Now I realise that videogame academia isn't about spruiking specific products - Anatomy of the FPS anyone? - but Grand Theft Auto IV has just come out! Just what grad students and academics need in addition to papers, teaching and unwritten theses.
Even for those of us who aren't playing/researching the GTA IV, it's fascinating how hard it is to avoid the game's cultural splash damage. Within hours of the release, I saw online videos of people doing stupid things in Liberty City or hunting out Easter Eggs. Apparently the in-game radio stations are pitch-perfect parodies of grating deejays and cretinous shock-jocks as well as the mellifluous , expansively liberal tones of NPR's All Things Considered (the latter interview also interesting for those who want to hear Lazlo Jones' take on Stravinsky).
GTA IV has prised open existing issues surrounding videogames, and thrown up new ones. Concerns about violence and sex, of course, are doing the rounds; but also their converse - Australia, which lacks a 18+ designation for games, has a censored version appearing in shops (apparently New Zealand also has to suffer the indignity). Does the increasing realism of games such as GTA IV affect the status of sexuality and violence within them? How do we read the portrayal of race and the function of stereotypes in such a text? Is there any political potential to the vicious satire, or is it simply symptomatic of consumer culture's morbid self-obsession? Does the success of this iteration highlight a growing preference for sandbox style game design over more tightly structured advancement through virtual space and time? What are some of the most interesting peripheral cultural forms arising from the game and how does the fan culture work? Is there more to this all than succès de scandale?
So are any Gameologists hanging out in Liberty City? What are your thoughts?