When you’re playing Grand Theft Auto, you can rob a house, car, or pedestrian; gun down anyone you want; solicit practitioners of the world’s oldest profession; and when all is said and done get away with it. In fact, you can break almost any law you want and participate in activities wholly repugnant to decent society—and that is why the game is so popular.
GTA presents a world with no consequences, unless you count death. But no one really ever dies in video games, lest consumers get frustrated and give up on them altogether. No, if you get mowed down by a gang or policemen in GTA, you simply come back to life, ready to begin anew your reign of terror.
A game like this should repulse every aspect of my being. I’m a Southern Christian conservative, the kind of guy who reads Ann Coulter’s work and watches Fox News. To me the culture war is real, morality is gradually fading from the fabric of American life and the worst of our society gets shoved in the face of the American people—and far worse its children—on a daily basis.
GTA goes against everything I stand for, and for that reason I can’t figure out why I have so much fun playing it. And when I say I have fun playing it, I mean I’m addicted.
As any fan of the GTA games knows, there are many editions out there, with the most recent being GTA: San Andreas. I started in high school playing GTA III on my Playstation 2. Ironically, I was encouraged to buy the game by my church’s youth minister (he wasn’t a very good one), who also found himself addicted despite his conservative tendencies.
Immediately after robbing my first car, I was hooked, and I proceeded to play the game to my heart’s content for four hours a day, seven days a week, until three weeks later I looked at myself and realized how horrible I felt. Murdering thousands of fake people takes a toll on a man.
After that experience I swore I would never play GTA again.
It turns out what I really meant was that I’d never play again until GTA: Vice City was released. This version of the game blended Miami Vice and Scarface to produce yet another world without consequences, but this time it had a beach, palm trees and some classic ‘80s theme music. Having absolutely forgotten my previous oath, or at least having blocked it out of my mind, I chose to purchase this edition—just to try it out.
Three weeks later my eyes were red, my sleeping habits disrupted and my schoolwork forgotten. I played Vice City even more than GTA III, and having done so I felt even worse. But I didn’t feel bad enough to avoid purchasing GTA: San Andreas, which takes place in early ‘90s Los Santos (a city that bears a surprising resemblance to Los Angeles). You can guess what happened after that.
Clearly, I should not be playing this game. I am someone who aims to defeat destructive influences like GTA, and yet I indulge in it on every occasion I can. It is outrageous that I, someone who constantly endeavors to seek the moral high ground, should have this black mark on my conscience. For crying out loud, even Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., has denounced this game for a sex scene it contains that anyone can unlock by downloading an Internet patch. Although I find it odd that she has more of a problem with this hidden sexual content than with the graphic violence and criminal activity the game glorifies, she nevertheless has one-upped me by criticizing it, as opposed to my actively playing and endorsing it.
For years I’ve tried to match my sense of morality to my actions, but like other vices, GTA has the ability to suck me into an abyss that is difficult to escape.
Fellow GTA aficionados, beware: This game in excess may corrode your mind and distract you from real life. It’s a scary thing when murder no longer shocks you and when Hillary Clinton has the moral high ground.
Jamie Deal is a Trinity sophomore. His column runs every other Thursday.
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