GTA V: Time to think

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$260,000,000, five years in production and we were given Rockstar’s magnum opus, Grand Theft Auto V. A game with a fully working city and characters that really seem to have a life outside the gameplay.  But as we have come to expect from the franchise, it is riddled with controversy. Previously, the series has got away with the worst of it, but now it has really tried to tackle new and sensitive issues head on. Now that the media storm has died down, it is time to examine this game with a level head.

It seems Rockstar have had their heads well and truly in the news for the past six months. The Prism scandal and facebook privacy policies are represented through the company Life Invader. The discussions on waterboarding terrorists seems to have inspired a rather gruesome scene where the player is forced to electrocute, remove teeth with pliers as well as actually waterboard a man to help ‘FIB’ agents interrogate him. Even Paula Deen didn’t escape from Rockstar’s clutches, with a redneck radio station featuring a chef giving ridiculously fatty food recipes. The fabulously insane Meth dealer Trevor Philips seems to suggest they have been watching Breaking Bad too. Plus, they have delved into internet culture, with Illuminati and David Icke’s very own Reptilian humanoid references – it’s a game with its fingers right on the pulse of current affairs.

Many have accused the game to dumb down or even glorify some of the more serious themes. The drug infused rages both Michael and Trevor go through are childish imaginings of being inebriated, something that would be more at home in Saints Row or in the conversation between two teenagers trying to impress each other with highly exaggerated versions of drug stories.

The Life Invader missions seem at a glance to be a parody of privacy discussions that have been held over the summer, but to me it actually seems like good satire. The biggest grey area of the game is the previously mentioned torture scene. Yes, the game carries an 18 rating. Yes, your character then goes against orders and helps the prisoner escape the country. However, it’s EXTREMELY graphic. The player has to physically struggle with the controller to pull the man’s teeth out. The scene is utterly shocking, but it seems to be intentional. Maybe it is a contemporary way of highlighting the horrors of secret warfare. The only worry is that people see games as simulations, and someone, somewhere could use this for ‘pleasure’.

Adam Sessler of Rev3Games stated that people will ‘look back upon GTA V, like we do to Charles Dickens’. No, no we won’t.  At least, I hope we won’t. It’s great that we have a game highlighting these issues, but most of them have no clear opinion on them, and some are just unfair mockeries that can be easily taken either way. The game is offensive, but not for the reasons that the media are currently pumping out.

Yet again, it is still completely misogynistic.  The start of the game is filled with rape jokes and the female characters are arguably even worse than any previous GTA title. With Rockstar giving the player three characters to choose from, I was left crying out to see a playable female. Even if she was a prostitute or a stripper (like Rockstar like to believe every woman is) it would be great to experience a woman in a man’s underworld. It seems Rockstar are brave enough to piss off the media and mothers, but not to challenge their teenage male demographic in immersing as a woman in a video game.

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