Hijacking hi-jinx: Computer game drives controversy
By Marc Saltzman
March 31, 1998
Web posted at: 2:21 PM EST (1421 GMT)
-- A new, uncontrollable crime wave is sweeping across the Unites States.
But this time around, it's happening on computer monitors instead of
city streets. No, this is not another news piece about some 14-year-old
hacker breaking into the Pentagon's mainframe again, this is about a
new game that makes "Boyz in the Hood" look like an after-school Disney
In "Grand Theft Auto," a PC CD-ROM recently published by ASC Games,
players assume the role of a "gansta" or "psycho bitch" and must perform
various felonies to climb up the ranks of the Mob world. But it doesn't
stop with just jacking cars either -- the player must also shoot and
drive over police officers and innocent pedestrians, engage in bank
robberies, pimping, drug smuggling, murder, police bribes, and other
"jobs" to impress the most powerful crime syndicate in the city.
"Grand Theft Auto" (GTA) was released last week to eager North American
consumers, but the game has been out since last December in Europe and
South American countries, and has obviously garnished its fair share
of controversy. In fact, the French, German and British governments
have condemned the video game, and Brazil recently banned GTA due to
its adult and "immoral" content, claiming that it "could incite younger
players to violence" (Reuters).
Sharon Wood, executive VP of marketing at ASC Games, agrees the game
is risqu but feels it is a tongue-in-cheek look at crime and shouldn't
be taken too seriously.
Theft Auto' is cartoonish and campy by its very nature. It's a parody
on crime; even the dialogue was meant to be comedic," insists Wood.
"The game has a 'Mature' rating on the box so consumers must be 17 and
older to purchase GTA."
Naturally, ASC Games welcomes this media attention, and with over
a half million units sold in Europe under BMG Interactive's distribution,
they are targeting their market efforts along similar lines here in
North America. ASC has even bought radio advertisements during the Howard
Stern show, endorsed by live reads from the shock jock himself. Talk
about hitting your demographic ...
terms of gameplay, GTA contains over 200 missions throughout 6,000 city
miles of simulated driving. It supports the latest 3Dfx graphic accelerator
cards. Virtual mobsters can hook up for some heated multiplayer action
as well, competing over the Internet, modem-to-modem, a serial link
hook-up, or via a local area network. The game was created by England's
DMA Design Ltd., and retails at a suggested price of $49.99.
Consider this fair notice for those easily offended -- "Grand Theft
Auto" is the new "bad boy" of computer games.