The fun never stops. The North American-based "anti-alcohol organization" known as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) is up in arms over Grand Theft Auto IV, claiming that the game's ability to let Niko get behind the wheel while inebriated makes GTA IV worthy of an Adults Only rating. To step their publicity stunt and up a notch, MADD claims that they have appealed to the "game's manufacturer" (Take Two?) to halt production of the game out of social responsibility, "out of respect for those who've been hurt or killed by drunk drivers".
While this is no doubt yet another case of an organization embracing controversial subject matter for the explicit purpose of PR -- something that we are definitely no strangers to as Grand Theft Auto fans -- it's a little bit more difficult to lambast MADD as a whole. In general, their message is a solid one, campaigning against drunk driving on behalf of those who have been hurt (in one way or another) by drunk drivers. That being said, though, it's disappointing to see MADD go after GTA IV, simply because it's such a ridiculous -- and ridiculously predictable -- way of grabbing attention in the media.
For that reason, I'd like to offer a little reminder to any members of MADD who may, for some odd reason, be reading this update:
Grand Theft Auto does not promote drunk driving, and if anything, goes to certain lengths to persuade players to not get behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. Through in-game dialogue, characters openly state that they should not be driving while intoxicated; the in-game UI insists that players take a cab rather than drive to their destination while drunk; if a player still chooses to get behind the wheel of a virtual car while drunk, the driving is extremely difficult and the player finds themselves being pursued by the police.
As with most things in Grand Theft Auto, the game gives players the freedom to choose -- and suffer the consequences of their choices. The game is a satirical take on American culture, and that should always be kept in mind when criticizing the game for being openly controversial.
Rockstar also had this to say in response to the organization's request for the rating to be adjusted and demand for distribution of GTA IV to be halted:
We have a great deal of respect for MADD's mission, but we believe the mature audience for "Grand Theft Auto IV" is more than sophisticated enough to understand the game's content.
(Keep in mind, of course, that an M rated game is for 17+, and AO is for 18+. The only tangible difference between the two is that retailers, for the most part, refuse to sell AO-rated games -- so MADD is essentially asking for the game to be plucked out of existence entirely.)
Cheers to GTA4.TV for nabbing this news from GameSpot. Further coverage of the story can be found with a quick search on Google, as well.
Related Links: Article on GameSpot, Story Coverage on Google News