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. Miles
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:37 am | Permalink

    I am male who plays a lot of video games. Many include violence in one degree or another, such as war game or a first person shooter when the enemy is trying to kill my character. (For the record I prefer strategy and historical simulations above all.)
    But I will not under any circumstances play or in any way support any game that so much as has this option, no matter how difficult it maybe to enable or what parental lock features exist! The trailer alone shows these despicable acts where our youth most certainly watch them. Sorry, but making someone enter their birth date does not prevent minors from gaining access. Anyone can lie about that!
    I realize that sex and violence sell especially against women it seems. I know the controversy will benefit them in many ways. I think it will also hurt them in many ways also as a number of people who would play won’t with that kind of content. I will defend the right of an adult to choose to buy and play games of this nature. As far as I am concerned an adult has every right to play such a game if they choose. Movies seem to be pretty much as bad to me. But I am not going to defend in any way the content itself. I will make it clear to the game industry that I do not approve of this in any way and that I at least will have nothing to do with it. I am sorry if this offends anyone, but I don’t think highly of people who defend the content or make excuses for said conduct.
    As I said, as far as I am concerned an adult has every right to play such a game if they choose. But parents need to be aware, and certainly should be aware, of the nature of this game so they can execute parental oversight.
    I noticed an option to “spotlight� this issue to the media. I think that is a wonderful idea. I hope you join me in trying to bring further attention to this issue so that parents at least will be more aware. Assuming they care, of course.

  2. Miles
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:42 am | Permalink

    In continuation of my post above, below is what I sent to a number of media sources:
    I am trying very hard not to use profanity here, something I rarely have a problem with, but this is different. I will spare you and leave the profanity up to you after you check this issue out. Feministing (at http://www.feministing.com) brought this to my attention, and I hope to bring it to yours. If you are not the correct person to bring this to, then please direct me or this e-mail to the correct person.
    The latest Grand Theft Auto game has put out a trailer which not only includes a great deal of violence and sex, but the frequent murder of women following the sex. Whatever your personal views on sex and violence in games, the cold blooded murder of women immediately after goes beyond any rational explanation.
    No matter what they might claim, a large target audience is our youth. Not that youth alone are the problem. Perpetuating the “women aren’t worth a damn” meme further damages the standing of women in our society when there are already enough who believe women to be inferior. I honestly believe they thought they could sneak this past the mainstream public. Sex and violence sell to begin with. Add in the murder of women who, as prostitutes and are supposedly therefore not worthy of humanity, and you have something that words alone cannot give justice!
    I am video gamer myself and many of those games involve violence to one degree or another. But this?
    I ask of you, I beg of you, please bring this atrocity to light! I recognize adults have a right to this kind of material, but at the very least parents need to be made aware of the content of this game so they can make an educated decision in regards to their children.
    Thank you for your time.
    Sincerely,
    Miles Webster
    Christie Webster

  3. Kristen
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:00 am | Permalink

    Female gamer here. I played every incarnation of GTA since II. I think that it’s important to point out that these games are popular first and foremost because they are good. Video games, unlike McDonald’s, cost a lot of money, and if they aren’t quality, no one buys them. The storylines do give a lot more complexity than the average video game out there. There is an almost infinite amount of things to do and the gameplay is thus constantly compelling. These things are all true, and trying to argue otherwise is to waste time.
    That said, of course there are things you can criticize. But just as trying to criticize the above qualities are a waste of time, so too is spending time on a lot of the complaints I see here. Killing prostitutes is in NO WAY glorified in this series. You can argue all you like about whether it should be an option, but it is not a special option. Someone touched on how much of a pain in the ass it is to even have sex with a prostitute. Yes, I have done it and then killed them to get the money back, but only once or twice because, in the end, the game *doesn’t* reward you for it, and your time is better spent robbing a convenience store, finishing missions, or selling stolen cars if money is your goal. Besides all the time it takes to even get a prostitute, the money you get is only a pittance more than what you gave her, if that. You’d be better served killing someone random. For that matter, what you gave her to begin with is a pittance not worth trying to get back. In a game where your budget is in the millions, it’s really not worth it to chase her down for your $200, and then you have to avoid the cops. And then there’s the fact that killing a hooker and having sex with a hooker are two completely different actions. You can have sex with hookers all day without killing them, and you can kill hookers all day without having sex with them. There is no sexual violence in this game. No one is ever raped or has sex unwillingly. The hookers even have to like you enough to let you pick them up. There is sex in this game (and by the looks of it, much more realistic sex than in previous incarnations of the series) and there is violence, but no sexual violence.
    I would love to see you be able to pick up male hookers, but as the gaming world in general seems to have a problem even letting women have equal exposure, it’s really dreaming to expect any gay content. The evolution is happening ever so slowly, however, and come to think of it, Rockstar did become one of the first mainstream companies to allow the choice to be gay with Bully… maybe next time?
    My point with all of this is to blow the killing hookers thing out of proportion is to distract from the REAL criticisms you can make about this game, things that Rockstar might actually give a damn about and change if we make our voiced heard. The gaming industry is slowly realizing just how big the “gurl gamer” and the “gaymer” segments really are, and it’s only a matter of time before their “18-35 year-old straight male” marketing mentality gives way to a more eclectic and inclusive focus. Let’s work on bringing that about rather than falling in with the “but violence is bad!” crowd, the crowd that Rockstar expects, goads on, and then ignores.
    And I do think they will eventually come around on this (if we make them). While strong and multidimensional female characters are sorely lacking, they did have a presence in GTA San Andreas (it’s really been too long since I’ve played the others to remember), which is not to say that’s nearly enough, but it does indicate to me that the creators aren’t just misogynist bastards making a game about hating women. They’re probably just like all the other men conditioned to live in the patriarchy and think on its terms who don’t realize that throwing in one strong female supporting character just isn’t enough. It’s not going to make us complacent and it’s not going to expand their audience. The answer, as someone said before, is MORE choices, not less.

  4. Kristen
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:13 am | Permalink

    Miles: It’s a noble sentiment, but I really don’t think parents are unaware of what the GTA series is all about. If they somehow missed the media hype all these years, there’s a big fat Mature rating on the cover. Kids are no longer the video game industry’s target anyway, for the most part. The bulk of the new games are targeted to 18-35 year old males.
    It’s also worth repeating that Rockstar didn’t put out this “trailer”. Some (obviously immature) reviewers at IGN put it together.

  5. DaveNJ17
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 1:27 am | Permalink

    This “oh no, the teenage boys!” sentiment is really strange, because this game is M for Mature. You need to be 18 to buy it. If your parents buy you GTA and you’re under 18 it means one of tow things: either your parents trust you a lot (possibly for good reasons), or you have negligent parents (most likely this one). But negligent parenting is going to be the big issue in that child’s life, not one game among many.
    Eventually I hope they tap the market and create games for girls, but gaming is still in its infancy. The primary audience is male, and no company is going to take a huge risk and run a female protagonist when millions are on the line. Still, games like Metroid Prime (with heroine Samus Aran) exist. As the medium grows, so will its appeal, and that will change its demographics.
    Still, so many criticisms of this game are based on a four minute edited film. If you’re going to do a deep critical analysis of GTA you’re going to need more than four minutes to render any accurate or interesting ideas on the game.

  6. Posted April 30, 2008 at 2:13 am | Permalink

    When the first GTA game came out all those years ago, it was so different that it spawned a new genre – so called “sandbox” games. These games are popular because they plonk you in an open ended world for you to explore, where anything and everything goes.
    The game allows you to hurt people. It allows you to steal cars, deal drugs, kill cops, and sleep with prostitutes. Any inherent misogyny comes not from what they have put into the game, but from what they have omitted.
    There are no female protagonists. There are no male prostitutes. The main character can have girlfriends, but not boyfriends.
    If anything rockstar should not tone down the violence and sexuality in the game, they should make it worse. They should make it more satirical than it already is.
    Unfortunately I don’t think we’ll see any such changes yet. The game industry is still in it’s infancy, and proper satire, subtlety and artistry are only creeping in at the edges.

  7. CoasttoCoast
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:22 am | Permalink

    “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. ”
    No reasonable person could make an argument like this and expect to be taken seriously. Are you drunk? You seem to have read a wikipedia article that recaps three video games worth of story, at least 20 hours of story each, in one paragraph, and then used that to decide that the story for all three of those games is shit, as well as the newest game, which isn’t included in the article you quoted?
    You actually don’t have a fucking clue. Not even a little bit. It seems like you’ve never played one of these games, you almost certainly haven’t finished one(which is the only way to put yourself in a position to critique the storyline) and even if you had, using that to condemn the story line of a game that only reviewers have played is lunacy. Add to this ridiculous situation the fact that the reviews are saying “the story in the past gta games has been uniformly lacklustre, which makes the magnificence of this story so surprising” and your original comment really becomes comical.
    It’s ok that you don’t know anything about this. You can’t know everything about everything. It’s just that when I don’t know anything about something, I try not to run around yelling my half baked opinions about it.

  8. Elkboy
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:28 am | Permalink

    Games do NOT cause violence. The studies showing this are almost all very limited and removed from reality. Much of the reporting is Fox-style sensationalist crap, where the slightest connection, no matter how random or irrelevant, is made up to be a sign of gaming-inspired violence. There are however many more relevant studies that show no causal link at all.
    A book called “Grand Theft Childhood” was recently released adressing games and violence. If you’ve fallen for the prejudice about games, this might be a good place to start.
    For a quicker fix, consider why youth violence has dropped dramatically with every release of Grand Theft Auto.
    Obviously games are a simplistic explanation and scapegoat for something more difficult.

  9. Ms. Kar3n
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    I started writing a rebuttal here, but it got long. Instead, there’s a link on my blog, if anyone’s interested: http://kar3ning.livejournal.com/455976.html

  10. sgzax
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Games do NOT cause violence.
    That’s nice. Now could you please address why only the women are prostitutes, why heterosexuality is set as a default, and why there is no option for a female protagonist? Until those flaws are fixed the game is off my list, whether it’s an amazing work of art or not.

  11. MamaPantz
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    This game has been around for quite a few years and it’s always been really bad. I know it’s gotten worse and worse and more of the game has been focused on the realistic scenes in between playing. I had some friends that played it (who I lost respect for) and I’ve always thought it was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen to give to young people. Just look at the culture that has come out of the GTA generation. This game should have been banned like 5 years ago!
    There is nothing redeeming about this game and I feel really bad for people that are so fucked up that they want to play this game and/or defend it. We as a society are seeing human beings devalued and degraded in so many ways and in particular we see women treated as less than human.
    I don’t understand why intelligent people can’t see the connection between what children and young adults consume and how they percieve others. You need to think about psychology for just one minute and you’ll see that we’re systematically eroding our values as a society.
    If you can’t see the connection between the media that young people take in, and the actual events taking place in the real world, then you’re ignorant and you’re a pert of the problem. If you don’t see a problem with this game then you shouldn’t see a problem with the violence and hated that’s committed against women. let’s just go back to the days when a husband was allowed to beat his wife without consequences.
    This is a sad place to be for someone who values peace and progress. I thought that’s what we were working for, but I guess people are just stupid and will take anything that’s given to them.
    It’s just sickening that this game has been successful and it makes me not want to live here anymore. Everything I’m working to instill in my children will be destroyed by this culture if I let them consume any of our media. What’s the point of being a mother and teaching our children anything, if it’s just gonna be beaten out of them just as they’re reaching an age where they should be learning how to make our society better?

  12. sgzax
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Everything I’m working to instill in my children will be destroyed by this culture if I let them consume any of our media.
    You are crediting the media with way too much power. If you’ve raised sensitive and thoughtful people they won’t be destroyed by violent or misogynistic content.
    I have to say, while I find the game offensive I mostly disagree with your position. I want to encourage video game companies to question the assumptions they write into their games, to work to be more inclusive of female and non-hetero perspectives, to think of other options besides sexualized violence, and… just generally to be better.
    But no, they don’t have to take my advice. If they want to live without my money it’s their right. And I don’t believe they are corrupting good people. That’s just a bit too far for me.

  13. Theaetetus
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Miles: In continuation of my post above, below is what I sent to a number of media sources:
    …The latest Grand Theft Auto game has put out a trailer which not only includes a great deal of violence and sex, but the frequent murder of women following the sex.

    Miles, your message would get across much better if you don’t start out with something that’s completely false on its face.
    It’s not a trailer.
    It wasn’t put out by the creators of the game.
    Start with the truth, and then people won’t immediately dismiss the rest of what you’re saying.

  14. underwhelm
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I would say that criticisms of GTA are an amalgam of criticisms of other cultural phenomenon, and I think some sort of taxonomy is in order. The game features rampant violence against humans of any sex, and against property. The game features women, some of whom are sex workers. The game features depictions of sex. Because GTA is a work of (interactive) fiction, these elements should be evaluated on terms similar to other works of fiction—as reflecting society, and with with at least some consideration given to context and the intent of the authors. (see, e.g., A Clockwork Orange, a critically acclaimed, though notoriously violent, work of fiction.) At a minimum, that requires actually reading/watching/playing the subject of the criticism.
    Yesterday I was at a strip club in the game. As has been reported elsewhere, this is boring. But then I tried to jump up on the stage, and I was instantly chased out of the club by bouncers and pursued by the police. This also happens if you so much as display a weapon in the club. I’m not sure where this fits into the line of criticism regarding the game’s alleged promotion of violence against women, but it’s clearly relevant.

  15. Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I could read 164 comments in which everything I want to say has probably been said, but as a gamer and a feminist, perhaps GTA is one of my big un-feminist guilty pleasures… but I don’t like to think so. If you played the game… Everything is funny in that “I dare you to laugh and expose yourself for the bigot you are” kind of way.
    A lot of the jokes about women are about how our culture uses them up and tosses them aside. A lot of the more subtle sexisms are brought up to the scary light of day and shoved in your face. One radio program on their version of a conservative talk radio station is like The People’s Court, in which the judge sexually harasses the women in his courtroom and tells them, for a number of ridiculous reasons, why they’re the inferior sex. He does this, though, not because the makers of the game think we need to know, but because I think they were painfully aware that people think these things even if they don’t usually say them. He talks about the historical oppression of women, and how giving up her last name goes back to men owning women, but then goes on to accuse her of deliberately emasculating her husband by forcing him to hyphenate their last names. He’s a parody of all the men like him, exposing all that hatred and hypocrisy.
    I don’t know if the makers of the game are growing up, but I feel like a monster every time I kill someone in GTAIV. Just two days ago I was playing the three games that precede it, and I never felt the slightest bit of sympathy for all the walking jokes that populate those satirical interpretations of New York, Miami, and Southern California. The people in GTAIV feel more like real people, now, and I can’t imagine getting any pleasure out of killing them.
    If anything, GTA is a mirror. You have never, in any of the games, needed to pick up sex workers or kill them. That has simply been something you /can/ do. How you play says more about you than the makers of the game.
    Also, it’s not for kids. Also, women play it, too. Please don’t erase feminist gamers like me by talking about what the men who play this game take away from it. I get enough of that from the mainstream gaming press.

  16. Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Also, I just watched the trailer, and I’m fairly certain this wasn’t put together by the makers of the game. I’m also fairly certain that it was composed of experiences that were chosen for the purpose of putting this video together.
    I’ve been playing the game for about twenty hours since I got it Monday night, and I can tell you that things he says, like, “stay down and stop crying” are things he says to anyone he shoots. It has nothing to do with who he was shooting. It’s a simple “random quote triggered by discharge of players weapon” formula. That was obviously a choice on the part of the maker of the video to express their own misogynist feelings.
    That said, I am pretty horrified that the sex is so obvious now. Sex workers never gyrated over you or even touched you before. I hate seeing Niko like this, too. He’s a much more complex character than this video makes him out to be. This isn’t how I play the game.
    Ugh.
    My Niko has a girlfriend, to whom he loses games of bowling and pool.

  17. Elkboy
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

    “Now could you please address why only the women are prostitutes, why heterosexuality is set as a default, and why there is no option for a female protagonist?”
    I already did address that. It’s largely because it’s a depiction of a reality where women have these roles. Most crime stories on tv or film work this way. Maintaining a level of realism and connection to the real world is obviously important to the game. I think you can’t shut your eyes to where it’s coming from – a society that’s in itself sexist. As a portrayal of that, the game contains sexism, but mostly depictions of it, and not sexism hat actively involves you or rewards you.
    Having said that, I agree with your complaints. There are other things that wouldn’t change the core concept of the game, make it less artful or immersive. For that Rockstar deserves criticism. I’m just speaking out against unjustified criticism. Also, there are some redeeming values others have brought up. One good thing I can point out is that among all the satire in the game, there is some pretty on-the-spot attacks on gender roles and patriarchal society. I don’t know if the game’s audience is generally open to it, but it’s there.
    I fully understand why the game is on your don’t-play list. Even if you remove the criticism based on misunderstandings and prejudice here, GTA4 has enough left to put it on the list. But it’s not so black and white that we can’t have differing opinions about it whithout being bad people. I’m aware enough of sexism that I can see it for what it is in fiction. I can handle the violence in a similar way. That’s why it’s in my 360 now.

  18. Synonymous
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

    I can’t enjoy playing a fun game without simultaneously having to see my entire gender reduced to walking orifices.
    This. As for the defense that it’s a completely optional and minor part of a sandbox game – well, as per the video above, the game’s being sold in part on your ability to cap bitches after doing them. It’s not a minor enough part for the promotion department to pass it by. I’m also wary of a title that has more sympathy for someone working in fast food as a result of socioeconomic ills than someone who got raped and murdered in the course of a job they took for the same reason.
    As a female gamer, I absolutely don’t buy the argument that these scenes aren’t a manifestation of or affecting young male gamer attitudes toward women. Because oh, gee, no, there have been *NO* _actual_ recent controversies in gaming where *real* women were treated as walking orifices and deemed worthy of brutal treatment:
    http://kotaku.com/gaming/assassin.s-creed/ubisoft-threatens-something-awful-over-jade-comic-323946.php
    http://www.thaumatocracy.com/jade-raymond-comic
    (For those not in the hobby: Jade Raymond is a female programmer who is a) constantly noted to be “hot” and b) loathed by the largely-male gamer community. Ostensibly, the latter is due to her “overexposure” during the promotion of a very popular title she produced. I hadn’t seen her face before the comic imbroglio, so maybe “overexposed” means “bitch actually, at some point, talked to a journalist and dared to have some success in our little boys’ club”.)

  19. underwhelm
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    Synonymous: the video linked above was not produced by the makers of the game.

  20. yllamana
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

    Kristen, thanks for your comment. It was really good and I agree with most or all of it.
    Those of you who’re commenting who aren’t gamers, please resist the temptation to, not knowing why anyone would play a game, invent some vast work of horror fiction about why people must play it. If you don’t know why someone would play it, how about asking us? I’ve played GTA, along with GTA 3 and its two sequels. I’m a female gamer, and I’ve played and enjoyed those games, and it wasn’t because I secretly loathe myself or because I get gift vouchers from the Patriarchy for it. It’d also help if you got an idea of how we see the game, since that’s pretty important in establishing what we get out of it.
    There are very legitimate criticisms of GTA and the video games industry in general, but incredible kneejerk assumptions of why people play these games don’t help advance those criticisms. Please stop it.

  21. Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    I have always wondered how some say that people don’t “learn” these things from games/TV when the whole industry of advertising is based on what we see on TV, billboards, and even games. It works for them so reliably that they are a huge industry.
    I’m not a “gamer” but I do play online and nerdy games once in a while. I think women gamers have three choices, 1)not play these games, 2)play but ignore the crappy parts, 3) play and imagine that you are a male rapist murderer.
    I’m pretty sure there are people who choose the last option because often women don’t have a hard time identifying with a man’s point of view (and especially a patriarchal point of view). So we can enjoy virtually killing hookers just like a boy would. (not me personally of course, I can hardly sit in a room watching someone else play it)
    by the way, my husband played this game and felt terrible. so men and boys can be uncomfortable with the idea too, but I guess that’s obvious.

  22. Synonymous
    Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    Synonymous: the video linked above was not produced by the makers of the game.
    IGN, the game site that made the clip, selects the material for their promotional clips based on what they know players are eager to hear and see of the game. Their size and success would indicate that their judgment and perceptions regarding their audience are reliable. One might also question how far the official company GTA hype machine and the members of the gaming press covering GTA can be separated, given the super-indulgent treatment and extensive behind-the-scenes access writers covering it have enjoyed.
    So, let’s see how long we can split this hair and distract us from the real issue of sexism in gaming culture.

  23. Posted April 30, 2008 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

    I have always wondered how some say that people don’t “learn” these things from games/TV when the whole industry of advertising is based on what we see on TV, billboards, and even games. It works for them so reliably that they are a huge industry.
    I’m not a “gamer” but I do play online and nerdy games once in a while. I think women gamers have three choices, 1)not play these games, 2)play but ignore the crappy parts, 3) play and imagine that you are a male rapist murderer.
    I’m pretty sure there are people who choose the last option because often women don’t have a hard time identifying with a man’s point of view (and especially a patriarchal point of view). So we can enjoy virtually killing hookers just like a boy would. (not me personally of course, I can hardly sit in a room watching someone else play it)
    by the way, my husband played this game and felt terrible. so men and boys can be uncomfortable with the idea too, but I guess that’s obvious.

  24. Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Three things came to my mind after reading this:
    1. Thank God for GTA IV. Now I can go back to playing my “sex romp” Mass Effect without feeling guilty. Regardless, I’m so glad that people who don’t bother actually looking into the material they criticize are here to protect my fragile mind from its deleterious effects.
    2. It’s too bad you can’t eat tenant farmer babies in the game. Because, y’know, satire should never deal with the problems facing a people at the time. It should be as rarefied as possible.

  25. Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    Whoops. Missed a “thing.”
    3. Thank God you don’t kill animals in this game. PETA would have had a field day with it.

  26. Posted April 30, 2008 at 10:52 pm | Permalink

    Wow, UCLAri, that was priceless. Grand Theft Auto IV as Swift-esque satire? Now THAT is satire.
    Nobody gives a crap about your fragile mind. It’s not about protecting you. It’s about the shittiness of a game that thinks killing prostitutes is edgy and totally hXc, not to mention fun.
    I think it’s worth drawing the analogy to a joke or story again. It’s not that people die. It’s not that the archetypical pure little child will be destroyed by it. It’s that the role of women, especially prostitutes, in this game is genuinely degrading and upsetting. That’s not to say that nothing bad should ever happen in video games. It’s just gross to perpetuate the idea of prostitutes as disposable humans – far from being satire, that is the horrifying way mainstream society DOES view them.

  27. Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    Wow, what a topic :)
    Hi, I’m Law Fairy, and I’m a feminist gamer (“Hi Law Fairy”). I haven’t played the GTA games much — got San Andreas for my PS2 but didn’t finish it for lack of time (the bit I did play, though, I found pretty fun, didn’t run into any significant sexist stuff for the length of time I played it). Bought GTA4 yesterday in part because some gaming buddies were buying it so I figured, why not. Haven’t actually played the game itself yet, only the online multiplayer version. For what it’s worth, Xbox Live assigned me a female character (my gamer profile says I’m a woman). So online, anyway, you can have female protagonists.
    I think maybe part of the hysteria that surrounds things like GTA4 (on both the pro- and anti- sides) hinges on the fact that video games are an emerging form of entertainment and art — yes, ART (some of which will be amazing, and most of which will completely suck — just like any form of art). Video games are still relatively new — especially games with both graphics *and* actual narratives. When movies were new, people were pretty skeptical of them too. Part of what’s going on here, I suspect, is an inherent mistrust of video games in general because they’re kind of a wild card in our vast world of multimedia. The gaming community doesn’t particularly help this, since for many of them the reaction to public vilification is to counter with comebacks designed to scare people even *more* — rather than showing people why, actually, video games are not particularly threatening and, in fact, are an incredibly evolved and rich addition to society’s repertoire of media culture. Some in the gaming community are trying to reach out and do this. But others just don’t bother, and instead focus on their justifiable irritation at being labeled monolithic basement-dwelling socially-impaired losers. Instead of engaging in productive discourse, they defend EVERYTHING about games and assume anyone who disagrees is a stubborn, unenlightened neophyte. So what you end up with is two sides who don’t understand each other, and who don’t really *care* to try understanding each other. Not a great way to initiate a dialogue.
    And so what happens is that, when someone like Samhita brings up some totally valid points that deserve discussion and thought (especially given that she doesn’t play the game — an admission that she’s one of those “outsiders” trying to spoil everyone’s fun), a lot of people in the gaming community get their hackles up because valid criticisms become indistinguishable from invalid criticisms (in fairness, the two are often themselves jumbled and mixed up), and it all sounds like one big old buzzing cauldron of anti-gaming sentiment. And so gamers — even legitimate feminist gamers — react at the not-necessarily-unfounded perception that the criticism is no different from something a Jack Thompson would say.
    Adding fuel to this fire are incidents like a recent imbroglio involving our favorite news channel, Fox, and a popular video game called Mass Effect. Basically, Fox brought on a woman to discuss all the things that were horrible about the game, when she hadn’t even played it for two seconds. The gaming columnist brought on as the counterpoint wasn’t really given a chance to mount his defense of the game, and the gaming community was so infuriated at the unfair portrayal that they instituted an Amazon spamming campaign to rate her book poorly (pretty immature, although I have to admit that comments like “I haven’t read her book, but I know that it’s terrible” made me chuckle).
    Anyway, the point of this is to say that what the non-gamers here need to understand is that there’s a little bit of a war brewing behind the scenes. There’s more to this story, and what’s happening in the comments here, than just a single game series. When people make comments like “no one who enjoys this game could possibly call him/herself a feminist” and DOESN’T EVEN OWN A CONSOLE, it’s not exactly going to resonate with the feminist gamers who actually DO want to see quality, woman-affirming games (and there are LOTS of us). By the same token, we feminist gamers need to pay enough attention and take a deep enough breath to separate out the wheat from the chaff of gaming criticisms. Samhita brought up some good points. Some gamers here have brought up some good counterpoints, and some gamers and non-gamers have brought up further good counter-counterpoints. Gaming is just another medium, like music, or movies, or television, or books. That it is explicitly interactive makes it superficially, but not actually all that different (though I would argue this feature does afford more entertainment bang for your buck). All media are interactive, even if your actions won’t change what the person on the screen says — communication is necessarily interactive. Art means nothing without an observer. Words mean nothing without a culture, a context, and, most importantly, a listener/reader. Games are just another piece of media technology that will eventually become as mundane and ordinary to us as DVDs. I think it’s important to keep this in mind when we have these much-needed discussions.
    For example, it may in fact be that GTA4 is a pretty great work of art (jury’s still out for me, as I’ve barely played the thing). Or it might be a total piece of sexist crap. Or it might be something in between. This discussion is no different from a discussion about horribly violent movies (which I think most of us watch occasionally) that may or may not be brilliant, or horribly sexist rap lyrics (which has been one of my guilty pleasures in the past) that might or might not have a deeper meaning. For instance, some people thought No Country For Old Men was pure genius. I found it unimpressive. Neither of us is necessarily wrong, and neither conclusion is inherently unfeminist, and pointing out that watching the movie would be the best way to form a legitimate opinion about it (rather than simply watching the ads, which may be subject to a *separate* critique) doesn’t make one a misogyny apologist.
    So I guess what I’m saying is: the point isn’t the choices people make in playing the game, or the fact that those choices exist. The point is, looking at this game as a whole — just as we would look at ANY other media work as a whole — what’s problematic about it, and what’s redeeming about it? The tricky thing with games is that getting a handle on the work as a whole takes a LOOOOOOT longer than it does for movies. Is it valid to criticize aspects of the game without playing the whole thing? Of course. But it’s not exactly fair to then go and question the feminist credentials of those who HAVE played and have reached a different conclusion.
    Okay, I think I’ve taken up enough of your bandwidth for one day :)

  28. Posted April 30, 2008 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    So I’m sure that most people have seen that not only has someone named Susannah Breslin taken feminist to task but Boingboing has also picked up on that story. Sad tosee that a site I once respected like Boingboing is giving attention to such a dismissive post.
    Heaven forbit we actually talk about things and ask questions about things…

  29. Samhita
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Law Fairy- I just wanted to stop in and say and this convo has been mind-blowing, but thank you for your poignant analysis!

  30. Posted May 1, 2008 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    kakodaimon,
    I don’t believe the game to be Swift reborn, but it certainly is a satire– in fact, the game and dialogue drip with satirical content. Although The Law Fairy did a much better job of saying it than I did, there’s a lot of issues at stake here that many people, including the usually excellent bloggers on this site, don’t seem to be cognizant of.
    Plenty of very excellent works of art are flawed. Hell, the Guerrilla Girls attack nearly every single portrayal of women in art for objectifying women. They’re probably right.
    However, I dare say that most women, including those who identify as feminist, would not say that there is no redeeming value to Bathsheba by Rembrandt, despite the fact that it objectifies the woman it portrays. Along fairly different lines, I doubt that most women would say that The Godfather films have no value, yet they portray violence against women and prostitution.
    Yet, we hear the siren’s call of video game violence, objectification of women, and misogyny on a nearly daily basis. And to what end? Why? Because it’s there? If it’s not going to harm people, as you seem to suggest, then why are we troubled by it?
    “It’s just gross to perpetuate the idea of prostitutes as disposable humans – far from being satire, that is the horrifying way mainstream society DOES view them.”
    But that’s the point: this game does not treat this issue the way that the mainstream media does. This game is not in line with the mainstream media. I think that the problem here, and I see it in the schism between “gamers” and “non-gamers” and their responses to this particular post, is that the “gamers” understand where this medium– that is, video games– is coming from. Non-gamers generally do not. They generally see games as little more than toys and trifles. Dangerous toys, to be sure, but not a medium of expression. Why is it so hard to believe, outside of the very narrow image that most people have of the game’s content, that this game is a satire?
    If Swift was a subtle satire, with gentle needles prodding at your thoughts, then GTA IV is a hydrogen bomb. It doesn’t seek to prod you into considering the implications: it seeks to inundate you with an explosion of cause and effect.

  31. Miles
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 1:39 am | Permalink

    Dear Theaetetus:
    Your advice to not start out with a comment which is completely false on its face is not quite correct.
    First your statement indicates that I lied about it being a trailer. For one, I like many others did not realize it was not posted by the manufacturer. A lie is deliberate act, not an unintentional one.
    Second, the definition I found for trailer follows as: “an advertisement consisting of short scenes from a motion picture that will appear in the near future.” It certaily seems to me that my description of it as a trailer fits that definition, exccept replace movie with video game.
    I object to the murder of woman linked with a sexual act. I find it hard to believe this was not deliberatly allowed to happen by the game designers.
    As for whether parents are aware or not, they certaily should be. Whatever the reason kids do get these games and play them one way or another. The idea that the marketing people would not take this into account is unlikely in my opinion.

  32. Commodore08
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 1:46 am | Permalink

    I hate to make a trite comment ala if a tree falls in the woods, but, this question really stands out to me after reading this thread:
    Is something ironic if nobody recognizes it as ironic? Or maybe more precisely put, is something subversive if a majority of consumers and critics don’t see the nuances which make it subversive? I mean, then, it isn’t subverting, is it? In fact, it’s reinforcing the dominant paradigm. No?

  33. Posted May 1, 2008 at 4:03 am | Permalink

    wow, I think the last thing I would want to do right now is to turn off other feminists.
    I personally don’t care if everyone agrees on this specific issue. I’d rather support things that most of us think are good and I don’t want to lose the ability to work with other feminists on those things because I disagreed on something like this.
    it’s easier and more productive to focus on positives. so i’d love to hear about games that are not crappy and those that we should support.

  34. Elkboy
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 8:38 am | Permalink

    Synonymous:
    “IGN, the game site that made the clip, selects the material for their promotional clips based on what they know players are eager to hear and see of the game.”
    They, like everyone else involved with GTA4, knows it will attract attention because of the controversy, real or imagined, that will inevitably surround it. How much traffic do you think IGN has gotten because of that clip? How many ads served and how many games sold through them?
    Gamers know what they’re seeing, and it’s a miniscule part of the game that has no part in the story and is one of a million possibilities. It’s the worst parts taken out of context. Anything can be made to look bad when subjected to that treatment. I’ve certainly seen it happen to feminists a lot.
    Unitari:
    “I have always wondered how some say that people don’t “learn” these things from games/TV when the whole industry of advertising is based on what we see on TV, billboards, and even games. It works for them so reliably that they are a huge industry.”
    Where’s the evidence of games turning people into sexist killers then? There is none. There’s even some evidence for the opposite.
    I think it’s sad that some people want quick and easy explanations of sexism in society and jump on the latest scapegoat. If you believe we’re all so simple that we are all slaves to media, maybe you should consider if you yourself have fallen for the media’s anti-game propaganda, which is a continuation of centuries of demonization of new culture? People have been blaming everything from rock and roll to novels just like you’re doing with games now.
    kakodaimon:
    “It’s that the role of women, especially prostitutes, in this game is genuinely degrading and upsetting. That’s not to say that nothing bad should ever happen in video games. It’s just gross to perpetuate the idea of prostitutes as disposable humans – far from being satire, that is the horrifying way mainstream society DOES view them.”
    That’s in the game because the role of women and prostitutes in the real world GTA4 is portraying (in it’s own stylized and satirical way). Prostitutes aren’t, as many already have pointed out, disposable more than anyone else in the game. There’s some good points to be made about prostitution in the game, but they’re not specifically targeted with violence more than anyone else.
    The Law Fairy:
    Well said!
    Unitari:
    “it’s easier and more productive to focus on positives. so i’d love to hear about games that are not crappy and those that we should support.”
    Sounds like you’re looking for something like Feminist Gamers.

  35. sgzax
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    That’s in the game because the role of women and prostitutes in the real world GTA4 is portraying
    I’d like to call bullshit on all the contributors who are saying that the depiction of women is necessary because ‘that’s real life in the underworld.’ Can we all -game designers included -admit that we wouldn’t know the criminal underground if it came up and bit us on the ass? The vast middle class in this country gets it’s information about the criminal underworld from popular media, like this game. And this game is a fiction.
    Don’t try to tell me that a female protagonist would destroy the documentary realism the game designers are creating. That’s just a silly bit of sophistry that allows people to continue to hate on women without genuine reflection. Because, again, this game is a fiction. Period.

  36. deano99
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    “That’s nice. Now could you please address why only the women are prostitutes, why heterosexuality is set as a default, and why there is no option for a female protagonist? Until those flaws are fixed the game is off my list, whether it’s an amazing work of art or not.”
    Erm, because Rockstar don’t have an infinite of amount of time to produce a game?
    Why can’t you be a vegan pacifist in Call of Duty 4?
    Why can’t you fight 60,000 different characters in any Tekken game?
    Why is only a pastiche of New York featured in GTA4 instead of a pastiche of every city on earth?
    Why doesn’t the next Madonna album feature 50,000 new songs on 8000 CDs?
    Why do books al;ways end when they do instead of carrying on for anothe 90000 pages?
    Time. Money.
    Speak to Rockstar. They’ll happily tell you about the zillions of ideas they’d love to have had in GTA4 but couldn’t.
    I’m off to kill hundreds of men in GTA4 now.
    I’ll be killing hundreds more men in Call Of Duty 4 tonight.
    Misogyny?
    It’s non-stop butchering of fellas* in my house.
    *they are not real men, they are 3d animated models.

  37. SarahMC
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Yeah, deano99. Cause it would be nearly impossible to include a *special interest group* like women as protagonists in this game.
    “There’s just no time!!”

  38. deano99
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    “Whoops. Missed a “thing.”
    3. Thank God you don’t kill animals in this game. PETA would have had a field day with it.”
    Well I’m vegan and a PETA fan but I have no problem killing the pigeons in the game.
    The important thing to try and remember is they ain’t real pigeons. They are a collection of animated and textured polygons.
    Unlike the meat you eat for dinner, no suffering occurs when I blow a virtual pigeon away with a shotgun and ROFL.
    Now, lets’ talk about the ethics of women happy with the killing of real animals for their food and cosmetics rather than myself killing animated polygon prostitutes, shall we?
    Because I’m quite clear about who stands on the moral high ground here.

  39. deano99
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    “Yeah, deano99. Cause it would be nearly impossible to include a *special interest group* like women as protagonists in this game.
    “There’s just no time!!”
    Add another 12- 24 months to game devlopment time at a cost of tens of millions.
    (script writing, cutscenes, dialogue, animation…)
    Then add a black male
    protagonist.
    and a black female protagonist.
    And a Gay protagonist (male, female, black, white options).
    We all wanted this game in 2008, not 2013.

  40. Elkboy
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    sgzax:
    “I’d like to call bullshit on all the contributors who are saying that the depiction of women is necessary because ‘that’s real life in the underworld.’ Can we all -game designers included -admit that we wouldn’t know the criminal underground if it came up and bit us on the ass?”
    You have a point, although it logically applies to you as well. How do you know? Regardless of that, it isn’t far-fetched to say that the world of crime is a man’s world. All the crime dramas on tv and film can’t get it that wrong.
    “Don’t try to tell me that a female protagonist would destroy the documentary realism the game designers are creating. That’s just a silly bit of sophistry that allows people to continue to hate on women without genuine reflection. Because, again, this game is a fiction. Period.”
    Yes, the game is fiction, but that doesn’t mean you can do anything with it. A female protagonist wouldn’t destroy the game, but it would be a different game. And it’s not a documentary realism the designers are striving for, but a highly stylized, satirical vision of a part of reality, but still reality. If you’ve played the game you know what kind of satire I’m talking about. Like I wrote above, it goes both ways, and has a very stereotypical strip show and socio-political commentary that parodies modern gender roles in a way that’s both amusing and thoughtful. It’s not a black and white game, just as the reality it portrays isn’t black and white. We don’t expect Sopranos to cover up the ugly parts of what it portrays, so why GTA4? Just as with Sopranos, part of the ugliness is sexism and misogyny. Just as with Sopranos, he vast majority that experience GTA4 are able to tell the difference between reality and the fiction.
    The problem with games in general isn’t the existance of GTA4, but the lack of alternatives. I think the reason Sopranos isn’t seen as nearly as bad as GTA4 is because it’s just one of a wide variety of tv series with diverse portrayals of women. Games unfortunately don’t have much of that yet.

  41. SarahMC
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    You are still treating straight white men as the default human beings, Dean099.
    And whether this game directly leads to violence against women is not the issue. It doesn’t have to.
    It further normalizes sexualized violence, and the idea that women are nothing but disposable fuckholes.

  42. deano99
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    One last thing before I shoot off to go and play my “murder simulators”:
    As a vegan, leftist, anti-war, anti-racist,anti-Bush, liberal Eurofag type, I have a soft spot for feminism and I often see “you lot” get unfair treatment in the press by people who often don’t know what they are talking about;demonised and ridiculed by dull witted, angry conservatives and reactionaries making broad and sloppy generalisations.
    Oh! That’ll be just like the treatment dished out to us male gamers, then…

  43. garlow
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Apparently they had to remove the PP clinic from the game.

  44. sgzax
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Just no time to include a female protagonist? There have only been four versions of the game. Not one of those versions features a female protagonist. The people at RockStar are not sitting around thinking, “Oh, I wish we had time to include women.” The choice to disenfranchise women is made explicit by their failure to even consider the issue in four versions of the game.
    And there has never been an African American protagonist? In a game where lots of African American people come in for gunfire? This game is always about a white guy driving around killing disenfranchised women and minorities? Really? And that’s not problematic?
    Fine. They don’t want my money. Fine. But can we not fool ourselves about the choices that have been made here?
    Now, lets’ talk about the ethics of women happy with the killing of real animals for their food and cosmetics rather than myself killing animated polygon prostitutes, shall we?
    Because I’m quite clear about who stands on the moral high ground here.
    Well thanks, Dean, for bringing the big-time comedy into this thread with this absurd statement.
    I’m a vegetarian too. Your claim of superiority resulting from your vegetarianism is weird. Specious, faulty, and weird.
    But at least you made me laugh.

  45. themoderate
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    And there has never been an African American protagonist? In a game where lots of African American people come in for gunfire? This game is always about a white guy driving around killing disenfranchised women and minorities? Really? And that’s not problematic?
    Um, there was an African-American character in the last version of the game: GTA: San Andreas.
    But you don’t know enough of about the game to know that.

  46. sgzax
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I was taking Dean’s word for it, moderate, which I should have known was a mistake.
    And by the way, I can have an opinion about something I choose not to consume. That’s all that’s going on here. Nobody’s coming to take your controller away, OK?

  47. Harker
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:50 am | Permalink

    SarahMC: To be fair, in a narrative based game like Grand Theft Auto, offering a choice of a male or female protagonist would be a massive task. It would require creating a new character from the ground up, designing their appearance, animating them, rewriting the script etc etc. It’s like asking why Hollywood studios don’t release two versions of a film, with both a male and female lead. Also, as has been noted in this comment section, players do get a choice of a male or female avatar when playing multiplayer games online (which is much simpler, as the avatars aren’t ‘characters’ in the narrative sense of the word). Having said that, I would LOVE to see GTA take on a female lead for its next game, as I think it’s time they did something about the male heteronormity of the series, which is definitely a problem.
    Misogyny however, is not. I know I’ll be repeating points that have been made above when I say this, but it comes back to the choice issue. This isn’t a technicality or a cheap get-out clause. It is, in a sense, the essence of the game, and it needs to be addressed in any criticism of it. Refusing to try and understand this is essentially a decision to refuse to tackle GTA as a videogame and instead to try to superimpose the critical tools we use for other, more suited media, on to this case.
    GTAIV has Non-Player Characters (NPCs) that come in all varieties. I could exclusively target black NPCs, but that wouldn’t make it a racist game, I could exclusively white ones too, but that wouldn’t make it racist either, I could exclusively target men, but that wouldn’t make misandrist, and I could exclusively target…I don’t know, people carrying shopping bags, but that wouldn’t make me shopping baggist. I could, however, film myself doing those things, edit them into movies and upload onto the internet (in which case, the resulting movie, like the one we’re discussing, would definitely be misogynistic, or racist and so on).
    Let’s put GTA aside for a moment, because due to its narrative and stylistic trappings, not to mention a history of controversy, we tend to approach it with certain assumptions. Let’s look at The Sim’s instead. I could build a house in The Sim’s, raise a family, and so on. I could then exclusively subject the female members of said household to a prolonged campaign of torture and suffering – drowning them in pools, starving them to death, getting them to set themselves alight due to an inability to cook properly, walling them in etc. This does not make The Sim’s a misogynistic game. Although, if I uploaded a video of myself doing those thing to the internet…etc. etc. And this, ultimately, is the same issue with GTA IV.
    Of course, you’re probably thinking, GTA is much more violent game than The Sim’s. And you’re probably right, although The Sim’s does, on reflection, offer a rather large array of sadistic ways to make your charges suffer, it has to be said. My opinion is thus: so long as a game offers the player no encouragement to target a female characters (with whatever tools are at the player’s disposal) at the expense of anyone else, it cannot be said to be misogynistic. GTA doesn’t do this. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t. Players are never, never told to kill prostitutes (or any other female NPCs for that matter) and are not ‘rewarded’ for doing so anymore than they would be for targeting any other random character. This brings me on to the supposed link between sex and violence against women (I’ll say now that I do have some issues with sexuality in this game, which I’ve touched upon above and would readdress below if it weren’t for the fact this message is getting LONG). This link isn’t there. Players can have sex with prostitutes, yes. They can kill them, yes (just like ANY other NPC). They are never encouraged to do these things; furthermore, and, cruciallythe only way those two acts become joined is by the player’s own agency, which brings us back to the choice issue. Likewise, I could make the main character have sex with a prostitute and then make him jump in a river. But that doesn’t mean the game is constructing a link between sex and suicide. It means I am. For some reason.
    I need to stop writing now. I have some more points but will see how people respond to the above. Although, I have a small complaint, I would have hoped that on a feminist blog people would be a little less quick to jump to stereotypes and group a variety of people under a single banner, all these comments about ‘gamers’, sadly, are proving me wrong.

  48. Unicron_The_Vagina
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Anyone else wishing to refer to GTA4 using the phrase “sexual violence” (*ahem* MILES) needs to first refute this portion of Kristen’s post from yesterday:
    “…and then there’s the fact that killing a hooker and having sex with a hooker are two completely different actions. You can have sex with hookers all day without killing them, and you can kill hookers all day without having sex with them. There is no sexual violence in this game. No one is ever raped or has sex unwillingly. The hookers even have to like you enough to let you pick them up. There is sex in this game (and by the looks of it, much more realistic sex than in previous incarnations of the series) and there is violence, but no sexual violence.”

  49. deano99
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    “Well thanks, Dean, for bringing the big-time comedy into this thread with this absurd statement.”
    Thank you – when not “killing people I am well known for my sense of humour.
    I stand by my point: – myself killing 25 million 3d polygon models of prostitutes (or rather, game assets designated as prostitutes) using a baseball bat or shotgun (again,nothing more than 3d assets shaped and textured by artists), is a darn sight less violent than the fur or cosmestics or food industry that most women (and men) are quite happy to support.
    Stick a cat on the streets of gta4 and I’ll blow it to bits with a RPG and laugh my head off.
    But would I seek moral guidance on this game from a “moral majority” conservative with a fur coat and veal habit?
    Not a chance.
    An arms dealer might as well be against me reading American Psycho or watching Diehard 4.0

  50. underwhelm
    Posted May 1, 2008 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Why didn’t Orwell include a female protagonist in 1984? Why can’t I play as a walrus in Animal Farm?
    Criticizing a work of fiction for what it is not has its uses, but it is not the totality of criticism. And that’s what we’re talking about here, criticizing a work of fiction that has been cast and delivered to its audience to make of it what they will.
    The analysis is complicated because there are multiple authors: you have the game producers, and the gaming audience who are also authoring their own experience within the game (and possibly using it to produce snuff films, for example).
    I just find the validity of much of the criticism of the game lacking credibility—GTA’s most vocal critics are people who admittedly have never played. Well I sure as hell hope they have never subjected themselves to Scarface, The Godfather, The Sopranos, Dexter, etc… because they’re all quite comparable, but for the fact that GTA is interactive.
    For what it’s worth, IGN removed the video, saying that they crossed the line.

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