Monday, 9 March 2009

Grand Theft: Reason

Yesterday I've executed a guy. I squeezed a gun to his head, pulled the trigger, and watched the resulting splatter. Don't think too bad of me: The guy deserved it; he was a pain in the ass. And you should see the way he treated this girl.
No, there's no need to call the police: the above took place when I played Grand Theft Auto 4 (Aka GTA4) on my PS3. You see, it was a long weekend, the perfect occasion for renting a game. Mind you, as games go GTA4 is not perfect: I hate getting stuck on missions and having to do them again and again, and the way it consumes your free time is just scary. But it is one hell of an addictive game, a game that allows you to see yourself doing all the bad things your ethics will never allow you to do in real life in an environment that is as close to real life as it gets: demean women, be nasty to people for no particular reason, and generally do evil experiments that would put Mengele to shame.
Which is not to say I don't enjoy playing GTA4. I'm only human. I wouldn't, however, like to see my son playing this game. I wouldn't want to see anyone whose senses of right and wrong have not been made rock solid through life's experiences, and to be frank that would exclude a great majority of the population regardless of age; what I don't understand is how a game such as this one is rated in Australia for 15 year olds.

You see, Australia's system of rating computer games only goes up to the 15+ level. There is no "unlimited" rating to cover anything a 15 year old should not play but a 42 year old may; due to the insistence of one particular legislator in South Australia, if a 15 year old cannot play a certain computer game, no one can.
The result is that everyone tries to bend the law. A game like GTA4 cannot afford not being published in Australia; it's a game with many millions of dollars behind it, not just for the game maker but also for Sony and Microsoft (the companies behind the main platforms supporting the game). With such mighty stakeholders, the game has to pass local censorship rules, so something has to give in order to create an appearance of bending down to mighty Australia and its legislation that is there to ensure our kids grow up to be mighty and just.
Thus in Australia's case, several amendments were made to the game. When having sex with a hooker, for example, all you can see is your car rocking. And when shooting people around you will not see their injuries nor will you see blood splattering around (you do see blood in the movie like transition scenes, though).

Do you get it, then?
According to Australia's ruling parties, at least when it comes to censorship and ratings, watching a computer character have sex is a no-no regardless of age. A 72 year old can not see such disgusting acts. However, a cold blooded execution is another matter; impressionable fifteen year olds can take active part in that as many times as they want.
Makes perfect sense, doesn't it?

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