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The GTA Gaming Legacy

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There is no question that, although they are very different in style, form, and execution, the first two video games in the Grand Theft Auto series made a major contribution not just to the gaming community in the 1990s but the action-adventure genre and the combat driving and shooter sub-genres as well through to today.

Without the groundwork that they laid and the chances that were taken to present what amounts to what many of the critics opposed to the games represent as the glorification of crime (or at least that was how the games were then viewed), chances are that we would not be playing anything like GTA V today.

In fact the entire genre and the related sub-genres of action-adventure crime games with a focus on gun play and car racing can be said to owe their very existence to the GTA series!

The Legacy of GTA I & II

Some gamers continue to argue that the GTA style of game was an inevitable part of the evolution of the modern video game and that, if GTA had never been created, eventually a game like it would have been, and it would have fought the same battle and won it...

Considering that the release of the GTA games -- and the seemingly massive uphill battle that obtaining full clearance for them in most of the conservative countries of the world -- was itself an expensive and uncertain prospect, that argument of inevitability does not appear all that obvious or inevitable to us.

One thing that cannot be dismissed so easily is that the legal precedence that the successful defense of the games -- and the niche that they helped to create in modern gaming -- eventually lead to the broader acceptance of games as an entertainment media and naturally those successes resulted in the creation and release of a number of other similar game series and titles by other developers and studios!

Plenty of very reasonable evidence exists to support the notion that the following games -- many of which are routinely and legitimately labeled GTA Clones -- owe at least in part their existence to the GTA series:

Game Title Game Publisher Type / Class
.50 Cent: Bulletproof Sierra Entertainment Game.
.50 Cent: Blood on the Sand THQ Game.
25 to Life EIDOS Game.
187 Ride or Die Ubisoft Game.
Driver aka "Driv3r" Ubisoft Series of 7 unique titles.
Gangland Whiptail Interactive Game.
Gangster Gameloft Series of 6 unique titles.
Gangsters EIDOS Series of 2 unique titles.
Getaway, The Sony Series of 2 unique titles.
Godfather, The Electronic Arts Series of 2 unique titles.
Just Cause EIDOS Series of 2 unique titles.
Mafia GoD / 2K Series of 2 unique titles.
Mercenaries LucasArts Series of 3 unique titles.
Mob Rule Studio 3 Game.
NARC Williams Game.
Red Faction: Guerrilla THQ Game.
Saboteur, The Electronic Arts Game.
Saints Row THQ / Deep Silver Series of 4 unique titles.
Scarface Sierra / Vivendi Series of 2 unique titles.
Simpsons: Hit & Run, The Vivendi Game
Sleeping Dogs Square Enix Game.
True Crime Activision Series of 2 unique titles.
Wheelman Midway Game.

The list above does not include the GTA games as well as Red Dead and other games published by Rockstar that clearly enjoyed the benefits of the path being cleared by GTA...

The False Anti-Violence Climate Prevailed

Gamers too young to have experienced the early era of console and PC gaming have no idea how pervasive and powerful the censorship of video games by special interest groups and certain over-reaching government agencies was.

This situation was made worse by the fact that these groups and public servants genuinely believed that the censorship Activities that they undertook was in the benefit of consumers -- that in effect they were performing a valuable public service when they moved to block the distribution and sale of what they considered to be either pornographic or obscene video games to protect the public from being exposed to this sort of (in their view) insidious soul-threatening media.

For the entirety of the decade of the 1980s and for most of the 1990s conservative special interest groups enjoyed an unchallenged position of power that allowed them to fund and direct the public face of the music and video game pro-censorship movements.

These groups and individuals -- as well as self-proclaimed moral watchdogs both inside government and as part of the public face of innocuous seeming charities -- were widely supported by the average citizens who did not play video games or listen to modern music, did not want to play video games or listen to modern music, and who gave moral and financial support to these groups and organizations, and politically supported the elected officials who were designated by these groups as "friends of the cause" whatever the cause happened to be under the assumption that all of these groups and people believed in the same thing that they believed in.

A cleverly constructed series of misleading and outright false propaganda programs created by these groups with the aid of sympathetic members in the academic communities in the US and other Western countries appeared to justify the concerns related to games and gaming, and to music and film as well as modern fiction books.

Much of the propaganda which was used for these purposes purported to be scientific fact, and in many cases the "studies" and research being cited was either funded by these groups or by the tax payers in a massive worldwide boondoggle of epic proportions!

These groups claimed to believe -- and it is obvious that their supporters sincerely believed -- that video games and the violence and other objectionable content could be directly linked to many of the social ills that were impacting society at the time, including:

  • Drug Addiction

  • Espionage

  • Pornography (video games were said to strengthen deviant desires)

  • Rape

  • Sex Crimes (specifically rape, bondage, and torture)

  • Violence

  • Violence against Children

  • Violence against Women

whose stated aims were to protect the citizens of the world from exposure to video games (and to a lessor extent movies, books, comics, and graphic novels) that they claimed

Bear in mind that the formative years for the home games console -- and it was the gaming console that largely broke new ground and established video games as protected expression and as a legitimate media worthy of the same measure of protection enjoyed by motion pictures (and to a lesser extent television) under the laws that safeguard creativity and expression in the arts.

When it looked like these conservative groups and the government would step in to create their own private oversight group that would exercise what amounted to full censorship control over the games industry, whose approval would in effect be required for a game to enter the retail sales system in North America, the games industry reacted.

Quickly and as transparently as they could manage the industry formed and then formalized the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) -- a body that is funded and operated by the coalition of game publishers as a non-profit entity whose sole purpose is to inform parents about the contents in video games.

In this manner, through this proactive step that can only be seen as a stroke of bloody genius, the video game industry managed to stave off the sort of oversight that would effectively have throttled it and would have resulted in the creation of an agency with the power to dictate to publishers what ideas and actions they could -- and could not -- include in their video games.

If not for the quick thinking of the video game industry and a willingness to act in an open and rapid fashion gamers today in North America could just as easily have ended up with a draconian oversight and approval system designed to kill free thought and expansive ideas.

In essence if not for the ESRB we very likely would have ended up with something not unlike the what gamers in Australia have to face: The Australian Classification Board (or ACB), which is notorious for its censorship and for outright banning of games based on nothing more than their title!

Just to give you a taste of what was very narrowly averted, here is a short list of entertainment products that have been banned by the Australian Classification Board:

  • 50 Cent: Bulletproof

  • Aliens vs. Predator (Successfully Appealed)

  • Blitz: The League


  • Dark Sector

  • Dreamweb

  • Fallout 3 (Successfully Appealed)

  • Getaway, The

  • Grand Theft Auto III

  • Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

  • Grand Theft Auto IV

  • Left 4 Dead 2

  • Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude

  • Marc EckĊ's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

  • Manhunt

  • Mortal Kombat (2011)

  • NARC

  • NecroVisioN

  • Postal

  • Postal 2

  • Phantasmagoria

  • Reservoir Dogs

  • Rise

  • Saints Row IV

  • State of Decay

  • Shellshock 2: Blood Trails

  • Silent Hill: Homecoming

  • Singles: Flirt Up Your Life

  • Soldier of Fortune: Payback

  • Syndicate

  • Witcher 2, The

  • Voyeur

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Comments for The GTA Gaming Legacy

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1 comments, latest first.
Mar 27th 2014 Guest
You and your company are disgusting idiots. Of course all these disgusting games have an effect on young children, they are buying these games on line at 14 years old by hitting a box that says, yes I am 18 years old... Get some help, anyone that distributes, plays or comes up with this crap needs to seek major help..
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