[GRWC8] Could the Politics of GTA IV influence... [Article]

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Post[GRWC8] Could the Politics of GTA IV influence... [Article]
by A.I. » Sat Sep 20, 2008 3:38 am

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Anonymous wrote:Could the Politics of GTA IV influence who will be the next U.S. President?

The release of Grand Theft Auto IV saw a conscious shift in art direction away from the stylised neon glow of Vice City and San Andreas towards a grittier more realistic aesthetic. It was clear that developer Rockstar Games wanted to visually demonstrate that the series had matured. Whilst the game still retains a fictional setting it is one that is grounded in reality. Liberty City with its constituent boroughs is New York City in everything but name. The game has its feet based firmly in the here and now of 2008. Amidst the story of an East European immigrant is a game played with the shadow of 9/11 looming over every mission. The in-game media of GTA IV is oozing with political commentary in a bitter polemic against the Bush administration’s handling of the War of Terror. In the run up to this year’s presidential election, American citizens and videogamers are politically receptive. Could the influence of the Politics of GTA IV decide who will be the next U.S. President?

British brothers Sam and Dan Houser are the masterminds behind the GTA franchise. They now live and work in the New York City. In an interview with EDGE magazine (relayed by Gamesradar) Sam described the emotional impact the events of September 11th had on him.

He couldn't "take in a movie in the same way," and that "a large part of my leisure time suddenly took a knock because I couldn't take it seriously any longer". And one reason he states is the terrorist attack of 9/11. "I think September 11 also had something to do with [not taking movies, etc seriously] as well, because I saw that happening through my apartment window and it was the most real action-movie thing I'd ever seen because it strawberry floating well was real, and no explosions have looked real to me since that point. It's like 'You can keep your Bruckheimer ones - that doesn't work anymore'."

Start a game of GTA IV and you are plunged straight into a Mayoral battle for Liberty City between a left wing and hard right candidate. 9/11 is indirectly referenced In the right wing Mayor’s commercial when he mentions the ‘terrible events,’ he then attacks his rival’s liberal policies. Soon after you start playing GTA IV you will quickly discover that bridges to other boroughs are closed until you complete certain gameplay objectives. In GTA III the reason given for not being able to travel across the Callahan Bridge is because they are closed for repairs. However in GTA IV the ingenious conceit used for this gameplay limitation is the War on Terror. Players are effectively told that the reason they cannot travel across these bridges is not because they have to unlock it but because the right-wing government won’t let them!

"Your station for sports, weather and the war on terror" Turn on the in-game TV and you can watch Weazel News, a direct parody of Rupert Murdoch owned Fox News, famed for its support of the Bush administration. Likewise the jingoistic Weazel’s appropriation of the American flag is tied in with their implied claim that only supporters of the War on Terror are true U.S. patriots.

Watch the children’s cartoon Republican Space Ranger and you see the adventures of Commander, Dick and Butch as they travel across the universe imposing US policies in space “Shoot fist, ask questions later’ a direct attack on American foreign policy with parallels to the ‘pre-emptive’ strike in Iraq against non-existent weapons of mass destruction. It is no accident that their costumes are a not so subtle nod to Master Chief the pin-up poster boy of many American gamers.

An in-game recruitment ad by the LAPD officer Brian O’Toole features him talking about his job
“I rifle through people’s bags on the subway to protect freedom. I arrest protesters at political conventions for straying outside the free-speech zone. Being a cop used to be about stopping crime. Now, thanks to politicians, it’s about fighting terrorists…one old lady at a time. I’m protecting freedom, whatever the cost.” The irony is that the War on Terror has taken away the liberty of citizens in Liberty city.

Read the right-wing newspaper and experience news written with a right-wing bias. Sure the game does feature a left wing mayoral candidate, newspaper and radio station but these are far less pronounced. Therefore the ironic attitude towards the right wing politics and their prominence throughout the game, we can interpret to be a direct attack by the Houser brothers on the George W Bush administration and their handling of the government after the 9/11 attacks.

Grand Theft Auto is entwined with politics because so often politicians have used the franchise as a punching bag to draw coverage, and headlines, to the discussion of videogame issues. GTA IV has been banned in Thailand and the United Arab Emirates and censored in Australia. The Hot Coffee unofficial mod to GTA: San Andreas led to a political outcry in the USA with Senator Hillary Clinton jumping into the fray, criticising the ESRB, the American game ratings boards and declaring that videogames are a “silent epidemic” and that they make “make the challenge of parenting much harder.”

So GTA IV comes at the zenith of the American political process as the USA is preparing to vote on who will be their next president. The run up to the election has been one of the most exciting in recent history. From the very closely run race for crown of the Democratic party to the eventual nomination of America’s first black presidential candidate to the first ever female Vice Presidential candidate. This election has electrified the U.S. and worldwide press and public alike.

As an adults only game, it goes without saying that GTA IV players are (mostly) adults who are politically aware. Yes they want to hear the presidential candidates discuss key issues such as the economy or foreign affairs, but they also want to know their opinions on videogames, which have so often been demonised by politicians. Yet it is an industry that has quickly become a key entertainment industry competing with Hollywood. On its opening weekend the movie Spider-man 3 took $150 million dollars at the box office. GTA IV took $310 million in sales on its first day. The reality is videogames are big business and John McCain and Barack Obama would be foolish to ignore their mass market appeal.

In a campaign ad for John McCain the music for the game Medal of Honor: European Assault was used in the background whilst he spoke to the American public. Perhaps the ad was directly produce to draw the attention of the Xbox generation so that they would make the connection between his military service and the title Medal of Honor. McCain when pressed by a Conservative Christian blogger about his thoughts of violent videogames he has said that he feels parents should decide on a case by case basis however he then started to talk about the evils of child pornography. McCain has readily admitted to not having used a computer or email.

“I don’t e-mail, I’ve never felt the particular need to e-mail. I read e-mails all the time, but the communications that I have with my friends and staff are oral… But I do – could I just say, really – I understand the impact of blogs on American politics today and political campaigns.”

His website staff are aware that a number of his supporters use the internet. His website even features a Space Invaders style flash game Pork Invaders a critique on Democratic ‘pork-barrel spending, where government spend money on projects to appeal to particular voting groups. Whilst John McCain is the Republican candidate, his campaign team have tried to distance him from the politics of President George W. Bush. So wary are they of the Democrats claims that McCain is a chip of the old block, that at the recent Republican convention Hurricane Gustav was used as an excuse to cut Bush’s live appearance to a pre-recorded message. However McCain is a supporter of the Iraq invasion and the War on Terror and this may be difficult to reconcile for those who share the Houser brothers’ politics

Unlike Senator Clinton’s call to ban some videogames, Senator Barack Obama has directly commented on the GTA IV phenomenon with a little more restraint and understanding

"I was just catching the news this morning about Grand Theft Auto, alright, this video game, which is gonna break all records, and make goo-gobs of money for whoever designed it. Now, this isn't intended for kids, I understand, although I promise you there will be kids who are playing it. But, those video games are raising our kids. It just reminded me, video culture, TV culture - across the board - middle class, upper class, working class kids, they're spending a huge amount of time, not on their studies, but on entertainment. And so part of our job is gonna have to be to inspire the entire country to say how are we giving our kids a thirst for knowledge, and turning off the TV set, and getting them to be engaged and interested and really feel that their future really does matter on how well they do in school."

Whilst Obama is fearful of kids ‘raised by games’ unusually for an American politician he also recognises that some videogames are for adults. But then he knows where his support come from. His campaign has been notable for its record breaking fundraising. By the end of July 2008 he had raised almost $400 million dollars. The relatively youthful Obama political team have such a remarkable success by fundraising directly to the YouTube generation. Advertising via Google ads, websites, links and online communities. Obama announced his choice of Vice Presidential candidate to Democrats via text message, in the process building up his database of voter phone numbers and email addresses. However despite his rather stern views some GTA IV and Iron Man movie posters on the streets of LA were seen to have images of his head stuck on and his campaign word Hope labelled across them. Whilst this could be part of a unique viral campaign by his team, the appropriation of his image in this way perhaps signifies his appeal to younger voters. In fact Microsoft had a prominent stall at the Democratic National Convention promoting a new feature; American Xbox 360 users can now register to vote via Xbox Live, thus appealing to more youthful voters, the Democratic party will be hoping that most of those votes will be going their way.

GTA IV gamers are people who vote. Some can register to vote on the same console that they play GTA IV on. These gamers will be voting on the issues most important to them however they are going to be conscious of presidential candidates view of videogames. They are certainly going to be aware of the right-wing issues that are highlighted in GTA IV. Of course the political commentary against the Republican War on Terror within the game won’t change the opinion or vote of a staunch Republican, but it does draw attention to the strong political viewpoint of GTA fathers Dan and Sam Houser. So undecided voters could change their vote. Sounds implausible? Actually its very plausible. At present both presidential candidates spend millions on 60 second ads to influence the undecideds. With an election that is currently too close to call it is these undecided voters that will decide who will be the next president of the USA. If you play GTA IV ironic right-wing ads are heard in-game constantly, on the radio, on the TV, and read via the in game internet. Sure Rockstar Games said they wouldn’t allow you to use custom soundtracks because they didn’t want to change the atmosphere of the game, but maybe they just didn’t want to turn off their ironic ads. If you think how many hours spent gaming in Liberty City that is a lot of exposure to the Houser ads. In fact come the 2012 Presidential Election, when real world ads in-game are commonplace, the next presidential candidates will probably be advertising in-game on GTA V!
So no, even the total number of American GTA IV owners (over 5 million) pales in comparison to the total number of U.S. voters (300 million) Even highly politicised GTA gamers are too few to have an impact on the total result of the election.

However GTA IV is the most successful entertainment product launch ever and is indicative of growth in the industry. As videogame usage increases across gender and age lines we will see that videogames will increase their total audience. An audience that can spend twenty or more hours in the realms of a game. The success of Grand Theft Auto IV is that it demonstrates that videogames are a medium that could progress to be one of the most powerful and influential political mediums of our future.

http://www.gamesradar.com/xbox360/grand ... 4323586065

http://uk.xbox360.ign.com/dor/objects/8 ... 21jajf4186

http://www.spiegel.de/international/wor ... 75,00.html


http://news.softpedia.com/news/Barack-O ... 5712.shtml

http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/06/13/ ... ores-scoop

http://news.softpedia.com/news/Videogam ... 8420.shtml

http://publicintellectual.wordpress.com ... lliteracy/

http://thinkprogress.org/2006/12/13/mcc ... -on-blogs/

http://www.opensecrets.org/pres08/summa ... =N00009638

http://www.aei.org/publications/filter. ... detail.asp

http://www.g4tv.com/thefeed/blog/post/6 ... TH_IV.html

http://www.theinquirer.net/gb/inquirer/ ... e-xbox-360


http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol ... 856081.ece


All comments and feedback welcome. Thank you.

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PostRe: [GRWC8] Could the Politics of GTA IV influence... [Article]
by Hero of Canton » Sat Sep 20, 2008 8:51 pm

Wow. Really interesting stuff. I won't go into detail on a few niggling little grammatical errors (shoot fist, indeed) as this is a fascinating piece. I'm not sure I entirely agree with the suggestion that GTA will seriously influence voters, but that doesn't matter. This is an intelligent, very different, and compelling article which deserves a good deal of praise. A serious contender.

DML wrote:F'NARR!
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PostRe: [GRWC8] Could the Politics of GTA IV influence... [Article]
by Kinetic » Sun Sep 21, 2008 7:00 am

A very impressive piece this, some great ideas very thoroughly researched and presented in an easy-to-read manner. It's a shame that the writer seems determined to shoot himself (I suspect there's very little need for a '/herself') in the foot with some very poor sentence and grammar choices. Coupled with the poor evaluation/closing paragraph that does it's best to leave a sour after-taste to a very tasty article and even simple things like not having a 'Sources' title at the end, it gives a very grown-up, insightful and thought-provoking piece of work a distinctly amateurish sheen; a real shame considering how highly I rate this one.


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TV Dinner
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PostRe: [GRWC8] Could the Politics of GTA IV influence... [Artic
by TV Dinner » Sat Sep 27, 2008 10:17 pm

I really liked that article.

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