As I played the upcoming Grand Theft Auto-like iPhone game Gangstar: West Coast Hustle earlier this week, I tuned the radio to 42.0 and got a surprise.
The 42.0 station, the frequency itself a reference to marijuana, is called Legalize It. It's one of four radio stations of original music in the game, which models its story of Latino L.A. street crime off of the storytelling and gameplay style of the GTA games. (Here is Kotaku's preview of Gangstar: West Coast Hustle.)
A quick pot reference — not even, as far as I could see, any hint of pot use— might go unremarked in other forms of entertainment. Plenty of Hollywood actors, athletes rock stars and musicians have discussed their pot use and their desire for the drug to be legalized in the United States. It's not rare to see a character in a film casually discuss smoking pot or advocate for its use.
Drug use is less common in games, and any expression supporting drug use is virtually absent. Take gaming's most notorious series, Grand Theft Auto. In GTA: San Andreas, the pot-farmer voiced by Peter Fonda, a guy who goes by the name of The Truth, offers the game's protagonist, C.J., some pot. C.J., who, with the aid of the player has shown little hesitation to kill cops and even, late in the game, try to blow up the equivalent of Hoover Dam, turns him down. It's a line the game won't cross. In the most recent GTA, Chinatown Wars, the player can deal pot and other drugs referred to by their real name, but, as with the rest, marijuana is treated as nothing other than a money-making commodity used by characters not worthy of starring in a game.
As is the case for all the games on Apple's iPhone and iPod touch platforms, Gangstar: West Coast Hustle, won't be rated by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board. According to a publicist at its publisher/development studio Gameloft, it will be rated for 16 and up. The game is slated for an August release.