By Jaye Sonia
When it comes to the topic of censorship, I’m generally pretty straightforward; I believe that consenting adults (and I’m placing emphasis on that phrase for a reason) should be allowed to choose what books they read, which movies and television shows they watch, what songs they listen to, and what games they play. In short, consenting adults should be allowed to choose what they consume. Obviously, the censorship debate is long and wide. And as much as I’d like to, I don’t think I could cover it on a single page – at least not without cutting out a lot of the much-needed background on the discussion. It’s just not something that can be summarized in a thousand words. With that said, censorship does exist in Kuwait (which comic book fans know first hand) and does impact what we hear, read, watch, and so on. Of course, enterprising individuals always manage to get the things they want, regardless of whether or not those things are banned. This includes video games.
What follows is my opinion on Grand Theft Auto V. In part, this is an early review of the game (I haven’t completed the storyline yet) and some of the content it includes. I’m going to talk about what the game glamourizes, but I’m not going to talk about how it could impact young minds – ultimately, that’s up to parents to decide. Nor is this a call to censor the game in Kuwait, although it may appear as such to some. Instead, this is a review that I hope serves my readers – both expatriates and Kuwaiti. I hope that it makes parents aware of what the game contains before they run off to Rihab Complex to buy it for the children and younger adults in their household.
Like many of its predecessors, Grand Theft Auto V is a crass game that pulls no punches. It includes pretty much anything that could offend anyone, anywhere, at any point in time – nudity, sexual references, drug use, prostitution, alcohol use, murder, loads of violence, racism, sexism, stereotypes of every sort, and probably a few other things I’ve yet to discover in the game. All of these lowbrow elements grace (and I use that word in the most ironic sense possible) its storyline. I’m not surprised in the least that it gets a Pegi rating of 18 (see: www.pegi.info) or an ESRB rating of X (see: www.esrb.org/index-js.jsp).
And neither should you.
The game isn’t built around the concept of being a hero in any way, shape, or form. Sure, there are some side missions where you can follow Spike Lee’s advice and ‘do the right thing’, but those are far and few between. What’s the point in stopping a mugging or getting a kids BMX back when you’re assassinating corporate heads left and right? The list of things you can do wrong far exceeds the possibility of doing things right. The very storyline is built around your dark past (you play three criminals) and all the chaotic, psychotic, and violent things you could imagine. If it’s illegal somewhere, this game glorifies it.
Is it fun? Sure. But that’s where that phrase consenting adult comes in. One would expect (or at least hope) that those playing this game have a basic understanding of morality; that they know right from wrong. Because, honestly, this is not the sort of game you want impressionable young minds emulating (well, not unless you fully intend to raise a psychopath). Would I buy this game for a kid? No. Would I discuss it with a teen or young adult? Possibly. In fact, it could be a great vehicle for mature discussion on a number of topics that parents and their children face in complex societies around the world.
GTA V does have its innocent moments and, I suppose if you looked hard enough, you could find things to do that aren’t overtly horrible and illegal. There are in-game races and sports. You can even challenge friends to tennis and golf games online (when you’re not robbing banks, of course). The game is massive, too. While I’ve played some of its predecessors, the sheer degree of how open and immersive Los Santos is boggles the mind. I could, quite literally, spend days just driving around the city and its surrounding areas. That says something, too. Rockstar has invested a lot into this game. It’s no wonder it generated $1 billion in sales the very first weekend it released. Your options for this sandbox are very, very open. Mature gamers will find a lot to do here – up to and including being eaten by a shark.
In closing, there’s a lot to like about GTA V and I think adult gamers willing to engage the criminal part of their personalities will get a lot of mileage out of this game – even if they do pay 40+ dinars for it. But I’d be very mindful of where I leave this game, too, especially if there are minors in your household.