Toby explores the darker side of open-world gaming.
By Toby McCasker on September 18, 2013 at 2:41 pm
So Grand Theft Auto V came out yesterday (check out our review here) and there was a curious dearth of people in the office. One guy had just dispensed with the professional façade of cough cough sorry boss don’t think I’ll make it in today entirely and just explicitly stated he’d be at home playing the thing. No word on when he’s coming back, either.
Personally speaking the ‘Theft is not my thing in a gameplay sense. There are not nearly enough anime bobbleheads. This does not mean I dislike the series. In fact I very much enjoy it as a bystander for reasons altogether different than insisting that whoever’s playing is not really playing until there are five goddamn stars shining.
I like to watch people play GTA because it is such a fascinating and frequently horrifying peek into what lurks in the hearts of men and women; a social experiment on stolen wheels. It is absolutely the quiet ones you have to watch. And the louder ones, too. You give anyone free reign to freely roam a virtual city populated by virtual lives and – this is fitting, looking at those review scores – 11/10 times they will destroy everything and kill everyone. Not that GTA’s mechanics are the model of restraint, but it’s that weaponised enablement that sets off this peculiar gleam in people’s eyes that I have seen many times before in the faces of Bret Easton Ellis’ America.
What someone then does with that enablement is interesting to watch, and strangely perturbing when you yourself are not the one doing the playing. Obvs I don’t think video games turn people into relentless murderbots. That is patently ridiculous. I’d say the IKEA shelf laden with severed heads would be more telling.
..on that note, OK. Maybe this dude is not so much playing Skyrim as crying out for help.
It’s not just that people will destroy everything and kill everyone. That’s de rigueur for the medium at this point, though if mainstream games are any indication as to what people really enjoy doing, it is ending lives. Visiting aliens will discover this one day and nuke us from orbit, but for us it’s no biggie and Jimmy’s CoD obsession is not worth batting a lash over. At least he’s not out having the sex. Where GTA and games like it get interesting is what happens when whoever’s playing grows bored of mere murder and attempts to reinvigorate that honeymoon spark by being creative in ways the FBI might mobilise over.
A quick Sleeping Dogs break:
“Can you like take the car to a car crusher with the person in the back?” asked one well-adjusted YouTuber after realising you could toss still-breathing bodies into the trunk of your stolen ride.
It’s the little things. Because of the scope of even its weaponless minutiae, GTA V is my new barometer for the “Is my friend a sociopath?” test. One bro I know spent two hours taking selfies with homeless people. And then killing them.
If someone asked me, I would say it is not the big deals like Modern Warfare 2′s infamous airport scene that should warrant scrutiny (if scrutiny is even warranted, though some feel it is), but those acts as enacted by people given a blank and repercussion-free slate with which to potentially do so. It’s uncannily like when someone gets pissed and really speaks their mind, except there are way more dead hookers. That’s really the takeaway for me, I guess, which is why I’m not allowed to talk to adults anymore: Why does everyone want to kill hookers? Haven’t they suffered enough.