Grand Thesis... ah I can't bring myself to finish this pun

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?

Sometimes more isn't enough

I enjoy GTA like most sandbox games (and get bored before I'm halfway into the story), but I give it credit for pushing so many aspects of gaming, most specifically storytelling and subject matter. Few games get away with the raunchy sex and drug use that movies, television, and even comics get away with. I am frustrated that Rockstar isn't given free reign to explore more subjects - the gaming rating systems are so restrictive they limit so much sexual content (since sex is worse than violence) that Rockstar's cultural commentary falls flat. GTA always stands out next to other video games, but as satire it's nothing compared to what other mediums can produce, and for that I blame the gaming industry's self-imposed censorship. Comic books suffered from this same problem with the Comic Code Authority and eventually had to grow up. Hopefully video games will soon.

Aw, go ahead and finish the pun

Spruiking? That's a new one for me. It made sense in context, though, oddly.

Anyway, I'm still trying to justify getting an Xbox 360, and with an impending move, new job, and fatherhood on the way, it looks like the ol' budget's pretty tight for a few more months. Also, we're considering buying a house (eep). So, depending on how that goes, I might get to pay a visit to Liberty City eventually -- probably after all the interesting things have already been said about it.

I imagine this is a common problem I'm facing. Is anyone else feeling the frustration of studying videogames on grad student wages? How are you coping?

"books or games"

Ah yes, the "books or games" dilemma - never enough for both (let alone the other things you have on your plate - congrats on the impending fatherhood BTW!). Perhaps a DiGRA Hardcore column highlighting the plight of game studies grad students in the face of the "Next Generation" of hardware is in order... progressively-minded institutions will need to establish gaming facilities so we can compete for access like scientists compete for time pointing the Hubble telescope at things. Okay, maybe not quite like that. But it sure is hard to keep abreast of three consoles and PC gaming while actually having money and time left over for a life.

I guess the message is to kick the thesis out of the nest ASAP and get a real ivory tower job.

No Liberty City for me yet

I wrote my diploma thesis regarding an experiment I've conducted using GTA: San Andreas. (Abstract)
I'm looking forward to use GTA IV for my research. Until now, I have no next gen console or even a PC suitable for modern games.

Sandbox games are great for research. If someone would like to discuss the use of GTA or games in general for psychological research, please contact me.

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