Grand Theft Auto: Prostitute killing is a big hit.

gradthefta.jpgSo this video is NSFW (not safe for work) and it is very disturbing. Trigger warning! But it is one of the trailers to the new Grand Theft Auto coming out today, and it is reprehensible. All around the country posters for the new GTA have been removed due to their offensive nature. Most of the complaints have been about the violence in the video game. Not one article has been about the blatant violence and misogyny displayed towards women.
If you get through the trailer you will notice that not only are the sex scenes very real looking, most of the women are killed shortly after forcibly performing sex acts. So, many young men are going to have their first (or already have, as this is not new content for GTA) sexual experiences via GTA and then they are going to kill the women they are sleeping with. The implications of that are mind-blowing. It is no question that GTA is merely reflective of the bigger misogyny embedded in capitalist patriarchy, but the question is why is a game that depicts such violence towards women so popular? How is that acceptable?
I think this has two consequences in the land of no child left behind where standardized educational systems have led to a cutback in the teaching of metacognition in elementary schools. What does that mean? Youth don’t get taught to think about why they make the choices they do, they are instead force fed information that they must memorize. So it can be argued that they are being force fed heavily marketed violent images (that often reflect the violence in the media, movies, government policy and in their own communities) that become normalized. And not only normalized, but given the popular nature of GTA, it is cool to be violent and kill prostitutes.
The second implication is where does this put young women gamers? How do they feel when playing video games with such violent representations of women?
I can tell you that watching that video was humiliating and I don’t play video games, so I never have to see it again if I don’t want to.
A lot of issues here. Other thoughts?

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250 Comments

  1. Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Speaking as someone who is a huge gamer and feminist both, I have a hard time getting riled up at the Grand Theft Auto games for a few reasons.
    First of all, it’s a game of ‘choice’. It is never a story goal to kill hookers, and playing through Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas I had no idea how to even do the action. The entire game focuses around “Ok, you’re in a corrupt city working your way to the top of the criminal world, and every action you take has ramnifications (stars that alert the police to you with increasing intensity). If you want money for a piece, then you’ll need to do missions or find it in a less savory fashion if you’re stuck”, etc etc
    So right from the beginning, its not a very savory world and it tends to be over the top in its depictions of violence, sexuality, and crime. Its the video game equivilant of the ‘Hollywood’ effect.
    However, Rockstar knows exactly what they’re doing with these ads. Samhita, seeing how you’ve never played a GTA game before I’d guess you’re unfamiliar with Rockstar and controversy. Rockstar’s main property is the GTA games, and so they know exactly how to milk them.
    Grand Theft Auto 4, as a result, is so highly anticipated that Hollywood is taking care to schedule movies around it as they are pretty sure it will eclipse any releases on that date.
    Rockstar knows exactly what they’re doing and they are fine tuning it to the right amount of controversy. As an effect, they’re taking the ever popular “You can kill hookers in this game!” controversy and blowing it up huge when in reality, its just a totally optional and obscure part of the game that is a pain in the ass.
    I don’t know, I’m partly defending Rockstar because the Grand Theft Auto games are really well done, are written with a pretty good sense of humour, and they’re just fantastic games. However, I don’t like the tact they’re taking of promoting the “Hey, you can murder a hooker!” aspect of the game instead of the expanded Liberty City, storyline, new combat, new main character, etc.
    Samhita, is it the fact that you murder sex-workers that bothers you? The fact that the game depicts graphic sex scenes? The fact that they are promoting the above as a kickin’ game feature?

  2. Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Ok, so killing hookers is an “optional an obscure” part of GTA4… Anyone know how female characters factor into the game besides the way they are depicted in the linked video? I have not played this game or its predecessors, so I’d be curious to hear from someone who has.

  3. sgzax
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    For me it isn’t that the game depicts graphic sex, it’s that sex is uniformly depicted as something that men pay women for with absolutely no variation. From that commercial (I’m not a gamer and have never played the game) all women are prostitutes. Is there an option for me to play a character working her way up to the top of the criminal underground? Is there an option for the central character to be a female?

  4. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    @halfawake In GTA: San Andreas the cast was pretty uniformly male. However, there was the protaganist’s sister who was instrumental in forming an alliance between gangs in the city and a few other minor female characters. San Andreas had a pretty small cast, though. You can also have a girlfriend in the game who can hold her own in drive-by shootings or gang wards by being your driver or the shooter in the back.
    @sgzax: You can have ‘girlfriends’in the game and you can only preposition certain women for sex. The main character has always been a guy, though – always of different origin, but there has not been a female protganist of GTA4 though.

  5. Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The fact that it’s an option in the game however “obscure” it may be is enough for me. If even one of the scenes depicted in that trailer were possible, it’s misogynistic. I fail to see how it could be otherwise.
    And those options might not be appealing to you, Arbuthnot but are adult women really the target audience here?
    I’m not saying this game should be censored or anymore regulated than it is, on principle. But it’s fucked up. And I wouldn’t support it.

  6. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Video games, as an industry, are going through ‘growing pains’ like this. And I think it’s a sign that women are, in a way, being shut out of this new industry. But this specific trailer isn’t really getting me too angry because I expect Rockstar to put these parts of the game in the public eye because Rockstar knows their image and how to manipulate it quite successfully. When I play the actual game, then Ill have a better idea of whether this is actually a sexist game or if weve made some progress.

  7. Unicron_The_Vagina
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Given that killing prostitutes is not a goal in the game, and that the in-game consequences are only negative, I’d submit that the fact that the game allows you to kill them actually does more for the player’s ethical development than a game that doesn’t allow you to do it. The choice NOT to kill a prostitute doesn’t really have any meaning unless you have the option to choose otherwise. For more on this, see “A Clockwork Orange”.

  8. norbizness
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    First of all, I’m pretty sure the ratings system on video games is an elaborate joke, right?
    Second, the article you linked to on the pulling of ads states “Advertisements for Rockstar North’s upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV (PS3, X360) will be pulled from city buses despite no explicit or otherwise inappropriate material in the ads.” Instead, the ads seemed to be pulled in Chicago in response to recent shootings (?), which makes as much sense as banning Nike Air Jordans or 2 Live Crew in the late 80s.
    Finally, video games are becoming more cinematic, but it’s the interactivity which is probably bothering people (after all, underage sex workers are abused and killed in Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises, but it was intended to stimulate thought and empathy, not complicity).
    Finally, I’d recommend adding this blog to your blogroll or your reading list to keep up with such developments so that they aren’t a surprise (I’ve been randomly assaulting computer characters in GTA games since the late 90s).

  9. sgzax
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    If they can’t even bring themselves to imagine a world in which a woman is the central character of their game, then I won’t feel bad about never buying anything they produce. Not that they care about my money or opinion anyway.
    About the prostitution and subsequent killing… horrifying message being sent on how you can treat your sex partners.
    Do sex worker advocacy groups ever speak out against these depictions?

  10. Destra
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I am a gamer. I’ve grown up playing video games. I’ve never had a problem playing games where I blow someone away, or slit their throats, or bash their heads in. The same applies to the violence towards women in these games. I’ve played previous versions of GTA, and I’ve done the hooker option, killing her afterwards. I don’t have a problem with this either, and I never understood why this country is more squeamish about sex than about murder. Violence against women is a horrid thing, as is brutally murdering someone, and I certainly don’t advocate either. But they come as two sides of the same coin. GTA exposes people to instances where it’s ok to abuse women just as it introduces the concept that killing for money or fun is acceptable. If you want to get rid of one in video games, I’d think you’d also have to get rid of the other, and then move on to violence in movies and books.
    There are more concrete steps that can be taken towards stopping violence through community support and strong parenting rather than treading on the toes of the First Amendment.

  11. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Noriz – in America and Canada, the ratings board play random 15 minute increments of the game and watch a couple of cutscenes and talk to the devs – so its quite easy to miss parts of the game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Rockstar was leaning on them to keep the rating a bit low either.

  12. sgzax
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    And if we’re in a world where lots of sex is on offer, why isn’t it an option to proposition men for sex?

  13. Scilian
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Well Grand Theft Auto is simply a game based around violence and crime.
    Violence, sex, and more violence.
    Anyone can be killed at any time – so would the game be ok if women were removed completely from the game?
    Or maybe if women couldnt be killed in the game?
    But then the rife hypocrisy here at feministing rears its ugly head as usual – since the violence is about 99% towards males, wouldnt that reek of misandry?
    Kind of funny, you know, this bullshit post coming from samhita when she constantly talks about racism against black males who tried to kill someone by kicking in their heads with steel toed boots, but then shooting people in a video game is suddenly misogynistic?
    So real world violence is ok, but a game that has nothing to do with killing females is suddenly misogynistic?
    Logic must have the day off today.

  14. Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    As another female gamer and feminist, I want to disagree with the people who are defending GTA. In my experience, I have watched my guy friends spend hours playing the GTA games, just chasing down and beating prostitutes to death with a golf club. And please, the “ethical lesson” is not one I think Rockstar intended, at all. Very few people think about the games they are playing and the moral implications–rather, it’s the imagery that is effective in planting more seeds of sexism and violence in young impressionable minds. Now, I am not one to press censorship, but I really think more people, especially female gamers, should be speaking out against this game. We can go play Super Smash Brothers: Brawl or Zelda: Twilight Princess instead. :)

  15. Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    halfawake:Anyone know how female characters factor into the game besides the way they are depicted in the linked video? I have not played this game or its predecessors, so I’d be curious to hear from someone who has.
    The game is usually set in poor urban areas, so you have bystanders walking along, some of which are women. You can have a girlfriend, and you can proposition prostitutes. I seem to recall in San Andreas playing as a female character later in the game, or at least having her as your partner for a while, and I can say clearly that she was pretty badass.
    sgzax: “Is there an option for me to play a character working her way up to the top of the criminal underground? Is there an option for the central character to be a female?
    Not from the beginning (yet), but I do remember having a female gangster partner at one point in an earlier GTA game, and maybe even taking her role on temporarily at some point (it’s been years since I played that).
    norbizness:First of all, I’m pretty sure the ratings system on video games is an elaborate joke, right?
    What are you referring to? Jack Thompson wouldn’t approve, heh.

  16. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Kacie, while I’m really glad to hear that you’re voting with your dollar and I think that the Wii is a great feminist system I have to kind of disagree that because your boyfriend killed eighty hookers with a gold club that that makes GTA4 the ultimate in sex-worker murder simulator games, and that the game has no redeeming values.

  17. Scilian
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    The game embodies violence – if anything its a great deal of misanthropy.
    So, any games featuring a female character that can hurt a male character is suddenly misandry as well? How come no call to arms about this earlier?

  18. Shinobi
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    I have also played the GTA games, and it is true, actual women are sorely lacking from the game. GTA IV may differ, but I doubt it. They say in this game you can meet up with women via online personals and have psuedo relationships. (Which I’m sure will result in some incredibly misogynistic treatment from the main character.)
    I did see a preview video that included some shots of what I think was a strip club, where the dancer said something like “this makes me so hot” and I literally laughed out loud. So really, this game exsists entirely in the realm of male fantasy where every woman wants you and there are no strings attached. That’s pretty much the whole point of the game as far as I can tell. Do indulge in the fantasy life of an angry and oversexed 17 year old boy.
    Though it leaves me frustrated that I can’t enjoy playing a fun game without simultaneously having to see my entire gender reduced to walking orifices.

  19. Unicron_The_Vagina
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Kacie,
    I wasn’t trying to make ant points one way or another about what Rockstar intended; I’m just theorizing about the implications of the players’ choices, and how a game which allows for prostitute killing poses more choices to the player than one which does not.
    Ditto to the people above who pointed out that, given the fact that violence is EVERYWHERE else in the game, it would be a bit odd to exclude women from it. I also agree with the people who point out that the lack of a female protagonist makes the games unbalanced.
    Ironically, even though I enjoy discussing & debating GTA, I’ve never owned and probably never will own any of the games in the series. Twilight Princess & Brawl, on the other hand, are two of my favorites. Wanna trade Brawl friend codes?

  20. ellestar
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Given that killing prostitutes is not a goal in the game, and that the in-game consequences are only negative…
    (I don’t play this game, but I’ve heard about it.) I thought the reason gamers had the option of buying the services of prostitutes was to increase “happiness” or one of the power bars. Then, the option of killing the prostitutes in order to recover the money you just spent. Those aren’t really negatives.

  21. sojourner
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    “strong parenting rather than treading on the toes of the First Amendment.�
    Destra, can you please tell us if anyone here advocated the game to be banned or censored in anyway? Because if they did that would be “treading on the toes of the First Amendment�. Criticizing, complaining, bemoaning, critique, do not violate anyone’s first amendment. It just gets really tiring, having to explain this on every other tread.
    “and I never understood why this country is more squeamish about sex than about murder.� What is your point? People here are very obviously not talking about sex but rather about the normalization of sexualized violence.

  22. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Listening to the reviews talk about how important the GTA series is, and what a break Niko is from the other protagonists because he’s sympathetic made me physically ill–like I actually thought I was going to throw up. My blog is for feminist gamers. I can forgive a lot in a game, but GTA is so categorically anti-woman I see no need for self-proclaimed feminists to heap more praise on it when there are so many games out there more worth your time and effort. There are plenty of misogynist dicks out there proclaiming what a great game GTA is — it’s not like the game is hurting.

  23. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Ellestar, the only ‘bar’ that killing prostitutes filled up for you were the ‘star’ bar. Carl (protganist) had a bunch of physical bars such as ‘fat’, ‘muscle’, ‘sex appeal’, ‘reputation’ but I don’t recall a happiness bar and if there was one hookers didn’t fill it for you. The ‘star’ bar was police attention and if it filled up that was actually quite negative as cops would be coming for you.
    And Shinobi, I’ve always found that the GTA games (see: San Andreas) tend to subvert ‘fantasy’ life tropes. For instance in SA, drugs have ravaged your gang, your allies are on probation, people are working in fast food places after getting out of jail for getting caught selling drugs…

  24. mathgoddess
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Kacie-
    I agree with you about 6000%. The whole point of this controversy is not whether video games are more unfair to women (that’s another debate, I have serious issues with Tomb Raider as well…) or how major/minor the “beating up women” feature is in this game, it’s about GTA unabashedly glorifying violence as a way to have fun on a rainy afternoon. Whether this violence is misandrist (sp?) or misogynist is irrelevant; Samhita focused on the misogyny because 1. it is much more obvious (women: when you’re done with them, just toss them in the morgue!) and 2. this is a feminist blog.
    Arbuthnot- I agree that GTA does have an effective marketing strategy, extolling the fun of raping and killing women. That this is effective is what scares the shit out of me.

  25. Unicron_The_Vagina
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Ellestar, I think that’s how it was in GTA III, not sure how much it’s changed since then. I was basing the “only negative” on what other people had said, but you may very well be right.
    There is still the negative consequence of the fact that killing anyone raises your “wanted” level. It’s a risk to be taken, and just like in real life it’s up to you to decide how you want to way the ethical implications along with the practical ones.
    Arbuthnot, your argument about the game being a “sex-worker murder simulator” and thus having no redeeming value doesn’t hold water. The game is whatever you choose for it to be; it’s a “sandbox” game. It is true that “sex-worker murder simulator” is a choice you can make for how you want to act, but it’s one of hundreds of choices. You could just as easily choose to be a perfect gentleman throughout the whole game. Implicit in your argument is the assertion that the game is ONLY a murder simulator, which is simply not true.

  26. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Arbuthnot: It’s funny how much care and attention to narrative detail the writers at Rockstar gave to all of the men in the series: Making sure that the war on drugs and the actual human impact of this failed policy is painted in more detail than just “Say no.” Too bad they couldn’t spare a little of that sympathy and empathy for the women in the game. Nothing about the circumstances that led a woman to being a street prostitute–just fuck ‘er and kill ‘er so you can get your money back. They must have broken their arms patting themselves on the back for being so culturally aware after writing the stuff about the fast food workers that they couldn’t write anything more about the plight of women. That must be it.

  27. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Mighty Ponygirl, I’ve read your blog and I respect your work, but I also disagree with you that GTA is an anti-woman series in such a degree that enjoying the gameplay and parts of the storyline actually revokes your feminism card. The game has flaws. The game is heteronormative. The game has an option for you to kill sex workers. I don’t think this makes it a game that deserves such a big place in the hall of shame. I don’t think I’ll buy 4, since I don’t own a PS3 or a 360, but the entire industry is in need of an overhaul and if you restrict yourself to playing games with no sexism then you’re going to miss out on some games that subvert some sexist tropes, some games with great gameplay, and some games that do deserve to be missed out on.
    I don’t know, I don’t have any bile for GTA because I can note the sexism and move on from there and ignore it. I don’t think its influencing a generation of misogynists – I mean, you could say that the Zelda series has Zelda perpetually getting kidnapped by Ganon and it shows the patriarchal system by having a male protaganist save her from a male antagonist, or you could say that the Birdo character is an insult to transsexual people.
    I don’t know, I think its a fledgling industry and feminists need to make their voices heard and vote with their dollar, but I also think Rockstar thrives and is a master of controlling this sort of controversy and I find it easier to forgive that than a game like Soul Calibur which I find more odious by many degrees.

  28. VGC
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I’m yet another gamer and feminist.
    I know for a fact that there are hordes of (male) gamers that want to go out and get this game because it has so much violence and sex. I’ve seen 10 year olds play GTA games and heard these same kids say that Nintendo is a p***y company because of all their kiddy games.
    So yeah, you have all of these kids wanting to be all grown up, you have all of these hypersexed teenagers (who also want to feel like grownups) and you have these ‘adults’ who play their dream fantasy. They eat this stuff like candy and so that’s what the companies give them.
    What’s my point? Ummm…not quite sure. I just have a hard time supporting games that promote violence and sex for the sake of violence and sex.

  29. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Oh, and I guess the dating club in GTA IV is called the “Twat.”
    Nice.

  30. ellestar
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    Ellestar, the only ‘bar’ that killing prostitutes filled up for you were the ‘star’ bar.
    After a little research, I remembered it was the “health” bar that was (ironically) raised when using the hookers’ services. It may not be the case in later versions of the game, but the original reason for the prostitutes was a positive for the player. Then, the murder was another positive (recovering the money just paid).

  31. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Ponygirl, I think there are a lack of women in game writing overall that that leads to unbalanced narratives like the one in the GTA series.
    I was responding to your first comment in the thread previously, it seems to be taking a long time for the comments to post for me. D:

  32. Robos A Go Go
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe videogames can encourage violent behavior, but I do see this as reinforcing the notion of sex workers as being less than human which, in turn, encourages harm to them by way of a legal system that never endeavors to help them in any way shape or form.
    Games like GTA along with films and television are the only exposure most people have to prostitution, and so I believe popular entertainment can actually shape attitudes in this area simply by being the only source of info available.

  33. Marissa
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Why is it that any other misogynist type of product will incite our reactions against it, but as soon as the product becomes a video game, the critical functions of many of the people here fly out the window? Why are video games so sacrosanct?!

  34. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    The Guardian brought this issue up then did NOTHING with it. Just blathered on about the rendering.
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2008/apr/29/games
    I don’t care if there’s no “benefit” to killing the sex workers. Why is it even an option? I know you can kill all kinds of people in that game by running them over or shooting them, but are the prostitutes being singled out for special treatment?

  35. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    I don’t know, I don’t have any bile for GTA because I can note the sexism and move on from there and ignore it. I don’t think its influencing a generation of misogynists – I mean, you could say that the Zelda series has Zelda perpetually getting kidnapped by Ganon and it shows the patriarchal system by having a male protaganist save her from a male antagonist, or you could say that the Birdo character is an insult to transsexual people.

    Except that those games are fantasy games whereas GTA prides itself on its realism. And yes, I have gone after Sexism in Zelda: That was one of my first major fanboy trollings on my site, TYVM.
    I am in 100% agreement with VGC’s and Robos A Go Go … it’s not like kids are going to play GTA and go out and kill a cop, it’s that the game is going to feed into a perception of women and especially prostitutes as disposable non-humans.

  36. whitelabcoat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    …and I’ve done the hooker option, killing her afterwards.
    Uh … why? Just ’cause? It’s not an essential part of the game.
    In fact, you can pretty much get through the entire game and be a ‘gent’ about everything the player is required to do.
    Overall, I like the GTA series (lots to do in lots of different ways), but the way Rockstar is promoting it needs a serious rethink.

  37. Unicron_The_Vagina
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    Bowleserised,
    Singling out prostitutes for “special treatment” would be if you were NOT able to kill them.
    Your question “why is it even an option” has already been answered further up. While I don’t necessarily defend the whole game, I do think that the best way to balance it out would be to include MORE choices, rather than sanitization.

  38. Theaetetus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    But it is one of the trailers to the new Grand Theft Auto coming out today, and it is reprehensible.
    I agree this is reprehensible, but in the interest of honesty, this is not a trailer. It’s a video compilation put together by IGN, a review site. It was not made by Rockstar, the company behind GTA.
    The actual trailers are (a) significantly shorter, 30 seconds to a minute to fit into television commercial breaks, and (b) focus on either the actual gameplay or the visuals.
    I know you can kill all kinds of people in that game by running them over or shooting them, but are the prostitutes being singled out for special treatment?
    Not unless this GTA is significantly and radically different from all the others, and we’d have heard about it by now. You can kill anyone in the game by running over them or shooting them, and there’s no difference between them as far as rewards (random amounts of money being dropped) or penalties (wanted level increasing, cops coming to arrest you).

  39. Sarah says
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    What strikes me about many of the comments in defense of Grand Theft Auto 4 is how condesending they are toward those of us who are questioning the message of GTA 4. For example, Kacie’s guy friends beat the hooker with the golf club, not her boyfriend. And I’m not going to apologize for critisizing a game that I haven’t played because I don’t think I need to experience the misogyny to know that it is something that offends me. While violence is rampant in the GTA series, using sex as a form of violence is reprehensible. And the fact that this has been going on since the 90′s and that all of the reviews ignore this aspect only highlights the need for criticism such as Samhita’s.
    Maybe I’m misreading some of these comments but I think this discussion is important. I think gaming in general is a place where women’s issues and opinions are rarely considered. We may all choose to vote with our dollars but Rockstar isn’t going to give a damn.

  40. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Whoops, thanksd for pointing that out Sarah. I’m at home with a stomach virus and I’m in bed snivelling and vomiting so my reading comprehension may not be up to par. I was not condescending towards any poster and despite my mistake I was not insulting anyone but just discussing my opinions.
    I’m going to admit, I have the seeds of doubt as it were planted in my head now the more I think about it. I’ve posted about gaming on my blog – about Valve’s games, in particular, and there’s definately very vivid differences between a game like Half-Life 2 and a game like Grand Theft Auto.
    I think the option to kill sex workers is something that is a bit of a ‘running joke’ in a way – Rockstar knows how much controversy it causes and therefore plays it up in their marketing. Like I’ve said before, Rockstar has absolutely no qualms about collecting money for things that people get upset about in their games.
    Which, I guess, makes me less upset than I should be because I kind of view it as being done with a winking eye and a nudge in the ribs. Does that make it right? Well, no, but I can see it being an in-joke of sorts, a riff on the series history, a sort of “Yeah, we’re Rockstar, and you love it”, which for some reason bothers me less. Hm. I need to ponder this more.

  41. Theaetetus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    What strikes me about many of the comments in defense of Grand Theft Auto 4 is how condesending they are toward those of us who are questioning the message of GTA 4.
    I agree that the discussion is important, and I think the lack of major female characters, and especially playable ones, is a severe flaw in the game.
    However, many of the people criticizing the game have either never played it or studied it, leading to them making conclusions based off of incorrect premises – such as “prostitutes being singled out for special treatment” or that they’re even a significant part of the game. I realize the videos such as the one at IGN certainly give that impression, and the endless discussion in the media about it certainly doesn’t help, but in terms of relative importance to the game play, it’s as if you formed all your impressions about Super Mario Brothers by seeing video clips of jumping on the flag pole at the end of the level, or formed all your impressions of The Sims by seeing people wetting themselves with no bathroom available. Yes, these happen, but to presume the entire game is based off them and then criticize it is leaping to an unrealistic conclusion.

  42. buggle
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Oh for god’s sake! This game is clearly disgusting, women-hating and sexist. CLEARLY. If you can’t see that, then you are incredibly sexist. That’s the bottom line. Killing women for fun (whether they are prostitutes or not) is NOT acceptable! What is so difficult about that to understand?
    I’m horrified that people like Arbuthnot are defending this crap. Oh, it’s optional, like that changes anything! It’s still brutalizing women, and that’s all I care about.
    In this creepy little fantasy world that Arbuthnot seems to like so much, men are in charge, and men get to kill women. Why would any non-sexist man want to play a game like that? Why would anyone pay money to buy a game that was clearly created by a bunch of sexist men.
    And all these silly whiners talking about how feministing has all this violence against men and it’s glorified- um, where? Point me to it. This thread seems like a lot of privileged little clueless boys, trying to defend themselves. Why are you here boys? You are clearly not feminists?
    All these justifications for killing women is just sickening.

  43. Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I’m sure that all the teenagers who brag to their friends about how they killed the hooker are enjoying it on the purely ironic level.

  44. Wildberry
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I must admit that I love the GTA series. I’ve played them since I was about 13 or 14 years old, and I have never thought that the things I did in that game would at all OK in real life.
    The part with the prostitution doesn’t get me too riled up. They could get rid of it and I wouldn’t shed a tear, the effort it takes isn’t even worth the benefit, because first you have to find a nice car, steal it, find a prostitute, follow her around honking at her, and then maybe she’ll get in your car. The fact that you can kill her afterwards and get your money back, well, you can kill anyone on the street and get their money. Including elderly people. The only people who are safe are kids; you will find no children on the streets.
    You do a lot of reprehensible things in this game. You get extra points for head shots, you steal people’s cars and run over them if they chase you, or you can just grab a flamethrower and torch everyone on the street. I don’t think you can even do a good deed if you wanted to.
    I had the option of killing prostitutes and I never chose to. Just because I did it a couple of times, doesn’t mean I started to think that its OK. If someone thinks that it IS ok, there was probably something wrong with the person to begin with.
    However, I think kids should NEVER play this game. Even my playing at 13 or 14 was pushing it.

  45. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Unicron_The_Vagina
    I think maybe what’s really needed here is a study of how real people “play” the game and what they choose to do. The Guardian’s gamer likes wandering round the city admiring the sunsets. Kacie’s (I think it was, forgive if I’m wrong) male friends have fun clubbing prostitutes to death.
    The fact that the “trailer” Samhita found comes from a review site is pretty revealing.
    That would answer a lot of the questions being brought up here.

  46. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I think you can note and disagree with the sexism in something but still appreciate other well done aspects. Surely you’ve read a great piece of literature for English class and thought “Wow, the sexism in this is pretty abhorrent but the guy really knows his sentence structure.”
    And I’m not a man, but I doubt that’ll make any difference in your opinions.

  47. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I think you can note and disagree with the sexism in something but still appreciate other well done aspects. Surely you’ve read a great piece of literature for English class and thought “Wow, the sexism in this is pretty abhorrent but the guy really knows his sentence structure.”
    And I’m not a man, but I doubt that’ll make any difference in your opinions.
    Bowl, when playing San Andreas I liked to take Carl to the gym, to bike around the city, and to do the missions and see the story begin to unfold. I didn’t kill hookers or innocents, as it were. The game has a lot of options. My older brother bought it for me because he enjoyed using it as a driving simulator.

  48. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    I think the real question here is can you still bludgeon people to death with dildos?

  49. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    So, any games featuring a female character that can hurt a male character is suddenly misandry as well? How come no call to arms about this earlier?
    When you show me a game that lets me porposition male prostitutes, visit male strip clubs, and lets you regain health by having sex with a man before you kill him, then you’ll have a somewhat valid point.
    Until then, you’re talking out of your ass.

  50. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    Arbuthnot – well, good for you. But what about everyone else who’s playing it? That’s my point.

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