There are moments in one's adult life that define who he is. Penning a novel. Saving a crippled child from an oncoming train. For me, it was standing with a bunch of teenaged animals outside of a Gamestop on 86th street awaiting the official release of Grand Theft Auto IV. And by "animals," I mean a rowdy slew of just the worst kind of quasi-criminal dirtbags you could possibly imagine. Illiterate, ignorant shitheads whose highest aspirations are to one day "get paid, son" and, maybe, manage a Denny's. So there we were, thugs, myself, and one fifteen year old boy with his mother biding our time until a video game came out. And I couldn't help but wonder if the fiftyish mother was starting to second guess her decision to vouch for her son's purchase, seeing as everyone around us were obnoxious gangbangers.
I heard a young punk behind me mutter to his friend, "Yo, I can't wait to shoot someone in this shit."
Then I felt sick to my stomach. Not because I was offended or because I was disgusted by this bottom feeder's lack of sophistication. I felt sick because that's what it all boiled down to, really. That was the experience we were all hoping to get out of playing this game. The freedom to act out the violent fantasies of some devilish thug without any real consequences. Despite whatever morality tale lies at the heart of this game (and there always is), these kids surrounding me don't care. They don't care about the story or the elaborately constructed virtual New York. They just want to shoot someone in this shit.
As I walked away with my copy, I couldn't help but think that maybe we're now beyond desensitization to violence. We crave it.