In eager anticipation of the upcoming Grand Theft Auto 4 add-on game, the controversially named: The Ballad of Gay Tony, I decided to pay another visit to my old stomping ground in Liberty City. It has been a couple of months since I last played on GTA4, even on multiplayer, and I thought it was time to get myself re-acquainted with Nico Bellic, the game’s primary protagonist, and his friends, in order to aid a more seamless switch to the new episode on its release (due 29th October).
In 2008 GTA 4 quickly became the must-have game on Xbox 360, receiving high scores by most reviewers and selling out in shops the world over. Extra content in the form of a whole new episode, The Lost and The Damned, was released in February 2009 and was very well received, expanding the gaming experience by utilising the expertly mapped and coded Liberty City and weaving a whole new storyline into the main plot by following a sideline character from the main game, Johnny Kebitz. The sheer size of the game would have stood alone against other titles on the Xbox, but was shorter than the main game. Now, with the upcoming release of The Ballad of Gay Tony, the two episodic game add-ons are to be released in the shops as well as on Xbox Live Marketplace, grouped together in a stand-alone pack name Episodes from Liberty City.
The Ballad of Gay Tony will see the player taking up the role of Luis Lopez, an assistant to nightclub owner Tony Prince, or "Gay Tony" to his friends. As always Rockstar have set out to shock and offend as well entrance and entertain. There will, undoubtedly, be complaints and protests over the game’s content and the usual calls from ridiculous groups of busybodies to have it banned “for the sake of the children” and this got me thinking. There are always those who claim violent people are influence by movies, TV and games to commit violent acts. Pious politicians and people quick to grab headlines are forever banging the drum of fear, claiming games such as GTA4 are rotting the moral fiber of our society and are a bad influence on children. Such talk almost always angers me. To begin with the game is rated 18 in the UK. This means (and I’m talking to you, parents) that children shouldn’t have access to it in the first place.
On the second count, that such violent games cause violence in the real world, I believe there to be little that can be said for or against that except to describe my own experiences as an example of the ridiculousness of the argument. I have played violent and non-violent games most of my life. In the gaming world I have murdered, bludgeoned, stabbed and shot people, aliens, monsters and mutations. I have stolen cars and run-drugs. I have also piloted a space ship, fought in World War Two and survived in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of the distant future. I have never done, nor have I been tempted or in some cases able to do, any of the above. I have what most would consider a normal life: A job, a car, a home, a wife-to-be. I have been exposed to violent material all of my life and I am not a violent person.
I am also not a psychiatrist and am unable to argue about the mental state of someone who would cause violence to others in the real world and how images on TV and in games may influence their behavior. However, I would say this in closing; as I believe in freedom of speech and expression, I find any attempt to censor the public-in-general in order to prevent the violent or anti-social actions of individuals (that would probably occur by some other trigger anyway) predisposed to such activity in the first place to be misguided. So I am going back to Liberty City, to steal cars, deal drugs and shoot gangsters, and then later I will take my fiancé out for a pleasant afternoon at the waterfront, perhaps to a movie or for a sociable drink. For, you see, I can define the borders between, and keep separate the worlds of, reality and gaming/fiction. Have a safe day everyone.