Are Drugs Acceptable in Video Games?
Chad Whitney / Jan 3rd, 2013 3 Comments
The topic of drugs is a sensitive subject, and due to how accessible video games are to youth, drug use and references in video games are risqué. Grand Theft Auto allowed players to commit crimes. In GTA, players can choose to follow the story or go on a citywide rampage. The player can steal a car, run over every single pedestrian on the sidewalk while traveling to the destination of choice, and kill civilians and cops using everything from a katana to a minigun to a R/C vehicle. But there are a few more laws to break, so why not pick up a prostitute. Was that more expensive than anticipated? Just kill her and get the money back. All of this is made available to the player within the world of a Grand Theft Auto title; however, drugs are not. As a matter of fact, all of GTAs main characters have been against drug use. Drugs are not available to the player, but they play a huge part in the series as a whole, as most business in every title revolves around drugs in some way. There has not been a single GTA game where the plot was not heavily influenced by drugs. Drugs are mostly tied to the characters associated with the protagonist and missions that the player goes on. Within the story, the protagonist has accidentally gotten high on a few occasions. In GTA: San Andreas, CJ accidentally gets high while helping a companion burn down marijuana plants before the cops arrive, and his driving is affected. In Vice City Stories, Victor Vance accidentally gets high on cocaine after crashing in a van filled with cocaine, affecting his driving as well. In the words of Mr. Mackey, “Drugs are bad, mkay.” Even though Grand Theft Auto struck many as controversial and “too much”, Rockstar sticks to the theme that drugs are too bad for even a drug dealing serial killer. Perhaps they should consider adding in long term drug abuse recovery programs for players to enroll with inside the game.
[adsense250itp]On the other hand, Volition decided not to just allow the player to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol in their Saints Row games, but also to give them the freedom to do so when he/she chose. In the original Saints Row the player can literally smoke until they choke, as the player starts to cough when they have smoked too much. The player had access to a blunt, pipe, or bong to smoke out of. However, in Saints Row 2 the player can choose to smoke marijuana, but it can only be smoked in the form of a blunt, and in Saints Row The Third, the character wasn’t allowed to use marijuana at all. It’s not like Saints Row got any less ridiculous throughout the series. While everything else the player did began to get raunchier, Volition decided to decrease and eliminate the players’ use of drugs. It’s almost as if drugs are acceptable, but seen as taboo by developers.
Not all games have taken to the use of drugs in such a conservative or anti-drug manner. The 2005 spin-off of the 80s classic NARC was highly criticized about the protagonist’s ability to use drugs. It wasn’t simply the fact that drugs were available to the protagonist, it was how they were available. NARC ’05 brought back the mission of shutting down drug lords and their operations. This is legit, and taking down drug lords has always been the NARC objective, but there was one huge change. When a drug lord was taken down, the protagonist had the option to send the drugs in to the Evidence Room or keep the drugs to use or sell later on. Clearly this sparked a lot of controversy due to the fact that the game’s message seemed to state that drugs are OK in moderation. There are a number of drugs for the protagonist to confiscate and potentially use, each unique with its own benefit or disadvantage. In the original game, there was a strictly anti-drug message, but the 2005 re-imaging seemed to have a conflicting theme.
It is acceptable for video games to have drugs in them as long as is made understood to the consumer that the game has “drug usage” or “drug references.” With the recent changes in laws regarding the legality of marijuana, it will be interesting to see the role it plays in GTA V and future titles from other developers.
tags: grand theft auto , Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas , gta , NARC , opinion , rockstar , Saints Row , Saints Row The Third , thq , Volition