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The Appeal of Grand Theft Auto

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In our survey of middle school youths, more boys listed a Grand Theft Auto game among their most-played games than any other game or series. Among girls, it came in second. Grand Theft Auto is one of those games that is shown in gruesome thirty-second clips before state and federal legislatures as an example of why video games should be regulated. If the violence is what makes these games popular, things look bad for the future of our civilization.

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But is it really the violence? Says game designer John Feil, who’s on the board of directors of the International Game Developers Association, “If it were just about the blood and guts, then you’d just have [games like] Postal. In Grand Theft Auto, it’s about the world you can explore.” In fact, comments from boys in our focus groups support Fail’s view that the open environment is the primary source of the game’s appeal.

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“I personally think Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is a great game,” said Barry. “Along with exploring the city, you can just get out of your car and beat up somebody. And that starts a series of things, like the cops come and then you run away from the cops. I like doing the missions, but apart from that, if I get caught up in something in the city, I keep doing that. I can do my own thing.”

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Other kids in the room agreed. “Grand Theft Auto games were, I think, the first where instead of doing certain levels, you can just walk around, blow up cars and escape the police,” Martin noted. “Or work for the police, if you happen to get a police car, or a tank, or a fire truck, or ambulance or whatever. You press a button, and all of a sudden, you’re working for them. You can catch criminals, or drive people places, or put out fires. It’s more creative than just walking around, than shooting people and doing a mission when you feel like it”.

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“And you can be a good guy and a bad guy at the same time!” added Shawn.

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Task 4.5.1

Study questions

  • “It’s about the world you can explore”, John Feil says – consider whether that is the impression you get from reading the GTA Guidebook to Liberty City.
  • What is the appeal of playing Grand Theft Auto according to the three boys?
  • Do these reasons contrast with the general image of that particular video game? See for example Jolene Gutierrez Krueger’s article.
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Talk about it

  • Why are video games more likely to reduce empathy than violent movies? You might want to use information from the other texts or from the T.L. Taylor intervews.
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Write about it

  • Write an article (150-200 words) to the local school paper in which you examine the potential effects of playing violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto. You may find it useful to include arguments given in some of the other texts.
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Glossary

survey

n kanning

middle school

sb millumskúli, frá sætta til áttanda flokk

gruesome

l óhugnaligur

state and federal legislatures

amerikansku stats- og samveldis lóggávutingini

board of directors

[board of di’rectors] n nevnd

guts

n innvølur

primary

l høvuðs-

source

kelda

explore

[ex’plore] s rannsaka

Postal

Here is a description of Postal from the review site Gamespot.com: “Moving from one surreal landscape to the next you must make use of the twelve weapons at your disposal in order to dispatch anything with a pulse. Men, women, children – it doesn’t matter if they’re shooting at you or not, fill’em full of lead! ... As anyone can see,this is most certainly not a game for the kiddies.” Not one child in our survey listed Postal among his or her frequently played games.

ISBN: 9788761657954. © Rithøvundarnir, Systime A/S og Nám 2011