The Beat’s temporary slowdown on blogging is not, as might be expected, because of the arrival of Grand Theft Auto IV, which will probably be the biggest grosser of the year, movie, book or game. However it must be said that the complete cultural victory by the geek/nerd/video game set is now assured. Admit it, did you ever in a kajillion years think you would see a glowing front-page review of a FREAKING VIDEO GAME in the New York Times?

Published by Rockstar Games, Grand Theft Auto IV is a violent, intelligent, profane, endearing, obnoxious, sly, richly textured and thoroughly compelling work of cultural satire disguised as fun. It calls to mind a rollicking R-rated version of Mad magazine featuring Dave Chappelle and Quentin Tarantino, and sets a new standard for what is possible in interactive arts. It is by far the best game of the series, which made its debut in 1997 and has since sold more than 70 million copies. Grand Theft Auto IV will retail for $60.

Niko Bellic is the player-controlled protagonist this time, and he is one of the most fully realized characters video games have yet produced. A veteran of the Balkan wars and a former human trafficker in the Adriatic, he arrives in Liberty City’s rendition of Brighton Beach at the start of the game to move in with his affable if naïve cousin Roman. Niko expects to find fortune and, just maybe, track down someone who betrayed him long ago. Over the course of the story line he discovers that revenge is not always what one expects.

It’s like those old timers who believed that attending a show by Eva Tanguay at the Odeon was the apotheosis of cultural delight and refused to go over to the new Victrola are now standing in line for the new model.


  1. Since the very first Grand Theft Auto game in 1997 there have been angry parents and lawsuits – dozens of them. And senators speaking out in it from the Senate floor. Ain’t nothing changed but the weather. This franchise is an untouchable juggernaut – has been since Vice City (which I did all the design for, by the way, work for hire – ugh!)


  2. I picked up my copy of GTA4 on the way into my (freelance) job today. Only about 10 people waiting outside the gamestop in Astoria today. Not bad. I’ll bring it home with a few partial manuscripts and other assorted paperwork from my day life…but we know where I’ll be tonight.
    Very cool to hear Brian W. designed some of Vice City – that game was so well done. Kudos!

  3. Bill, as much as this is a non-issue to me, wheaton’s statement, apparently from….somewhere, stating the average age of a videogamer, is somehow, doubtful to me.

    I’d bet the average age is actually in the mid-20’s somewhere.

  4. Will’s numbers are right, he got them from the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating’s Board) who do extensive surveys every year. You have to figure that Minesweeper is considered a game, so that skews the age a little higher. A better number would be who plays console games, that numbers lower, from the ESA (Entertainment Software Assoc.) ‘80% of console game buyers were over 18.’ so take that as you will.

    I got GTA4 this morning and spent an hour in Liberty City before going to work, when I get hoe I don’t think I’ll be going out again until, y’know, forever.

  5. Either way, you are looking at mostly adults (over 18) buying an adult game(Rated M for mature) …

    The fact that parents and Senators are wasting precious time that could be better spent… well, there’s the crime, not ads on bus stops and trains.

  6. Man, I barely played San Andreas.

    No way will I ever manage to get close to finishing this.

    I guess I’ll stick to DS Soduku for now.

  7. It was also covered yesterday on National Public Radio. The videogame market never interested me and I didn’t even realize until a couple years ago that adults actually played these things. I remember 3 years ago watching Simon Pegg in SPACED (soon on dvd in the US) and SHAUN OF THE DEAD and laughing at this guy in his 30s playing video games. I thought it was meant as a joke.

  8. GTAIV is certainly a groundbreaking videogame that is worth waiting in line for. Each time I play the game I discover something new. It is truely remarkable how much thought was put into the game. There is a reason why everyone is rating this game a 10 out of 10 and violence alone does not get you a 10.

    The people that are talking negatively against the game do not play videogames, and most certainly haven’t even played the game they are critical about.

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