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Wed Jan 16, 2013, 05:15 PM

In a few months, Grand Theft Auto V will be available in stores. [View all]



And mark my words, all of this "guns don't kill people, video games kill people" stuff will be rehashed. As a video game fan (who also has a job and a social life and no violent tendencies, thankyouverymuch) I've been looking forward to this release for about a year. The game always takes place in a simulation of an American city, and this time the setting is a thinly-veiled satirical version of Los Angeles--a city I was born in but no longer live in. So my enthusiasm for the game is partly based out of nostalgia and partly due to the fact that the series has been uniformly excellent.

Yes, as always, the character you control is an amoral criminal. Yes, gun violence is presented in blood-splatteringly realistic fashion--probably more realistic than ever before. And YES, you do have the option of making your character go on a mindless rampage, gunning down hundreds of innocent civilians before you yourself are inevitably killed by the in-game cops. Nothing in these games ever DEMANDS that you go on a homicidal spree, but just like in real life, the option is always there. (No, there are no children or even schools in these games; Rockstar Entertainment isn't that stupid.)

But here's a point that the game's critics are going to miss--almost any weapons you own in the game can be acquired LEGALLY. Sure, you can try to find them in secret locations or yank them off of dead foes, but the easiest way to arm yourself in Grand Theft Auto is to drive to a chain store entitled "Ammu-Nation" and buy your firearms and/or bullets like any law-abiding citizen. You can do this, walk out of the door, and immediately start firing at civilians. Why? Because this fictional Los Angeles takes place in the real-life USA, and in this country (and only in this country), you can do feasibly the same thing in real life. The man in the screenshot above is not some crazy nut in his basement; he's the unnamed owner of an Ammu-Nation outlet, from a GTA game that came out in 2004.

The company that makes the Grand Theft Auto series actually originated in the UK, but they've gone on record many times as saying that Grand Theft Auto could never be set in any other country. Satire has always been at the heart of the series, not ultra-realism, but a GTA game set in Tokyo or Sydney or even London would be too far-fetched even for them; there is no Ammu-Nation equivalent in Rockstar Entertainment's native Scotland. People all over the world will play this game, but only in America will conservatives blame gun violence on a game that accurately reflects the paranoid, gun-centric, violent society they themselves helped to create.

And they will blame it, naturally. They will spit at the mirror because they don't like the reflection.

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