New York City's mayor has denounced the next version of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), for the violent game's resemblance to the metropolis. Although the game is set in fictional "Liberty City," trailers show familiar New York City landmarks, such as the Statue of Liberty, Coney Island's Cyclone, and the Brooklyn Bridge.
A spokesperson for Mayor Michael Bloomberg noted that the mayor does not support any video game where "you earn points for injuring or killing police officers."
In other news reports, city council member Peter Vallone noted that setting the game in the "safest city in America would be like setting Halo in Disneyland."
Although GTA contains many scenes of violence, so too do numerous movies that are set in New York -- yet the city does not make an outcry about being depicted cinematically as a haven for prostitutes, mafiosos, or serial killers, noted Jason Della Rocca, executive director of the International Game Developers Association.
"When you look at other forms of entertainment, how many movies, books, and TV shows use New York City as a setting for their stories?" he asked.
"There's a lot of stuff out there that's pretty over the top, and doesn't put New York in the best light," Della Rocca added. "They don't complain about that, yet when a game depicts similar incidents as movies in a similar setting, they're up in arms."
This is not the first time that a city has balked over the use of its landscape for a video game, he said. When first-person shooter Rainbow Six, based on a Tom Clancy novel, set one of its versions in Las Vegas, the city's officials expressed their disapproval by trying to have the game banned.
The furor over GTA and Rainbow Six highlights a larger issue of what constitutes art, Della Rocca said. Movies and even TV shows are considered art forms, or at least protected entertainment.
But, he believes, video games are not seen as art in any form, and protests such as those coming from the New York mayor's office show a lack of respect for games, said Della Rocca.
"There's a just a mismatch in terms of reaction, based on the perception of games," he noted. "In this particular case with New York, it doesn't seem like it's politically motivated, like, 'Let's beat up on this game to benefit our political campaign.' Instead, it seems they're genuinely unhappy. But that just shows a lack of understanding about games as an entertainment form."
Critics of the game point out that GTA and other shooter games differ from movies because they contain interactivity, giving a user the ability to choose their actions.
The new version of Grand Theft Auto is scheduled to ship to stores in October.