The Grand Theft Auto series is no stranger to being thrown under the bus. For as long as I can remember it's been blamed for everything from youth violence to, well, violence in general. But now we have this new article from The Observer, which associates an addiction to Grand Theft Auto with an addiction to cocaine. It's certainly something new for GTA.
"Tom Bissell was an acclaimed, prize-winning young writer. Then he started playing the video game Grand Theft Auto. For three years he has been cocaine addicted, sleep deprived and barely able to write a word. Any regrets? Absolutely none."
Despite what you may assume at first glance, though, there's no finger-pointing here. Bissell doesn't accuse Rockstar of feeding his addiction with malice or ill intent. The article is simply a narrative of his experience with indulgence. Indeed, one of the best quotes (in my opinion) is the following:
"Video games and cocaine feed on my impulsiveness, reinforce my love of solitude and make me feel good and bad in equal measure. The crucial difference is that I believe in what video games want to give me, while the bequest of cocaine is one I loathe. I do know that video games have enriched my life. Of that I have no doubt. They have also done damage to my life. Of that I have no doubt. I let this happen, of course; I even helped the process along. As for cocaine, it has been a long time since I last did it, but not as long as I would like."
The article is very well written. It dives into the world of GTA with such lavish prose that it's little wonder why Bissell has been awarded for his work. He sums up his experiences as a gamer, plus the general appeal of recent GTA titles in a beautiful way. And he also describes -- quite eloquently -- his downward spiral into a gaming addiction fueled by cocaine abuse.
I'm sure that some individuals will use this story as fodder to throw Grand Theft Auto under the bus yet again, suggesting that there's an explicit link between the series and drugs. Unfortunately these people exist and there's nothing that we can do about their misguided dillusions. On the flipside, some may suggest that the article labels GTA IV as an innocent outlet for a misguided writer who is, as they say, "tripping balls". I also think that interpretation is off the mark.
In my opinion, the article is absolutely neutral. But that's just my opinion. Give the article a read and come to your own conclusions.
Source: The Observer (guardian.co.uk)
Update: Surprisingly, it looks like the folks at Rockstar NYC picked up on this story shortly after I published it here yesterday. Glad to see word travels fast! Bissell definitely deserves the coverage. Link: Once Upon a Time in Liberty City