it's a sales
smash: Four million people had already ordered it before it was even
released. For boffo box office, just consider that "Jackass: The Movie"
grossed a newsworthy $22.8 million in its opening weekend. "Vice City" rang
up $160 million in sales before it even hit stores.
The cost? $49.99. The lack of socially redeeming value? Priceless.
Remember when young boys used to imagine themselves as comic
book superheroes emulating the noble behavior of Superman, Batman and the
like? No more. Boys saturated in video-game action today are encouraged to
do the opposite: Root for the evildoers against the cops; to kill the good
guys; and, for kicks, kill just about everyone else who walks by.
This latest "Grand Theft Auto" game follows Tommy Vercetti
(voiced by actor Ray Liotta of "Goodfellas" fame) as he travels to Vice City
(obviously 1980s Miami) for a cocaine deal. The deal goes south when both
the drugs and the money are stolen in an ambush. The rest of the game is the
player's quest for revenge, coupled with occasional side missions that
include gunning down gang members with an Uzi; intimidating jurors by
beating them with a hammer (of course, you're supposed to scare them, not
kill them); and trying to kill a pizza delivery boy.
But wait, there's more! You can have just as much "fun" beating
up people --and letting them live! Why? You can use a baseball bat, a
screwdriver, a machete or even a chainsaw to attack pedestrians for a little
armed robbery. As you attack and beat innocents, blood sprays the concrete.
If you wound your victim and he tries to run, you can chase him by following
the blood trail. You can also get quick money by hitting people with your
The game's violence just isn't enough for the manufacturers,
however. The game is saturated with obscene language and simulated sex, and
includes some of the side missions of its best-selling predecessor, "Grand
Theft Auto III," such as the player's ability to pick up prostitutes off the
street and drive to a secluded location to have sex. After you drive to a
safe place, and as the car rocks back and forth, dialogue between the
prostitute and the character can be heard ("Oh, yeah, baby," "Make yourself
at home," and "You in me yet?") When it's over, you can then beat the
prostitute and steal back what you paid her.
Who is making a mint by turning the moral universe upside down?
Rockstar Games, which is a reprehensible business enterprise made all the
more noxious by its sanctimonious pretensions to social responsibility.
"Rockstar Games is a leading publisher of interactive entertainment geared
towards mature audiences," it claims, "and makes every effort to market its
games responsibly, targeting advertising and marketing only to adult
consumers over the age of 17." Baloney. The hype is everywhere for anyone of
virtually any age to see. It's the 10-page cover story of the December issue
of Electronic Gaming Monthly. One of the magazine's reviewers loved the new
take on "Miami Vice," where people get to play the drug-dealing killers:
"Vice City isn't just the ultimate flashback. It's the ultimate payback."
Shame, too, on any parent who knowingly buys this garbage for
his (or her) child. One customer reviewer on Amazon.com raved: "My
7-year-old plays it. Forget those dumb ratings, and get this game!" No one
should be surprised when that 7-year-old learns it's funny to terrorize
Cultural pollution -- be it in video games, movies, TV shows,
music, whatever -- isn't contained in the home. It has a way of leaking out
into public schools and playgrounds, courtesy of corporations that produce
it and parents who enable it, and both of whom will predictably be so very
shocked when 12-year-olds open fire on their schoolmates on that playground.