Thai Site Offers Local Perspective on GTA Cabbie Murder

August 5, 2008 -

Frustrated by sketchy and somewhat conflicting English language news accounts of Bangkok's GTA Cabbie murder, GP went looking for local Thai sources and found Asian Sweetheart. The site is mostly pictures of "gorgeous Thai ladies," but the cabbie murder apparently got the owner's attention away from posting glam shots:

The English language news stories left out much of the detail about the victim and the accused murderer. The Thai news had interviews of the families and other people involved.

The story is very sad for many reasons. On the victim's side, they are a poor family and the man was the only person making any income, and not much because driving a taxi does not pay very well. He became the chosen victim because he was older and smaller than the first taxi driver the killer approached.

GP: Based on the fact that the victim was selected by the killer in the belief that he would be an easy mark, this looks like just another premeditated robbery, not some random violent act. Taxi cab robberies have been going on as long as there have been taxi cabs (more on that later).

The killer's family is also poor but the teen had always been known as polite and very nice, even getting the dek dee (good child) award at school. The mother was a house maid and the father a security guard. The kid was alone a lot and the parents never really knew what he was doing all that time he was playing violent video games.

The 18 year old confessed to the killing, which means he won't face the death penalty as some western media incorrectly reported. He gave a detailed account of how he planned for the robbery and chose the victim, although he said the killing was not originally part of the plan but he did it when the victim fought back.
 

 

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Esquire Dishes on Violence in GTA IV

August 5, 2008 -

Esquire's Stephen Marche waxes philosophical on the nature of violence in American media - and especially in Grand Theft Auto IV:

Purification through violence has always been one of America’s central political mythologies, created and nurtured by figures as diverse as George Washington, John Brown, Malcolm X, and Dick Cheney. It’s the necessary inheritance, perhaps, of a revolutionary nation’s birth in blood... Obsessed with violence and terrified of sex: That’s practically the definition of American culture...

 

With the fourth installment of Grand Theft Auto, the series has finally achieved cultural normalcy -- at least none of the usual hypocrites has started whining yet. The game is a perfect expression of violence without restraint... Grand Theft Auto is comedy purified: a safe alternate world in which to break the law as profoundly and as often as you like. It’s the up-to-the-minute form of a primordial joy, a kind of digital Valhalla. Kill with nobody dying. Steal with nobody losing. Repeat for eternity.

 

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Thailand Bans GTA in Wake of Cabbie Killing

August 5, 2008 -

AFP reports that Thai government officials have now banned the Grand Theft Auto series following the recent arrest of 19-year-old GTA player Polwat Chinno on murder charges.

"The police are empowered to immediately arrest shopkeepers if they find any GTA (Grand Theft Auto) games on sale," Ruangsak Jaritake, a police spokesman, told AFP.

 

"GTA is banned mainly because of its obscene content -- under the criminal law article 287 that prohibits reproduction, distribution or possession of such material," he said...

 

Any game seller found stocking the game could be sentenced to three years in prison and a fine up to 6,000 baht (180 dollars). Stricter penalties are in place for online sellers who could receive five years imprisonment and a 100,000 baht (3,000 dollars) fine.

It would appear that Chinno was playing an unspecified earlier version of Gran Theft Auto - not GTA IV, given the local Thai distributor's announcement that it will not import the recently-released game:

The New Era Interactive Media company, the only legal distributor of the games, said earlier Tuesday it would remove the game from sale in Thailand.

 

"We have stopped selling Grand Theft Auto and inform all legal vendors to withdraw the game from their shelves," the company said in an online statement.

 

"The company will not import GTA 4 (the next in the series) to distribute in Thailand," it added.

 

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New Details on Bangkok GTA Case; Thai Press Blames "Games of Subversion"

August 5, 2008 -

A few more details have emerged on the alleged killing of a Bangkok cab driver by 19-year-old Polwat Chinno (left), said by Thai authorities to be "obsessed" with Grand Theft Auto.

The Bangkok Post reports:

The Family Network yesterday called on the Culture Ministry to ban the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) video game franchise after incidences of copycat violence by players.

 

In its statement, the network blamed GTA for at least two violent incidents, including the fatal stabbing of taxi driver Kuan Phokang on Sunday by Polwat Chinno, a 19-year-old student known to be an obsessive player of the game.

GP: It's unclear at this point exactly what type of organization the Family Network is. The group is mentioned at this site.

According to the Family Network manager Wanchai Boonpracha, a shooting at Talad Thai wholesale market in Pathum Thani last year was also copied from one of the games.

 

He said the granting of a licence to the online version of the game by the Office of National Cultural Commission in August last year made it readily available at internet cafes and games arcades, increasing the likelihood of copycat crimes by teenagers.

 

"The Family Network demands the Culture Ministry revokes the licence of GTA and other games with inappropriate violent and sexual content" Mr Wanchai said in the statement.

 

He said that GTA was banned in several countries, including Australia and England.

GP: The GamePolitics coverage of the Pathum Thani market shooting is here. Wanchai Boonpracha is incorrect regarding Australia and England. The game was never banned in the U.K. (perhaps he is thinking of Manhunt 2) and the Australian market received GTA IV with the hooker animations removed.

Amporn Benjapolpitak of the Mental Health Department, doubted that the video game was entirely to blame for Mr Polwat's behaviour.Ms Amporn yesterday interviewed Mr Polwat's friends and teachers at school and found that he had suffered from heightened anxiety.

 

"I don't think excessive playing of the game is the sole cause. There must be other causes too," she said. "His friends told me that [his personality] had changed."

GP: So, perhaps initial reports of a totally together teen made homicidal by GTA were not totally accurate? A second Bangkok Post article contains additional misinformation under the headline Games of Subversion:

The Public Health Ministry, which has monitored the impact of thse games on the mental and physical health of young Thais, yesterday released a list of 10 online games which have been banned in the United States since last year because of their inappropriate content... 

 

They are: Manhunt; Scarface; 50 Cent: Bulletproof; 300: The Video Game; The Godfather; Killer; Resident Evil 4; God of War; Hitman: Blood Money; and Grand Theft Auto.

GP: There has never been a video game banned in the United States.

Report: Thai Teen Robs, Kills Cabbie in Effort to Recreate Grand Theft Auto IV

August 4, 2008 -

A story receiving widespread media play this morning details the arrest of a 19-year-old Thai man who allegedly robbed and murdered a Bangkok cab driver. According to police sources, Polwat Chino told investigators he was re-enacting a scene from Grand Theft Auto IV.

Reuters reports that GTA IV has been removed from retail shelves and arcades (we're assuming that in Thailand players can play console games for a fee). From the article:

Police in Bangkok said that the youth "had wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game."

 

...Chino, described by his parents as polite and diligent... had paid to play the game at a local shop in Bangkok, and said he had needed more cash to continue playing it and that the taxi driver looked like an easy target.

GP: So, was he re-enacting a scene from the game or just looking for someone to rob? Reuters continues:

A senior official at Thailand's Culture Ministry, which has been pursuing tougher regulation of violent games such as Grand Theft Auto, said the murder was a wake-up call for authorities, and urged parents to take note of what their children were playing.

 

"This time-bomb has already exploded and the situation could get worse," the official was quoted as saying. "Today it is a cab driver but tomorrow it could be a video game shop owner." Thai authorities have been pushing for a rating system on video games, as well as restrictions on how long youths can spend playing games in video arcades.

GP: Given the Thai government's history of censorship, this case will likely not receive the type of media scrutiny and follow-up that it deserves. Not to rush to judgment, but the situation as described in the news report (including the very convenient photo at left of the suspect re-enacting his crime for police) couldn't be more perfect for a government seeking a justification for a video game crackdown.

We also note that the suspect, who reportedly stabbed the victim 10 times, is wearing what appears to be a very clean white shirt (i.e., no blood). Stab someone ten times from arm's length and closer and you're going to get blood on your clothing. And yes, he could have changed clothes, but we don't really know.

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Conservative Pundit: GTA IV Makes War on Middle-class Values

July 31, 2008 -

When last we visited the conservative-themed Townhall.com, blogger Kevin McCullough was claiming that Mass Effect featured customizable sodomy. McCullough's comments (since deleted) were apparently noticed by Fox News, which led to the even more memorable Cooper Lawrence debacle.

Townhall.com has jumped back into the game-bashing business with a post by blogger-author-movie critic Michael Medved who asserts that Grand Theft Auto IV is making war on middle-class values. Whatever they are...

From Medved:

Despite demagogic and alarmist claims that a relentless “War on the Middle Class” has left ordinary Americans pummeled and powerless, middle income people still manage to find enough money to secure most of life’s true necessities – like the grotesquely violent and anti-authoritarian video game Grand Theft Auto IV, which shattered all sales records in its first week of release...

 

The stunning success of a game that glorifies guerilla warfare, murder, irresponsible driving, prostitution, cop-killing, international conspiracies and, of course, car theft highlights the real threat to the American Way of Life: it’s not the war on the middle class; it’s the war on middle class values... the decision by so many consumers of every age and income group to invest countless hours of time in the dark world of Grand Theft Auto IV nonetheless demonstrates a threat to American values.

As Nate Ralph notes at Wired Game|Life, since when did "anti-authoritarian" become a bad thing? Ultimately, Medved relates GTA IV as a threat to, well, just about everything:

The vibrant economy gives working Americans more choices than ever before. The decline of middle class values – saving, deferred gratification, reliability, self-control, family loyalty, respectability – makes it somewhat less likely that they will make the right choices to promote their health, happiness and long-term prosperity.

 

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In UK, GTA 4 Commercial Avoids Official Censure

July 30, 2008 -

A TV commerical for Grand Theft Auto 4 has dodged the censorship bullet in the U.K.

As reported by gamesindustry.biz, the Advertising Standards Authority declined to act on complaints about the spot, seen at left:

17 viewers took exception of the ad... Ten viewers complained about the violence, while seven took exception to the time of the broadcast...

 

"Although some viewers may object to the nature of the game, the ad itself did not feature sequences that were likely to have a direct harmful influence on children or young people," said the ASA.

GamePolitics readers may recall that the ASA similarly cleared a TV spot for Bully: Scholarship Edition in a ruling earlier this month.

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GTA IV Car Named After Game Violence Researcher

July 21, 2008 -

Last September game-hatin' attorney Jack Thompson claimed in a federal court filing that a corrupt attorney marked for assassination in Grand Theft Auto IV was him. But then, Thompson says a lot of things...

What seems more clear is that a hybrid car (left) available for jacking in GTA IV is named after a well-known game violence researcher, Dr. Karen Dill of North Carolina's Lenoir-Rhyne College.

As reported by the Chronicle of Higher Education:

The "Karin Dilettante" is a sporty hybrid sedan that appears in Grand Theft Auto IV, the latest installment in the famously violent and sexualized series of video games. "Chicks love electronic gadgets" is the slogan in fake ads for the car.

 

Ms. Dill says she couldn't believe that Rockstar Games, the maker of Grand Theft Auto, had taken the trouble to name a car for her: "I was kind of like, whoa, they actually do care about video-game research."

Dill, who has testified on game violence issues before Congress, apparently took the parody good-naturedly. Reportedly, she was simply relieved to find that she was not portrayed as one of the game's hookers.

Watchdog Group Deletes Misinformation About GTA IV From Parental Alert

July 21, 2008 -

Here's something you don't see very often: a media watchdog group actually scaling back  the Grand Theft Auto IV fear factor in the interest of presenting more accurate information.

But it's true. The Parents Television Council recently issued a a video alert which warns parents about the violence and sexual content in GTA IV.

On July 11th GamePolitics reported on the alert, which is narrated by PTC president Tim Winters. Among his criticisms of the game, Winters repeats the oft-heard, "You get points for [insert nasty activity of your choice]..."

In the latest edition of, the player is a thug who gets points for having sex with prostitutes, running over pedestrians and even shooting police officers.

There are no such points in the GTA series, of course. Never have been, despite the frequent assertion of such by watchdogs. At least two GamePolitics readers, hayabusa 75 and NecroSen, wrote to the PTC to voice their objections. Lo and behold, a few days later the PTC edited the "You get points for..." line out of the video.

GamePolitics received this comment on the change from Gavin McKiernan, National Grassroots Director for the PTC:

[Winters] misspoke.  He knows there are no points in GTA and we of course want all of our productions to be completely factually accurate so we corrected it.

Catch the edited video alert here.

GP: While the viewpoint of the PTC is often at odds with that of gamers, credit is due for taking the trouble to correct this error. Kudos as well to the GP readers who contacted the PTC to point out the misinformation.

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GTA IV Robbers Get II Years in Prison

July 15, 2008 -

Separating a hardcore gamer from the copy of GTA IV that he waited for in a launch line?

Absolutely criminal, said a judge in Great Britain. As reported by the Leyland Guardian, Marc Hughes, 21, and Oliver Aindow, 18, not only stole their victim's copy of the game but also broke his nose and jaw.

So, were these two a couple of violence-crazed gamers who were desperate for their own GTA IV fix?

Hardly. The pair promptly sold the game for cash. As Judge Beverley Lunt told the pair in court:

By your own admission this was a pre-planned robbery. You saw that this shop was opening at midnight to sell this X-Box game. You dressed yourselves in hoods.  You deliberately used bushes as cover to stalk your victim and ambush him and for what? For an X-Box game, valued at £40 which you sold for £20.

This is extraodinarily gratuitous violence because the whole thing was conducted in silence. There was no demand for the game to be handed over. It is only at the end when he is lying bleeding, having had his jaw broken and his nose broken that you took the game from his hand.

 

Judge Lunt sentenced Hughes and Aindow to two years each.

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Parents Television Council Issues Video Alert on "Sick" GTA IV

July 11, 2008 -

Watchdog group the Parents Television Council has issued a "entertainment alert" condemning Grand Theft Auto IV as well as the CBS TV series Swingtown.

PTC president Tim Winter narrates:

Unfortunately, sex and violence often go together in today's media environment. That's especially true for many of the violent video games that are now flooding the marketplace. Topping them all for worst content is Grand Theft Auto. 

 

In the latest edition of, the player is a thug who gets points for having sex with prostitutes, running over pedestrians and even shooting police officers. And our research shows that many chidlren are able to buy this adult-rated video game far too easily. That's because the retailers don't have any consequenced for abiding by their own rules. We're asking major retailers to not carry this sick game at all...

 

You can also write Congress to ask them to pass the Video Games Rating Enforcement Act which will give teeth to the current ratings system.

Via: GameArgus

GP: Thanks to Matt Paprocki for the heads-up!

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NY Officials Concerned Over GTA IV Connection to Teen Crime Spree

July 2, 2008 -

A pair of New York State officials have raised the red flag over video game violence in a jointly-signed letter to Newsday.

Mindy A. Bockstein (left), head of the New York State Consumer Protection Board and Denise O'Donnell, commissioner of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, were prompted to take pen in hand following last week's Nassau County incident in which police linked Grand Theft Auto IV to a crime spree committed by a half-dozen teens.

In addition to expressing their concerns, Bockstein and O'Donnell took the opportunity to tout some parental resources available for game buyers in New York:

[The arrest] raises serious questions about whether violent video games desensitize our youth to violence, or glamorize violent behavior. It is essential that parents are aware of the content in the games their children play or want to play, so that they can make an informed decision on whether a particular game is appropriate...

 

With more than 5,000 game titles available, some of which contain graphic violence, sexual themes and adult content, parents must be proactive, cautious and vigilant in deciding which games their children should play.
 

GP: As GamePolitics revealed in December, it was O'Donnell's department that cobbled together a PowerPoint presentation which cited a notorious video game hoax site as a parental resource.

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Police: GTA IV Connection to Crime Spree Came From Statements Made by One of the Suspects

July 2, 2008 -

GamePolitics has been tracking the case of six teens arrested in Nassau County, New York last week following a bat and crowbar-wielding crime spree.

While the Nassau County P.D. said early on in their investigation that they had made a connection between the six defendants and Grand Theft Auto IV, the specifics of that linkage was never made clear.

GamePolitics has learned today that the information came from statements made to investigators by one of the suspects who told police that the group had been drinking beer and decided to act out as if they were playing GTA IV.

Although he would not name the particular defendant who made the statement, Detective Lieutenant Raymond Cote told GamePolitics:

It was rather shocking that these kids would mimic what they see in a fictional video game.

We inquired as to whether the GTA IV allegations would appear in any publicly-accessible court documents. Lt. Cote, however, said they would not. The Lieutenant did reveal that two of the defendants had prior arrests. One had been busted for a drug offense while another had a record for burglary and grand larceny (a crime known in some states, ironically enough, as... grand theft). 

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GTA IV Swag Baseball Bat

July 1, 2008 -

Forever pushing the envelope, Rockstar's P.R. department has apparently shipped out a Grand Theft Auto IV bat to selected media types. The bat features a GTA IV logo smeared with faux blood.

It's apparently by way of kicking off their holiday season sales push. Glenn Derene of Popular Mechanics writes:

Because they couldn’t legally send us an Uzi thorough the mail, [Rockstar] sent us the 14th most deadly weapon in the blockbuster game’s new arsenal: a metal bat... It just arrived with a press release informing us “‘Tis the Season To Swing Big and Go GRAND,” promoting GTA IV as a perfect stocking-stuffer for the Christmas season.

 

But who needs the game when you’ve got the bat? In the spirit of giving, we can now give a GTA-style beat-down to random strangers on the street, just like our favorite Eastern European criminal thug, Niko Bellic. And when the cops catch us, we can say that we never would have done it were it not for the influence of violent video games. And for the first time, we’d be right!

It's kind of ironic when one considers the Nassau Six, a dirty half-dozen juvenile delinquents busted last week for going on what police claim is a GTA IV-inspired crime spree armed with a crowbar and a baseball bat. While the cops haven't said exactly why they're pointing the long arm of the law at Rockstar's controversial game, wouldn't the mainstream media go bonkers if it turned out that the bat used by the Nassau Six was this bat? 

Newspaper Stands By Its Story on Connecticut Senator's GTA IV Rape Comments

June 30, 2008 -

Last week, GamePolitics was the first game-oriented site to report on a New Haven Advocate story detailing Connecticut State Senator Gayle Slossberg's controversial remarks about Grand Theft Auto IV.

The newspaper reported that Sen. Slossberg, a Democrat, was concerned about a possible rape scene in the game and was considering introducing game-oriented legislation in the upcoming session.

The following day, however, Slossberg issued a statement to the effect that her comments were "misrepresented" by the Advocate

Despite the Senator's protestations, the paper is standing by its story. Following an inquiry by GamePolitics, we received the Advocate's statement a short time ago:

The Advocate defends its reporting on this story. Sen. Slossberg was clearly speaking about stricter video game labeling in her capacity as a lawmaker, rather than as a mother or a private citizen. Also, our story said nothing about the senator wanting to restrict video game content, only video game labeling.

 

While we are sympathetic to the senator's concerns, there is no privacy protection for public speech. It is misguided to assume a conversation between an influential state senator and a reporter, or reporters, occurring in a public place, is off-the-record. The Advocate is happy to talk on background, if it's requested. In this case, it was not.

 

If There's a GTA IV Controversy WITHOUT Jack Thompson, Does it Make a Sound?

June 28, 2008 -

GamePolitics reported on a pair of tempests involving Grand Theft Auto IV this week.

First came Wednesday's report on shoot-from-the-lip comments attributed to Connecticut State Sen. Gayle Slossberg (D), who apparently used the terms Grand Theft Auto IV, rape, legislation and sociopaths [as in GTA gamers are...] in a rant that she only thought was off-the-record.

Oops...

A day later, cops in Nassau County, New York busted six teenagers for a bat-swinging, crowbar-wielding rampage that one of them apparently said was inspired by Nico Bellic, protagonist of GTA IV.

The week's happenings - in particular their sizeable publicity potential - were not lost on GTA-hatin' attorney Jack Thompson, who has waded into both situations with press releases blazing.

First, Thompson dashed off a breathless paean to Sen. Slossberg:

I commend you for your concerns about the Grand Theft Auto games.  I have been on 60 Minutes about the killing of police officers by teens who train on the game to do so.  I have addressed NOW in New York about the targeting of women by the game.
 
I do not believe there is a "rape" in the game, unless it is in a mission that has yet been discovered (that is possible), but there is plenty in the game by way of forced sex, killing of women after sex, and murdering police officers that must be addressed.  I am, for better or worse, the leader of the effort against this game, and if you saw the New York Post yesterday, a gang of teens went on a crime spree on Long Island in acting out the game!  Please contact me asap, and I can help on this.
 

Miami Jack, please explain how there is no rape in the game, but there is "forced sex"?

The likely-to-be-disbarred barrister also weighed in on the Nassau Six, cc'ing GP on an exchange with someone at G4TV. Not surprisingly, the camera-cravin' Thompson hopes to grab some air time for his mug:

...G4TV, as usual, gets it wrong.  Why am I not suprised?  The headline on this story is ridiculous.  The "hoods" are not the ones blaming the game.  The cops are!  Note this from Detective Cote: "These teens have difficulty separating fact from fiction, fantasy from reality . . . It was quite alarming." 

 

...Thus, Cote has handed all of the defendants a "video game defense."  It will be used.  How do I know?  Wouldn't you like to know.
 
I think it is time for Jack Thompson to be back on G4TV, don't you all think.  There's so much disinformation on the channel and so little time to correct it all.  Somebody tell Kevin to get off his lazy butt and give me a call...  
 
 

 

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Connecticut Senator Backpedals From GTA IV Rape Comments

June 27, 2008 -

On Wedneday GamePolitics reported on comments attributed to Connecticut State Senator Gayle Slossberg (D) regarding an alleged rape scene in Grand Theft Auto IV.

No such sequence exists, however.

PSXextreme now has Sen. Slossberg's response to the furor created by the earlier report, which appeared in the New Haven Advocate. Slossberg's statement reads:

The article in the New Haven Advocate misrepresented my off-the-record-comments during an informal conversation about parenting. I was in no way announcing a legislative proposal, announcing intent to introduce legislation or taking a public position on restricting the content of video games.

GP: It's unclear what Sen. Slossberg means when she says that the Advocate "misrepresented" her remarks. Her insistence that her comments were "off-the-record" would seem to indicate that she may have indeed made the remarks, but did not anticipate that they would be reported. We can't help but notice that the Senator has not issued a denial of what the Advocate reported.

GamePolitics has requested comment on the issue from the Advocate. We will report that when it is received.

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Connecticut State Senator Alarmed Over (non-existent) Rape Scene in GTA IV

June 25, 2008 -

Connecticut State Senator Gayle Slossberg (D) is eager to do something about the rape scene in Grand Theft Auto IV, she told the New Haven Advocate.

But she faces a major hurdle: There is no rape scene in the controversial game.

From the newspaper story:

[Sen. Slossberg] wants confirmation of the rumored rape scene in Grand Theft Auto IV—but she can't reach that level of the game. The Milford state senator's never played GTA, but she fears it's corrupting the youth and thinks a law requiring better warning labels might be the fix. She told the Nose as much at a Capitol press conference last week...

 

Slossberg hints she'll... introduce legislation next session calling for clearer labeling of depraved video games like Grand Theft Auto...  Slossberg's a bit unsure of how the warning labels might read: "I mean what would it say? 'This game will make you a sociopath'?"

 

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Latest GTA IV Flap: In-game Spoof of Pedophile Site

June 17, 2008 -

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has become the latest group to call out Grand Theft Auto IV over the game's edgy content.

As reported by The Telegraph, the NSPCC charges that the game trivializes pedophilia via an in-game spoof of an underage site.

While playing GTA IV, players can enter Internet cafes and access parody websites. One of these, www.littlelacysurprisepageant.com triggers a message from the Liberty City Police Department and automatically elevates theplayer's "wanted level" to five stars. The high wanted level triggers a massive police search for the player's character (see video). In real life the URL forwards to Rockstar Game's official GTA IV site.

The NSPCC's Zoe Hilton told The Telegraph:

It is disturbing that it is meant to be funny and that it is glamorising something that is actually really shocking and upsetting. I just think it is in very poor taste and they should withdraw it.

GP: While we commend the many good works of the NSPCC, this seems like a non-issue. The spoof website is part of GTA IV's parody of the online environment, which also includes such faux elements search engines, scams and dating services. Moreover, there's no underage content to be accessed and the high-level police alert triggered by visiting the site makes it an annoyance more than anything else.

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Did al Qaeda Inspire Some GTA IV Attacks?

June 13, 2008 -

Spiegel Online International speculates as to whether some of the attacks in Grand Theft Auto IV were inspired by al Qaeda tactics:

Islamist forums are abuzz with a new theory: The designers of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, they say, were inspired by killing methods developed by al-Qaida. But did the idea for the car bombs and suicide attacks in the game really come from Osama bin Laden?

 

For user "Abd al-Wahhab," it is obvious. It isn't just military men all over the world who are studying the murderous methods employed by the terror group al-Qaida. Rather, designers, developers and graphic artists in the video game world, he argues, have realized that "al-Qaida is a killing school."


To support his premise, Abd al-Wahhab posts five YouTube videos. We've included one here, depicting a car bomb, at an airport, detonated by cell phone. Hmmmm.... Catch the rest of the videos with the Spiegel Online story.

Spiegel games writer Christian Stöcker, however, doesn't think much of the theory:

To say that al-Qaida influenced Grand Theft Auto IV is just as absurd as claiming that al-Qaida invented violence... No way. You can carry out a suicide attack in almost every video game that contains bombs and grenades, simply by not running away.

 

 

Posted in
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GTA IV Cartoon in The New Yorker

June 2, 2008 -

How huge is the cultural impact of the Grand Theft Auto IV launch? 

So huge that even a bastion of old-school literacy like The New Yorker paid heed to the GTA IV release with this cartoon from the May 19th issue.

 

 

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California Town Driven Mad by GTA IV

May 30, 2008 -

Note to self: Give Stockton, California a wide berth. The townsfolk there have apparently turned violent, thanks to Grand Theft Auto IV.

At least, that's the impression given by a report in the Stockton Record. Running under the headline Grand Theft Auto IV Criticized by Stocktonians, the story cites interviews with just two people and gives the clear impression that GTA has adversely affected their lives.

Parent Greg Within told the paper:

My son Peter was never really aggressive, but once he got into video games, 'GTA' being one of them, he started to push, hit, talk back, and just become a different person.

A GTA player blamed his bad behavior on the game as well:

Mark Wellis, 19, said he was involved in an altercation a week after he purchased "Grand Theft Auto IV." At the time he noticed that he had become less sensitive to violence. Wellis doesn't completely blame the game for his violence, but it did affect him.

 

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Why Haven't Religious Groups Targeted GTA IV?

May 28, 2008 -

Given the widespread criticism of Grand Theft Auto IV following the game's April 29th release, reporter Gary Stern (left), who pens Blogging Religiously for news site LoHud.com, wonders why church groups haven't weighed in:

Religious groups, of course, protest just about anything... So it surprises me that there has been little—any?—religious outrage over Grand Theft Auto. Lot of groups have protested against the incredibly violent video game—police, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and prostitutes among them (the game allows interaction between prostitutes and clients and alludes to the rape of prostitutes).

 

To be clear, I’ve never played the game (or seen it). But based on what I’ve read about its contents, I’m simply surprised that the religion world hasn’t taken notice. Religious groups complain about a lot less. And GTA, you would think, would be a target that liberals and conservatives could agree upon.

 

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Report: Hooker, Blood Animations Removed from Australian Edition of GTA IV

May 28, 2008 -

PALGN reports that a comparison of the Australian and UK versions of Grand Theft Auto IV indicates that blood and animated sex scenes with prostitutes were removed from the game in order satisfy government censors. 

As GamePolitics has previously reported, the Australian Office of Film and Literature Classification threatened to ban GTA IV unless certain cuts were made. PALGN credits a reader known only as "Mick" with chronicling the edits:

According to Mick, when players pick up a prostitute in the Australian version, there is no way to select a 'service' from the prostitute. The sexual intercourse sex animation has also been completely removed, so players will only see the car bounce from a locked rear-view. In the uncut version, after selecting a service from the prostitute, players can rotate the camera to see the prostitute's actions.

Also in the Australian version, no blood pools will appear beneath a dead person after shooting or stabbing them to death. There are blood splatters, but no blood pools. In the uncut version, blood will slowly ooze out from under a body...
 

Via: IT Wire

27 comments

Common Sense Media Fearmongers GTA IV for Donations

May 23, 2008 -

GamePolitics received an e-mail ealier this week with an unusual subject line:

Keep Grant Theft Auto IV Away From Kids - Donate Now

The solicitation was from watchdog group Common Sense Media, which awarded itself some of the credit for the video game industry's recent impressive gains in retail ratings enforcements:

When Common Sense Media was founded just five years ago, the latest data from the FTC suggested that kids could walk into a store and buy an M-rated game, like Grand Theft Auto, nearly 70% of the time. That figure was simply unacceptable.

 

Since then, we've worked closely with other advocates, parents, legislators, and retailers to end the sale of M-rated games to underage gamers. New data from the FTC shows that number has fallen to just 20%. We're proud to see this vast improvement, and with your help, we can bring that number to zero.

CSM also accused GTA IV of the now-standard litany of offenses:

Games like Grand Theft Auto IV promote murder, sexual exploitation, and violence towards women. Exposure to this type of violence, which is common in most M-rated games, at a young age has been shown to make children anti-social, numb to violence, and more aggressive.
 


Of course, what CSM's message is really about:

Donate today...
 

The picture at left, which suggests a pair of adolescents playing GTA IV, accompanied the e-mail.

53 comments

Lesbian Game Reviewers Love GTA IV

May 20, 2008 -

Among the many criticisms leveled against the Grand Theft Auto series are complaints that it is misogynistic. This judgment typically stems from the oft-heard  "have sex with a hooker and then kill her to get your money back" complaint.

But a video review on lesbian site AfterEllen looks at GTA IV from the gay woman's perspective and finds it not so bad. Or, at least, an equal opportunity insult to both sexes since all of the guy characters portrayed in the game are lowlifes.

As one of the reviewers, Tracy, explained it to GamePolitics in an e-mail:

The review looks at the political satire in GTA IV and came as a shock to many readers since it didn't simply jump on the GTA = evil bandwagon. We run a lesbian video gaming site and received many emails and comments about how well-rounded our review was and how it made people rethink the GTA IV political debate.
 

Catch the video here.... (fast forward to 19:00 for the GTA IV review)

UPDATE: While the video appeared on AfterEllen, the reviewers call Lesbian Gamers their home base.

9 comments

Researcher Sees "Grand Theft Rationality" in GTA IV Controversy

May 19, 2008 -

Texas A&M professor Christopher Ferguson pens an op-ed on the Grand Theft Auto IV controversy for the Eureka Reporter:

Violent video games do not cause violent behavior. There are no good data at all to suggest that they do.... as the consumption of violent video games in our society has skyrocketed, violent crimes, including those among youths, have plummeted... We can be sure that violent video games are not sparking a youth violence epidemic because there is no youth violence epidemic.

 

In my own research, I have found that family violence exposure as a child and the individual’s innate (probably genetic) personality are related to violent criminal behaviors, but that violent video game exposure is not...

 

we need to give the current generation of youths more credit. Today’s youths are healthier in most respects than any other group of youths since the 1960s. Today’s youths are less likely to engage in violent crime, use drugs or alcohol, get pregnant, commit suicide or drop out of school than were youths of previous generations.

26 comments

Deadline Day for EA-Take Two Takeover

May 16, 2008 -

Today is the deadline for shareholders of Grand Theft Auto IV publisher Take Two Interactive to accept Electronic Art's tender offer of $25.74.

So, will the deal get done?

Probably not - at least not today. Forbes speculates that EA will extend its deadline. Adding a little sweetener to the offer wouldn't hurt, either.

Oft-quoted Wedbush-Morgan analyst told Forbes that EA screwed up by making its initial offer too high:

Wedbush Morgan analyst Michael Pachter believes Electronic Arts started by offering too much for the company. EA could have started its bidding at $22 a share, or $1.7 billion...

 

By publicly starting at $26, then a rich 52% premium, EA must have figured Take-Two would jump at the offer. Zelnick Media was, after all, brought on in 2007 to turn around the faltering Take-Two. Instead, Zelnick stonewalled. "EA didn't know how to react," says Pachter.

Meanwhile, analyst Colin Sebastian told the San Francisco Chronicle:

I think it's more than likely the deal gets hammered out. Maybe it happens at a slightly higher price, but it's good for shareholders.

 

18 comments

British Commission Hears Grieving Mom's Criticism of Violent Games

May 15, 2008 -

A British government commission studying violence in urban areas heard a grieving mother blame violent video games and television programs for leading young people into ciminal behavior.

The panel is headed by Cherie Blair, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. As reported by the Birmingham Post. Ann Oakes-Odger (left), whose son was stabbed to death during a robbery, said:

When advertising first became a medium on TV...subliminal shots... were banned... because it was considered to be interrupting the natural psyche of one's thinking. I believe video games and violent computer games have the same effect... We have a responsibility as adults to protect our children and the information that is input into them...We can't allow them to live in a twilight world of reality and non-reality...

64 comments

In Australia, GTA IV Censorship May Force Government to Tweak Rating System

May 15, 2008 -

The censorship of Grand Theft Auto IV will likely force the Australian government to add an R18 rating by year's end, according to The Australian.

GamePolitics readers will recall that some of GTA IV's sex scenes had to be cut in order to qualify for the current highest rating, MA15+. Without the edits, the game would have been banned by Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification.

Greg Bondar, who heads the Game Developers Association of Australia told The Australian:

I think the release of GTAIV is a defining moment; it goes to show how far the games industry has come. The ratings system has not kept up.

The Interactive Entertainment Association of Australia also supports adding a R18. IEA chief executive Ron Curry said:

Anecdotally, there was always a lot of hostility towards the classifications, but that is softening now as people are becoming more comfortable with games as just another form of media.

 

 
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