Grand Theft Auto Avoidance


Earlier this week, I found myself at a Target, looking for something.  I can’t recall what the hell it was, and I think I have to go back.  In the interim, I was killing time before picking up some food and decided to go into nearby shops.  I ran into MovieStop, sifting through leftover Labor Day Blu-ray specials and finding a lot of nothing.  Next door was GameStop.

GameStop should be wildly familiar to most.  Its presence infects strip malls and mixed-used developments everywhere, offering new and used video games and accessories and of course, pre-orders. No one really likes GameStop, yet it is a place some must go. Namely, there are some sweet offers when you pre-order. If you pre-order FIFA 14 at GameStop, you can get extra…celebrations.  When I was there, customers were picking up Rockstar’s latest, Grand Theft Auto V. i

If you’re not familiar, the GTA series (at least since the third installment) is a “sandbox” game where you guide the main character through an expansive world and have the ability to do just about anything. Given the title of the game, “almost anything” does include stealing cars.  You can also murder people, steal from you, steal from me. With key elements such as this, I’ve always felt uneasy about the game.

I don’t think video games cause people to commit crimes. This is ludicrous. If that were true, the $800 million GTA V made would have translated into a rash of crimes you would have heard about by now.  Personally, it’s the cognitive dissonance of the whole thing for me.

My stance on guns is pretty hard line,  wishing for more stringent background checks, the assault weapons ban, and the closing of the gun show loophole.  As a supporter of media (we are not having a video games are art discussion) exploration, I believe any idea should be covered, even the ugly parts. I don’t think I’m alone in this. 

What makes someone feel the need to commit to a life of crime (granted in video game form) yet disavow this in real life is somehow not completely active in me. Have I played games with guns in them and enjoyed it? Yes, of course, including the millenial staple Goldeneye 64. As I’ve grown older and more fully realized the power of weapons, I’ve become more disgusted. GTA V is another game where I feel like I’m somehow implicit in gun advocacy by simply picking the title up. I’m aware this is not true, yet I can’t remove myself from it.

Grand Theft Auto V  is an expansive, ambitious project in the profitable world of video game sequels. Yet, I feel like it’s another way for Americans to fetishize guns and crime instead of doing something about it.  The worst part? I’m not doing anything myself.


2 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto Avoidance

  1. It’s interesting – my core belief is that there’s a stark difference between the fantasies we engage in and the reality of our motivation, but when I think about the types of people who prefer GTA and Call of Duty to “more imaginative” games, it does seem to correlate with problematic attitudes toward society, if not a predilection toward actual violence.

    Basically, it seems like there’s a streak of “bad guy escapism” in American culture. Scarface. The Godfather. Goodfellas. The Maltese Falcon and film noir in general. These are the spiritual ancestors to the GTA franchise. People just like to imagine themselves in a world where the law doesn’t bind them so fully to a normal, blasé lifestyle.

    But, I dunno, it seems like postmodernism is sort of helping point out how silly that whole culture is. I do think in a few generations we’ll see hugely immersive, sandbox-style, pretty games that use these models rather than GTA. A good sign of flourishing culture is when you can make whimsical art that appeals to a broad spectrum of people, not just children.

    Of course, by then, we’ll have super realistic virtual reality games and they’ll have to be basic and dull to appeal to the masses and sell well, so we’ll probably have virtual shoot-em-ups, thus proving your point entirely.


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