There’s some news coming out of Boston. The Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority will no longer allow advertising on their vehicles for video games that receive a rating of M (mature) or AO (adults only) from the Entertainment Software Rating Board. This is the result of complaints for the advertising of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories on the side of Boston subway cars.
Honestly, I could be okay with this. The Grand Theft Auto series is known for having violence/nudity/language that isn’t appropriate for children, and everyone sees these subway cars. I’m sure that as much as they would like to have it, Rockstar doesn’t really need these ads to sell the game. If a customer would like it, they’ll find a way to get it.
But the advertisements only say the title of the game, and a picture of a character on it. In order for an underaged citizen to play this game, when many stores don’t allow for games rated M to be sold to minors, or even be rented, they need their parent/caretaker to purchase it for them. That means the responsible adult needs to see the words “Grand Theft Auto”, plus a “Rated M” symbol on the cover, which isn’t much different from a “Parental Advisory Warning” on a CD, and actually bigger than a “Rated R” on a movie.
And that’s why we’re complaining about it, yes? Because of the kids? Well, kinda. But also because the game encourages unlawful behavior. And as the MBTA is a public entity, according to Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, “[it] has a responsibility to protect the public from being bombarded by violent images.” Well, yes. I suppose. But then are we going to stop all violent images? There will be no movie ads for rated R films? No ads for the new 50 Cent album?
You can’t ban one medium on some merits, but not ban another that has the same properties. It’s not being blamed for being a violent game, it’s being blamed for condoning violence. So if Rockstar can’t advertise GTA, why can the Clerks II DVD show up on the side of the bus? And if they actually do allow the banning of “adult” themed ads on public transportation, what about the billboards I can see from the bus? And then the commercials on the air? Everyone sees those too.
Everyone knows that the GTA series is violent. Stopping the ad on the side of a train isn’t going to stop the sales of this game, nor future ones like it. I understand why they’re doing it, because I agree, the world could use less violence. But the manner they’re doing it is wrong, and just creates precedence in the United States that can lead to more harm than good. In the end, the problem doesn’t lie in the game developers, for they are a business, just like all others, nor the transit system, who didn’t discriminate before, and had no reason to, but the customers, for being ill-informed. Parents still aren’t paying attention to what games their kids are playing and are blaming it on everyone but themselves.