Myke Olson
October 01, 2002
LCC 4400
Grand Theft Auto 3 (Week 8)

Life Without Consequences

I first heard about Grand Theft Auto 3 over lunch at work. One of my co-workers was telling us about his nephew that was giving him a demonstration of GTA3. His nephew, who was around 14-years old, started with driving around the city and smashing into cars and running over people...only midly disturbing. What really bothered my co-worker is when his nephew said "Hey, look Uncle Patrick... he's a hooker. I can pick her up." He then proceeded to have sex with her (which is not graphic -- it just shows the car rocking back and forth). After the deed was over, he decided to kill the prostitute with a baseball bat instead of paying her.

Needless to say, there are aspects of GTA3 that are disturbing. The author of the game argues that it is simply a representation of real life. Certainly, the graphics and gameplay of this game are very realistic, but I do not spend every day walking on the sidewalk afraid that I will get run over by cars and I do not sit stopped at a traffic light worried that I will be pulled out of my car by someone with a baseball bat (most of the time atleast). The realisticness of the game is also a little worrisome. As games become more and more real, there is a blurring between the game and reality. If the hardware was in place (such as in an arcade) where you were actually using a steering wheel and pedals, then I would be very worried about driving near by someone who had just finished playing the game. Driving a real car after driving any driving game, I do find myself driving faster and swerving more often than I would normally. With a game like GTA3, I wonder how much I would try to avoid having an accident with another car or driving up on the sidewalk. Hopefully you would realize that you were back in Real Life before actually killing anyone, but it's easy to see how the kids in New York would kill their parents for "experience points."

I think it also says something about our society in general and the individual playing the game what you decide to do when you're put in a car with complete control. You have the ability to drive your car perfectly within the lines of the road and stop at red lights, but I doubt that anyone playing the game actually does that. Instead, when the controller is put in your hand, you instantly decide to drive up on the curb and see what will happen when you run over a human being standing on the sidewalk. What does that say about our underlying desires that as soon as we have this capability in our hands without the consequences of being arrested and put in jail that we instantly decide to kill people? Perhaps this comes from our prehistoric need to protect ourselves from mountain lions and the wholly mammoth. I doubt the game would be very exciting without the ability to kill people on the sidewalk...or to have them simply bounce off the front of the car and have them still be alive. I think it is important that the people actually do die and scream in pain as they do. Without that feature, it may make people even more likely to kill someone in Real Life after playing the game. Not only would there be no consequences (jail), but the people would be OK if you ran over them on the sidewalk.

Grand Theft Auto 3 is certainly is a game that should be studied. Besides just incredible graphics and powerful, fast-paced gameplay being features of the game, I think that it is important about what it says about the human spirit that we have this desire to kill other people for fun and that when the consequences are taken away, our values are very quickly changed.