I must say right out that I have yet to play this game, I probably will, maybe, one day, if I get around to it, but the controversy surrounding it, its violence, its treatment of women, not to mention its biggest USP being that “its the most expensive game ever made” has made already made it something that I as a part time (lets say “would-be”) game developer, cannot ignore.
I must also say, that the GTA franchise, previously has not interested me in the slightest. The setting of hard, US streets, rap music, drugs and prostitutes, is not the fantasy worlds that I prefer to play in. I’m more into surreal, weirder games, where anything can happen, where the whole world is an invention of Sci Fi, fantasy, and some cleverly played out horror.
I have read a bunch of stuff, both for and against GTA-5 and agree in part with some of what I have heard on both sides, but the degrees of importance in the arguments seem to sway so heavily on the side that the writers are obviously pushing for, that I can’t get a grip on who is right.
I think in writing this I want to figure out for myself what I think about these issues, as a game maker, a hopefully moral feminist(ic) man but also as a parent.
I should say that I am NOT a fan of violence in games, not to say that there isn’t any in the games that i play, as the foremost feature in a game. Killing as much as possible, as the ONLY interactive device between non-playable storyline cutscenes, I think is boring and depressing. I like stories, but I also like some level of freedom to play as I choose, without HAVING to play one particular way.
Violence in game writing is of course easier. If the assumption (a wrong one IMHO) that all stories are about conflict, then the most basic of conflicts is killing one another, and so its pretty simple to come up with a plot that involves killing. We humans are pretty good at it too.
The arguments against the violence in GTA (not just this one but all previous GTA´s, indeed ALL VIDEO GAMES) is that exposure to the violence, indeed dealing the violence interactively, is corrupting to children, and ultimately sensitizes us to it and makes us more likely to commit similar acts in real life. Specific criticisms of GTA5 revolve around many grim and unpleasant acts one is called upon to complete, the most controversial of is a torture scene, where one HAS TOO (there no getting around it) be the torturer.
The arguments FOR the violence, are that, as a story, set in a violent environment of gangsters, criminals, prostitutes and drug addicts, its HAS to be there as that is what it is like to live in that environment. The people that the game is based on, in real life, ARE violent, horrible individuals and as such must be shown as such.
I think both sides seem flawed. To argue against the detractors for a moment, there are some quick responses. Firstly, its an adult game. Yes kids will play it, and it being a game, and games being a childs realm, they will consider it their RIGHT to play it, but, I’m sorry… those days are over. When computer games came out, they were aimed at kids, ME, to be precise. I was in the first EVER wave of kids to play computer games. Its replaces TV for us, no longer would out parents shout, “Turn that damn TV off!” It was, “Cant you do anything USEFUL on that computer?”. Well now we have all grown up (I’m nearly 50 goddammit!) I’ve been playing computer games for 35 years! And now, the budgets of computer games is EASILY up there with a big budget hollywood movie. And people are still surprised when a grown up game comes along? WHAT THE FUCK? Im grown up alright? I WANT some serious issues in my films, why not in my games. Ahh… but kids get to see them…
OK BUT THEY SHOULDN’T!!! Im sorry, but I think stores should be prosecuted for selling to minors (maybe they can be already) and I would be VERY happy if parents could be prosecuted for letting their kids play rated 18 games. All these fucking stupid parents lining up to buy a copy for little johnny.. do they let their kids watch violent films? I suppose so… disgusting! Idiots!
Thats it… the categories are there for a reason.
That they lead desensitize you to violence, or make you more likely to commit violence?. Hmm.. more tricky to discuss. There has been no conclusive proof that it does. I have checked for studies, and although there have been some, they all seem to be biased from the outset, based on the authors pre-conceptions, and they seem to have gone both ways. A quickie run down of the points seem to be: 1. Violent games relieve stress and make you less likely to commit violence. 2.Violent games increase stress due to heightened awareness and lack of motoric function while playing (apparently if you jog while playing you will be less stressed). 3. Violent games teach you explicitly that human life is worthless. 4. Violent games teach give you insight into the morals and problems of human existence, therefore increase your understanding of the worth of life.
As for leading to copy-cat killings… I dont know.. maybe.. but you know, if you are gonna kill someone, you might just use a method you have seen on TV, oh wait, no one watches TV anymore, its games now… so yes.. sure it happens, but… I can’t speak for any your you, but I’M not gonna kill anyone cos I just saw a game. Never gonna happen. I might if I go crazy one day, or maybe if my government puts me in a uniform and forces me too, of if I become a drug dealer and mix with the wrong crowd, or even if I lived the most un-loved and dejected and soulless life with terrible parents who beat/hit//rape/hate/torment me.. Oh yes.. then I might… but a game, make me… nah.. Im sorry… just don´t believe it… Juries out.. Ill read some evidence, but nahh… still don’t believe. it.. I admit its a tricky one though.
But then, those IN FAVOUR of the violence in GTA, say that its parodic, ironic and that by forcing you to feel uncomfortable about torturing this poor fellow, you come to learn something about yourself, and understand that THIS IS BAD! Oh and they LOVE to point out, that immediately after this scene, you as the torturer HELPS the torture (?) to escape, and gives him a long speech as to the pointlessness of torture as a method of information extraction.
Well excuse me, but I just HAD to rush to YouTube upon reading this, and sure enough, the said torture scene is there, together with this long denunciation of torture. So, yes.. it WAS uncomfortable to watch, and I suspect MORE so when you are pressing those little plastic buttons (“Press X to extract tooth” for example). However, it wasn’t as bad as ANY TORTURE SCENE IN ANY MOVIE. (Marathon man for example – to name the most famous Dental scene in history, with messrs Hoffman and Olivier no less) BUT.. this speech afterwards.. What tosh!!! It made no sense whatsoever that THE SAME GUY who was being so mean 2 minutes before (an loving every minute I might add) should be expounding such guff about how naughty torture is to his new found (and toothless) friend as he took a lovely scenic ride to the airport to a new life of anonymity and freedom. What rubbish!
A fucking excuse for a gratuitous bit of nastiness. Keep the fucking character IN character PLEASE!
Having said that, I think.. actually I’m sure of it, that the makers genuinely believed in this vehicle. Imagine WHEN this game was written, 5.. maybe 6 years ago (they say 5 years in the making, but ideas come first right?).. Guantanamo still all over the place… the shock, from the outside world of what the US was doing, and the relative NON event in America. To me I couldn’t understand why people, fuck PRESIDENTS weren’t on trial?.. There wasn’t even a “hush-up” much… they just did it, made lame excuse, strung out a few scapegoats, and got on with it… AN THIS IS REAL STUFF; REAL TORTURE!!! So I DO think that some people at Rockstar games, MEANT that this could say something, make some point, force us to be in a position like those stupid soldiers that “just followed orders”. They couldnt NOT do it, and neither can we.. but… sorry… it didnt work… it came across as gratuitous filth, followed by a lame excuse.
They should have cut that scene… unless…
Its just Rockstars way of getting GREAT publicity… and thats it right?… thats the truth.
Yes, Girls. Nasty stupid slutty whores, filthy crack addicted ugly old women and stupid big titted bimbos.. Thats it for women in GTA 5.
I dont have much to say about this, many of the arguments for and againts a the same as for violence.
You know… Our kids (specifically boys) will learn to treat women with the same scorn and misogyny and you know… Thats how it is, in the valley, Men treat women badly, there are hookers and crack whores and gold diggers, so we are just being truthful. Oh, and remember..
ITS NOT FOR KIDS… we told you.. PEGI 18 remember?
This one is so obvious its stupid. The game is aimed at men right.. men like porn and are a bit afraid of clever girls, so we’ll put some porn into the game and won’t scare them with clever women? Well.. I dont think games HAVE TO cater for women too, I guess if you think porn is ok, it SHOULD be ok putting it into an ADULT game, right?
Sorry… no. Its ok to DEPICT these issues, comment on them, even allow the player to go to a strip club as a backdrop to a scene in a story, but to allow them to actually have sex with them, THAT IS PORN…
Im not going to complain about Leisure Suit Larry style, stupid sexist fun, with a nice little CENSORED box that come up just when you dont want it too.. course not.. BUT this is like going to see a big blockbuster film, oh I don’t know, something with a love scene.. lets say “Titanic”, then just when Leonado D´Caprio finally gets it on with Kate Winslet on the car deck, instead of the steamy window, we suddenly HAVE TO WATCH him flip her over, do her in the ass, and come all over her face! I DONT WANT THAT!!!! UUUGHHH!! Not in Titanic!! Not Kate!!! Not Leo!! OMG NO!!!!
Again gratuitous.. stupid and catering for teenagers (who aren’t supposed to be able to see it.. ADULTS REMEMBER!!!!) OK 18 to 30 year old boys might want it… but I dont want it OK?
Im not going to go into the obvious feminist argument here… Its silly, of course we shouldn’t treat women like this, its horrible, but again, in this world… there are prostitutes and I think thats OK..
BUT THERE ONE THING THAT ISNT!
Why no STRONG women?
Why no female playable character?
Thats not on!
Really… really not on!
But it all goes back to them WANTING to put porn into it… If they put a character that girls could play, you know, sleek and sexy super killer, or tough, seen it all, ex girl marine gone bad.. or.. I dont know.. Lara Croft? THEN It would have catered (maybe) a bit to women, BUT THEN THEY REALLY COULDN’T PUT THE PORN IN!!! But they wanted the porn, so the ruled out women players, took a risk that their $256,000,000 investment could still earn then a few bob despite excluding the fairer sex, and.. that way… THEY COULD HAVE PORN!! YAY!!
So, should we be able to censor games with too much violence and sex? How is that gauged? In this country (Norway) we have a film censor, do we have a video game censor? I honestly dont know? Is it one and the same body? Is an interactive experience MORE engaging therefore MORE damaging?
I certainly think that if we believe in film censorship, we should also have a game censor, certainly to gauge age groupings for titles. I do think its dangerous to take it too far though. Who is going to decide for me, what I watch, play or read?
But lets face it, the violence in games is MUCH MUCH worse than in films. A horrible scene in a film will stay with you for the rest of your life (I’ll never forget the American History X scene or the Casino Scene(s)) But decapitations, blood splatters and dismemberments are ten a penny in games, and now they are getting to look more and more like real people… (remember the people in films are NOT real either however… its called acting darling!)
However, after all the engagement and interactivity of a game, I have yet to cry while playing one, whereas any old film can have me blubbing.
Why is that?
For me, I think it all comes down to taste.
Gaming companies, in my not so humble opinion, need NOT be the purveyors of good family values, morals or messages, no, they shouldn’t HAVE to be. But I kind of wish that they would not stoop SO low as to drag the bottom of the barrel for any bit of crass crap that will sell a few more copies, either to too young, sperm dribbling spotty pale boys, or lonely geeks, who want to feel important as they wield biggest fucking gun in the game.
I do think its ok to tackle hard issues, and I think we are long past (in films also) the time when all villains have to have their come-uppance, proving once again, that Crime doesn’t pay.
No… but there has to be some understanding of the moral argument, and IF (as they say it is) GTA-5 is an ironic view of a world where bad is good, and that the moral message is a subtle one, where as the player you slowly learn and become horrified with the world that you are playing in, so that your reality is to NOT be in that world and live good and law-abiding lives, then the game has to BE CONSISTENT. You cannot tell a moral message about women, and what tough lives they lead, and at the same time, revel in their abuse.
I played GTA 3 for a while, and it really bored me, I hated the music, the idiotic American Street language, and I hated the one dimensional storyline, where failure only meant HAVING to replay the mission. Im sure I play 4 hours MAX, before giving it up.
GTA, 5 However, despite the criticism I have levelled at it, seems like a different game altogether, and I am almost certain to buy it sometime. (I have not focussed ONE iota on the positive aspects and what an achievement it is visually) I will be playing it, as an interested party, and not a core audience player… I will be playing it, with my tongue firmly in my cheek, I’ll be playing it, late at night with NO KIDS around.
AND I WILL remember, the whole time, as if I can forget it, that this game is for BOYS, and MEN!
And as such its all about. Guns, Girls, Cars, Girls, Guns, and Cars… of and apparently golf.. you can even play golf in this game…
GOLF I ASK YOU?????
Cos thats what US MEN like!!!!