LOS ANGELES – Mothers Against Drunk Driving wants a stricter rating on "Grand Theft Auto IV."
The organization is calling on the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, the independent organization that assigns video-game ratings, to reclassify "GTA IV" as an "Adults Only" game.
The action-driving game, which includes the ability to drive while intoxicated, is currently rated "Mature."
"Drunk driving is not a game, and it is not a joke," MADD said in a statement released Tuesday. "Drunk driving is a choice, a violent crime and it is also 100 percent preventable."
MADD is also calling on publisher Take-Two Interactive and developer Rockstar Games to consider stopping distribution of the game — which analysts expect to sell 9 million copies and make over $400 million at launch — "out of respect for the millions of victims/survivors of drunk driving."
[Microsoft and Sony, whose Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 are the only platforms for the game, have a policy against allowing AO-rated games on their consoles. Most major retailers also forbid AO games from being stocked on their shelves. The stricter rating MADD demands would amount to a ban on the game.]
In the critically acclaimed open-world game, players have the choice of patronizing a bar and then attempting to drive drunk.
While virtually under the influence, the screen becomes blurred and the controls are more difficult to use. Players also have the option of hailing a taxi or walking.
The intoxication effects wear off after a few minutes in the game.
"We have a great deal of respect for MADD's mission, but we believe the mature audience for 'Grand Theft Auto IV' is more than sophisticated enough to understand the game's content," Rockstar Games said in a statement to The Associated Press on Wednesday. "For the same reason that you can't judge an entire film or television program by a single scene, you can't judge 'Grand Theft Auto IV' by a small aspect of the game."
"GTA IV" follows the criminal exploits of protagonist Niko Bellic, an imigrant-turned-gangster who travels from Eastern Europe to Liberty City, the game's fictional locale based on New York City.
As Bellic, players can hijack cars, earn cash for criminal activities, shoot innocent bystanders and visit strip clubs.
MADD declined to comment further about its statement.