SUMMARY OF REASONS FOR DECISION
Under the Films, Videos, and Publications Classification Act 1993 (FVPC Act)
Type of Publication: Console Game
Title of Publication: Grand Theft Auto IV
Other known title: GTA 4
OFLC Publication Reference No: 800191
Decision: Objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 18 years.
Display Conditions: Nil
Descriptive Note: Contains violence and offensive language
The publication is classified as objectionable except if the availability of the publication is restricted to persons who have attained the age of 18 years because of its treatment of violence, cruelty and crime
Description of Publication:
The publication is a console game formatted for play on the Xbox 360 console. The game is the latest instalment in a series of popular free-roaming, or open-ended, games from the development company Rockstar Games. The game is plot-driven, broadly fitting into the action/drama genres with strong elements of satire. It tells the story of Nico Bellie, a fresh-off-the-boat Eastern European immigrant to Liberty City (modelled on the real New York city). Nico stays with his cousin Roman, a loser with dangerous levels of gambling debt, and begins to perform odd jobs to keep his head above water. Nico’s ulterior motive in visiting Liberty City is to try and find the man responsible for betraying his friends.
As with the previous versions of Grand Theft Auto the game utilises a third-person perspective. The storyline is progressed through cinematic scripted sequences, and supported by a wide range of mission objectives. The game world is immersive and fully realised, with the changing of seasons, weather patterns, and time of day, all ticking over with a realistic attention to detail.
Subject Matter Gateway
Matters such as sex
Possibly the strongest in-game violence occurs when a person is hit by a Molotov cocktail. The victim is shown running to and fro on fire before collapsing. The level of cruelty is stronger because of the length of time it takes for the person to die.
The scripted sequences also feature a range of violence, such as people being shot in the head. These are shown in a very cinematic way, utilising camera angles and sound effects one would expect to see in large budget films.
In terms of s3(3)(d) the game contains the potential for anti-social and criminal behaviour through the freedom Niko has to hijack cars and kill civilians and police with an array of weapons. The missions themselves also involve Niko performing criminal behaviour, such as shakedowns of business owners who refuse to pay protection money, and killing other criminals. The criminal behaviour is balanced to some extent by the positioning of Niko as a sympathetic, and flawed, character trying to find his way in Liberty City, and the power the police have to kill or arrest Niko when he commits wanton acts. Illegal drugs play a very minor part in the game and appear only in as far as some characters are shown snorting cocaine or discussing drug deals. Niko does not take drugs and there is no sense that drug use is ever glamourised.
3A Publication may be age-restricted if it contains highly offensive language likely to cause serious harm.
The publication contains frequent use of coarse language in keeping with the characters’ backgrounds. Examples include use of word “f#ck” and its derivatives, and the word “cu#t”.
Section 3(4) Additional matters to be considered
s3(4)(a) The dominant effect of the publication as a whole
The dominant effect of the publication as a whole is of an engaging third-person action drama set within an interactive game world.
s3(4)(b) The impact of the medium in which the publication is presented
The publication is an Xbox 369 console game, allowing for complex and sophisticated gameplay with realistic graphics and sound effects.
s3(4)(c) The character of the publication, including any merit, value or importance it has in relation to literary, artistic, social, cultural, educational, scientific, or other matter.
The publication has some merit in relation to social and cultural matters. The GTA series has attracted a dedicated following worldwide, across all gaming platforms, and this version is likely to be one of the most anticipated gaming releases of 2008. The game is one of the most complex soon to be available on the market in terms of narrative structure, characterisations, and a player’s freedom to explore enormous animated environments.
s3(4)(d) The persons, classes of persons, or age groups of the persons to whom the publication is intended or is likely to be made available.
The publication is probably intended for an adult audience due to its depictions of violence and cruelty, low level sexual content, and anti-social elements.
s3(4)(e) The purpose for which the publication is to be used
The publication is intended as entertainment
BILL OF RIGHTS CONSIDERATIONS
Discussion of Bill if Rights Consideration
Section 3(1) considerations have been weighed against relevant provisions of the NZBR Act. Given the manner in which the game treats matters of violence, cruelty and crime, the classification imposed on this game is a reasonable limitation on the freedom of expression contained in the Bill of Rights, and is demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. A limitation on the console game’s availability is the minimum restriction that can be applied in order to prevent injury to the public good.
The unrestricted availability of the publication would be injurious to the public good given the manner in which it deals with matters of violence, cruelty and crime. Weighting has been given to the potential for the player’s character to commit gratuitous acts of violence upon unsuspecting members of the public and the police, as well as frequently extreme acts of anti-social and illegal behaviour. This kind of content might be disturbing to younger viewers, however there is also the risk of children and young persons becoming desensitised or inured over the long term to this type of behaviour, and trivialising it through presenting it as amusing or exciting. Adults are more able to put this material in the context of an entertaining but violent console game. The likelihood of injury to the public good is avoided by restricting this publication to audiences that have attained the age of 18 years.
Source: All information supplied by Office of Film and Litersature Classification.