MADD Mad: Grand Theft Auto DUIs Bad
By: Gerri Elder
Some play videogames to escape the problems of everyday life. But with increasingly realistic graphics and scenarios, some critics suggest, you may be almost unable to leave things like criminal charges and DUI lawyers
behind when you reach for the joystick.
Before the release of Grand Theft Auto IV (also called GTA IV and GTA 4), experts predicted that the updated videogame would break sales records - and they were proved correct when, according to the Associated Press, the game raked in a record-breaking $500 million in its first week.
But, like any wildly successful pop culture phenomenon, GTA IV has met with its share of naysayers. Most recently, the drunken driving awareness organization Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has raised an outcry about a scene in the videogame in which players can choose to drink at a bar and then get behind the wheel.
In its press release, MADD notes that drunk driving is not a game and it is not a joke. Drunk driving is a choice, a violent crime and it is also 100 percent preventable," and expressed extreme disappointment with the game's developers and distributors for giving players the chance to be GTA 4 DUI.
But let's examine MADD's argument against the Grand Theft Auto 4 DUI a bit more closely.
First, MADD insists that driving under the influence of alcohol is a choice - which is absolutely correct. The organization makes no mention, however, of the fact that players also have the choice of taking a taxi or walking after leaving a bar, according to reports.
Second, any DUI lawyer would likely have a problem with MADD's designation of DUI as a "violent crime." Just this spring, the United States Supreme Court ruled that DUIs cannot be considered "violent felonies," and therefore cannot make DUI offenders eligible for the increased sentences triggered by multiple violent felony convictions in some jurisdictions.
Third, sources indicate that players who choose to be Grand Theft Auto IV DUI find that their "vision" is blurred while driving, and that their vehicle is more difficult to operate. This suggests, then, not that the makers of Grand Theft Auto are encouraging driving under the influence of alcohol, but rather that they're attempting to mimic some of the real-life consequences of the risky choices possible to make in the game.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the makers of Grand Theft Auto IV have noted that the drunken driving sequences are meant not to promote driving while impaired, but to reflect the logical progression of events that could happen to the game's characters in the situations included in the game.
In its press release, MADD called for a more exclusive rating for the game - Adults Only (AO) rather than its current rating of Mature (M). But it seems unlikely that the rating will be changed after release, especially since many retailers refuse to carry AO games because of their potentially controversial content.