Grand Theft Art – GTA and Its Place in Culture

$800 Million in a single day…

$1 Billion in three days…

Think about that for a bit.

Whether you care to admit or not, Grand Theft Auto V is a cultural event. A zeitgeist that transcends the medium it resides in and reaches out to the culture as a whole. By its nature, it is a lightning rod for controversy, and it willingly takes the target that gets painted on its back.

It is a game about crime, its consequences, and the morally reprehensible men that succeed and suffer from it. The player steals cars, robs banks, visits the strip club, tortures, assassinates, and so much more in the name of finally getting that “big score.” It is dark, twisted, and completely unabashed about all of it.

In other words, it’s a fantastic work of art.

Grand Theft Auto V is a technical achievement on many different levels, and for that it should be lauded, but the real accomplishment is what it does for gaming as a medium. It elevates the conversation beyond mechanics and gameplay; to ideas, to public reaction, and to proper criticism.

The game is a critique of the American present. A breakdown of a post 9/11, occupy Wall Street, economically collapsed world; where everyone is entitled and even the government is seen in shades of grey. It is where your teenage son plays “Righteous Kill” on his video game system all day, with “Entitled” tattooed around his neck. It is a place where the paparazzi beg for your help to make the next big celebrity sex tape. It shows the player a beautiful Los Angeles skyline, riddled with empty homes from a housing crisis that took the city. It is a rage fueled satire of America that hits the mark far more often than it misses.

Yet, for all of its achievements, for all of its technical prowess; all that the majority of America hears about Grand Theft Auto V is this…

If it doesn’t load properly, skip ahead to 2.03

News stories like this flourish in the echo chamber that is the public media. Anytime a video game console is found in the home of an assailant it is instantly correlated to the act of violence perpetrated. The video game is instantly seen as the cause, or at least an enabler of some sort.

Yet, is this fair? Should we be throwing this at the feet of Grand Theft Auto and other pieces of this fledgeling art form? More appropriately, should we be passing blame on these creative endeavors or should we be looking more closely at ourselves?

Steven Ogg plays the voice of Trevor, the most sociopathic character in GTAV. He said it like this…

“The hypocrisy drives me crazy, it just sets the wrong focus. Why not talk about gun control? Why not talk about parenting? Why not talk of lack of family values? There are so many other things to talk about. Look at what’s on TV. Breaking Bad had that episode where ******** got his face blown off. There’s a lot of intense stuff out there. Video games are just an easy scapegoat.”

In America, we have a hobby of not accepting blame for our own actions. For us, it is always someone else’s fault. It is not the fact that the parents had no interest in their teen’s life and didn’t know what he was spending his time doing. It was not the issue that someone who had a mental dysfunction had easy access to firearms. No, it was because they played video games.

The silver lining in all of this is that this is not unique to this modern art form. All recent forms of entertainment have gone through such superfluous scrutiny and come out on the other side successful. Yet, for each it took time and, in some cases, generations to pass before popular consensus changed.

Warren Spector is one of the most influential and prolific game makers of our generation. His work includes names like Wing CommanderThiefSystem ShockEpic Mickey, and most famously Deus Ex. His influence can be felt even in modern games. In an article he wrote for GamesIndustry.biz, he summed up this generational issue concisely.

“More recently, many of you reading this will remember a time when comic books, pinball, television and that evil known as “rock n roll” music spelled the end of western civilization as we knew it.

For some time now it’s been gaming’s turn in the cultural crosshairs. We’re the ones blamed for all the things earlier media supposedly caused. Sigh.

On the one hand, we could all just sit back and wait for the hysteria to pass – I mean, once everyone became a film fan, a TV viewer, a rock music listener, a reader, it became awfully hard to say with a straight face – “That thing we all do… um… er… well… it turns people into monsters!… Not me, of course, or you… or those 200 million consumers who are just fine… But THEM… THEY… THEY’RE monsters and it’s all Mario Kart’s fault!”

As it should, this brings me back to Grand Theft Auto. GTAV is not to blame for the societal ills that plague us, and nor should it be blamed. It, and many other games like it, do not turn perfectly normal people into murder machines bent on getting a “high score.” Humanity was fully capable of committing terrible acts long before video game existed, and we still are just as capable today regardless of the existence of video games.

Shakespeare wrote about suicide, murder, treachery, sex, and was celebrated for it during his lifetime. His work was never blamed for the suicide, murder, etc. that happened around him. Now, I would never compare Grand Theft Auto to Hamlet. Mainly because, GTA still has a tendency to lean towards misogyny, homophobia, and crude humor, but the argument still stands.

It is easy to cast stones at a game where you can senselessly run down hundreds of pedestrians. It’s easy to cast blame for society’s violence on a piece of art where simulacrums of that violence can be experienced. It is much much harder to examine one’s self in the mirror and ask the tough questions.

So before the “evils” of video games are decried again, keep in mind that at some point many of the hobbies that you enjoy today were considered to be rotting society years ago. So if you’ll excuse me, I have a game waiting for me to play.

Rotting away society’s core has never been so much fun…

NSFW: Language

Read All of Warren Spector’s Article HERE

Read More of GTA’s Actor’s Thoughts on the Game HERE

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I Have No Problem with “Floor Sandwiches”

Brought to you by the Nerdist Channel, here is a fantastic Bioshock Infinite sketch…

 

 

 

 

Seriously though, the entire game you’re digging through trash to find all sorts of food…

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He made Kirby…So, I’d listen…

“Good games attract fans, and if you have fans, you have an advantage. You try to use that to make the title something bigger, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to give up on innovation. Popular, well-made games deserve praise, but titles that have some kind of unique creative spark to them also need to be praised in this way.”

 

-Masahiro Sakurai and his current take on the industry

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Grand Theft Diary – Entry Two

I Need a New Shrink

 

I’ve been seeing  a psychiatrist for my anger management problems. I figure, for a guy who has the occasional psychotic tendency, it’s probably good to go ahead and talk to someone about all that you are going through. I’d like to think that we’ve had a couple of breakthroughs, but it’s hard to say.

 

Most recently, I had relapsed into some…well…let’s just say I was being a ne’er-do-well. After laying everything out for my doc, he said that I was a prime candidate for buying my sessions in bulk….

 

…because I obviously have a lot of issues

 

…and he’s a money grubbing piece of ______ .

 

This obviously didn’t put me in a good place and he and I had, what is becoming quite a regular occurrence, a yelling match. This ended with me storming out.  As left his place, in a fit of rage, did what only came natural…

 

I stole his red sports car.

 

Yeah, it was petty, but it definitely put me in a better place. Hell, I saw someone get mugged and I got their purse back for them. It was a kind gesture, for sure.

 

Albeit, I ran the thief over…and then backed over him…a couple of times..

 

but nonetheless…

 

maybe this therapy thing is working after all.

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Grand Theft Diary – Entry 1

So, it’s been a bit since I’ve posted anything substantial here; and I greatly apologize for that. Nonetheless, one of the giants of the industry was released recently, and it already has broke records by making over 800 Million Dollars in ONE DAY.

 

So yeah, if you thought that Grand Theft Auto V wasn’t a big deal…sorry, you’re terribly mistaken.

 

Because the game is so large, and so much of the fun is created just by being a part of the world; for the next couple of days I am going to be putting up some of my more ridiculous misadventures. I will try to keep it spoiler free, but I’ll make sure to warn you before hand. So without further adieu,

 

Entry 1 – or I just wanted a haircut

 

The game had just opened up for me, and one of the main characters had just been dumped by his girlfriend. Feeling his pain, I decided that he was in need of a new look to help him move on, or at least to make her jealous. So I started driving around looking for a barber.

 

Eventually, I stumbled across one. Now, I try to be a good citizen when I am not acting the criminal. So I parked nicely in front of the shop, I had followed all the red lights, and just walked on into the place.

 

What I didn’t notice was the group of thugs just outside the building.

 

I had just walked past them, but if I had taken the chance to stop and hear what they were saying, I might have reconsidered my choice of establishment. Almost immediately after walking in, one of the guys rushes in and tells me to “f*** off,” and proceeds to take a swing at me.

 

So, I punch him in the face.

 

And all his buddies.

 

I didn’t want to kill them, I just wanted a haircut. So, when the police finally show up, I assume that they are here to rescue me. Just a small man in a violent world, where all I want is to look good for whatever girl I may find at the bar. Sadly, the police officer had a different worldview and I took a shotgun blast to the chest.

 

Alas.

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This can bring peace to the “Console Wars”

As you all well know; I love good music, especially creative music. This follows both criteria pretty solidly. Enjoy.

 

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Because These Things Are Totally Related…

Kotaku has another TOTALLY REASONABLE response from Fox News about violence and video games. This time courtesy of Elizabeth Hasselbeck. I’ve already written about my thoughts on this topic before; but nonetheless this still never ceases to amaze me…

 

Sigh.

 

Check out Kotaku here

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Get Lucky as told by Mario Paint

Seriously, Nintendo.

 

People are still making things with Mario Paint. Think of it this way, has anything you’ve made in recent memory going to have that sort of staying power?

 

No?

 

Okay then.

 

Enjoy

 

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So that’s why Sony was looking into the Occulus…

Well, it seems that many sites are reporting that Sony is looking into a VR headset of some sort for the PS4. This is interesting for a lot of reasons. I was hoping that they were looking into partnering with the makers of the Rift, but if their own thing can be just as good, then there will be no problems here. Nonetheless, I’m curious to see how this plays. Sony hasn’t been too successful with their first party peripherals; ergo the Eye, Move, Sharpshooter, etc.

 

Enjoy the report HERE

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The 2DS: A Point/Counterpoint brought to you by Gamasutra

Nintendo’s announcement of the 2DS came as a shock to many of us, and just as many are wondering what their thought process must be. I’m decidedly sure that this is a Pokemon machine (because it is coincidentally launching on the the same day) aimed at little kids.

 

Gamasutra has had two write-ups since the announcement, one speaking of Nintendo’s already confusing messaging, and another saying what Nintendo is probably trying to actually get across. Give them both a read, and comment here, there, wherever. Being a part of the conversation is cool…or so I am told.

 

What’s so confusing about the Nintendo 2DS?

 

Nintendo’s 2DS is brand confusion in a box

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