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 11:12 am | Permalink

    Arbutnot: You’re using the classic shellgame false-dichotomy.
    Nothing is above criticism. Be it Chaucer or the works of Uwe Boll or GTA. This posting happens to be about GTA, so we’re criticising it, rightly, for its portrayals of women. Pointing to other cultural artifacts and proclaiming “But, but, but… those treat women badly too” is disingenuous. We’re not talking about classic literature, here. We’re talking about Grand Theft Auto.
    In fact, if a game has a pretense toward calling itself “art” (as so many of the apologists for GTA are intent upon), then that game becomes more open to criticism. Have you ever actually talked to an artist? Artists put their work out there so that every symbolic and semiotic aspect of the work can be picked apart by critics. It’s not about hanging in a museum and making people feel smartened for looking at it, it’s about getting a reaction from people. And if the reaction isn’t going the way you want, if there’s outrage and recriminations, you have to accept that as the price for putting your “art” out there.
    Frankly, I view GTA in the same way I view Lolita. It may be the most brilliant piece of work of its generation, but if 99.9% of the people who view it miss the point so spectacularly that they actually believe the inverse, then it’s failed art.

  2. SarahMC
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Between porn and games like this, our young boys are getting a really sick and twisted introduction to sexuality.
    They’re not getting sex ed in school; they’re getting it from misogynist media.
    The message is that women exist as sexual objects and that’s about it.
    In GTA they’re either prostitutes or props in the background.
    And of course it echoes our society’s insistance that prostitutes are expendable sub-humans.

  3. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I think I’m starting to fully understand the points being put forward here, but I’m still not sure what course of action would be best. Boycott? Letters? Protest?
    Hm.
    It’s hard to ponder right now, since my head is all stuffed with wool, but I don’t know. I see a lot of ‘teen boys teen boys teen boys’ in comments, but I wonder how old Rockstar’s ‘core audience’ is, since they began releasing their games in the early 90s.

  4. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    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.
    I’d like to hear you expand on this a bit, actually. In what ways do you find Soul Calibur more odious by many degrees?
    That “Rockstar thrives and is a master of controlling this sort of controversy” actually makes it harder for me to forgive or overlook. At least Soul Calibur, despite having some really ridiculous and offensive costume choices for the female characters, gave me the option to create fighters from scratch, giving them appropriate armor, and allowing me to make them whatever ethnicity I wanted. Further, the fact that Rockstar are intentionally racist and sexist and exploit that in their advertising to get notoriety makes them a lot less forgivable in my book.

  5. Robos A Go Go
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    It’s not as though that aspect of the game is there to NOT be utilized. It’s true that a great many players will ignore that facet of the gameplay, but that hardly negates the existence of it altogether.
    That said, the responsible thing for Rockstar to do would be to acknowledge the basic humanity of prostitutes by, you know, making them a well-developed part of the story rather than relegating them to the role of gritty window-dressing for their somewhat juvenile depiction of lower-class urban life. If they could just establish that attacking a sex worker is no more morally permissible than attacking anyone else, even though both acts are available (and thereby encouraged, at least if you think games are meant to be explored fully), it’d go a long way towards redeeming the company in my eyes.

  6. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    The Soul Calibur series is really erasing all of my good will built up by II by streamlining all of the women characters to look exactly the same except for hair/eye color and showing them off the fanbase hungry for approval and a thumbs up.

  7. JohnDoes
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Honestly, the whole area of GTA revolves around controversy, why are the feministing staff (who must know this, unless you live under a rock) further inflating sales of the game by giving it attention of your website?
    The game is just that, A-GAME. How many people do you know that play GTA, then say, “Hey lets go and kill us a few police!”? None I’d wager.
    It’s fantasy, not reality, theres a difference, gamers (including myself) know what it is.
    Besides that, in this game you have the option to:Kill cops, grandmas, grandpas, little kids, skaters, army officials, politicians, common criminals, mothers, fathers, basically everyone. Theres the possibility of going on a mass killing spree, taking thousands out, and your upset about the “violence against women” standpoint? How insignificant can you get?

  8. Unicron_The_Vagina
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:21 am | Permalink

    Bowleserised,
    I very much appreciate where you’re coming from, but I feel that if we’re discussing the inherent nature and quality of the game (which seems mostly to be the case), then statistics about how many people are doing what with it would be irrelevant to that discussion. Hypothetically, if 99% of people use it as a sex-worker killing simulator, I still don’t think that proves anything about the inherent nature of the game. Correlation != causation. On the other hand, discussion about whether the design of the game is intended to specifically encourage these killings or DIScourage the player from abstaining from said killings, I think is more revealing. My take, personally, is that the fact that the killings are allowed is pretty neutral in its gender treatment, whereas the lack of depth for female characters is probably a more valid feminist gripe.
    buggle, you’re not really participating constructively in the discussion here. You can yell all you like about “this game is AWFUL AWFUL and so is anyone who thinks otherwise”, and I could yell the exact opposite just as loudly, and we’d accomplish nothing. People here are delving into WHY people have problems with the game, or find certain aspects of the game defensible.

  9. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Teen boys are talked about because your teenage years are formative in sexuality. I’ve not a lot of adult assholes who happened to like the game to, but I saw that more as they enjoyed the game because it reinforced what was there, not because it instructed them to view women as simply objects for sexual gratification who should be disposed of afterwards because their services are monetarily useless and you have every right to keep your money after you’ve cum, no matter what the bitch says.
    Really, the first step in all of this is for gamers to be vocal and say “Portraying women like disposable sex objects is unacceptable.”
    Don’t buy the game.
    Don’t give the game a critical free ride.
    Hold reviewers accountable when they gloss over the treatment of women in the game.

  10. Noah
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Yep, it’s sexist — any “game” where prostitutes are killed for sport is sexist, and worse than that. For this and a thousand games like it, the gender lens isn’t the most prominent. The question is senseless violence. Yeah, the women are treated shitty, and teen guys are primarily blowing up images of men in these games. The fact that there’s so much other violence in these kinds of games hides the sexism. But I don’t want my kid exposed to either the sexism or the violence.

  11. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:26 am | Permalink

    Ah, and just like clockwork, the second someone calls out that art is not magically exempted from criticism, the “It’s just a game” retort comes out.
    You can’t have it both ways.
    Oh, and It’s not just a game.

  12. sojourner
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    “Frankly, I view GTA in the same way I view Lolita. It may be the most brilliant piece of work of its generation, but if 99.9% of the people who view it miss the point�
    Hey hey leave Lolita out of this! I know this is off topic, but I doubt a lot of people who have actually read Lolita would miss the point.

  13. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    um, no… if majority of people who read it didn’t miss the point, the term “Lolita” would not be defined as “A seductive adolescent girl.”

  14. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:31 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?
    Um, what? I am sexist for playing GTA? How about fighting games like Mortal Kombat or Tekken? I have, through the magic of video games, ripped women’s arms and heads off. How about GoldenEye and Bond games where you’re shooting female spies?
    Buggle, your analysis is way off. I’m not comfortable with prostitutes in these games, but it’s really a minor quibble when you consider you can go through this game and kill millions upon millions of people.
    It’s perfectly reasonable to have a problem with that. Boycott GTA with your wallet. But calling me sexist for playing an amazing game where you have the option to kill women is ridiculous. Instead of this being about the game, you made it personal. I don’t appreciate it.

  15. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Besides that, in this game you have the option to:Kill cops, grandmas, grandpas, little kids, skaters, army officials, politicians, common criminals, mothers, fathers, basically everyone.
    That’s simply untrue. You do not, in any of the GTA3 games, have the ability to murder children.
    The creators made a choice- they wouldn’t let you murder children. They also made a choice: To include the ability to regain health by soliciting a prostitute. Further, they included the ability to kill the women that you’ve paid in order to regain your money. Oh, and to include the ability to go to strip clubs.
    Those were choices they made with regards to the game, and they are not immune to criticism for those choices.

  16. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Another female gamer here!
    The majority of my games are moderately violent to mega-violent; the only PG games I have are Guitar Hero and Rock Band, and that’s just two out of about 25. Many of the games that I have contain some misogynistic tones, or completely lack playable female characters.
    However, I could never get into this series, much to the dismay of my friends. It’s not only because of the prostitution issue, but also of its racist tones, particularly in Vice City game, where it has Haitian and Cuban gangs. Particular characters would say things like “kill all the Haitians” (or said, because I think that the newer edition removed these references after much protest and threat of legal action). Apparently, it doesn’t differ much in the other games. However, which is not surprising at all, many gamers defended the racist statements, referring to it as just entertainment, as just a game. To which I call bullshit. Game developers know exactly what they are doing.

  17. JohnDoes
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    Really I had a very long paragraph typed out about just why this is an incredibly inane topic to bother with, but I’ll sum it up quickly.
    Focusing on the hooker killing raises controversy, which raises talk about the game, which equals more sales. Good job feministing, you helped Rockstar.
    On the actual killing of hookers-You can kill anyone, from babies, to mothers, to daughters, to fathers, to sons, to grandmas, to grandpas, to politicians, to anyone. Singling out one type of character in a game simply shows how narrow minded this is.

  18. Robos A Go Go
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    The difference is that female spies and martial artists aren’t, in real life, the subjects of real physical and institutionalized abuse by johns and the justice system alike. They aren’t seen as jokes or animals, and their plight isn’t ignored or seen as deserved by mainstream America.
    As such, a game that allows you to hurt a female spy or fighter isn’t feeding several harmful stereotypes, whereas a game that lets you do the same to sex workers is, even if the latter occurs in the context of a greater wave of violence.
    That’s the difference.

  19. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    The only reason murdering children is probably not allowed is because it is an automatic AO if you can kill a kid in any form and it is flat out illegal overseas to depict the murder of children in games, which will destroy a games sales. Itd be interesting to see what happened if this restriction was lifted.

  20. JohnDoes
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    @RoymaxIII, I always considered the skaters in GTA Vice City to be anywhere from 11-16 in age. I never bothered to look closely, but thats what I meant about kids.
    You could be right and they may be over 18, in which case I admit defeat, but even so, look at the rest of the list. My point is still valid.

  21. Robos A Go Go
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    I also don’t see how mentioning GTA in the context of claiming that it is sexist raises sales. At best you can say that it doesn’t discourage sales because, surprisingly enough, most of the people here weren’t going to buy the game anyway.
    And that’s fine, because nobody’s trying to argue for a boycott. We’re only having a discussion about a pop culture phenomena which, last I checked, was perfectly valid.

  22. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    JohnDoes: You must loose IQ every time you take a dump.
    I seriously doubt any people at Feministing are going to rush out and buy the game to see what all the brouhaha is about. I seriously doubt that us talking about how fucked up this game is will positively impact the sales of the game when every gaming site on earth is falling over itself to praise the game. Get a fucking clue.

  23. AnonymousCoward
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    Jack Thompson has learned how to possess people? *runs in terror*
    On the other hand, it’s good to see that the world hasn’t changed dramatically since 2005, when the “Hot Coffee” mod was used to try and claim that GTA:SA was just a sex simulator.
    I do have a question for the people who find this so concerning: why should we be troubled by players who choose, given the option, to kill prostitutes in the game (to the extent that some posters have advocated removing that element)? The harm can’t be to the prostitutes that are killed, since they’re not real; it has to be some sort of expressive harm to real people. If killing prostitutes is an expressive harm in the game, is running down pedestrians? Shooting at police? Carjacking? Are we channelling MacKinnon along with Thompson, to view the subordination of women as more primary than senseless violence in general?
    If your argument is that GTA doesn’t establish good role models, you’re absolutely correct: at *best* you’re playing a morally ambiguous criminal in a corrupt and morally damaged world, and at worst you’re playing an inhuman monster. On the other hand, you can “check out” of the game’s story entirely, and just go explore the city. It’s up to the player and how they want to play the game. The few times I played it, I mainly ran over pedestrians to get police attention, because attempting crazy getaways (“This time, I’ll ride my bike up on top of the building and jump from rooftop to rooftop like the Tick!”) was more entertaining than the missions.
    At any rate, GTA is wildly inferior to Mario Kart Wii.

  24. Robos A Go Go
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Shooting at police, stealing cars, and running down pedestrians are widely discouraged in other areas of life. Sexism and violence against prostitutes is not. In fact, many people feel that prostitutes invite violence upon themselves by virtue of the “choice” they make, or at the very least accept abuse of sex workers as a matter of course rather than a problem that should be as much of a concern as random assaults of pedestrians and law enforcement officers.
    Again, prostitutes are treated as less than human by society at large, and this game goes out of its way to feed this notion simply to generate sales of a product that was going to make millions anyway.

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

    Depends on the rest of the content, doesn’t it? You could murder children in Fallout 2, although, unlike GTA, doing so actually carried negative consequences, in that other characters would refuse to talk to, or even attack you on sight after having done so, and you carried the reputation of “child killer” with you for the rest of the game, and it was rated M for Mature.
    But, as others have pointed out, there’s context. I understand that there are plenty of people who object to violence in video games at all, but I’m not one of those people. My particular concern is with the gendered violence, the sexism, and the racism upon which the GTA franchise has specifically been built.

  26. Arbuthnot
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Roy, I think the addition of the automatic AO came well after Fallout 2. Newer and European editions of the game have been bugged because children have been removed from the game – but they are just invisible, still pickpocketing you, and making the game unplayable at parts.

  27. keric125
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I don’t even know where to start. I’m a gamer as well, and have encountered my fair share of violence in PC gamers. Both my husband and I have deplored the lack of strong, non-sexualized female characters in video games. I can count on one hand the number of first-person shooters that include a female character, and have fingers left over. Far Cry features a strong female lead, and in the new Tom Clancy’s Vegas 2 you can actually choose to be a female, with the same set-up and gear as the men characters. So we are making some strides, though not nearly as many or as fast as I would like.
    That said, I have to agree with other posters that I don’t see how anyone can defend this game. I have read all the other comments and have tried to keep an open mind and not just be reactionary, but I truly have not seen one comment defending the game that makes sense to me. They all seem to be categorized along the lines of 1. Rockstar plays this up to create controversy and sell their game 2. It’s only an option. Well, if this is how Rockstar chooses to advertise their wares, I’m certainly not going to spend my hard earned dollars supporting them. Not only is that NOT an excuse in my book, it is an outright reason to not buy ANY of their products. What if this type of advertising was used to sell other products? Isn’t that (one of) the reasons we visit this site? To learn who in the advertising world is helping us or hurting us, and make better spending choices?
    As for number 2. Echoing other commenters, I don’t care if is JUST an option. The fact that it is an option is enough for me.
    I was looking at a parental review site for video games the other day, and they had a list of all the AO (adult only) video games. Most were soft porn where you control the female characters, but the site pointed out that these games are extremely hard to get a hold of, most have to be ordered from overseas on the internet, so it is easy to track by checking your credit card statement. Not so the case with GTA. If this were just some obscure game that Samhita had posted about, I would read it, shake my head, and go, “Wow, that is bad” then dismiss it and move on. But this has been the number one selling game for the past several years. This game is actively condoned in our culture, and glorified. And the MAIN reason for it lies with the sex and violence. Not JUST the violence, because there are plenty of other violent games out there that don’t get this kind of reaction, but the combination of the sex and violence.
    I don’t believe in censorship either, but at the same time I do believe that we have the right to stand up to these game-makers and say, “Hey, this isn’t ok.” I work in community mental health field with children, and I guarantee you my male clients as young as ten are salivating, just waiting to play this game. And ratings be-d*mned, you know they are going to get their hands on it. Yes, the parents should be more involved. And if I can get them to put down the meth pipe for ten minutes to do so, then maybe they will be. And yes, these kids do have bigger problems then what they see in GTA. But it all ties in together, and while I’m working with the parents to help them get their act together and start parenting, I’m also going to hold companies like this responsible for contributing to the misogynistic and glorification of sex/violence in our culture. I can do both.

  28. Theaetetus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Robos: If they could just establish that attacking a sex worker is no more morally permissible than attacking anyone else, even though both acts are available (and thereby encouraged, at least if you think games are meant to be explored fully), it’d go a long way towards redeeming the company in my eyes.
    If you play the game, you’ll find that it is no morally permissible than anything else. The penalties for killing a sex worker are exactly the same as the penalties for killing any other avatar in the game, male, female, cop, firefighter, EMT, etc.

  29. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    The game is just that, A-GAME. How many people do you know that play GTA, then say, “Hey lets go and kill us a few police!”? None I’d wager.
    This is my favourite defense of violent, misogynistic games: that nobody actually dies as a result of participating in them. When your claim to something not being sexist is that IT DOESN’T FORCE PEOPLE TO KILL REAL PROSTITUTES, that is setting a hilariously low bar. Fifties indoctrination pamphlets telling women to stay in the home? Hey, nobody died, right? Therefore not sexist! Misogynistic jokes?Come on, it’s not like someone was REALLY raped!
    I agree a thousand times over with Mighty_Ponytail, RoyMacIII and others.

  30. Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    Sorry for any double-posting.
    The game is just that, A-GAME. How many people do you know that play GTA, then say, “Hey lets go and kill us a few police!”? None I’d wager.
    This is my favourite defense of violent, misogynistic games: that nobody actually dies as a result of participating in them. When your claim to something not being sexist is that IT DOESN’T FORCE PEOPLE TO KILL REAL PROSTITUTES, that is setting a hilariously low bar. Fifties indoctrination pamphlets telling women to stay in the home? Hey, nobody died, right? Therefore not sexist! Misogynistic jokes?Come on, it’s not like someone was REALLY raped!
    I agree a thousand times over with Mighty_Ponytail, RoyMacIII and others.

  31. Robos A Go Go
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    “If you play the game, you’ll find that it is no morally permissible than anything else. The penalties for killing a sex worker are exactly the same as the penalties for killing any other avatar in the game, male, female, cop, firefighter, EMT, etc.”
    What I thought was implied (and later went on to explicitly state) is that the morals that tell us harming those other avatars have already been put into place through years of education.
    With prostitutes, though, nobody ever really tells you that they’re as deserving of compassion and fair treatment as any other segment of society. So, it’s not really surprising when they aren’t granted compassion and fair treatment? Furthermore, so long as media continues to portray this group without that disclaimer, they’ll continue to be so denied.

  32. Theaetetus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    roymac: They also made a choice: To include the ability to regain health by soliciting a prostitute. Further, they included the ability to kill the women that you’ve paid in order to regain your money.
    Technically, this is not true… When you kill any character, there’s a random amount of money that drops off of them. So, it’s not “regaining your money” per se, though certainly that impression is there.
    Oh, and to include the ability to go to strip clubs.
    And this I think is a horrible waste for the game. Games are supposed to be interactive, and you have the option of watching a five minute cut scene? Bleh.

  33. Theaetetus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    What I thought was implied (and later went on to explicitly state) is that the morals that tell us harming those other avatars have already been put into place through years of education.
    With prostitutes, though, nobody ever really tells you that they’re as deserving of compassion and fair treatment as any other segment of society. So, it’s not really surprising when they aren’t granted compassion and fair treatment? Furthermore, so long as media continues to portray this group without that disclaimer, they’ll continue to be so denied.

    You’re right, and I agree completely. I just wanted to point out that among the legitimate criticisms of the game are some incorrect ones that distract from the conversation we should be having.

  34. katrinaholloway
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    i played GTA3 quite a few times, enough to get to the ending. the most fun i had was to get on a rooftop and kill as many people as possible, to get the police copters after me, and then to run away, or to steal taxis & crash cars (boy did my driving suck!).
    is the option of killing prostitutes wrong? of course. but so is everything else in this game: drug trafficking, killing members of opposing street gangs, stealing cars, etc. killing prostitutes only becomes the main goal if the player decides to make it so.
    my take on this: it’s a game. i’d never steal a car or kill someone, or deal drugs, in real life. if you want to oppose this game, oppose the whole lack of immorality it contains, not just one aspect of it (killing prostitutes).

  35. Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Technically, this is not true… When you kill any character, there’s a random amount of money that drops off of them. So, it’s not “regaining your money” per se, though certainly that impression is there.
    I don’t believe that’s accurate- the money isn’t completely random, and certain types of characters don’t drop money at all- police, for example. The general concensus seems to be that killing prostitutes gets you *at least* as much as you gave them back, and Rockstar certainly hasn’t done anything to discourage that impression.

  36. Marcus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    The criticisms of GTA from non-videogame playing populace are inevitably short sighted.
    All the game does is provide a relatively consequence free environment, the evil that ensues in the MINORITY of game-playing experiences that have stereotyped GTA is the result of human nature in a mysogynist nation. (as an aside, I think the current era of Feminism has been habitually fixated on symptoms over causes, of which this is an instance)
    Violence against women is an option because the game has both women and guns in it. It is not central to gameplay. Reckless driving and gangland violence are central to gameplay, but in a hypermasculine culture those are considered just good wholesome fun.
    The game ALLOWS for violence against women because of it’s open nature, it does not INCENTIVISE it. This is a distinction unique to interactive entertainment that’s crucial to understanding a game’s influence. Anytime hardcore feminists share the opinion of senators from the religious right, there has got to be horrendous mistake.

  37. Daniel Burk
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    “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.”
    Well I’ve never been to a strip club, but I’m pretty sure strippers all say shit like that. False enthusiasm is part of their job description.
    And as far as GTA goes, if you have any problems with violence or misanthropy you shouldn’t play the games.
    Neither should 13 year old boys, really, but I doubt that GTA is going to inspire anyone to behave that way in real life if they weren’t already sociopaths to begin with.
    The GTA games are incredibly solid and well made video games. They wouldn’t be so popular if they weren’t, regardless of whether you could have sex with prostitutes in them or not.

  38. emmag
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    In a world where unspeakable violence is widespread, why the fuck are people so desensitized as to allow a game like this to exist?! Why does anyone want to make or play a game like this? I really don’t get it. Watching clips of the game make me effing sick.

  39. emmag
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I’m referring to the violence in general, including the prostitute-killing – can someone explain to me how it is possible to actually enjoy a game where you graphically murder people? How detached from reality do you have to be not to be disturbed by it? I hate the “prostitutes are expendable pieces of meat” vibe too.. makes me sad that my little brother plays this.

  40. Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Okay, firstly…
    That video is utterly reprehensible. The focus being entirely on “let’s fuck then kill lots of women, wheee!” is an awful, awful message to send.
    However, I would point out that all the points being raised above about children playing the game are not really useful. Games are rated like magazines and movies are for a reason; the fact that so many parents choose to ignore the ratings because “it’s just a game” is a big issue, but the problem there is with a lack of education about the importance of the ratings. To raise th “what about the children” message really derails from the issue, and just plays into the hands of people who do advocate censorship.
    That being said, I’ve never liked the GTA games. It is perfectly possible to get through the game without killing ANY general, public non-gang people, except in specified missions, and this includes the women in-game. The game developers definitely hype up the sex and violence aspects of the game, but to be honest if they didn’t there wouldn’t be much else to hype up. The graphics are rubbish, the humour puerile and the gameplay buggy as hell.
    That’s not to say I don’t agree that the treatment of women in the game is problematic; even the strong women characters that actually play a part in the plot are required to be sexy, they are vastly in the minority and the majority of other women in-game are hideous caricatures.
    Then again, personally I’m just chuffed to see some women of size in this one, for a change.

  41. Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t call myself a gamer, but I have been a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series since it’s been on PlayStation I, when the graphics were sucky and you saw everything in bird’s-eye view.
    However, I hate that you can kill prostitutes in this game, and if memory serves, I don’t think they fight back like some of the other passersby in the game. I don’t think you should be able to pay a prostitute and then have the option of murdering her to get your money back. That’s just gross, and the prostitutes usually have more money on them than anyone else. And the fact that the character’s health increases after having sex with a prostitute is highly misleading, but I wouldn’t call it anti-feminist.
    Like others have said, the way you associate with prostitutes in this game is a choice, as is your purpose behind stealing cabs, buses, and ambulances. You can kill a prostitute to steal her money, or you can pay her to increase your health. You can steal an ambulance to take people to the hospital and get money, or you can steal one just to be a dick. I think the choices a player makes are reflective of their personality that was intact before they played the game.
    Obviously, kids shouldn’t play this game. The “M” for Mature rating is not simply a suggestion, and I think sales associates at video game stores should strictly enforce that rating and not sell the game to anyone under 18.

  42. Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    It’s frustrating, because studies have shown that most adults actually know about the ESRB ratings system, but also that most kids play M-rated games anyway. I think a lot of parents are just negligent: They don’t care, or they assign more maturity to their kid than the kid actually possesses, or they buy the game for themselves and don’t make a point of keeping it out of their kid’s hands. At any rate, they’re probably not having conversations about the culture of violence and hatred against women.

  43. Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that’s amazing considering the hot coffee debacle. I can’t believe that they made the sex scenes more graphic than they used to be. Furthermore, I don’t really get why they put this in a video for ign–I mean they usually just claim that it’s a hidden feature but they kind of show you exactly how to do it and what sorts of “rewards” you get in this video.

  44. Paul G. Brown
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Mass, public entertainment has always been about sex and violence: Gladiators v. Gladiators, Lions v. Christians, witches in the stocks, mass public hangings. Sure, ‘unspeakable violence is widespread’, but to an outside observer at least today we relegate the sex and violence into a pixelated landscape.
    I’m a male gamer. It’s kind of amused me that media criticism with a feminist framework has placed such emphasis on dying media forms — print magazine, newspapers, broadcast TV, movies — when the real action has been in computer games.
    I’m curious to see what others reaction is to a game like World of Warcraft with its hyper-sexualized female body forms and plate armor that looks like a thong and a bustier, yet powerful female game characters (several racial bosses) and no limits on the classes and roles female toons can play.
    My raiding guild — for example — has a “gurl gamer” playing a female troll who’s our whip smart, take no crap, “tank”, and another (the leader) who plays a more “den mother” role but leads us into battle with inspirational shouts like “Do it! For the epic bewbs!”

  45. Posted April 29, 2008 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    I am not a gamer whatsoever, so perhaps I can’t truly understand the lure of any game. But seriously? That video was repulsive. It is beyond me how we have become so desensitized as to call this acceptable…

  46. Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    FeministMe: Because it makes people feel edgy and cool to be able to play a game that notorious.

  47. noname
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:06 pm | Permalink

    “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.� – Samhita
    Where in that video (which is not an official trailer, BTW) did you see forcibly performed sex acts?

  48. Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Everybody should read this book. It should help people better understand why this whole video game violence thing is overblown, IMHO…
    http://www.grandtheftchildhood.com/GTC/Home.html

  49. Theaetetus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

    emmag: I’m referring to the violence in general, including the prostitute-killing – can someone explain to me how it is possible to actually enjoy a game where you graphically murder people? How detached from reality do you have to be not to be disturbed by it?
    This is an interesting question, and I’m not sure what the answer is. As Paul points out, historically, entertainment has frequently involved violence, but that doesn’t explain why.
    Your reaction is certainly a reasonable one, and I would say that the opposite reaction – enjoying the games – is also a reasonable one, in that people have very different reactions to all sorts of events. Some people crack jokes at funerals, not because they’re heartless or insensitive, but because that’s how they deal with tragedy. Likewise, some people cry at weddings, because that’s how they deal with great joy. Everyone’s different.
    I will say this, though – the violence in many games, including GTA, is highly stylized and cartoonish, not as graphic as you’d assume. Compare this to the game Manhunt, which was incredibly graphic, and which made a lot of people reconsider their own feelings about violence in games. It’s the same sort of thing as the Uncanny Valley phenomenon in graphic rendering of faces – at a certain point, it becomes too real and uncomfortable. Maybe that’s the answer to your second question – it’s not the person that’s detached from reality, but the game.
    Finally, I’d ask if you play or have played any games with “violence” – this would include Donkey Kong, PacMan, Q-Bert, Super Mario Brothers, etc.
    We normally think of these games, with killing of enemies by jumping on them or hitting them with a hammer or eating them, as non-violent and kid-appropriate. Like Manhunt, the difference doesn’t seem to be in the violence themselves, but in the level of detail and realism.
    outcrazyophelia: Furthermore, I don’t really get why they put this in a video for ign–I mean they usually just claim that it’s a hidden feature but they kind of show you exactly how to do it and what sorts of “rewards” you get in this video.
    Again, this video was made by IGN, not by the creators of the game. And yes, the video is reprehensible and misleading about the game.

  50. Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    The criticisms of GTA from non-videogame playing populace are inevitably short sighted.
    Because any criticisms of the game must necessarily be from non-gamers, right?
    I think I fall very comfortably into the game-playing category, thanks.
    the evil that ensues in the MINORITY of game-playing experiences that have stereotyped GTA is the result of human nature in a mysogynist nation.
    And you know that it’s the MINORITY of game playing experiences… how? You did a poll? A study? Because I’d be very interested to know the results. It’s been my experience that most people who play GTA do, at some point, murder the prostitutes and steal back the money, just as most people who play the game end up, at some point, intentionally causing as much mayham as possible to get the police chasing them. But I’d love to be proven wrong on that count.
    It wouldn’t do a lot to counter the claim that the game has a thick and disgusting layer of sexism and racism surrounding the core game-play, but it’d be interesting all the same.
    (as an aside, I think the current era of Feminism has been habitually fixated on symptoms over causes, of which this is an instance)
    It’s my opinion that many feminists are concerned with both with the symptoms of sexism, and the causes. It’s entirely possible to write a short post about one of the symptoms, and still care about and be working on the root causes.
    Violence against women is an option because the game has both women and guns in it.
    No. Violence against women is an option because the makers of the game decided to include it. The ability to murder female characters comes from allowing the player to murder anyone. That’s not my criticsm, although it may be others. My criticisms, and the main criticism I saw raised above, was in the way that women are hypersexualized, and the ways that the ability to pay a prostitute and then murder her to get the money back are glorified. Nowhere in the game can one pay a man for sex or go to a male strip club.
    Anytime hardcore feminists share the opinion of senators from the religious right, there has got to be horrendous mistake.
    And when Samhita or whomever decides to advocate banning the game, I’ll agree. But, engaging in critical analysis? I’m quite comfortable with that.
    And as far as GTA goes, if you have any problems with violence or misanthropy you shouldn’t play the games.
    Thanks. I won’t be.
    If you have any problems with feminist analysis of video games sexism or racism you shouldn’t read their sites.
    Not working for you?
    I doubt that GTA is going to inspire anyone to behave that way in real life if they weren’t already sociopaths to begin with.
    You don’t have to believe that the games are going to inspire people to engage in mass murder to think that they’re still saturated with racism and sexism, and that the sexism and racism just go to reinforcing the rampant sexism and racism that exists within the gaming community.
    The GTA games are incredibly solid and well made video games. They wouldn’t be so popular if they weren’t, regardless of whether you could have sex with prostitutes in them or not.
    Popularity is a poor indication of quality. Twinkies continue to be a popular snack item, and by most counts, McDonalds is one of the most popular restaurants in the world. I wouldn’t look to either of them for quality food, though.

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