A timely piece in the Times this weekend saw John Cornwell meeting with brain scientist Susan Greenfield to explore the thesis of her forthcoming book, The Quest for Identity in the 21st Century—namely, that electronic gaming and online culture are “creating a hedonistic, mindless generation.”
It’s timely because tomorrow sees the release of what’s almost certain to be the best-selling video game of the year, and also its most controversial: Grand Theft Auto IV, an 18-rated entertainment in which your avatar’s central task is to win cash and reputation in a parallel NYC by jacking cars, beating pimps, extorting money, etc.
My copy is on order, and I eagerly expect to be revelling in this world within 24 hours, as I have with all the previous GTAs (as notable and loved for their slick soundtracks and atmospheric visuals as for their nail-biting gameplay). But am I being turned into a dopamine-addicted zombie as I blast away? Am I going to get violent at work? Or, more pertinently, are young and impressionable others going to succumb even while my mature sensibility is merely titillated?