Blames, Trains and (Grand Theft) Automobiles

As noted in the March 8 story “Bus-ted,” Parents Television Council Denver Chapter Director George Robison is suspiciously good at the violent video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories – but that doesn’t mean he wants ads for the game splashed all over Regional Transportation District trains and buses. After such an ad campaign last fall, Robinson and a host of supporters petitioned the RTD board to stop accepting ads for adults-only games.

Despite Robison’s appeal, a request bolstered by RTD’s Operations, Customer Service and Marketing Committee, the RTD board voted last month to reject the video-game ad ban. The problem, decided board members, was that banning access to free speech-protected video games based on subject matter may be unconstitutional.

Robison was not pleased with the decision. “The members decided to vote against the wishes of our community,” he wrote in a press release. “This policy change would be no different than the restrictions on the types of ads that can be placed around schools and the RTD’s own policy of not accepting tobacco ads. Video games have proven to have harmful effects on children. Just like ads for alcohol and tobacco, ads for violent video games should be restricted from being placed in public areas.”

Robison shouldn’t be too upset; it could be worse. RTD could decide, like a struggling railway line did recently in Japan, to wrap entire train cars in video-game ads. Then downtown would end up inundated with massive moving billboards of pixilated gangsters, car chases and hookers.

That would surely be Robison’s worst nightmare – but it may be just what RTD needs to lure in new riders. – Joel Warner

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Joel Warner is a former staff writer for Westword and International Business Times. He's also written for WIRED, Men's Journal, Men's Health, Bloomberg Businessweek, Popular Science, Slate, Grantland and many other publications. He's co-author of the 2014 book The Humor Code: A Global Search for What Makes Things Funny, published by Simon & Schuster.
Contact: Joel Warner