Game Recommendation: Grand Theft Auto V

“If I wasn’t such a bad woman on the page,
I couldn’t be such a good woman in life.”
Madeleine in “Quills”

A different recommendation today — “GTA V“. It was released 2013 (remastered for the PS4/XBox One in 2014; Windows in 2015), but I decided to give it a try recently. It did get lots of highly positive reviews and there’s some controversy surrounding it.

But first, have a look at the trailers:

It’s an open world game which has a few rules of its own. I usually hate open world games and much prefer a more linear game, but once you accept that:

  • time spend playing is irrelevant, what moves the story forward are triggered events (indicated by symbols on the map to easily find and deliberately trigger them) — so you can spend days walking or driving around, just exploring and enjoying the world
  • main events have continuity, not, e.g., your character dying (you just ‘wake up’ in the nearest hospital, lose some money and that’s it)
  • missions (the triggered events) can be failed (e.g., by you dying or killing the wrong person), but you can simply retry them (you can skip that part of the story after three fails)
  • saving is still possible, although rarely needed (might be useful before a heist if the heist really goes wrong in the sense of successful but with little money)

it can actually be quite fun. And the game actually does a good job of introducing the complexity of the game slowly (with more activities that become possible over time), giving you some time to master the basics and enjoy the world.

And that world is beautiful.

The ocean (beautiful waves), the mountains, heck, even the desert. Or the city by night. The cars, the radio with the suiting music you can chose. Really, really beautiful world.

But then, of course, there’s the controversy. GTA is the poster child for games that “should be banned” due to the usual reasons: violence, misogyny, the works.

And sure, it’s violent. The game is rated M/18+. That you can act violently is not surprising given that it’s a game where you play as three criminals (incl. one very psychotic one) and the game gives you a lot of freedom. But as with lots of Rockstar games, it’s a brilliant satire — and playing as criminals provides you with the necessary distance and perspective to pull off that satire.

And yes, that also means that you can, for example, run around and kill people. Even very brutally. You can, for example, kill a person on the street with a hammer, then setting the dead body on fire. But these actions have consequences (e.g., the police goes after you). But yeah, violence is part of the story itself, a huge part. You kill a lot of people when you play through the story. There is even one mission where you torture a person to gain information — and that information is used to decide whom to kill (really sucks to be a bearded left-handed smoker). But again, it’s satire. Just listen to what is said on the trip to the airport after the torture.

As for accusations of misogyny — yup, you can visit prostitutes (they restore health), and afterwards kill them and get part of the money back. But you can kill (almost) every person in the game and pick up some money from their corpses, it’s not special to female sex workers. And sure, the depictions of women are stereotypical, but so are the depictions of men. That’s it’s overall theme — it’s satire, it caricaturizes. And while you have to kill a lot of people to finish the main story, as far as I remember few (if any) were female (not sure whether a female agent — who was not very nice anyway — was killed in one mission, and I can’t remember any other woman you’d have to kill). BTW, really strange that “equality” does not yet entail that you can kill female characters in games as easily as male. Benevolent sexism (in the form that women are special and have to be protected) is as strong as ever. Whether in a game or the real world. And that even stranger in a game where — apparently — the only sexual violence is directed against men (e.g., there are some very strong hints that Trevor sexually abuses Floyd).

But hey, what do you expect. There are always people complaining about games. They are an easy target. And there are always people not getting satire.

Personally, I think GTA V is probably the closest we are (at the moment) to something like a holodeck simulation in which you can enter a world and see your actions play out. An impressively complex world in which you can see and experience the world — a caricatured world — as a completely different person (three persons actually, and three persons I never wanted to be in real life, nor would aspire to be).

Just a beautiful creative masterpiece.