New game draws familiar fire: Grand Theft Auto series targeted again
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That "M" rating on Grand Theft Auto IV cartridge cases is parental guidance code for Mature because the game, like earlier installments in the uber-popular series, is heavy on car thefts, robberies and killings. Oh yes, and reckless driving - which seems like the mildest misbehavior. "M" means the game, released last week, isn't recommended for anyone under 17.
GTA IV is racing off the shelves and also provoking a fresh round of concern about its violent and sexually suggestive content. Players assume the roles of mobster-like characters who fire grenades, shoot police helicopters and punch cab drivers in the face, among other acts, as they follow the interactive story lines in a setting that resembles a seedier version of New York City.
Critics fear some players see the violence as "heroic" or a way to get attention, and may cross the line from gaming to gangster acts. In response to pressure, the Chicago Transit Authority took down ads promoting the new release. Politicians and parents' groups have urged stores not to sell it.
Professor says: "People think video games equal kids and that if it's just a game, it should be fine. But the idea that a game is made for a mature audience -- we don't have our arms around that yet." -- Robin Burke, game-development scholar at DePaul University, Chicago
Huge market: This is the first Grand Theft Auto game released simultaneously for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. It costs $60 and ndustry experts predict first-week sales of at least $400 million.
Retailer says: "This game is tracking to be one of the top three best-selling games -- not of just this year, but the top three games in our company's history." -- Chris Olivera, GameStop chain
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