Irregular Vowel Movements

A distance education teacher making her way in the microcosm of Barrhead.

A Critical Look at Grand Theft Auto V

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Foreword:  I’ve realized I have a ton to talk about regarding this game, so I’ve decided to do these entries in installments. I imagine I will have about three in total in the coming two weeks.  

A few weeks ago, my husband eagerly downloaded GTA V on the PS3, and admittedly, I was curious. The relationship that I’ve had with video games and gaming in general has been pretty tenuous at best, but all the hype (my husband is an excitable game hype funnel–IGN is his religious group) was making me realize that this was no ordinary video game that was coming out. The premise of GTA V from the beginning, has been that this would be a whole new gamer experience unlike any games before it, despite Rockstar’s formidable list of prior accolades (Red Dead Redemption, all the GTA games prior, Fallout, etc.).

When I was young, we had Coleco and friends of ours had Nintendo that we could experience precariously through my mom’s visits to their house. Between the two platforms, my experience was always the same: It was really exciting and fun for the first twenty minutes or so, but once I hit a personal performance “wall”, my interest levels dropped substantially, whereupon I would check out and go do something else (in the ’80’s, guaranteed it wasn’t safe, lol). As a result, I never got past level 3 in the original Mario World– my attention span and desire to persist were not two complimentary traits in my childhood. Being openly mocked about this factoid frequently really didn’t make gaming enticing for me later on in life either (until I met my husband), so I never thought to myself, “hey Self, one day I will sit down and play a video game for more than three hours and it will be mind-blowing.”

I have to point out that my husband is an American, and moved here the year before last. As such, he left all his friends behind and only keeps in contact with them through regular means (phone, FB, etc.) or his PS3. It was exciting for him to download the game for the game itself, but it was also exciting because some of his friends were on board with getting it, so they’d be able to play it together. That said, he doesn’t want to play with his buddies all the time and is constantly bugging me to sit down and play video games with him.

He downloaded GTA V on both of our consoles and put our two flat screens next to each other, rendering the living room into a geeky kind of fortress as a result. We each have a PS3 because before we got married, he lived in the AK and I lived here. Short campaigns in Resident Evil 5 & 6 or playing other MMO’s were versions of “date-night” in our long distance relationship and this has evolved from online co-ops into straight out echoes of LAN. It is thus, in the 8 years I’ve known him, he has very patiently groomed me and  nurtured my abilities (and patience) to where I have enough skill to be good back-up, but not kick his butt too much in competition (it turns out I am very good at racing vehicles). Again though, my attention span is not as persistent as most and sometimes the game just simply isn’t motivating enough. Up until now, there’s been little in the name of games that I’m willing to sit still through over one and a half hours.  On the flip of it, my husband is a tenacious and arguably expert gamer– the words “give up” don’t exist in his vocabulary, rather, “I’m going to take a break, and when I get back, I’m going to beat this game in half the time it says on the back cover.” He never gives up, and no matter what, he always figures out what needs to be done. It’s scary-impressive, and I wish he could put it on his resume.

To get a good look at GTA V and be truly thoughtful about it, it is crucial that one dispenses with what they already know about the game insofar as all the inappropriate stuff, and just…move on already! Look past the strippers with the digi-breasts, look past the prostitutes, look past all the violence and criminality, and look at the meat of the game itself. The concept of the original Grand Theft Auto (still continuing to this day) is that these games were intended to be satirical on a number of fronts (socio-economic status, the nature of criminality, the legal system in the USA, the subjective nature of social “gratuity” etc.). The language, the nudity, the drugs and the violence are all critical elements of this satire but problems arise because obviously, not everyone is going to “unpack” that satire. I’m not saying it’s “good” these qualities exist in the game, but they’re necessary to create a certain effect.  I’m appreciative of this element of the game for a few reasons: Everyone loves a good satire, especially if it’s well done (consider South Park as another relevant example) . The game doesn’t lose it’s satirical edge with these elements, rather, it’s enhanced, and furthermore, incredibly engaging on top of that. There are not a lot of pieces of interactive satirical media that can boast that in our time. The biggest problem isn’t the content of the game itself even; rather, it’s that the game has mature content (rated R and intended for an audience of 18+) and it is consistently falling into the hands of immature viewers.  There are a profuse amount of issues that arise as soon as you mention minors playing this game, but the game itself isn’t to blame. I’m going to leave it at that, because as I said,  this criticism goes further than the satire.

Tune in next week, where I discuss the elements of engagement in this game and give a few brief observations about functionality, interactivity, and shockingly, things that users can “learn” or adapt into their own lives from the game.  




Author: Kyla Coulman

English teacher at ADLC.

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