This week, the newest installment of the “Grand Theft Auto” video game set sales records (Variety article). The role assumed by gamers is that of a criminal, engaging in theft and violent offenses throughout the Los Angeles landscape. Unlike other popular video games that place the player in the position of a soldier fighting in a combat environment, or a superhero fighting evil, this particular franchise makes no qualms about making criminal behavior fun. Instead of fighting a willing foe on a battlefield, the gamer is be entertained by stealing from and assaulting random victims.
The introduction may lead some to believe this is a negative commentary on violence in video games. It is not. This is an expression of disgust that the weaklings in modern American culture cannot even hide in the safety of their homes and live a fake cyber life with any degree of honor or dignity. It is one thing when people play video games reenacting battles from World War II or Vietnam, assuming the persona of a soldier fighting a knowing and willing enemy. Of course, a real combat veteran might look at these people as pathetic, lacking the courage to actually engage a real opponent with life or deal consequences. However, at least players of these games are fantasizing about behaving honorably.
In games like “Grand Theft Auto”, the player is entertained by acting cowardly. As discussed and explained in a prior entry, committing crimes against victims who pose no real threat does not require any degree of courage. Just because it takes nerve to steal a car from the driveway of a sleeping family, does not mean it requires bravery. The fact that the perpetrator may face repercussions in the legal system does not mean he has displayed guts when he sticks the barrel of a gun in an unsuspecting robbery victim’s ribs. Just like a pedophile who rapes a child is not courageous. Same thing.
Of course, it is not possible to demonstrate honor or dignity simply by playing a video game. It is, however, a barometer for what behavior is considered entertaining and glamorous. Some war games and superhero games sell just as well as “Grand Theft Auto”, if not in greater numbers. In a culture where honor and dignity are valued, and not corrupted in their definitions, there would be no contest between choosing to be a criminal or choosing to be a hero. The sympathetic characters in “Grand Theft Auto” would be the targets of real heroes in other games. But these are just video games in the end anyway, right?
These are just video games, and really don’t translate to reality. There is no provable correlation between violent video games and violent behavior in the real world, just like there is no provable correlation between heroic video games and heroic behavior in the real world. However, there is something that strikes me when it comes to games that celebrate cowardly criminal behavior. Visualize some pathetic weakling sitting in his room for hours on end pretending to steal things and assault random victims. He lives a fake existence, pretending to have experiences he will never come close to attempting. He can’t even live in his cyber fantasy world with any appreciation for the courage of soldiers. Instead, he dreams of living “up” to the level of a weak and cowardly criminal.