CTA v. GTA: Wrong Kind of Special Edition

Games get special treatment. Equating the game to an X rated flim, the City of Chicago decided to stop a bus promotion for Grand Theft Auto IV. A transit authority representative said:

Over the years, GTA transit ads have come under fire in other cities as well. In 2006 Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and others forced the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) to pull ads for GTA Vice City Stories. The transit chief there justified his decision by issuing a policy which equates M-rated games with X-rated movies.

I am not going to get into the First Amendment issue, because it is complicated and others will do it better. I am also not going to talk about the comparison of M to X, which is just wrong, because many are addressing that as well. I just want to do a quick comparison.

Here is the banned GTA ad:

Here is a campaign for the Sopranos:

The content of the Sopranos ad is more graphic than the one for GTA IV, and the content of the show is more graphic than GTA IV. The Sopranos contains nudity and stronger sexual content than any GTA game. But the ads still run. This has to be attributable to the great observation from the Byron Review:

There is a generational digital divide which means that parents do not necessarily feel equipped to help their children in this space - which can lead to fear and a sense of helplessness. This can be compounded by a risk-averse culture where we are inclined to keep our children 'indoors' despite their development needs to socialise and take risks.

Oh, yeah, and it is kind of our fault too. As an industry, we like to say we don't target minors with "M" rated games. Advertisements are only run on television late at night, and we do not advertise in mainstream magazines. We do however advertise in game publications, and who exactly do we think are buying those? There are strong restrictions and protections on the sales of games, but not the magazines. I can argue all day long about how difficult it is for a young person to get their hands on an "M" rated game, and how the violence is contextualized within the game and mostly not gratuitous, but how do you address an ad like this, completely without context?

I do not want my 12 year old to see this ad in his magazine. If he does, I want to be there to explain what is going on. I get just as uncomfortable when I see the commercials for the latest horror or slasher film during The Simpsons on Fox, but their poor choices do not justify ours. If we want to be able to make powerful arguments in they face of actions by organizations like the CTA, we cannot give them fodder like the Kane & Lynch ad.

One more thought. . . .I am glad I live in L.A. where, at least on this issue, the city puts it all into perspective.


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