Chris Baker discusses the treatment of violence and morality in Grand Theft Auto IV.

Real-time discussions with Slate writers.
May 1 2008 2:23 PM

Kill Joy

Chris Baker takes readers' questions about the treatment of violence and morality in the new Grand Theft Auto video game.

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Richmond, Va.: I think when "Ambulation" finally hits for Eve Online we'll see the single most immersive game ever made. The technical gameplay, the complexity of how the world works and is driven by player warfare and economics, is already there. But actual characters (aside from portraits glued to the hull of a starship) were completely missing. The new footage and sound design for avatars is stunning. If people want to see where the cutting edge of gaming is, Grand Theft Auto IV is a fine start, but "Eve Online" is the future today.

Chris Baker: Eve is really an astonishing game. I think the experience is sort of at the opposite end of the spectrum from GTA, though. So much of what's so incredibly compelling about Eve is what the players bring to it, whereas GTA is a single-player experience that has been totally planned out and designed before it's release.

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Washington: Chris Baker: "Here in the Wired office, my fellow editors and I will take breaks a couple of times a day to go kill each other for five or 10 minutes in Halo 3, and it's a great stress reliever." Where is said Wired Office and are they hiring?

Chris Baker: Hahah! It's not all fun and games, but that is a nice perk of being on this beat.

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Chicago: What about the prostitutes and treatment of women? Which is more uncomfortable for you as a man playing this game: killing civilians and cops or paying for fake sex and then killing the virtual sex worker? Also, do you know anyone who has said that the game is an arena to play out their sexual and/or violent fantasies? (I'm not a gamer. Just trying to understand how this could be appealing!)

Chris Baker: Hi there! I think a lot of people engage in these acts just because of the novelty, because it's something a game never allowed you to do before. I don't know of anyone who finds it erotic. And as I said in my piece, that's something that players CAN do because the game is so open-ended; it's not something that players HAVE to do.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Hey Chris—as an avid gamer myself, I actually lost sleep anticipating this GTA. My question to you is, do you think the ultimatums that GTA IV gives you in the game (i.e. the choice to knock someone off or save them) is giving gamers the choice to do the right thing? It also proves to be pivotal in the game when these decisions come about ... what do you think about these interactions in the game?

Chris Baker: I think the deeper writing and characterizations add a richness and a level of nuance to a the game. But it's still sort of like the Sopranos, it's about very bad people who do very bad things, though some characters are comparatively more ethical and honorable than others.

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Bethesda, Md.: What about "Insane Stunt Bonuses" from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas?

Chris Baker: Still there!

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Silver Spring, Md.: On a scale from 1-10 how do you rate Grand Theft Auto IV in terms of graphics, presentation, sound, controls and overall experience? And if you don't mind could you briefly justify those scores?

Chris Baker: I don't do the numerical scoring thing, especially without playing through the game at leisure to really absorb it. GTA4 really is excellent though. There's a bit of frame-rate dipping, and the pop-in that plagued previous versions of the game is still there. But all of the other aspects of the game are absolutely excellent.

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Chris Baker: Well, that's all the time I have. Thanks for your questions, and thanks to all of you for reading!