How does a game that celebrates road rage and involves a great deal of car-smashing end up becoming the inspiration for a public service announcement about the dangers of distracted driving?
The “Grand Theft Auto” franchise, produced by Rockstar Games Inc., has received plenty of grief from critics of violent computer games. After all, the immensely popular sandbox-style game lets players create general chaos while engaging in all sorts of illegal activity, along the way racing around in myriad cars, trucks, motorcycles, aircraft and boats.
But the game's popularity -- especially among boys and grown-up boys -- is what inspired Rory Nestor, a secondary student from the Irish town of Claremorris, to use its basic premise for his “Wheelman” PSA, a two-and-a-half-minute spot underscoring the dangers of texting while driving. Nestor’s video was one of hundreds entered in a competition to raise awareness of dangerous driving practices, hosted by Ireland’s Road Safety Authority and the Setanta insurance company.
The main character is your typical GTA-style crook speeding around in a car resembling a Dodge Challenger to deliver a suitcase while being pursued by armed baddies. There’s plenty of gunplay and explosions that the protagonist breezes through unscathed. It’s not until after he has escaped a warehouse explosion and delivered the package that he’s (presumably) killed in a collision with a semitruck while, you guessed it, texting on his cell phone.
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According to the contest sponsors, Nestor’s submission won because of its “novel” way of appealing to the most important demographic to receive the "safe driving" message: young people. The film was featured at the 2013 Cork Film Festival earlier this month.
The latest "GTA" release, “Grand Theft Auto V,” made $1 billion in revenue for Take Two Interactive Software (NASDAQ:TTWO) in just the first three days after the game went on sale on Sept. 17.