Bad news today for lovers of liberty and lovers of video games. Thailand has just banned Grand Theft Auto IV, following an incident where a teenager killed a taxi driver and blamed his actions on the game. We’ve previously reported on the game and detailed how parents have more tools than ever at their disposal, obviating the need for ratings legislation. GTA IV is leading game sales, and not just for its depictions of violence. Video games have generated advanced new technology and fitness tools. Further, GTA IV has its own artistic merit. As my colleague Ryan Radia eloquently explains:
As game budgets have swelled and public interest in gaming has expanded, more games than ever transcend the stereotype of gaming as a juvenile pursuit with little artistic merit, reminding us that games can be artistic expressions on par with books, movies, or songs. Critics whose gaming experience consists of having played Pacman in an arcade may belittle gaming as a trivial pastime, but anybody who has played Bioshock or Gears of War or Oblivion knows better. Games can critique the harsh realities of modern society and offer insight into the nature of the human soul in ways that less interactive forms of media cannot. Likewise, games deserve both critical admiration and legal protection.
Of course, GTA IV is no Mona Lisa. But the way things are going, it’s entirely possible that the next timeless masterpiece of artistic expression will be created not with a brush or pen, but with lines of code.
We should ensure that bans do not prevent “the next timeless masterpiece of artistic expression” from ever coming about.