Two men walked into a Lake Wales, Fla. Walmart store last week and loaded up a cart with hundreds of dollars worth of toys, then one of them took off with the goods while the other faked a heart attack to create a diversion. They would have gotten away with the heist, too, if the store had been miraculously devoid of security cameras.
Police have captured Justin W. Durbin, a 22-year-old Oklahoma native known as the "Bentley Bandit" for his habit of stealing high-end luxury automobiles. Durbin is wanted in seven states in connection with his crimes — including Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, Arizona and Maryland — but it was a 2007 Bentley worth over $100,000 that he'd stolen from a dealership in Naples, Florida, that ultimately proved to be his undoing.
This is an absolute nightmare scenario for video game manufacturers, who must now be thanking their Pagan gods that it didn't happen in the US: a teenager in Bangkok murdered a taxi cab driver in an attempt to reenact a scene from Grand Theft Auto. As a result, the distributor has halted sales of the game throughout all of Thailand, which is a wise PR move despite being (objectively) an overreaction. The details of the crime seem to confirm the worst fears of all anti-video game crusaders: a good kid led astray, and willing to do anything to get his fix of violence:
Bangkok police arrested a Thai teenager "after he was found trying to steer a cab backwards out of a Bangkok street with the severely wounded driver in the back seat," reports Reuters. The kid told police he didn't mean to kill the driver and only stabbed him to death after he fought back. In Take-Two Interactive's Grand Theft Auto IV, the game that the kid later said inspired his attack, players don't always have to kill drivers to steal their cars. "He said he wanted to find out if it was as easy in real life to rob a taxi as it was in the game," said chief police investigator Veeravit Pipattanasak. New Era Interactive Media, which distributes Grand Theft Auto in Thailand, has asked retailers to remove the game from their shelves.
If you didn't have the 500 or so free hours necessary to explore the virtual architecture of the NYC doppelganger "Liberty City" in the latest version of Grand Theft Auto, here's the quickest way to do it: by helicopter. After the jump, a video of a virtual helicopter tour of the artfully rendered version of Manhattan-you can see the Chrysler's building spire from above. At the end, the chopper's passenger ends up in the river:
Oh, so you can have it both ways! Pulitzer-winning author Junot Diaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) writes in the Wall Street Journal today of his love affair with the time-sucking video game Grand Theft Auto. He's also willing to admit to the lowbrow fun that it actually is (let's not dress it up with Godfather-referencing praise, people!)
Several voice actors from the videogame Grand Theft Auto IV have come forward to politely point out that, while Rockstar Games has sold $600 million worth of copies in three months, they have only individually made tens of thousands of dollars. For example, Michael Hollick, the voice of leading GTA criminal Nico Bellic, made about $100,000 over the course of 15 months worth of work, at about $1,050 per day, with no residuals.
To review a best-selling American game based on New York City, you obviously need a bunch of foreigners. First a British clip, "How To Have An Opinion About Grand Theft Auto IV," that mocks the standard media reactions to the game: polarization about the influence of violence, sweaty-palmed reviewers saying it's redefined gaming. Then the Australian reviewer Zero Punctuation, who's gotten very popular for his fast-paced cartoon reviews, says that GTA IV is afraid of its own value as a game.
A Grand Theft Auto obsessive has matched up vistas from the hit Rockstar videogame with the real New York City. Here's the Conde Nast skyscraper in Times Square (at left) compared with the equivalent tower in Liberty City's 'Star Junction' (at right). Any GTA fans want to create mayhem in the magazine group's lobby, mow down a few Vogue interns, and send us a videograb of the results? [Matthew Johnston's Flickr page]
The Parents Television Council—the shrill right-wing arbiter of entertainment morality last seen reprimanding companies for associating with rappers—is now busy condemning the brilliant, violent, and controversial new video game Grand Theft Auto IV. Unfortunately for the forces of purity, the Council decided to do its condemning primarily by making things up: