Sunday, November 28, 2010

Why don't video games encourage carjacking?

A great George Will piece today about Puritanical progressives trying to restrict sales of video games made me wonder, why bother focusing on the impact media has on violence when they're a much easier statistic to isolate.

Violence is a broad concept. It's always been a popular subject in books, movies, music and now video games, and its so vague and universal it's difficult to tease it out what specific factors influence it. If someone reads a book about a shooting spree and then punches someone, didn't he just commit violence after reading about violence?

I have never played a game in the infamous Postal series, nor have I met someone who mentioned playing one. It always gets brought up in news articles, but inside video game circles I've only heard it mentioned in the context of censorship. It's not something people actually seem to pick up and play for fun and sounds more like a slightly-interactive menu than a game.

But that isn't true for the Grand Theft Auto series, which were obscure top-down games until 2001 when they hit on the third-person formula and became popular. Unlike Postal, these are actual games that people play. You know, the kind that present challenges for people to overcome. These games are well made and fun, and as a result became incredibly popular. In May 2008 Grand Theft Auto IV sold almost 3.7 million games on opening day - an industry record until Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.

Grand Theft Auto games notoriously allow players to murder prostitutes, a point never missed by its critics. However, the games have never suggested players do so - they merely present an open world where people can shoot anyone, if they so choose. In the same vein, someone can draw a swastika in MS Paint or write racial slurs in a word document.
The games also feature taxi drivers and there's nothing stopping a player from getting a ride somewhere then shooting the driver to "get their money back," but that point is never made to demonstrate how violent the games allow people to be.

Unlike Postal, the Grand Theft Auto series actually has fans and high sales. It also prominently features a crime no other popular media focuses on - carjacking. You can find murder up and down the library, video store or history book, but video games have a monopoly on carjacking.

So if video games really do encourage players to act out the activities in real life, you would expect a prominent carjacking game like the Grand Theft Auto series to rush in a wave of carjackings.

But they didn't. In fact, carjackings went down from a high in the 1990's. So if the opponents of violent video games could drag up some figures showing a simple correlation between carjackings and carjacking video games, I'd consider their case. But they can't even do that.


  1. Restricting the sales on something makes people want it even more, right? *laugh*

  2. Let's get to the core issue here. Like many true progressives, these anti-gaming progressives are not really interested in the welfare of people or the quality of society. This, and many examples like it, are an attempt to gain control of private enterprise (and, more specifically, the American people) veiled behind "protecting the public". Good entry Michael!

  3. Thank you Abner, but I do have to disagree with the idea that progressives only care about control. I think they honestly want to keep violent games away from small children. I respect that goal, but I loathe the tactics they use. I think they're trying to do what's in their heart, and they are wrong.

    I think you'll benefit from seeing what I wrote about it before: