Houser: GTAIV is not controversial

Rockstar's Dan Houser explains to UK magazine <em>ShortList</em> why GTAIV will change the way people see games.

Grand Theft Auto IV's hype has just about reached fever pitch. With only days to go until GTAIV's global release, Rockstar's vice president of creative, Dan Houser, spoke to British men's magazine ShortList about the game's development process; the replication of New York as a living, breathing, city; and why GTAIV isn't so controversial after all.

Houser spills the beans in this week's ShortList. (Credit: ShortList.com)

Houser, who cofounded Rockstar with brother Sam Houser, says early on in the interview, "Grand Theft Auto IV will change the way people think about video games...we had to make sure no one thought, 'It's just like the previous one; I could have played this on my old machine.'"

So besides new characters, music, and multiplayer modes, what else is new in GTAIV? Houser says, "the fourth dimension is details...there are about 40 new things in GTAIV, from the new motion physics of the main character to the firearm targeting to the interaction with pedestrians. The overall goal was to make the world feel more alive. Every little detail was researched, analysed, and broken down."

Houser goes on to explain what the main focus was for the 150-strong development team at Rockstar North. "The No 1 thing in all GTA games is that the lead character is the city...Aaron [Garbut, Rockstar North art director] has a lot of responsibility and basically has to build an entire city and make it run and behave like a real place; that's the priority."

The Grand Theft Auto series has always attracted varying degrees of controversy, not least with the Hot Coffee scandal from GTA: San Andreas. While GTAIV has yet to be released, it has still attracted the attention of US administrators, New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's office, and Chicago Transit Authority president Ron Huberman who had advertisements pulled from Chicago's public transport.

Responding to the criticism from politicians and mainstream press, Houser says, "the 'controversy' story gets a bit frustrating...if this was a movie, a book, or a TV show, we wouldn't be having this conversation. We're an easy enemy to divert everyone's attention from the stuff that really matters."

"There's an argument that video games have caused this massive upsurge in youth violence--they haven't, it's actually gone down. So it's got nothing to do with the content; it's to do with the medium. The problem is that video games aren't the medium [of politicians and tabloid journalists]. Well, that's just a social change, and you're a Luddite if you challenge that," Houser adds.

Rockstar's creative guru rounds out the interview by saying, "There are so many freaks and nutters wandering around New York, and we've put them straight into this game. There's a thing there at the moment with people coming up to you and going, 'Do you like hip-hop?' and you say, 'Yeah, sure, why?' so they go, 'Well here's my CD; that's 15 bucks.' The aim of GTAIV was to capture the essence and energy of these maniacs."

To read Houser's full interview with ShortList, visit www.shortlist.com.

Written By

Former staff writer for GameSpot.co.uk, now marketing guy for a certain major online retailer....

Want the latest news about Grand Theft Auto 2?

Grand Theft Auto 2

Grand Theft Auto 2

Follow

Discussion

299 comments
bardkieran
bardkieran

"There's a thing there at the moment with people coming up to you and going, 'Do you like hip-hop?' and you say, 'Yeah, sure, why?' so they go, 'Well here's my CD; that's 15 bucks" ---- Wow Dan, living under a rock lately? That's been going on in NYC for over 15+ years. 1994 called. They want their way of life back.

Lord__Darkstorn
Lord__Darkstorn

I don't understand why people are so afraid of change. Games are art, and no 'traditional' mindset is going to change that. That being said, GTA 4 is going to be AWESOME.

Proust
Proust

Fever pitch is right. As for controversy ... the people who have the most problems with the game are going to die off. My generation grew up with games and we still play them. The stigma is't there. For so many of the old it is a final hurah before the craping out. Same thing is happening with the acceptance of gays. Gays and Gamers. Just wait it out.

tunit000
tunit000

I've preordered and I'm going to go to the local midnight release for the game but I have 4 frickin test I have to study for tomorrow! Oh well, I guess the college degree can wait. :)

jusducks6
jusducks6

SnuffDaddyNZ Saints Row will always be a knock off and it is 10 in the graphics side because there is so much content the graphics can't be as high as many games though they are great this time around and GTAIV10X>Saints Row

GrimGravy
GrimGravy

ok first off all game sequels are really just the same thing with new things thrown in , like god of war to god of war 2 not much difference in what you do ya just hack things up, and guess what its fun as hell. So if ya dont like GTA get a life and have fun playing whatever the hell it is you play cause i know i sure as hell will. oh and GTA4=GOTY period.

SnuffDaddyNZ
SnuffDaddyNZ

The ign review didn't answer the question of: If I have Saint's Row do I still need GTA IV? They also gave the graphics an 10, when clearly they only deserve an 8. Hopefully Gamespot's review will answer these questions. The biggest story though is that the publisher was too lazy to send unscensored versions to NZL, and instead we get the censored Aussie version (which btw the regular version of 360 stock sold out this morning at 10am.)

bart723
bart723

as long as its as good as gta 3, gta vc or gta sa, ill still love it... i love all the extra things there are to do in the game, other than just go on rampages... im preordered, so i cant wait till tomorrow!!!

cboyuno
cboyuno

This game is making the weekend take longer... i guess thats a good thing

cube-gage
cube-gage

who cares if it;s the same, it looks awesome, i reckon it will be gta crossed with a story line like shenmue. no you can not go wrong with that combination can you?

ShadowKillerEX
ShadowKillerEX

This game always rock me out man. This game is SUPER COOL!!!!

r_gam3
r_gam3

LOL! GTA wont change how average humans see games. It will reinforce it as a medium for children to learn violence. If anything, wii sports, Wii Fit, Wii Music are the real games that will change how they are percieved. Wait, it already has.

ShadowOfKratos
ShadowOfKratos

'Do you like hip-hop?' and you say, 'Yeah, sure, why?' so they go, 'Well here's my CD; that's 15 bucks.' LOL!!! 2 days left... damn they're passing slower and slower... wtf... IGN has the video review already... check it out people!

WhiteWorld
WhiteWorld

That's hilariously stupid. What's the core gameplay? Doing missions? Driving? Shooting? Wreaking havoc? Or all four? Because that's all changed immensely in this game. I know it was all the same in the last three games with a few additions here and there but that was because it worked then and the possibilities aren't endless here. Should they have made it an FPS or something?

charizard1605
charizard1605 moderator

jakob_187 Got bored of GTA after GTA III...because it really HAS been the same game over and over. People can say that San Andreas was different...but it wasn't. GTA IV might look better and have better physics...but the core gameplay is going to be the same and...for those of us who are reasonably intelligent and play games...it won't fool us any. I'll pass on this one until it's about $20 at my favorite used game retailer. = D Hope you goons enjoy your rehashed material!!! dats exactly what i said before... all GTA games are, ultimately, the same.

pause422
pause422

Capitalthoughts- You definately make good points and I agree completely,the thing is that the days of those being the #1 entertainment medium being targetting,have been over for a while,hence video games being the absolute #1 scapegoat right now.Its just how it is and will be for a long time.As time moves on and some other entertainment comes before us(no idea what it will be) then video games will take the backseat,or nly for a bit to deal with this next new thing most likely.

ArtOfCraft
ArtOfCraft

Hey Jakob, just wanna let you know, that any game you've ever played in your entire life has been rehashed. Every single game. Every FPS, RTS, is rehashed material if that's how you think. So go enjoy whatever you're playing and just know that.

jakob_187
jakob_187

Got bored of GTA after GTA III...because it really HAS been the same game over and over. People can say that San Andreas was different...but it wasn't. GTA IV might look better and have better physics...but the core gameplay is going to be the same and...for those of us who are reasonably intelligent and play games...it won't fool us any. I'll pass on this one until it's about $20 at my favorite used game retailer. = D Hope you goons enjoy your rehashed material!!!

Kaspii00
Kaspii00

Who would've thought that video games LESSEN violence. But then arises this question - what rises violence. Make the best game you can, Rockstar Games! As realistic as possible, but not as realistic as Crysis that only 100 people in a country can play it ;).

Simple_malk
Simple_malk

I think what the guy is getting at is that it's the medium that's controversial. That's the truth too movies, TV shows, and books come out with the exact same content and aren't usually as widely used as political steps to get parents on the side (looking at you H.Clinton.) Videogames and cartoons (to a lesser extent) are the red headed step childs of our time. The biggest reason is ignorant parents who can't be bothered to learn to use something as easy to understand as the ESRB. In North America too many people seem to think video games and cartoons are "kid's stuff" because people are to lazy to research or sit down to see the the latest episode of South Park is about pedophiles trying to rape the little boys. People need to wake up and realize that these mediums can be used to entertain anyone and that they definitely aren't aimed solely at their rugrats.

capitalthoughts
capitalthoughts

But let's not lie to ourselves, this game does carry controversy. The definition of controversy is lengthy disputes from two alternative view points. Controversy is more often then not a good thing for mature people. Besides, Houser is very wrong on one issue, saying that if this were a book or movie, he wouldn't be having this problem. Does anyone in this room have any idea how many books, movies, and art for that matter that the goverment or local state senators for that matter have tried to ban? I wonder how Mr. Houser would have felt trying to market Lust and Caution in the middle east? Very good, yet very controversial movie. The real version rated NC-17, only played in an art house movie theater in Omaha. As a closing note, if you can't find anything controversial about the ability to have sex with a prostitute and then killing her to get the money back controversial, then you obviously either A aren't old enough for the subject matter, or B have no moral compass. I mean, the fact that people think there is nothing controversial about it just adds fuel to the fire.

kingdre
kingdre

Controversy? What controversy? All I see is a videogame. No more, no less.

capitalthoughts
capitalthoughts

GTA IV will no doubt be a really cool game, but I think he is kidding himself when he says it will change how people think about games. The people who will buy GTA IV like the series, but they could never do anything to draw in someone in who is repulsed by crimminal behavior. That being said though, everyone is responsible for their own actions. I love the goverment's idea on how to curb violence. SHEILD us from it, like it doesn't happen. You know, I have read countless history books with acts far more violent then anything I have seen in any video game, and you know what? I still don't have an urge to go out and murder someone. I really think we should be worried not only as video game players, but as citizens of free countries. When the goverment decides what is healthy for us to look at and what is not healthy we run the risk of losing our basic freedoms.

pcmacro
pcmacro

"the 'controversy' story gets a bit frustrating...if this was a movie, a book, or a TV show, we wouldn't be having this conversation. We're an easy enemy to divert everyone's attention from the stuff that really matters." I like this quote because it is very true.

khoofia_pika
khoofia_pika

Well, basically, I am a GTA fan. But I have always found one problem with the games- all of them are the same. And so it is that after playing San Andreas, Vice City and Liberty City, I got tired of doing the same thing again and again, I played no more GTA games. But this, GTA IV, this sounds different. More real, more exciting, better graphics, new features. I think this game might be one of the better games of the series and even might be one of the best games ever since Ocarina of Time. GTA's free roam has always had problems. The things the pedestrians say are limited in words and so are their actions. But this time, in GTA IV, everything is changing and the world will become much more real. And that's one of the plus points of the game. The previous games were not real at all, in some ways. You could go into any car which people would keep unlocked. But in this game, again, its more real. The reality's gonna attract a lot of people and this might become a highly succesful game critically and commercially. So, GTA's on my wish list!

charizard1605
charizard1605 moderator

eggie37 fair enough man... to each his own...

charizard1605
charizard1605 moderator

kaven_rulz yes, that's my point... all games are the same, with better physics and graphics engines... and while each game might be better than the last (though Vice City was in no way better than GTA III), they are all just the same... So, like i said before, GTA IV might be hailed as the best game ever created, or the best since Ocarina of Time at least (IGN certainly thinks so), I for one am not ready to dish out the money to get a game that, according to me, will not be a hell of a lot different than the previous iterations of the series.

Eggie37
Eggie37

charizard1605 i gave you that negative rating. i just love gta.. that much

kaven_rulz
kaven_rulz

well,i do like GTA games~but i somehow see ur point charizard...its just the same formula with different technology put into it,it just makes it even more real...and better fun than b4,but i still like playing GTA games of course~and im still waitin for GTA IV!

charizard1605
charizard1605 moderator

Okay, please don't get me wrong here. Though I know I'll probably get a rating of -57 or something for this comment, I do feel I must say what I feel about GTA IV. Now, I really don't think this is all that different than the previous GTA games. Oh, sure, we have to break open a car's window before we can get in, and all that other stuff, but my point is, I've seriously not noticed a lot of difference in these crime based free roaming games. All of them are just the same: you can either roam about in an invredibly life like city, talk to people, shoot 'em up for fun etc, or do the missions and progress through the story (which, incidentally, is the same in all of these games... at least in the essentials). So, while I find GTA Vice City to be almost identical to San Andreas and The Godfather in terms of gameplay, I still find the games fun. Now here, I shall move into the realm of subjectivity. I would now like to voice my opinion on the GTA series. I find it fun, that's for sure. It's fun, cool, and a great stress buster... a cool way to take your mind off things... BUT, and I repeat, BUT... that's about it. They're good games, and that's where it ends. For me, no GTA is worth more than a score of 9 (which I'd award to San Andreas). Also, I don't like the depiction of crime and violence in the city... and it's not that I can't stand violent games, because I have played (and loved) games like God of War, in spite of their blatantly over the top violence. And now, GTA IV, to me, is just about the same as GTA III or GTA San Andreas. Not enough to make me shell out 60 bucks, to buy a game that pretty much plays out like all the previous instalments. So what I'm saying is, though GTA IV may turn out to be awesome, and people may love it, I've had enough free roaming action to last me a lifetime. Now go ahead, I'm waiting for that negative rating.

YellowJello
YellowJello

GTA4 looks like it's going to be about the same as the other GTA games with a few little perks here and there. That's not a bad thing, I will still play it, it's just that it's nothing to get all that excited about.

JoeyV743
JoeyV743

I really enjoyed that last paragraph about the hip hop artists selling CDs because I go to school and New York and have gotten approached so many times. I am so happy that they put so much effort into making the city seem alive. One of main reasons for buying it (other than the obvious greatness that comes along with the GTA series) is that I wanted to be able roam around in a re-creation of New York. This game is going to be amazing

missonrs
missonrs

At least they can't prove gta4 is cause of violent. video games don't do that and since violence is going down that means even the most violent games aren't effecting minds.

BlackTargetmark
BlackTargetmark

DarkPhoenix that's such a good quote of yours. "I've played Doom since 4 and I've never shot somebody" really now that's the wisest policy. And for Phemox, if I recall correctly their reason was that violence in games are interactive, while violence in movies aren't. Which means, in games we can recreate or repeat the violences all the way we want (or in the developer's limitations), while in movies we only "watch" the director's imaginations.

BoaMo121
BoaMo121

If politicians stoped ripping on games they could actually do something that would benefit people instead of pissing them off.

maxsteel86
maxsteel86

video games are such an easy target these days... soon you'll be seeing games being blamed for the chinese cracking down on the tibetans, for the economy going to hell, probably even for global warming!

yatatabien
yatatabien

Dan is right. Videogames are controversial because they don't have the same status as films or books. Well, sInce Rockstar put it in that way: I'm in. I'm looking for that special videogame. We all are looking for that special someone. Perhaps in IV things will be different. Coming in 4 days!!!!!!

Hopeflame
Hopeflame

Im very satisfied that Dan Houser pointed out that that video games have not caused this massive upsurge in youth violence just because ive played condemned, GTA and the likes does not make me go out onto the streets with a weapon and use it if anything it does the opposite and acts as a release without causing any harm and anyway that's what the age rating system is for in an ideal world a child wouldn't be able to play games but still will. just telling the child No will only make him want to play it more besides its only a game so have fun ^_^

grdwalker
grdwalker

@beaverusiv i have to agree with you there, ill be reading a book, and half the violent things i know such as how to fatally hurt someone (enough explanation) i have learnt from some pretty graphic novels. and books arent censored (much)

ebber
ebber

The REAL controversy here should be about politicians and lobbyists. The gaming industry in general came late to the game with their lobbyists, and they're not nearly as powerful (or as rich) as the gun, oil & gas, pharmaceutical, alcohol, and HMO lobbyists, among many others. So what's the real controversy? Could it be the politicians have yet to be paid off by the gaming industry? If all politicians' campaigns were financed by the gaming lobby as much as the gun lobby, you wouldn't hear a peep about video games, no question about it.

beaverusiv
beaverusiv

+1 pause, thats one of the best ways I've seen it written down. Me and my father have this discussion all the time, his only reason is that video games immerse you more, and I can definitely say that is wrong; yes, video games COULD immerse you more, but the current ones don't have near enough interactivity or good storylines etc, to do that. On the otherhand, I have read plenty of books which would suck me and I find myself thinking about their world/characters in my everyday life. People just want a simple explanation for the problems they fear; Video games has become it for the time being.

pause422
pause422

Exactly,there's no problem with going to the movies and seeing a dude complete get his junk cut off in Hostel with no censoring what so ever,but a video game that never goes even close to that far,gets them talking.All else is ignored as said before,they've just evolved into a "the only problem with EVERYTHING is video games" kind of state.No one can do anything about it,and it'll probably last a very long time,until they either eventually realize video games are here to stay as an entertaining medium,and aren't just played by children like they seem to think; Or some other form of entertainment comes along sometime in the future and that becomes the new scapegoat.Reguardless they're all idiots who's opinons are obscured and never relevant in the first place,yet the rest ofthe people who know nothing continue to acknowledge them as if they know exactly what they're talking about.

tetraswarrior
tetraswarrior

MAJINBREEN Is anyone else sick of the whole "video games lead to violence" thing? It isn't video games, movies, TV, or even the internet that promotes violence. It's the stupid parents who are unfit to raise children. The parents that don't bother to take an intrest in there kids lives, or the ones that try to buy love buy getting them that hot new game. It ticks me off that people expect the government to to take responsibility for raising there kids. So right, its what iv bin sayin since I started school :P

MAJINBREEN
MAJINBREEN

Is anyone else sick of the whole "video games lead to violence" thing? It isn't video games, movies, TV, or even the internet that promotes violence. It's the stupid parents who are unfit to raise children. The parents that don't bother to take an intrest in there kids lives, or the ones that try to buy love buy getting them that hot new game. It ticks me off that people expect the government to to take responsibility for raising there kids.