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Oh, to be a cool, hooker-rolling thug

Out of My Head

Posted: May 19, 2008 6:57 p.m.
Updated: July 18, 2008 5:03 a.m.
 
Like bloodthirsty spectators at the Colosseum in ancient Rome, many Americans today seek their jollies through carnage and depravity. But instead of lions and slaves going at it for the crowds, now it's violence and titillation-steeped virtual reality video games.

One new "adventure" game that has captured the retail marketplace is Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto (GTA) IV. A financial blockbuster, it has raked in a whopping $500 million in its first week alone.

Set in fictional Liberty City (and resembling New York City), GTA IV allows players to "become an Eastern European immigrant, Niko Bellic, as he seeks to escape his past and find his own American Dream."

Along the way, Bellic discovers there's more to this place than just apple pie and rent control. There's also liars, thieves, drug dealers, hookers, and murderers. You know, regular folks, much like the ones back home.

Receiving rave reviews from game enthusiasts, GTA IV offers players a hand at committing extremely graphic acts of violence, such as murder via machine gun sprees; intentionally running people down; illicit sexual activity with prostitutes where you can choose from three different "sex acts," then steal your money back when you're done with them; drug and alcohol use; offensive language; and much, much more!

The mother lode of M-rated (for "mature players" 17 and over) games, GTA IV is destined to be this year's No. 1 seller. From what I've read about it, if the game were any more "real" you'd need condoms and a suture kit to play it.

While M-rated games are designed for adults, there is no law prohibiting their sale to children (unlike with porn, cigarettes or booze). That's a shame, especially since the Federal Trade Commission reports that 42 percent of unaccompanied children 13 to 16 years of age are able to successfully purchase M-rated games.

Many pediatric health and psychiatric professionals, teachers and law enforcement specialists feel that violent, hypersexual video games can have a negative effect on young minds. I second that worry. I also take this concern one step further and ask the following: Why does any "mature" adult need to play such escapist garbage in the first place?

What does this fake-yet-oh-so-realistic realm of cruelty and degeneracy contribute to a person's being? What does anyone really "get" from hours of virtual gangbanging, car chases, and slum-dwelling, besides aggressive endocrinological surges, the chance to act out in a grotesquely anti-social manner, and hemorrhoids?

Contemplating my parents' youth, I know they had no such technological escapism. Those men and women had tougher, far more challenging lives; there was a world war going on, rationing, and everyone worked and contributed to their family. Any non-working "off time" was generally spent with loved ones, mowing a lawn, reading books, or playing chess or handball. They had none of the addictive "virtual" entertainment equipment that we have become conjoined with at the hands, eyeballs and nervous systems.

Many people, including myself, wonder if America is headed toward a fall similar to ancient Rome. After all, we've got the whole pro-elitist, pro-cronyism, and political/economic domination over other countries thing going on while our own nation's economy, infrastructure, military and morale are going down the tubes.

Maybe another indicator of our degeneration lies in what millions of Americans do in their (somehow plentiful) "off" time - sitting on their butts while knocking the other guys on theirs.

They make a steady habit of wasting precious hours and energy on violent, non-productive video activities that offer no real value to their mind, well-being, or future.

It's like Grand Theft Gray Matter.

Cumulatively, such stagnancy and escapism may lead to a reality that hurts the masses. And I don't mean "virtually."

Diana Sevanian is a writer and Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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