Born and raised in Liberty City

Nick Baker

I was under the roof of the toll booth in my car, wedged perpendicularly between the front end of a cop car on my left side and the back of a mammoth sport utility vehicle that closely resembled a Hummer H2 with an American flag decal on my shotgun side.

Bad Brains’ “Right Brigade” was on my car radio.

Two men in a non-descript rice burner rode up to the booth in the lane directly in front of my vehicle and passed through with ease.

As staggered blasts of car horns filled the increasingly tense air, I smashed out the window of my car with my left elbow and aimed my submachine gun at the boys in blue on the other side of the glass.

They scrambled to get out of their vehicle, but before they could I unloaded the clip and turned the windshield into a mosaic of cracked glass, bullet holes and red spatter.

The car horn was now giving off a deafening, constant blare next to my head, due to the Swiss cheese bust resting face-down on the steering wheel.

The gun blasts resonated across the expressway, and instantly I saw a nearby blur of red-and-blue flip on behind the first cop car and quickly pull up about 20 feet away.

“Get out of your vehicle!” shouted the dead-serious officer as he hopped out the front seat and drew his pistol.

He opened fire on my car, wounding me slightly, though I couldn’t be sure where, as I hopped out of the driver-side door and crouched behind the front end of the wailing cruiser.

Bullets whizzed overhead as I coolly cycled through my weapons and found my sniper rifle.

I squeezed the right trigger and put a hot one right between the poor bastard’s eyes, turning the area surrounding his head into a now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t burst of red.

I jumped back behind the wheel of my bullet-laden car.

A police helicopter now whirled overhead and sniper bullets clinked through the roof of my car. I sped away at king-hell speed, firing at another oncoming cruiser, screaming, “You shouldn’t have messed with me!”

It was an average afternoon in Liberty City.

Imagine growing up there.

Liberty City of course is not real. It is the fictitious, New York-based setting of the video game Grand Theft Auto IV, and it was in fact not me killing those police officers and giving Liberty City some real horror show, it was GTA IV’s war-torn antihero Niko Bellic.

Kids are growing up playing games like GTA. It is the byproduct of a society that has moved so far along technologically that Xbox 360s have replaced action figures, and blasting hookers in the back of the head with sawed-off shotguns has replaced smacking over the action figure to pretend you killed it.

We are starting to see the results of kids growing up in places like Liberty City, Vice City or the fictional state of San Andreas.

Last month, a 6-year-old boy from Wicomico Church, Va., missed the school bus. He proceeded to go inside, get his parents’ keys and climb behind the wheel of the family Ford Taurus.

According to, the boy told police he learned to drive from playing games like Grand Theft Auto.

He didn’t shoot anyone, but he did crash the car six miles later. His parents are facing charges on child endangerment, and the boy and his brother are now in protective custody.

When I was 6 years old, I wanted to be a Ninja Turtle. I walked around my house with a red mask and fake sai daggers and pretended to take on those scary Foot Clan bastards.

I was always Raphael.

And it makes me wonder, if kids do indeed still have imaginations, what are they pretending to be nowadays?

“I get to be Niko!”

“I want to be Little Jacob – he’s cool and always smokin’!”

“Now we need a hooker or somebody to be the cops!”

“OK, first we need body armor and some molotovs!” did a survey around GTA IV’s release last year. Thirteen-year-old Malcolm said he was excited for the game because “You can do so much stuff that you can’t do in real life. I like the violence and cursing because if you did any of that in real life you would be in a lot of trouble, but in GTA you can do it and nothing will happen to you.”

Damn, kid. That’s messed up.

Nick Baker is a junior magazine journalism major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].