Grand Theft Auto IV
Grand Theft Auto IV (commonly known as Grand Theft Auto 4, GTA IV or GTA 4) is an action-adventure video game that marks the fourth installment in the Grand Theft Auto series, succeeding GTA III and preceding GTA V. It is developed by United Kingdom-based Rockstar North and published by Rockstar Games. The game was released for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on April 29, 2008, with a Windows version released later that year. GTA IV utilizes a 3D graphics game engine that was upgraded from its predecessor's to create a more visually realistic game. The GTA series has generated controversial issues since its first installment due to its violent and sexual content. Grand Theft Auto IV continues to bring controversial topics to light with regard to some of the new features that have been implemented in the game. GTA IV was the last video game in the GTA series that was solely released for Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC, and was met with critical acclaim and record-breaking sales upon release.
- 1 Gameplay
- 2 Ethical Issues in Grand Theft Auto IV
- 3 See Also
- 4 External Links
- 5 References
Fresh off the boat from Eastern Europe, protagonist Niko Bellic hopes to pursue the American dream that his cousin Roman has been describing to him via email conversations, and also hopes to find a man that betrayed his unit in the war fifteen years earlier. He envisioned a perfect life in America, the stereotypical American Dream, however, this leads to disappointment as Roman has actually been deceiving Niko. In an effort to help his cousin out, Niko gets dragged into the world that Roman is involved in. He is forced to work for Roman's loan shark, Vlad, in order to help settle some of Romans debts. When Niko finds out that Vlad slept with Roman's girlfriend, he murders Vlad. The two are then kidnapped by the Russian mafia in Liberty City, who, unbothered by the murder of Vlad, hires Niko. After a lot of drama within the Russian mafia, Niko learns that his girlfriend Michelle works for the government, and she forces Niko to work for her agency, known otherwise by the alias 'United Liberty Paper'. Niko swaps murder missions for his files at the Liberty City Police Department. With the help of United Liberty Paper, Niko eventually finds the man he came to Liberty City looking for Darko Brevic. Once Niko confronts Darko, he is called upon for a favor by Jimmy Pegorino, another criminal. He asks Niko to help with a heroin deal involving his other former employer and Russian Mobster, Dimitri Rascalov. Niko can then choose to either strike a deal with Dimitri or get revenge for their past encounters. If Niko chooses to go through with the deal, Niko is set up and Dimitri takes the heroin for himself. After this, Dimitri sends an assassin to Roman's wedding and kills Roman. Niko kills the assassin, then later kills Dimitri after seeing him execute Jimmy Pegorino. The other option for Niko provides a slightly different ending. Niko, wanting revenge, ambushes and executes Dimitri. Angered by Niko's actions, Pegorino then commits a drive-by shooting at Roman's wedding, killing Niko's girlfriend. Niko then goes after Pegorino and kills him. The story serves as a commentary on the elusive and almost non-existent American Dream that was originally promised to Niko.
Players can choose from a selection of 15 different types of weapons for combat. The amount of weapons has been reduced from previous installments of the series, however additional weapons can be bought through the downloadable episodes, The Ballad of Gay Tony, and The Lost and The Damned. Players can only buy weapons from underground stores or pick up weapons from dead adversaries. A player's default weapon is his fists, but weapons can vary from guns to grenades, to other knives and blunt objects. In previous Grand Theft Auto games, players could buy guns from the store, "Ammunition;" however a plotline involving stricter gun laws has closed all of these stores, leaving only illegal methods of obtaining guns. Gameplay and all combat are done in a third-person system where players can aim freely or target enemies. When a player kills civilians, policeman, or soldiers they start to get wanted stars, which means that they will be chased by the police or army until they are caught. Players take damage when attacked, but can regain health by eating food, sleeping or using a medical kit. 
The GTA IV series takes place in a fictional city named Liberty City, which is primarily based off New York City (NYC). Liberty City is divided into 5 different areas, 4 of which represent the 4 boroughs in NYC (Brooklyn is Broker, Manhattan is Algonquin, Queens is Dukes, The Bronx is Bohan) while the fifth one (Alderney) represents NYC's adjacent state New Jersey.
GTA IV is the first in the series to include a cell phone available to the player. The cell phone is branded "Whiz" and has many functions including calls, text messages, appointments, etc. By using the various functions of the phone, players can choose missions, gain access to multiplayer mode, and enter cheat codes. The player can also call other characters in the story on the cell phone, which creates new missions or alters gameplay in some way. GTA IV was the first game in the franchise to truly allow the player to affect the storyline in such a major way.
Ethical Issues in Grand Theft Auto IV
The Grand Theft Auto series has a success rate when it comes to the number of sales. Immediately after its release, Grand Theft Auto IV reached the top of the Billboard, becoming the “fastest selling game ever on Play.com (a UK online game store) and breaking the record previously held by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,” according to Luzio, head of games at Play.com.. The Grand Theft Auto series is an inherently very violent game. The "open world" gameplay style allows the player to roam Liberty City with the ability to do anything. Players can steal cars, mug and kill bystanders, and attack law enforcement. As the player commits crimes, however, law enforcement pursues more heavily as the increase of wanted stars. Makers of the game included a cheat, which when used, stops police pursuit. Players can use this cheat to break the law with no repercussions. This allows players to go on killing rampages and then use the cheat to avoid any repercussions. This feature of the GTA games has led to ethical concerns, causing many parents to refuse to let their children play.
Cheat codes are commonly used in the game by users attempting to bypass certain challenges of the game. These cheats include the ability to automatically attain essentially unlimited weapons, cars, motorcycles, boats, and helicopters. Users can also increase or decrease their "wanted level", which affects police pursuit. These cheats allow players to act free of worrying about the game's law enforcement. The game has often been blamed for real-life acts of terror in the past, and many attribute it to the users' ability to escape punishment easily in the game. The only consequence of using cheat codes in GTA is the blocking of certain achievements like "Clean the Mean Streets", which awards the player for beating the game without the use of artificially spawned weapons or vehicles.
Violent Content and Aggression
Because of the explicit content that GTA exposes the player to, ethical issues are raised as it relates to the effects it has on aggression as a result of playing GTA. A large body of research suggests that violence in media consumption poses risks to users as it has shown to be correlated with aggressive behavior. In a study conducted by the University of Missouri, participants who played violent video games subsequently delivered more than twice as many punishments rated as “high-intensity” to a peer compared to participants who played a nonviolent video game. Further studies that control for variables such as personality type, gender, and time playing have found that there is a significant correlation between exposure to violent video games and violent behavior.
Violent Content and Desensitization
In addition to violent content and aggression, there have been many accusations that the game desensitizes users from being affected by violence in the way a normal person would. Various studies conducted by many institutions have attempted to reveal the correlation between playing violent video games and desensitization to violence. One, in particular, was conducted by the University of Missouri in 2011.  In many of these studies, a group of participants who play a non-violent video game, and another group who play a violent video game such as Grand Theft Auto. After a designated amount of playing time, the researchers measure the reactions of the participants when viewing violent and non-violent images. The results of most studies indicate that the participants who played the violent video game had less brain activity when viewing violent images, while those who played the non-violent game had more of a reaction to the violent images.
On August 2008, 4 months after GTA IV was released, an 18-year-old high school student in Thailand was accused of stealing a taxi after stabbing the taxi driver to death in an attempt to reenact a scene from GTA IV. The police claimed that the 18-year-old student confessed to the stealing and murdering of the 54-year-old taxi driver. The teenager said that he "wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game." His other reasoning for committing this crime was that he wanted money to play the game, but his parents did not have enough money. After this incident, Thailand banned this game in an attempt to prevent any other similar incidents from happening in the future.
Drinking and DrivingMothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), a non-profit organization that seeks to stop drunk driving, insists GTA IV's rating to be changed from "M" (17+) to "AO" (Adults Only) due to the in-game drunk driving. MADD states that "drunk driving is not a game and is certainly not a joke. Drunk driving is not only a choice, but it is also a violent crime and is also 100 percent preventable." MADD believes that GTA IV's inclusion of drunk driving is irresponsible and disrespectful to the victims of accidents caused by drunk driving. The protagonist openly voices concern when driving drunk, saying "I don't think I should be doing this," upon entering a car when drunk.
The game includes deterrents to discourage players from drunk driving, including extreme difficulty handling the car when the protagonist is drunk and dramatically increased attention from police, who will pursue the protagonist if he is driving drunk even if he is not breaking any other in-game law. These consequences force the player to see the consequences of drunk driving, even if it is in a virtual, risk-free environment.
Misrepresentation of New York City
As Grand Theft Auto IV is set in Liberty City, a fictional city that is heavily based on New York City, New York officials were "appalled" to find out that their own city became the inspiration for the game's setting. They strongly believe that the crime level depicted in GTA IV misrepresents the actual crime level in NYC. As influential material, these video games raise issues of the responsibility of the game developers in portraying negative stereotypes of New Yorkers. However, it is difficult to define a line between satire of portrayal and negative stereotyping.
During gameplay, the main character comes in contact with many citizens of Liberty City that could be regarded as stereotypes of New York City citizens. For example, a friend of Niko Bellic who becomes a valuable asset throughout the game is a marijuana-smoking, Rastafarian drug and arms dealer known as Little Jacob. Alongside Little Jacob are an aspiring African American rapper and an African American ex-convict. Even Niko's cousin, Roman, a Russian immigrant seeking fortune through his taxi business, is an allusion to the misconception that many of the immigrants in New York struggle to attain the American dream while making ends meet in the service industry.
Aside from the game characters that the main character regularly interacts with, there are also "extra" characters the main characters only encounters on the street. Even the other drivers and pedestrians have distinct personalities. Unfortunately, these personalities also perpetuate a common negative New York City stereotype in that they are often rude and aggressive. For instance, if Niko bumps someone on the street they will shout at him angrily. Additionally, NPCs will exit their cars with weapons after the player causes an accident.
Like every other game in the Grand Theft Auto series, GTA IV includes prostitute NPCs that can be paid by the protagonist in return for sexual favors, which results in health restoration. The characters are fully clothed, but the ability to move the camera and see the characters motions rises an ethical concern of prostitution in the real world. Players may believe that paying for sex is not at all bad and may be more likely to do so.
The Sex Workers Outreach Project (SWOP) made several statements on their website in regards to the prostitution that takes place during GTA IV. One such statement reads: "...in the interest of furthering sex workers' human and civil rights to life and personal safety, we object to any media which represents sex workers as legitimate targets of violence, rape and murder. Censorship is a blight on the freedoms we hold dear but we wholeheartedly encourage citizens to vote with their dollars by refusing to purchase products which encourage the denigration and destruction of prostitutes. Since the video game Grand Theft Auto accrues points to players for the depiction of the rape and murder of prostitutes, SWOP-USA calls on all parents and all gamers to boycott Grand Theft Auto."
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