In case you haven’t already heard, today is a big day in the video game industry. The much-anticipated new version of the successful game franchise, Grand Theft Auto V, is being released. I’ve watched several of the trailers and game play videos (see three below) to get a sense of what the game’s about.

Game developers have created an amazingly complex virtual world. . . and gamers will get lost in it. Yes, we’ve come a long way from Pong. On one hand, the complexity and level of realism in the game is testament to the image of God that has been gifted to the crowning point of God’s creation. . . humanity. I am amazed at what these very talented developers have created. The level of their creativity and expertise gives glory to God. But on the other hand, this God-given creativity has been used in a direction that does anything but bring glory to God. In fact, the game encourages indulgence in attitudes, values, and behaviors that bring glory to what the Scriptures call “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” This is a dangerous virtual world in so many ways.

Remember. . . cultural artifacts both mirror and map our lives. They reflect who are and what we already value and believe, and they direct us into what we should value and believe. Grand Theft Auto V certainly does both in some powerful ways. We can learn a lot about ourselves by pondering this game. We can see who we are, and who we are becoming.

I would encourage you to give these relatively tame trailers a look. This is what millions of gamers will be purchasing today and playing tonight. And before you watch, take a minute to read through the game summary posted on the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) website:

Grand Theft Auto V

Platform: PlayStation 3, Xbox 360

Rating Category:

Early Childhood Rating Symbol
Everyone Rating Symbol
Everyone 10+ Rating Symbol
Teen Rating Symbol
Mature Rating Symbol
Adults Only Rating Symbol

Content Descriptors: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, Use of Drugs and Alcohol

Rating Summary: In this open-world action game, players assume the role of three criminals whose storylines intersect within the fictional city of Los Santos. Players can switch between each character to follow his storyline, completing missions which often include criminal activities (e.g., stealing cars, executing heists, assassinating targets). Players use pistols, machine guns, sniper rifles, and explosives to kill various enemies (e.g., rival gang members); players also have the ability to shoot non-adversary civilians, though this may negatively affect players’ progress as a penalty system triggers a broad police search. Blood-splatter effects occur frequently, and the game contains rare depictions of dismemberment. In one sequence, players are directed to use various instruments and means to extract information from a character; the sequence is intense and prolonged, and it involves some player interaction (i.e., responding to on-screen prompts). The game includes depictions of sexual material/activity: implied fellatio and masturbation; various sex acts that the player’s character procures from a prostitute—while no nudity is depicted in these sequences, various sexual moaning sounds can be heard. Nudity is present, however, primarily in two settings: a topless lap dance in a strip club and a location that includes male cult members with exposed genitalia in a non-sexual context. Within the game, TV programs and radio ads contain instances of mature humor: myriad sex jokes; depictions of raw sewage and feces on a worker’s body; a brief instance of necrophilia (no nudity is depicted). Some sequences within the larger game allow players to use narcotics (e.g., smoking from a bong, lighting a marijuana joint); cocaine use is also depicted. Players’ character can, at various times, consume alcohol and drive while under the influence. The words “f**k,” “c*nt,” and “n**ger” can be heard in the dialogue.

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