GTA – Now offending a prostitute near you

It appears that, however shakey your moral grounding may be, you can always point at GTA and claim it offends you.

Game Politics (another miraculously unblocked site at my POW) presents a news piece that reports how sexual workers (not my phrase) are taking issue with Grand Theft Auto in it’s depiction of the treatment of prostitutes. It goes on to suggest the glamorisation of the ill-treatment, violent behaviour and killing of prostitutes is depicted in the game as a positive thing.

Firstly, I’m not here to argue about prostitute’s rights or whether they are entitled to an opinion. These people are human and have the same right to express any opinion as you or I. As the GP article points out, they have particular reason to sensitive to the issue of violence as prostitutes have been the target of serial killers and maladjusted individuals. I totally sympathise with their concerns.

However, I believe they’re wrong on this one.

I recently beat GTA San Andreas by mainly focusing on the core missions that advance the game story and take you through the central game. A central part of the story sees the player’s character being double-crossed by his old friend who, it appears is part of a much more organised drugs cartel (which may be behind his mother’s murder) than just the amusing stoner we think he is. The player’s character has to infiltrate and earn the trust key members of the cartel to gather information and, ultimately destroy it.

One member of the cartel is Jizzy B – a purple-clad pimp. Some of his demands are missions involving you couriering his girls to a destination, picking them up, beating up customers who attempt to violently attack the women and, in one tongue-in-cheek piece of narrative, kill a sugar daddy who attempts to ‘steal’ one of Jizzy’s girls. The sugar daddy is, of course, a man of the cloth.

As the narrative proceeds, the player dispenses justice on the pimp who pays the ultimate price for his crimes.

I’m pretty sure I’ve got it covered there. Those missions must be played out if the player is to proceed with the core narrative of the game and wishes to further their progress.

I’m not convinced that, through these missions, GTA is rewarding the player and teaching them that acting violently towards prostitutes is a good thing. If anything it is demanding the player to protect them from those that would do them harm – including their pimp.

Of course, GTA offers enough tools in the game to allow the player to do what they wish when they’re not focusing on advancing the game’s narrative. You can steal a taxi and the game lets you earn money by taking passengers to their destination. You can haul cargo in trucks cross country. You can export and import cars. You can indulge in some illegal street racing. You can steal a certain type of car and undertake ‘pimping’ missions – which differ very little from the taxi missions in that a person must be picked up and dropped off at a certain geographic location within a time-limit.

None of these ‘gameplay-tools’ are essential in completing the core game. They are available to the player if the player wishes to use them. In some cases the player may be rewarded (earning fare for acting as a taxi for example). More challenging optional tasks – such as finding all 100 opposing gang graffitti tags and respraying your gang’s tag over them – unlock hidden bonuses on their completion. This tagging task is akin to looking for 100 needles in a very large haystack. Good luck with that one!

The player can also run around doing small cash-earning tasks, decide to buy a weapon and hunt down every prostitute-shaped character in the game. They don’t have to. But the combination of tools make it possible if the player decides that is what they want to do.

In real terms, a gun is a tool. A hammer is a tool. A pencil is a tool. But with the will of the user they could all be used to kill someone. Does this instantly mean the tool is evil or its production and existence should be moderated or questioned? The National Rifle Association, I’m sure, have a very clear perspective on whether a tool is inherently evil or destructive or whether the user of the tool is the one that actually defines it’s use.

GTA is a nice, high profile target – for anyone with a grievance on anything. But, in my opinion, the argument have no credibility in the world we live in today.

Videogames are the new rock and roll. The work of the devil and, it seems, the reason for all of society’s ills.

That’s another statement I don’t believe is true.

No prostitutes were harmed in the creation of this article.

Mum’s Army

I’m of the firm belief that my employer has access to a range of books with titles like “How to de-motivate your staff” and “How to make a bad situation worse”. For the time being I won’t go into a full list of their actions (not whilst I remain employed there at any rate) but one cute move is to block pretty much all the gaming websites I have in my bookmarks. That’s quite a lot of sites. I appreciate that web access and the means to use it are by no means a given right for me to complain about. However, in the context of keeping your staff happy and motivated it does a lot of good.

Somehow, a site that has slipped under the radar is A fantastic, British-focused site with good articles and informed commentary. Thank heavens for small mercies.

A recent article “Videogames’ worst enemy is lazy parenting” responds to the actions of women’s magazine “Take A Break”, their readership group entitled “Mum’s Army” and the group’s belief that violent videogames should be banned.

The article goes on to make the distinction that many measures have been taken by the games industry to inform the concerned parent of a game’s content and to control what degree of access their child has to it. Age ratings, content description, in game warnings and hardware with parental lock out controls are just some of thse measures. It appear’s that Mum’s Army believes that if the content is ‘out there’ then they have no means to intervene before it hits their child’s retinas than an outright ban.

The article is worth a read – whatever side of the fence you happen to sit on.

I can’t help conjuring up a mental image of Johnny-12-year-old playing the 50 cent game in the front room, gazing transfixed at the pixellated thuggery on screen whilst his mother is sat on the sofa behind him engrossed in Take A Break magazine.

My opinion is that these sort of parent needs to stop taking a break from parenting and to start taking it seriously.