Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

A reposted repost

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The old site ate my second rant about Grand Theft Auto – part of what prompted the updating of the site – and considering the popularity (read: Rabid fanboyism) of the first, I thought I’d try to paraphrase what I put there.

Grand Theft Auto 4 is turning into something of a parable of the computer gaming industry in general right now. Now, I’m of the technically-minded persuasion – or to put it another way a long-time PC apologist – so I wholeheartedly accept the myth of PC gaming’s “Gold” and “Silver” Ages; namely the careers of Sid Meier, Will Wright, Peter Molyneux, John Romero et al and the companies Looking Glass, Bullfrog, Westwood, Interplay and LucasArts (back when it was doing adventure games) as inventors of the market and giants upon which the industry as a whole grew.

The market had a great number of things to say about game design, processing tricks and how us nerds saw the world in the first place: Insightful and compelling Sci Fi universes and not much in the way of human interaction. Like reading an Asimov series and trying to infer relationship advice from it.

With Valve, Relic and Bioware the only primarily PC gaming companies still in existence worth their salt (in my humble opinion) comes a generation of – I don’t know. More of the same, I suppose: Blizzard and Rockstar have their instant megahits and masteries of marketing, with a number of bona fide game design innovations (or at least compilations of tried-and-true designs) yet as technology progresses the window into the gamer’s worldview remains as dim as ever.

World of Warcraft plays like an advertisement of the worst excesses of anarchy (or 4chan with a fantasy GUI). The Grand Theft Auto series remains the most ambitious collection of sophomoric stereotypes ever conceived. It’s as if the producers of Tropic Thunder decided to make their film a Lord of the Rings-style epic trilogy.

Now, I ranted previously (though the rant itself was burned when I immolated the site) that Grand Theft Auto San Andreas was a prime example of South Park-esque Refuge in Audacity, a narrative form that works best sparingly, and only if it’s a given that the creators behind the “satire” are themselves deeply intelligent to their actions. See Stephen Colbert, for instance. Grand Theft Auto 4 seems to have taught Rockstar (at least from the lawsuits) that if they want to get away with that, they must make their world a little more subtle.

What they came out with is instead a schizophrenic world – one that serves two masters.

The first is the world of Tintin or Conan – a modern-day adventure story filled with as many outlandish characters as possible. As escapism this is as close you can get to pure fanservice, and entire genres have been built around this. Unfortunately, those genres are, like the original James Bond, almost impossible to get away with today for the obvious reason that the people whom the stories present as the butt of the joke or the objects of one-dimensional pastiche actually have voting rights and political voice now.

The second is a direct response to the problem of the first: It then attempts to be a latter-day James Bond, one rife with introspection and deepness. It does this just as awkwardly if not more so than, well, the latter-day James Bond. You get every stereotype under the sun on Black gangbangers, Italian mafiosi, Irish crooks, Albanian thugs, Jamaican drug dealers, Puerto Rican hustlers, Russian mobsters, redneck biker gangs, and our vaguely Eastern-European hit man protagonist (and this is just in the main story, with honorable mention to homosexuals, jocks, internet nerds, liberals – oh, it runs the gamut) coupled with just about every redemption story ever committed to paper, as if to say, “see, we treat everybody equally; we can’t be accused of prejudice.”

What comes out is muddled, sophomoric, and deeply unsettling in that it runs very close to taking itself seriously while still cashing in on South Park-esque soapboxes masquerading as “shocking” satire. One could say that the players of this game are smart enough to realize it’s just a game (a common blanket excuse, but as we head in complexity and technology closer to the Uncanny Valley it becomes a less applicable excuse as compared to the more escapist and cartoonish interludes of yesteryear) to which I can only respond, “if that were so, why isn’t the satire smarter?” The Simpsons have remained fresh and pertinent in social satire for more than a dozen seasons, yet South Park felt rehashed and shrill barely into its second.

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11 Responses to “A reposted repost”

  1. The Gamer Demographic « Big Smoke
    on Mar 19th, 2009
    @ 10:45 am

    […] fantasy, and when it tries not to be it becomes even more ridiculous in its own right, a la Grand Theft Auto 4 – a game whose message is about as deep as a South Park cartoon, made worse in that it’s […]

  2. PC Gaming Nerdgasm « Big Smoke
    on Apr 27th, 2009
    @ 3:26 pm

    […] the inevitable bile-spewing hatefest I get for the PC gaming industry for primarily […]

  3. Sydney Collins
    on Jun 30th, 2010
    @ 2:09 am

    Grand Theft Auto is so damn addicting game. I play 8 hours a day of GTA.~-.

  4. Phoebe Clarke
    on Jul 20th, 2010
    @ 11:10 pm

    the latest version of Grand Theft Auto have more detail on its graphics, nicely done.;””

  5. Lily Evans
    on Sep 6th, 2010
    @ 4:24 am

    i used to play Grand Theft Auto a lot but i kind of got busy these days so i dont play it anymore,:-

  6. Dumbbell Set Weights `
    on Oct 11th, 2010
    @ 7:22 pm

    Grand Theft Auto is an addictive game but really not suited for the younger kids-“;

  7. Lingerie sets
    on Dec 13th, 2010
    @ 12:38 pm

    in my opinion, Grand Theft Auto is super addictive based from my experience .~~

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    @ 12:05 pm

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