Grand Theft Auto the Video Game

The videogame, Grand Theft Auto, has been a controversial game since 1997. This game is involves violence, killing, stealing, etc. So, why do so many people love the game? Why is it such a popular game? The new Grand Theft Auto video game just released its new version this past month. The game itself made $800 million the first day of its release.

Time magazine’s journalist Nick Gillespie states in their WordPress, “But are video games art? The short – and long – answer is yes. While it’s impossible to categorize all games easily (just as it is impossible to categorize all fiction, let along writing), there’s no question that gaming is a thriving form of participatory creative expression” (Gillespie). The game itself is a piece of art, and so are other video games, but from my experience in watching people play it, the details and the people within the game seem so real and alive. The driving, the running of the player, and the specific detail of the place it takes set puts the player in a different realm, in which the player then gets so into the game, that they lose all track of time. Even though this video game is full of violence, people keep playing it and buying it.

So why do we love this game that’s full of inappropriate language, killing, and stealing? Why do people play this game 24/7? Why did this game make more money than some movies in the box office? Because people can fall into the realm where they are someone else, and they can do anything they want; they can become their own “actor,” and from this, the player becomes something they’ve always wanted to be.



1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. nikflorida
    Sep 26, 2013 @ 13:03:28

    Your post provoked (for me) two different thoughts:

    (a) there’s a big fight going on politically right now (Eric Cantor, I suppose, is the ring-leader of the “opposition”) about the NEA’s recent inclusion of video games in its definition of art eligible for funding (Cantor misleadingly refers to “Call of Duty” — much like “Grand Theft Auto,” I suppose– as his example of why this funding should not be allowed)… Way back during the first reading for this class, Manovich explained that the enormous gap between the US and the European embrace and acceptance of New Media overall is culturally related to European public support of the arts and the US’s resistance to that funding. I wonder if this whole NEA thing is related to that observation. Of course Grand Theft Auto — a for-profit purely entertainment-driven product– isn’t eligible for NEA funding, but conflating that with some truly artistic and educational “games” is definitely, in my view, a good example of that American refusal to fund the arts that Manovich speaks of.

    (b) Turkle, in the opening to her piece, uses an anecdote related to an insolent, rude and disrespectful child playing a video game. I wonder if Turkle is somehow inferring that the games are responsible for the surge in incivility among young people? The reason I’m reminded of that is that you point out that Grand Theft Auto involves larceny, violence, and other really problematic cultural issues. This raises the age-old question, which new media has, of course exacerbated in our society: this question can also be asked of television programming, hip hop culture and rap music, or cinema, I imagine: does media DRIVE cultural norms, and thus are the media responsible for instilling positive values (as Plato might use as his only allowable exception to his concept of banishing the poets) or does media simply reflect the realities of the culture? (pointedly and currently: is Robin Thicke’s silly song “Blurred Lines” encouraging rape culture in America, or is it simply reflecting a situation that now exists?

    Much easier, I think, to identify the underlying questions than to answer them. 🙂


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