Tuesday, October 29, 2002


After lunch today I hopped over to CompUsa (two blocks away) to buy Tony Hawk Pro Skater 4 and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, both released today. I figured I'd beat the rush of kids stuck in school. (Suckers!)

Like its predecessor, Vice City centers on criminal activity, and so features violence and foul language. Since kids don't know about violence and foul language, it's important to make sure they don't get exposed to it accidentally. (Who knows what chaos would ensue if the cat got out of the bag. It's amazing we've kept the secret as long as we have.) Thus, I was only mildly surprised when they asked for my ID. I always enjoy being carded (makes me feel young and old at the same time), so I didn't really mind.

What surprised me, though, was the girl at the register. She seemed really embarassed to be selling me the game. I don't know what they told their employees, but I think she thought she was selling me porn.

"You want to play this game?" she asked me, incredulously. I nodded. "I can't believe...you want to play this game," she added.

In my mind, I ran through the scenario of me trying to explain to her the merits of the game. Imagine the most rich, detailed virtual city environment in the history of computer games. Imagine cars, boats, planes, helicopters, bridges, motorcycles, buildings, alleys, all open for exploration. Imagine the freedom to experience a complex, busy city in a way you never have before--unconstrained by etiquette, tradition, laws, and propriety.

Sure, the game lets you do horrible things. You can shoot people. You can hit them with cars. You can cause huge car accidents which, in real life, would cause horrific injury or death. All terrible things.

Imagine, though, what the game would be like without those things. Imagine if, in the game, you had to follow all the rules that make you a decent person in the real world. What fun would that be? It would be like a DMV driving test, but much longer and with cutscenes. Who wants that?

In my mind, as I explained this to her, all I got was a suspicious blank stare. I was buying adult material, after all, so everything I said was suspect. So I said nothing, smiled politely and walked out with my purchase.

I've had such fun with the game, and I haven't even broken the shrinkwrap yet.


  1. Despite the violence and outcries from Mothers Against Fun Games, the most recent issue of Time has a full page article on Vice City and - surprisingly - does not focus on the game's violent side.
    Grand Theft Auto III is a national obsession. Its sequel borders on something more: art.
    Wow. The article mentions almost exactly what Tom said. It's about time that video games have grown up, their audience sure has.

  2. Actually, the game has a soundtrack featuring a very large number of old 80s pop hits. That's why she was asking suspiciously about you wanting to play the game. It wasn't "are you sure this isn't porn? Are you a freak?", but rather, "you know this contains old stuff by Cyndi Lauper and Michael Jackson. You're a freak."