Grand Theft Auto IV’s realism all bad?

A lot of media reports about GTA IV's blockbuster release last week focus on the negative. Don't get me wrong, this violent game is appropriately rated "M" for ages 17+ only in the US, but listen to this in Slate.com and see if it isn't somewhat encouraging: "Based on my play experience [with GTA IV] so far and in talking with reviewers who have finished the game," Chris Baker writes, "I get the sense that freewheeling killing sprees will no longer be the main draw. This is partly because the central missions and story are so well-conceived and well-written compared with previous iterations of the game and partly because the violence is far more disturbing." It's no longer cartoonish, he writes. "Shoot an innocent bystander, and you see his face contort in agony. He'll clutch at the wound and begin to stagger away, desperately seeking safety…. I felt unnerved. What makes Grand Theft Auto IV so compelling is that, unlike so many video games, it made me reflect on all of the disturbing things I had done." Maybe this disturbance is healthy? Could it be that GTA4 signals a future of more thought-provoking game play (at least for healthy players)? Baker's view was echoed in a thoughtful New Zealand Herald piece covering GTA4's release: Some GTA players "have referred to the 'uncanny valley' hypothesis – that when facsimiles of humans, such as game avatars, look and act almost, but not entirely, like actual humans, it causes a response of revulsion" or "repulsion, eeriness or discomfort," CNET reports. Interestingly, this is in the context of New Zealand law, which says it's illegal for anyone to make a game rated R18 (this country's game rating for ages 18+ only) available to minors. Even parents who do so "could face three months in prison or a $10,000 fine" (the law, in effect since 1994, has never been enforced). [Here's Slate's Chris Baker in a discussion about GTA4 with readers of WashingtonPost.com.]

This just in: In its first week of release, GTA4 made $500 million in sales, the Wall Street Journal reports. Its maker, Take Two Interactive, said retailers sold more than 6 million copies worldwide, claiming that a record for first-week sales of a videogame." Halo 3 sold $300 million its first week, the Journal added.


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