video games aren't typically the types of things people lose sleep waiting for. Standing in line at midnight for a new record or camping out to see the new Star Wars flick at least makes some sense. But getting all wound up about a new way to blow countless hours in front of your television screen? I don't think so.
Yet that's exactly what's happening with the next installment of the delightfully mindless, unbelievably violent Grand Theft Auto series, GTA 4: Vice City.
It isn't expected to appear on store shelves until mid-October, but the buzz is already deafening. Record labels are proudly announcing the release of various Grand Theft Auto soundtracks. As stores reserve space on shelves, video game addicts have begun creating advent-style calendars, and counting down to the great and glorious day.
To understand the excitement you have to play GTA, and to do that, only those not unnerved by raw violence and the sight of blood need apply. There has never been a game like this, especially last year's GTA: 3.
There is no point to the game. You travel around a city stealing cars, running people down, robbing banks, shooting and taking drugs. Mayhem isn't a strong enough word to describe what's going on. Things like beating up junkies on the street with a baseball bat for cash and killing cops with an Uzi are promoted and encouraged.
The level of violence is unparalleled, as were sales of the game. GTA: 3 has sold a whopping 6 million copies, and been endorsed by everyone from movie stars to musicians. Actors offered up their voices for starring roles in the sequels, and despite negative associations, labels quickly caught onto the potential for product placement -- when you're driving around in your stolen car, there's a selection of radio stations for you to listen to.
The game has become a sensation because there are no rules, and because, morals aside, it's ridiculously fun. To get myself in the mood, I recently went back to the scene of the crime, as it were, to play GTA: 3 again. My PlayStation 2 will soon have to be disconnected from my television.
What does it say about our society when one of the most popular forms of entertainment is a game where shooting someone in the back earns you points? Let's just say it's not good. When GTA: 3 first appeared, commentators were suitably horrified, calling it another sign of the decay of civilization. U.S. vice-presidential candidate Joe Lieberman called the game evil and put it on a list of the worst things society is capable of producing.
Upstanding citizens should be disgusted. Even so, I find myself intrigued by the new game, if only to see how an already obscene level of brutality can be elevated.
I won't be camping out outside Toys R Us, but don't bother calling me in October.email@example.com