But GTA writer says 'silly' debate over violent game content has finally moved on

Houser: Rockstar too often branded a ‘pariah’

As well as being one of the highest grossing video game franchises of all time, the GTA series is often one of the most criticised.

Throughout the decade, its Grand Theft Auto games and sister title Manhunt have been scorned for violent content and influencing player behaviour.

Luckily, according to co-founder Dan Houser – who is responsible for the scripts in many Rockstar titles – the media is slowly moving away from simplistic arguments about games content, even if Rockstar has been wrongly singled out for inappropriate content.

“Video games are a popular and easy enemy," he told The Times in a new profile piece.

"It’s all part and parcel of doing something that’s not been done before. One of the things that’s always been exciting is the feeling of being in at the birth of a new medium, but of course the history of technology-driven art from the printing press onwards has been of people fighting against that stuff."

The developer’s game Manhunt drew heavy scorn – first when spuriously linked to the murder of a UK teenager, and again when the second game was initially banned by UK ratings authority the BBFC. A ruling Rockstar fought to successfully overturn.

“It feels at last like we’re moving on from that debate," said Houser. "The audience is getting past 30 so it all becomes a bit silly. That’s not to say that all games are for all people; we’ve never said that. GTA has always been rated 18 and we’ve always been very happy with that.

“Nevertheless, we do get frustrated when video games are singled out and movies are given a free pass. Manhunt 2 was banned in the same week that Saw was released. The arguments become quite ludicrous quite quickly when people argue that games are somehow more dangerous than full-motion video.

“Within Rockstar, sometimes we feel that some of our games get singled out and held up as pariahs. All we want to do is tell a story with rounded characters. Like GoodFellas, which is a key film for us, our rounded characters happen to be criminals.”

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