For part I, please click here.
Is it 15 days already? Wait what.. It’s been almost a month? Whoops.. Apologies for that one. It seems university kept me more occupied than I expected. Whatever the case, it is indeed time for the second part in a trilogy of written pieces about – you guessed it – Grand Theft Auto!
So what might we discuss here after the first part? How about if the game held its quality? Maybe a bit of philosophy behind it? Why not! To start off, I have finished the main game and I might have to spoil sometimes to try and make points. So if you’re still planning on getting the game or did not finish it yet, tread carefully!
After finishing Grand Theft Auto V I felt happy inside. It’s these kind of games which only appear every once in a few years and that alone gives it a special exclusivity. It’s a momentous occasion for which gamers all over the world come together to get it as early as possible and share experiences. I myself experienced this in a very special instance. Two of my friends from elementary school bought the game as well and I actually got more into contact with them again because of it. I didn’t feel that violent at all, who would have thought that?
The story was grand and epic, beautiful and dramatic, masterful and playful, something to remember for a long time. Only Rockstar can pull it off to make a game so ridiculous in its satire and mockery, whilst still engaging you with the main characters in the game. There’s the annoying, yet amusing Lamar. We have Franklin who tries to make something out of himself, whilst struggling with his past in the hood. Then there’s Michael who seems to be alienated from his family living the “American contemporary life” and his sort-of midlife crisis (if you can call wanting to rob banks again a midlife crisis). And then there’s Trevor. Trevor is just a nutcase. Or is he? We will get back to him later.
First, let’s have a look at why this story is so grand and epic, beautiful and dramatic, masterful and playful. Why is it something to remember for a long time? For one, it’s just an amazingly fun game which takes a piss at contemporary society and doesn’t takes itself too seriously. But the amazing quality of the game is that it can be taken seriously. Satire always carries a form of truth in it, and GTA V is no exception. Everyone getting their real-life TV series, the increase in psychologists and consequentially, psychology visits, the hypocrisy behind the “Dream” or Western Capitalism, living life in circles at the bottom of society, it all carries some meaning.
It doesn’t tell us what to do better or give solutions, but it does at times grant us a mirror to be aware of. It shows us that a lack of realistic principles to live by results in an individual society where anything goes. It shows us that attributing all or our actions as a result of outside influences makes us unaccountable for whatever we do. As Theodore Dalrymple, a retired prison doctor and psychiatrist puts it in his written works, “The knife went in”, referring to prisoners who stabbed victims and claimed that they had no control over their own actions.
It shows a lot more, but let’s not forget the playful and non-serious side of it as well. We are playing a video game. And while I am all for the recognition of video games as works of art or serious storytelling, I also want a game to be enjoyable for fun. Luckily, GTA V delivers in that respect as well.
What to do, what to do….
By definition, a Grand Theft Auto game is a free-roamer, meaning you can go wherever you want and do whatever you want. Rockstar will take care of all the different things you can do. Want to watch a movie? Go to the cinema. Want to take a ride on the Ferris wheel on the beach? Go ahead. Base jumping? Take a cable car to the top of the mountain? Go hunting? Race cars or boats? I think you get the message. There’s so much to do or not to do, it is all up to you.
On top of the main storyline, which is as I stated brilliant, there are also great side missions called “Strangers and Freaks”. I mentioned them shortly in part I, but I want to say again that they are absolutely great. A mission where you smoke a joint and see…aliens, an old British couple which are on holiday collecting celebrity props, a civil border patrol with a guy who can only speak Mexican, these are just a few examples. They always involve something whacky and will bring you a smile to remember.
Another point worth noting is the crazy amount of detail Rockstar puts in bringing their world to life. If you stalk someone, they will beat you down at some point. Committing a crime in front of someone with enough courage, will make them call the cops on you. If you hide in the bushes, policemen will actually pass you by and not spot you, if wanted. You can pull down your roof if you have a convertible car, you can get killed by wildlife if you provoke them, you can exchange stocks on the BAWSAQ index (tee-hee) which is updated with online transactions of other players, you can… Let’s keep it at that there’s a crazy amount of details to spot, making the world that more convincing and fun to walk around in.
There’s a little Trevor inside all of us
I said I would come back to Trevor wouldn’t I? Well, here it is! As mentioned, Trevor is a classic diagnosis of someone with a disorder. A violent, murdering, manipulating and crazy-to-the-bone kind of disorder. He epitomizes everything that is wrong: he enjoys his occasional murder, he has sex with the girlfriend of someone who he works with (and after that someone gets angry about it… it gets messy.), he doesn’t mind torture and there’s a lot of references to other things which are absolutely taboo like cannibalism, rape and… well, more torture.
But why then does almost nobody choose option A at the ending of the game? (Not spoiling that one, sorry. Play the game to get it!) Why does everyone seem to enjoy playing as Trevor mostly? What makes this savage beast so likable? For one, it feels like Trevor is someone still untouched by a capitalistic and sensationalist media-thriving society. In a way, he is still pure. Well, aside from the occasional homicide and moments of waking up naked with a bottle of booze wherever he goes. He is pure in a sense that he is totally himself. He does not give a damn about the status quo or about his standing towards others. Michael mockingly calls him a “hipster” for this, which is quite funny, considering his life up in the countryside.
Secondly, Trevor shows us that we aren’t that different from animals. We still enjoy things which sound horrible if we would think consciously about it. But sometimes we just want to hang back and not think too seriously about things. We want to have fun, see something explode or someone get killed, just because of the thrill of it. The difference with animals is that we don’t actually perform such horrendous deeds as shooting someone, since we have this same conscience mentioned before. We enjoy our cup of violence by watching a movie about it, read an exciting thriller or by playing a violent video-game. In the latter case, it is often more emphasized to be wrong, probably because you actually control the events happening in a video-game by playing. But that is a wrong assumption, because as I stated in “The Evolution of the medium Video Game”, it is still an illusion. Developers created the decisions you make in-game for you, just as you watch a movie which was made beforehand, or a book that was written beforehand.
A beautiful story of a Reddit user who played GTA Online perfectly describes this inner urge to not think too much about the real world and just enjoy some good, old violence. The many up votes and comments to this story are the proof for me that many people feel that it is indeed true. We are not that different from animals, we only differ by our capacity to be conscious and to be able to reason.
And on that rather serious note, I end part II of this article series about a video game which can be very serious, but is mostly about having fun. When Part III will come out, I do not know, since I think I’ve proven that making promises about such a thing isn’t very handy if they cannot be delivered. What I do know is that Part III will be about GTA Online, so stay tuned!