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Grand Theft Auto – controversy of Rockstar Studios


Rockstar Games, a subsidiary of Take – Two Interactive, created a series of video games in 1997 called Grand Theft Auto (GTA).  Multiple games in the series have been made, each one becoming a more ridiculous depiction of the life of a criminal.  The gamer plays the role of the criminal, wreaking havoc on cities that bear striking resemblances to New York City, Las Vegas, Miami, among others.  I’ve played these games since 2001 and, along with many people I know, enjoy playing them a lot.  However, there are numerous aspects to the games that many people find disturbing and inappropriate to be included in something that is made for gamers; the majority of gamers (especially when these GTA games reached their peak) are usually adolescents and younger.

The biggest controversies Rockstar, and subsequently Take – Two Interactive, had with GTA were the multiple  lawsuits that arose from the GTA games being extremely violent.  There were some cases that sued Rockstar and Take – Two, claiming the GTA games influenced children to shoot classmates, or policemen.  The game’s ruthless nature no doubt was a cause for concern for many parents.  There was even a minigame included in one of the GTA games that enabled users to have sex with in game girlfriends and even record sex tapes.  There was a point where retailers refused to carry the controversial game because of all the bad press the game was getting.  As of right now, none of the lawsuits were able to be established well, and most were dismissed.  But it exposed the series of games to the public in a very negative way.  There’s no doubt that the game has some questionable content: picking up hookers, unrestricted killing sprees, and rampant cursing are just a few of the games’ controversial aspects.

This takes us to the views of Rockstar and Take – Two.  How have they responded?  Rockstar and Take – Two issued a joint statement during one of the court cases explaining how the various events and ideas in the games, as well as any alleged psychological effects from them, are protected under the First Amendment.  However, in some instances where public outrage was higher, Take – Two agreed to censor some of the game in copies of the game would be released in the future.  This sequence of events has happened a few times with a few different games for Take – Two and Rockstar.  It appears that these companies are rather indifferent to public opinion and choose to keep producing games with controversial content, some of which is profane is clearly racist.  While Take – Two and Rockstar have done small things to help quell the public outcry, it seems as if they’ve put band aids on problems that are huge lacerations.  Interestingly, the games have all had widespread success and nearly always receive extraordinary praise from critics.  The games have sold tens of millions of copies around the world and have received multiple awards; these games are loved in the gaming community.

I chose to write about the Grand Theft Auto series because of how polar it is.  It sells so well yet hated by so many.  As video game consoles have become more popular in the last decade, there has been an increase in people who play video games.  More gamers means more demand, and when the boundaries have been stretched the way they have with Rockstar and Take – Two, the copies have flown off the shelf into millions and millions of households.  Rockstar and Take – Two, while making some minor changes to previous games post – production, still are trying to capitalize on the success of the series and doing so will require more controversy, no doubt.  Below is a trailer that recently came out for the fifth installment of the series:


This will surely be a game filled with more illegal and immoral antics, but the anticipation in the gaming community has been as strong as ever.  Take – Two and Rockstar may not approve of these actions in the real world, but they’ve included in it their video games because frankly, it’s fun to be the bad guy sometimes.  The list of those offended, though, goes on…

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About Ben K.

I'm a senior management major at Bucknell University, hailing from Westchester, NY. Upon graduation, I will begin work as a management consultant.

Discussion

12 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto – controversy of Rockstar Studios

  1. I will be honest, I never understood people’s obsession with video games. Since I come from a household where I never had a Nintendo 64 or PlayStation, I did not grow up with a controller in my hand and my eyes glued to the television screen. I was particularly disturbed that GTA had a minigame that enabled users to have sex with in game girlfriends and even record sex tapes. I am not sure what the rating on this GTA is, I am sure its rated at least M for Mature, but what is this teaching future generations about sexuality and crime? Are we saying that if it is ok to commit these acts on video games, is it ok to carry them out in real life? Why can’t we go back to the days of Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man?

    Posted by Dana Silverstein | February 13, 2012, 11:03 am
  2. I guess my biggest concern is that young children and are exposed to these games and their content, the violence in particular. While Rockstar and Take-Two comply with regulating the use of GTA among young children by rating its games M for Mature, I believe that the actual limitations to a child playing GTA are quite minimal. I think that corporate social responsibility of video game makers, like Rockstar, needs to be questioned. While they are protected under the First Amendment as you mentioned, I think that the company really needs to look at the negative social consequences of their games as they showcase violence, murder, sex, destruction, cursing, etc.

    Posted by Lauren McGuiggan | February 13, 2012, 11:46 am
  3. I think Rockstar and Take Two alike are taking sides with our good friend Milton Friedman. It seems, as Ben said, these companies have no regard for the public eye in terms of video game content. Instead, they are solely concerned with engaging in profitable business. Last year in McGoun’s Corporate Finance, I had the opportunity to do extensive research on Electronic Arts, a rival of Take Two. In my research I found that the average age of games is between the ages of 18 and 35. With that spin on it, it doesn’t seem as if the content is “that” inappropriate. While I agree with both Dana and Lauren here, it seems that Take Two is simply following the guidelines of Friedman in conducting their business operations.

    Posted by Patrick | February 13, 2012, 3:52 pm
  4. I grew up with two older brothers so I remember them playing this game often. Much of what they would do in the game was crash cars, pick up prostitutes, and steal money from random people on the street. I remember my mom forbid me from playing the game and at the time I just thought she was being ridiculous. I realize now that it was the game that was pretty ridiculous for kids to be able to play. It was a long time ago that the first GTA came out, and many changes have been made in the explicit nature of media today. Yet still, this game stands out in my mind as perhaps one of the most inappropriate. I agree with Lauren that the company should take a closer look at the negative consequences of their games.

    Posted by alyssakinell | February 13, 2012, 11:48 pm
  5. I always loved video games, but GTA was never really my cup of tea. I have played it with friends a pretty good amount though, and have to say that all of the stereotypes are true. The game is way too over the top with violence and sexuality. Its weird that this is becoming a normal thing for kids to play when they are way too young. However, it is not the video game company’s job to determine who plays their video games. They came out with a product, and parents should be the ones that censor what their kids see.

    Posted by Ryan E | February 14, 2012, 10:18 am
    • Do you think parents “allow” their kids to play these titles? When your friends were playing it, how old were they? Were their parents allowing them to? Just curious.. I have kids. It is not that easy to strictly control what they do and see.

      Posted by Jordi | February 15, 2012, 3:07 pm
  6. My younger sister and I were active gamers growing up, at least in the winter time, and so I am very well aware of the violent and controversial content that GTA contains. I was always more into sport games such as Tony Hawk and racing games so I have never personally played GTA. Since the content was pretty graphic and violent, my mother never purchased the game for us but my sister did buy it for herself while in high school. I have therefore seen her play it but I was never interested in playing it myself. I do believe that the game had negative effects on children by giving them incentives and ideas for being violent, but I don’t think that GTA is the only contributing factor. Violence on television has greatly increased over the years and I feel as though the gaming world was just trying to keep up with the amount of violence that children were already exposed to. I think that a child who plays GTA will witness as much violence as is shown on the 10o’clock news! I don’t think that GTA is being socially irresponsible but is complying with the already designated appropriate amounts of violence.

    Posted by Amanda Skonezney | February 14, 2012, 9:30 pm
  7. The FIRST AMENDMENT?!?!? Really? I thought it was about political speech. How naive of me.

    Posted by Jordi | February 15, 2012, 1:58 pm
  8. FWIW, a quick search of franchise titles across platforms, puts GTA at upwards of 11o million units sold. You know what else has done that well over time? The SIMS games. And Mario. And Pokemon. So, I am not sure we can asses the ethics of the whole industry based on GTA alone.

    Posted by Jordi | February 15, 2012, 3:05 pm

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