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. just_pat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Overall I have to agree with Samhita. I did purchase the game, though.
    I think there’s a positive aspect to the sandbox adventure, even if that adventure places you in the role of a violent criminal and gives you the option of killing and victimizing. Casting off socialized behavior and living out Bonnie and Clyde fantasies can be fun.
    The problem is there’s no Bonnie. The game and the marketing are privilege-blind to the fact that violence against women already IS a socialized behavior, and they’ve done nothing to allow players to cast THAT off.
    I enjoy the freedom of this game, but I wish I had the freedom to play it as a woman and wage violent guerilla war on the patriarchy: blowing up fashion mag HQs and enforcing vigilante justice on rophynol rapists in night clubs. That option doesn’t exist. Murdering prostitutes does, and they’ve rendered it “fun” and inconsequential (the whole “wanted level” deterrent doesn’t deter anybody, and it only applies if the cops SEE you). I personally don’t take this option, but knowing it exists and that there’s no anti-male equivalent makes a pretty bleak statement that women aren’t important.

  2. noname
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    â€?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?â€? – emmag
    You don’t have to be at all detached from reality. You have to be detached from avatars in a made up world.

  3. noname
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    “That option doesn’t exist. Murdering prostitutes does…â€? – just_pat
    “knowing it exists and that there’s no anti-male equivalent makes a pretty bleak statement that women aren’t important.” – just_pat
    There is an anti-male equivalent to killing prostitutes. Killing men.

  4. just_pat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Overall I have to agree with Samhita. I did purchase the game, though.
    I think there’s a positive aspect to the sandbox adventure, even if that adventure places you in the role of a violent criminal and gives you the option of killing and victimizing others. Casting off socialized behavior and living out Bonnie and Clyde fantasies can be fun.
    The problem is there’s no Bonnie. The game, its marketing, and the majority of its fanbase are privilege-blind to the fact that violence against women already IS a socialized behavior, and they’ve done nothing to allow players to cast THAT off.
    I enjoy the freedom of this game, but I wish I had the freedom to play it as a woman and wage violent guerilla war on the patriarchy: blowing up fashion mag HQs, enforcing vigilante justice on rophynol rapists in night clubs, etc. That option doesn’t exist. Murdering prostitutes does, and they’ve rendered it “fun” and inconsequential (the whole “wanted level” deterrent doesn’t deter anybody, and it only applies if the cops SEE you). I personally don’t take this option, but knowing it exists and that there’s no anti-male equivalent makes a pretty bleak statement that women aren’t important.

  5. KevinC
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:22 pm | Permalink


    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.”
    One of my favorite games made by Rockstar was the game Bully. As it was about high school you couldn’t actually kill anyone, and you got bonus health by kissing as opposed to having sex.
    One of the most controversial parts about Bully was that your male protagonist could kiss males as well as females. If you really wanted to you could stuff them into a locker afterwards just like any other character.
    I’m not sure whether they will be including male prostitutes in the new GTA game coming out.

  6. Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    “Again, this video was made by IGN, not by the creators of the game.”
    But doesn’t IGN have their permission to reproduce portions of the game that other sites don’t? I hadn’t realized IGN made the video itself, but they did have permission to do it, so TakeTwo isn’t really concerned about the nature of the sex in the game getting out. At least, that’s what I’m stuck on. It used to be the car would rock but now the windows are clear so you can see movement pretty clearly and I just don’t get what they hope to accomplish with it. I guess its edgier now and maybe it’ll sell better since it’s even more adult than before.
    I grew up playing games like this, and seeing the increasing sexual exploitation of the few female characters in the game makes me feel even more left out. Somehow, women are an imaginary demographic for game companies. It’s bunk. Maybe I would like to be able to play a female character, or at least choose the sexuality of the male character I’m saddled with.

  7. Elkboy
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Of course GTA shouldn’t be above criticism because it’s art. But let’s critisize it like we do with similar art. Look at Sopranos, Taxi Driver or the Godfather. All contain misogyny and violence. However, there is a big difference between depicting a world with misogyny and making misogynistic depictions of something that isn’t inherently misogynistic.
    Mostly, GTA4 falls into the first category. A story in the seedy, macho world of crime with a positive, non-sexist view of women wouldn’t be realistic. It would be a completely different story and setting. It’s like a crime drama without swearing. I’m not pointing out Sopranos to divert attention, but to remind people of how it works with other forms of art. If we want gamers to listen to our arguments, treating games with double standards isn’t a good start.
    As for specific details in the game, yes, Twat is a stupid name for an internet cafe, even if it’s meant to be a non-PC pun. And yes, there are strippers in strip clubs. While you can certainly question why they’re featured so prominently, they exist because GTA4 is inspired by a part of reality where there’s plenty of strippers and prostitutes. Sopranos is very similar, but it’s AFAIK not a celebration of misogyny. Tony Soprano is a sexist macho psychopath because you expect such people in the mafia. GTA4 is the same and it doesn’t paint a pretty picture of it at all. In fact, the whole GTA world is corrupt and dirty.
    Besides that, you can go on very regular dates that have the potential of leading up to off-screen sex. I haven’t seen anything obviously sexist about that so far. Female characters are so far secondary and the misogyny they face is whatever treatment they get from other characters. I did pick up some sarcaistic commercial and talk radio comments about gender roles on the in-game radio stations. I don’t know what to make of all that, but it might be worth knowing for non-gamers.
    Finally, the dynamic world simulation of GTA4 is basically a sandbox where you express yourself. With little or no repercussions for your actions, you’re of course free to try to do backflips with city buses or run hookers over. While the setting itself can certainly be called sexist to some extent, the player actions are expressions of whatever the they bring into the game. Misogyny in, misogyny out. Running over hookers is in the game because everyone can be run over, which in turn is there because it’s a big sandbox of people and cars and streets, all interacting. If you want to criticize gamers, that’s relevant, but for the game itself, these possibilities don’t strike me as relevant compared to the sexism in the setting that you can’t affect as a player.

  8. just_pat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    There is an anti-male equivalent to killing prostitutes. Killing men. – noname
    That’s not equivalent at all. I can’t kill men:
    a) As a member of the opposite gender.
    b) As someone who is paying them for sex.
    c) As someone being paid BY them for sex.
    I also can’t go to a club and wait for asshole guys to try to pick me up and/or drug me, only to pull out a weapon and exact vengeance upon them.
    There’s no equivalent.

  9. Ms. Kar3n
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    If they could just establish that attacking a sex worker is no more morally permissible than attacking anyone else
    In the (yes, warped) morality of the GTA universe, randomly killing anyone– women, men, old people, rollerbladers, hippies, gangsters, and yes, prostitutes– will get the exact same attention from the cops, if you’re caught. At in that respect, it’s equal-opportunity nihilism.
    As a lot of people have pointed out, unless something has radically changed in this incarnation, going on a sex-worker killing spree has never been part of the storyline.
    I’m a woman, and I gotta say, I love the GTA games. Yes, they’re sexist and rude and violent, but they’re also incredibly fun. The “sandbox” environment allows for a lot of variation in gameplay, it’s an engaging storyline, and a solid, well-made game.
    The option is there to depart from the story and kill prostitutes (and everyone else), but you also have the option to depart from the story and drive a tour bus at high speed through a crowded shopping mall to see if you can flip it over before you crash. And yet.. AAA isn’t freaking out that teenagers will learn reckless driving skills, because it’s a game. You’d have to be one hell of a sociopath to think that anything in the GTA universe applies in the real world.

  10. -jro-
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    female gamer here- and I’m not a fan of GTA because of the obvious reasons stated…but also because its just a crappy game!! The missions are tedious, the characters are boring, and sitting around shooting things gets old very fast. I just don’t understand the appeal of the game…I was bored after five minutes and then traded it in (san andreas, I wouldn’t bother with the new one). I think what bothers me most is the absolute LACK OF POWER any of the females have in these games. They are submissive and complicit and easily killed.

  11. noname
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    just_pat – So it’s not the killing that bothers you, it’s the paying for sex?

  12. just_pat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I basically have the same viewpoint as Ms. Kar3n, but for me, the nihilism isn’t “equal opportunity” enough to blunt, let alone negate, Samhita’s point, which is that this game is worthy of severe criticism from a feminist perspective. And even if the design team went back to the drawing board and addressed MY issues, the gaming media (who created that trailer) would still be glorifying the game’s capacity for misogyny. There’s a problem here.
    I think there’s a great, fun, nihilistic romp at the core of this game and that’s probably what really drives the sales. The misogyny, though, is hugely prominent and it should be called out and condemned so that it can be repaired.

  13. Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    -jro- I’m in the same boat. I don’t find the missions all that interesting, and its only so interesting to see how long you can go around causing mayhem before you get caught for so long. I liked the Godfather game, though it suffers from similar gameplay. The missions were a bit more interesting, and not all of the women were completely helpless (although a many were–but that’s par for the course in the gaming industry).

  14. Theaetetus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    outcrazyophelia: But doesn’t IGN have their permission to reproduce portions of the game that other sites don’t? I hadn’t realized IGN made the video itself, but they did have permission to do it, so TakeTwo isn’t really concerned about the nature of the sex in the game getting out. At least, that’s what I’m stuck on. It used to be the car would rock but now the windows are clear so you can see movement pretty clearly and I just don’t get what they hope to accomplish with it. I guess its edgier now and maybe it’ll sell better since it’s even more adult than before.
    Agreed. I still think the particular blame here is a bit misplaced, in that IGN had license to publish videos as a reviewer, but I seriously doubt those videos were individually reviewed by Take Two.
    That said, yes, the sex is definitely more graphic than in prior versions where you merely saw the car rocking.
    I grew up playing games like this, and seeing the increasing sexual exploitation of the few female characters in the game makes me feel even more left out. Somehow, women are an imaginary demographic for game companies. It’s bunk. Maybe I would like to be able to play a female character, or at least choose the sexuality of the male character I’m saddled with.
    I think this is the big failing of the game, and I think it’s a failing of imagination by the creators. I don’t have an issue with the violence or sex that’s in the game, but rather the sex that’s not in the game, female protagonists, male strippers/prostitutes, etc. as just_pat pointed out.
    It certainly seems like something near half the demographic is needlessly spurned. Something near half, because some women will have no problem with playing a male; and needlessly because, as we’ve seen in World of Warcraft, a large portion of men have no problem playing a female avatar. Something like half of the female characters on Warcraft are played by men.
    As an aside, there’s a new competitor to World of Warcraft coming out, Warhammer Online, that limits the classes that male and female players can be. This makes absolutely no sense, and is one of the reasons I won’t be buying it.

  15. sgzax
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    There is an anti-male equivalent to killing prostitutes. Killing men.
    Yes, because there are two sexes: male and prostitute. Exactly. Thank you noname for playing all your cards at once like that.

  16. just_pat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    noname – you need to enhance your reading comprehension, but I’ll feed the troll one last time:
    No, the paying for sex does not bother me. The lack of an equivalent female perspective as an alternative to the options available to the male protagonist is what bothers me. There’s no female main character and there’s no option to do something equivalent to killing a prostitute that’s on the opposite end of the gender spectrum. The power dynamic between the main character and prostitutes is completely different from the one between him and any male character in the game. I should have the option to place males in the same dynamic (like some kind of straight male prostitute), or to reverse the dynamic on them (have the prostitute kill the john).
    I’m a fan of the game, I’m just looking for an attempt at equivalence along gender lines.

  17. Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    Theaetetus,
    That stinks about Warhammer. I don’t know why they can’t try to make things at least a bit more neutral. I mean if I can’t be a female character, at least try not to have all the female characters in the game be damsels in distress or prostitutes with no names.
    Baldur’s Gate let you choose whichever gender you wanted–and it didn’t affect your choices or your class at all (that is until the second game where female characters only got one romance whereas male characters got around four–bit I let it slide).

  18. Ms. Kar3n
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    just_pat: GTA does merit some criticism from a feminist standpoint. I’d prefer to sit on top of a building and pick off cops while playing as a female character. The strip clubs are demeaning (and boring and kind of pointless, unless you like pixelated soft-core porn).
    But a lot of games could use a feminist overhaul, as well as a lot of movies, and TV shows, fashion shows, politics…
    It seems a bit short-sighted to single out GTA as public enemy #1 when it’s a symptom of a much more pervasive problem.

  19. just_pat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

    And I agree with Theaetetus and the others, though I forgot to mention it explicitly, that there should be options for the main character’s sexuality. Freedom and choice are supposed to be big selling points for this game. I want more!

  20. sgzax
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    It seems a bit short-sighted to single out GTA as public enemy #1 when it’s a symptom of a much more pervasive problem.
    Ms. Kar3n,
    It all comes up for discussion eventually and it is all being addressed, one bit at a time. Right now the subject is GTA. Just because we’re talking about GTA doesn’t mean we think it’s the root problem plaguing all of society. It’s a symptom and it is worthy of discussion. Really.

  21. Theaetetus
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    That stinks about Warhammer. I don’t know why they can’t try to make things at least a bit more neutral. I mean if I can’t be a female character, at least try not to have all the female characters in the game be damsels in distress or prostitutes with no names
    Just a correction… you can play female characters in Warhammer, but you can’t play every class (and likewise, there are classes limited to female characters, such as the [eye roll] witch).

  22. Paul G. Brown
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Hold the phone, Thaetetus. I want to play a maibd.
    The question isn’t so much whether a toon’s gender confines you to certain classes. The question — it seems to me — is whether the gender constrains the role in a manner that’s coherent, or whether the thing is well thought out.
    I find the lore that underpins the Brides of Khaine is really compelling. I mean – who wouldn’t want to play a race of warrior / priestesses who bathe in the blood of their fallen foes. Better that than playing one of those slacker Slaanesh worshiping frauds, that’s for sure.

  23. Unicron_The_Vagina
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:41 pm | Permalink

    Roymac, I disagree with your rebuttal of Marcus’ initial statement. He said nothing to imply that non-gamers were the only source of criticism, or that the dialogue here was dominated by non-gamers. He just said that criticism from non-gamers irritated him.
    While I don’t think one necessarily has to be a gamer per se in order to possess the understanding necessary for a valid critique, one should at least know enough so that their comments don’t immediately expose them as being almost totally ignorant of the subject matter.

  24. Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:46 pm | Permalink

    To all the commenters here who cannot see anything wrong in killing prostitutes on a videogame, I ask you:
    WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING READING A FEMINIST BLOG???
    For a laid back, “everything is cool” attitude you have THE REST OF THE GODDAMN WEB.
    We, feminist, CARE about THESE THINGS because it’s always WOMEN who have to put up with MALE VIOLENCE.
    I insist, if you think that “it’s all cool” then you are not grasping the most basic of feminist ideas. LEAVE US ALONE! The whole WEB and THE WORLD agree with you.
    Thanks.

  25. Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Alot of good points in this thread. I’m going to bullet my post since a lot of different issues are getting jumbled.
    -The GTA series has many sexist features (androcentric, women are sex objects) that are common to the majority of games (probably). Its amplified by GTA’s higher realism, its appeal to chauvinistic humor, and greater prominence of sex than most games. Women are similarly portrayed in lots of mafia- related media.
    -The issue of killing prostitutes is not so clear cut. You have freedom to kill everybody, there is an underworld motif, and the ability to kill prostitutes is a somewhat logical outcome.
    -Maybe they should acknowledge the special circumstances (the routine violence against sex workers and women) and exempt women from this. A good point, but some people think Rockstar is singling women out with this feature.
    -Prostitutes ARE one of the few types of NPCs with special functionality (At least in GTA3 and VC which is all I’ve played). Did Rockstar choose this because prostitution is itself taboo in America, or because men would have fun killing prostitutes? Who knows? This is why politics shouldn’t focus too much on the ideological realm.
    In GTA3 use of prostitutes was incentivized in the game. Using prostitutes gave you health; which could be easily gained in other ways, but only using prostitutes let you get over 100 health points (to 125). A prostitute you used was guaranteed to drop (a large amount of) money where only a minority of other bystanders would. Also they are brought into a secluded area and you are less likely to get police attention.
    Of course these are logical outcomes of the structure of the game–and reality– and give *some* of the story of why prostitutes are so often victimized. It ignores social attitudes towards sex workers, but it implies the sort of conditions women would have to be in to work in such a structurally dangerous field.
    -Back in high school when GTA3 came out my friends did talk and laugh about killing prostitutes. If it is popular for people to choose to do this in a game which gives a constrained freedom of choice; is more responsibility on the designers or the latent desires of the male populace?
    -Video games have been proven to cause real world violence and aggression.
    http://www.apa.org/science/psa/sb-anderson.html
    -”With prostitutes, though, nobody ever really tells you that they’re as deserving of compassion and fair treatment as any other segment of society”
    I don’t think society’s message about prostitutes is much different from that towards the male non-white gang members (forced into that position by economic exploitation) which are killed very often in GTA.
    Moral messages in society are contradictory and semi-coherent, as they are in the game. I bet some people feel that killing prostitutes is in some ways an especially transgressive act because they are a victimized group. On the other hand, the game makes prostitutes just as deserving of moral consideration in the game because the game forces you to be absolutely amoral.

  26. Posted April 29, 2008 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Should read: On the other hand, the game makes prostitutes just as deserving of moral consideration as anyone else in the game because the game forces you to be absolutely amoral.

  27. noname
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    “Yes, because there are two sexes: male and prostitute. Exactly. Thank you noname for playing all your cards at once like that.� – sgzax
    She pointed out one group (prostitutes) being murdered and said there was no anti-male equivalent. Gee, what group would I have to murder to make those murders anti-male? Men, perhaps?
    What were you trying to insinuate, anyway? Do you think I don’t know the difference between sex and occupations?

  28. Unicron_The_Vagina
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    MaryTracy,
    See my earlier posts about shouting. Also, see my earlier posts about how giving the player the ability to kill prostitutes gives more weight to the act of choosing NOT to. Those demonstrate how it is possible to defend this feature of the game from a position other than “WHEEEE!!! KILLING WOMEN GIVES ME SUCH A HARD-ON!!!”
    Think about what would be accomplished where they to remove only that specific mechanic from GTA4. You could run around and kill everyone EXCEPT prostitutes. You could fire your gun at them, but to no effect. It would be confusing, and inconsistent with the rest of the game. If the women of GTA aren’t fair game for violence just like everyone else, I think an argument could be made that it would reinforce the (erroneous) perception of inherent female weakness and helplessness.
    I think it’s arrogant for you to declare that anyone who disagrees with you on this point is automatically anti-feminist and not welcome here.

  29. Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    “To all the commenters here who cannot see anything wrong in killing prostitutes on a videogame, I ask you:
    WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING READING A FEMINIST BLOG???
    For a laid back, “everything is cool” attitude you have THE REST OF THE GODDAMN WEB.”
    I thought the point of allowing comments on a blog was to incite discussion, which there wouldn’t be much of if everyone had the same viewpoint.
    Believe it or not, there are are some people who call themselves feminists and can still play this game, myself included. As for being “detached from reality”, I resent that. I’m down-to-earth enough to realize that cartoon violence shouldn’t escalate into real violence. Let’s focus on people, not pixels.

  30. noname
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    just_pat – Ah. So it is a female perspective you are looking for. OK. Please don’t insult my reading comprehension, though, because that is not what said in the statements I was responding too. It should be noted as well, that in the game (at least in GTA III) prostitutes can kill you.

  31. spike the cat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    Ha. This is some funny sh*t.
    People just won’t admit that killing feels good. But killing a ho feels even better.
    As the apologists mentioned this is FANTASY. That means that the creators could have made the game any way they wanted it.
    Yes, if they could get away with it they’d have Klansmen characters running around too. My bad, if there actually are. I don’t play.
    What gets me is that nobody wants to address why it’s even necessary to include gendered violence in a video game? What is it appealing to? Obviously it adds something to the game otherwise it wouldn’t be there.
    I doubt it’s for authenticity. I mean then why stop there? Hell, why don’t they throw in some incest and abortion into the game while they are at it. Again, my bad if that sh*t is already in GTA.
    I imagine that this genre is indeed marketed with the male gamer as the primary audience. Nice to know what some boys like.
    And it’s interesting that so many females are so accepting of the level of in-your-face f*ck you that embodies these games.
    Play on players, play on.

  32. Wildberry
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    I think the thing is that if you object to this one thing in GTA, then you have to object to the whole thing. Killing prostitutes doesn’t stand out as a horrible thing that you do in GTA. You do a ton of horrible things, there are no illusions that the main character is a good guy. If you kill a prostitute, the game doesn’t pat you on the back and say, “What a wonderful thing you just did!” and then you go on to help elderly women across the street.
    So, I guess the reason I’m not all riled up about it is because the whole game is based on being a criminal. You do illegal things.
    People do have a point about there being no male prostitutes, though. Personally, I think they should just do away with the prostitution altogether.
    Ugh, I just remembered something that some people do… You have to follow the prostitutes in your car while honking at them to actually have sex with them. Sometimes they just ignore you, which will cause some players to get out and kill them. Bleh.

  33. Mr. Sean
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    “So, I guess the reason I’m not all riled up about it is because the whole game is based on being a criminal. You do illegal things.”
    Getting off on killing prostitutes is not excusable and entertaining. Pretending that it’s the same thing as getting off on stealing cars is either a put on or suggests a profound detachment from reality.
    I’m actually more than a little confused that so many folks are trying to justify this.

  34. krw
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    I love feministing.com and read it every day. I have never posted a comment but this one deserves it. My thought is this: if the game depicted guys having sex with and then killing only African-Americans, wouldn’t people be outraged? I mean, why is it more acceptable to do that to women? It’s not.

  35. yllamana
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    I’m not sure anyone is reading this far, but I want to explain a little bit that I think people are missing.
    Computer games in general, these days, work by setting up systems of “rules of physics” of how different objects interact in the world. Then the developers place objects in the world (like you, other characters, trees, cars, guns, whatever) and give them various properties, and then start it up and it runs according to those rules.
    The point being, when you see a character in a video game, usually it’s not because they’ve been painstakingly programmed in over many days – their behaviour is mostly or entirely based on those rules of how everything acts. The major effort behind adding a new character in there is generally the art.
    I just wanted to explain that because a lot of people here seem to be confused and thinking things like, “well why did they program it in at all??” Almost all the behaviour is just governed by rules programmed into the game. It was already there. The additional work would be programming exceptions to those rules, not adding new things that conform to them.
    This isn’t meant to excuse the game for anything it’s accused of or whatever, but to hopefully provide an insight for some people into the development of it.

  36. Paul G. Brown
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    My thought is this: if the game depicted guys having sex with and then killing only African-Americans, wouldn’t people be outraged? I mean, why is it more acceptable to do that to women? It’s not.
    Well, if this it’s rampant racism, class-ism, sexism and specie-ism you’re looking for, might I suggest the fine publications in the Redneck Rampage! line of games?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Redneck_Rampage
    The point is that computer games, like much media, are more or less a stew made out of the rotting roadkill carcasses that litter the the ‘social attitudes’ on-ramp to the information super highway.
    Without defending the substance of Rockstar’s GTA for a second, these games are successful because they offend. The teenage boy in me wants to go out and buy the thing not because I think shotgunning people is a good idea, but because so many people seem to think playing the game is a punk-ass, rebellious thing to do.
    BTW: Redneck Rampage! is inspired. Nowhere else do you get to hold off the state police by feeding your flatulent pig and endless supply of chicken guts while (Oh the joy!) shooting it out with a quartet of tie-died hippies who’ve barricaded themselves in the barber shop and are threatening to rub out the “short back and sides terrorist, man!”

  37. samj
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m a bit late here, but I want to point something out: this is NOT a trailer for the game. At least it is not a trailer created by Rockstar or Take Two for advertisement reasons. It’s just recorded gameplay footage from IGN for review purposes.
    That said, I find the video completely reprehensible. The game, however, I don’t find that awful. In fact, if I hadn’t had class so late today I’d have gone downtown to pick up a copy. Killing prostitutes and women is not something the game forces anyone to do, it’s just something you CAN do in the freeform world the game provides. No one talks about how you can indiscriminately kill business men, black drug dealers, white drug dealers, people who limp, grandmas, grandpas, sensibly dressed women, etc.
    And no, prostitutes and strippers are not the only women in the GTA games. Women are objectified to some extent, but I can’t remember any of the games condoning violence against any woman on the basis of her womanhood.

  38. spike the cat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Yes Krw,
    People have missed the boat on this one. I’m tired of the excuse that if it happens in real life, it’s fodder for entertainment purposes.
    And let’s be real. It’s not like this game has any structured plot with a complex resolution like a book or a movie. So let’s cut the crap.
    So again. I ask. What is the appeal of sport killing (man-man, man-woman or whatever) and specifically when sex and violence are involved.
    I just want an honest answer. Obviously it’s appealing; but instead of people taking a deep breath and looking inward, they just tiptoe around talking about the architecture of the game, blah blah blah.

  39. Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    I think that a lot of you are jumping to the defense of GTA because a lot of you like to play them. Remember when this very same site had a series on anti-feminist guilty pleasures? Now, don’t get me wrong. None of us are perfect and none of us shun every bit of sexist media out there. BUT– I think it is worth noting as feminists we have to be willing to criticize even the media we love. The problem is that I am hearing a lot of you fans of the game trying to defend GTA as not being sexist and/or a problem. Now, I love America’s Next Top Model. But I would never try to say it doesn’t have racist and sexist tendencies. In fact, I might be the first to point out those aspects of the show.
    I think as those who are going to be critical of all other issues with sexism and racism, we should admit when we like something. But, that does not mean you should try to say it is not a sexist or problematic piece of work. Yes, GTA may be fun and a well done video game. But it is still riddled with sexism and violence and racism that is, at best, distrubing.

  40. Alice
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    And let’s be real. It’s not like this game has any structured plot with a complex resolution like a book or a movie. So let’s cut the crap.
    Actually, yes it does. According to IGN, in fact, it has one of the most well-executed and deep plots of any video game, much less the GTA series itself, which has always had an extensive plot element.

  41. FeDhu
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:13 pm | Permalink

    **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.**
    In other words, kids have a hard time telling reality from fantasy and right from wrong. I’m a substitute teacher and I have to agree with this totally and emphatically. I had an 8th grader – mid teens – just yesterday, state proudly he was a homophobe and if any guy ever came on to him, he would shoot him in the head ‘like that kid did on the news’.
    Consequences? What consequences? I’m not saying movies and video games and television are totally and solely responsible for crime or bad behavior, but I AM saying that tv, movies, music, video games do teach a skewed world view of no consequences and lack of personal responsibility. When that is combined with the current system of ‘teaching the test’, where the only information taught is what will get passing grades on that damn test, yeah, we have a serious problem, folks.

  42. Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

    “Actually, yes it does. According to IGN, in fact, it has one of the most well-executed and deep plots of any video game, much less the GTA series itself, which has always had an extensive plot element.”
    I find this dubious, in what ways is this game functionally different from the prior incarnations? Are there suddenly deeper backgrounds to the characters? Is the main character no longer one dimensional? Is the goal no longer to make it through the obstacles of gang/mob warfare to get to the top?
    They’re honestly saying that this is one of the deepest games ever? Additionally, isn’t that incredibly subjective? I’ve heard people say the same thing about Kingdom Hearts, but you know, opinions and all that.

  43. CoasttoCoast
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:30 pm | Permalink

    There have been so many bullshit statements and outright lies in this thread on behalf of the critics that it’s astounding, but I thought I’d reply to this one as a “Quick Hit” cause I have to get going:
    “And let’s be real. It’s not like this game has any structured plot with a complex resolution like a book or a movie. So let’s cut the crap.”
    Spike, every single review for this game has marveled over how amazing and involving the storyline is. If you’re going to criticize something, at least have a vague idea of what you’re talking about.

  44. Wildberry
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    “Getting off on killing prostitutes is not excusable and entertaining. Pretending that it’s the same thing as getting off on stealing cars is either a put on or suggests a profound detachment from reality.”
    Stealing a car is not comparable to stealing a car, no. But is it comparable to stealing a car and then running over the victim, and whoever else gets in the way as you try to escape? I’d have to say yes. Brutally beating an elderly person to death? Yes.
    I’m not saying there’s no grounds to object to the series, I’m just saying that the violence against women isn’t special, there’s violence against EVERYONE. I’m just not understanding why people are particularly offended by the killing of prostitutes, and not the killing of everyone else.

  45. Carrie
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    That was really revolting.
    Two things I’d like to add to the discussion:
    1)I saw this article at BBC today. I wonder if games like this would fall under the extreme pornography ruling.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/7364475.stm
    2) My friend Katherine Buckley has been involved with research about video games and aggression. While people may say, “I know it is just a video game…I would never do this in real life” she and two Iowa State colleagues have found that there is a link in aggression for children. Here’s a link with a good summary of her study:
    http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2005-2009/07agb.pdf

  46. sgzax
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

    I’m just not understanding why people are particularly offended by the killing of prostitutes, and not the killing of everyone else.
    Violence is meted out to everyone, but sexualized violence is reserved for women. Do you see how that is a problem?
    Also, there is no male equivalent to the female sex-workers in the game.
    There is no female equivalent to the protagonist.
    The female is never the protagonist.
    For the most part the females are bystanders or prostitutes.
    These are all problems.

  47. spike the cat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    “Spike, every single review for this game has marveled over how amazing and involving the storyline is. If you’re going to criticize something, at least have a vague idea of what you’re talking about.”
    Hey. I wasn’t the original person to compare the game to the violence of film and literature. I mean hell, millions of people think Harry Potter is a marvelous, amazing and that it has an involved storyline…but um’ it’s still Harry Potter.
    I am talking about themes that are more nuanced and deep. Sometimes if violence is in a certain context for example you can learn something about the story. That’s the kind of complex plot I’m talking about.
    I’m listening, though.
    Wildberry,
    Killing of anyone is offensive. What I find distasteful is the fact that in other contexts people would be up in arms about the scenario depicted in the game, yet somehow here it’s harmless fantasy.

  48. spike the cat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 10:04 pm | Permalink

    Is this the type of complex story line to which folks are referring? My ex used to play, but hell if I know.
    from wiki:
    “In later titles, notably those released after Grand Theft Auto 2, the player is given a more in depth storyline, in which they are forced to overcome an event where they are either stabbed in the back and left to die by someone they know, or experienced an unfortunate event. This served as a motivation for the character to advance in the criminal ladder, and eventually leads to the triumph of the character by the end of the storyline.”
    Wow. Yes, this is deep.
    “The series has courted a great deal of controversy since the release of Grand Theft Auto III. This criticism stems from the focus on illegal activities, in comparison with “hero” roles that most other games offer. The main character can commit a wide variety of crimes and violent acts while dealing with only temporary consequences, including the killing of policemen and military personnel.”
    You’re right, CoasttoCoast and Alice. Yes. This game does indeed have complex, nuanced story lines. I don’t have a fucking clue. This game should not be criticized in any way shape or form.
    I’m done here.

  49. just_pat
    Posted April 29, 2008 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Well, I guess the thread has thoroughly derailed. I was hoping to get into a real discussion between the group that sees the problems but likes the game, and the group that doesn’t think these depictions of violence are justified at all. I don’t think the people trying to argue away the problematic nature of the violence in this game should have really been in this discussion unless they had first been to this discussion

  50. DaveNJ17
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:06 am | Permalink

    “I find this dubious, in what ways is this game functionally different from the prior incarnations? Are there suddenly deeper backgrounds to the characters? Is the main character no longer one dimensional? Is the goal no longer to make it through the obstacles of gang/mob warfare to get to the top?
    They’re honestly saying that this is one of the deepest games ever? Additionally, isn’t that incredibly subjective? I’ve heard people say the same thing about Kingdom Hearts, but you know, opinions and all that.”
    The game is about a Bosnian immigrant who comes to America in search of the American Dream and revenge, only to find that the promise America holds for its immigrant population is in many ways false. His cousin (and only family member) falls into gambling debt with the mob, triggering a series of events that force Niko Bellic to revert to his past as a Bosnian soldier (albeit reluctantly).
    The game incorporates in its 20+ hours of plot, including hours and hours of cutscenes, elements of F. Scott Fitzgerald and the disillusionment movement, traditional mafia films, and the experience of an immigrant, all in a living, contemporary setting based off of New York City.
    But apparently there’s no depth to be found if you don’t want to find it.
    I own GTA IV, and I enjoy playing it. Yes, parts of it are sexist, both against men and women, and parts of it are racist, again targeting many different ethnic and religious groups. That being said, it’s an incredibly well executed game, the best I’ve ever played, because of its combination of violence, open-ended gameplay, exploration, themes and plot, and technical prowess in regards to graphics, physics, and artistic direction. The game’s an achievement in satire, as well.
    No, I don’t hate women, or men, or people of other races or ethnicities, but I enjoy playing a great game and internalizing a great piece of art. If you require your art to conform with your view of the world you limit your appreciation of the whole. So yes, condemn GTA IV for the sexism it contains against both genders, but please, stop basing your criticism on half-truths or things you heard by-the-by on the internet.
    Critical analysis of art means you have to look at it in-depth. How can people say they have an in-depth knowledge of the sexism within GTA if they’ve never played it? That’s like saying “Scarface” is racist, even though you’ve never seen it.

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