COMMENT: Grand Theft Auto V's a parody of modern living
Well it’s finally here – and will no doubt have Daily Mail readers foaming at the mouth with its in-your-face portrayal of sex, drugs and violence in a fictional Los Angeles-inspired city.
Grand Theft Auto V, released today, is already being hailed as the defining video game of this generation of consoles, attracting top scores from critics worldwide.
Beginning its life in 1997 as a simple 2-D adventure about stealing cars, GTA games have come to represent a cultural phenomenon, holding a satirical mirror up to Western society and, in the eyes of many, providing conclusive proof that video games can be considered as art.
They also allow players to fly passenger planes into buildings, pick up prostitutes and shoot pedestrians with sniper rifles, among other morally dubious activities.
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It is this latter element of GTA games – the creation of a sandbox world where characters can almost literally do anything – that has riled the Little Englanders over the past decade or so.
On the face of it – and to those who have never played a GTA game, and most likely never will - the games appear extremely violent, misogynistic and puerile.
But look closer and you realise that the developers – Scotland-based outfit Rockstar – are more than likely trying to make some serious points as they paint a parody of modern living.
2006’s GTA IV was a stunning game that told the story of an Eastern European immigrant trying to make his way in a version of modern day New York.
Yes, he ended up turning to crime, and yes he could steal a tank from a military base and massacre hundreds of people if the player controlling him so desired, but his story also tackled weighty issues such as racism, homophobia and alcoholism.
The genius of Rockstar’s games is in the relentless satire - an aspect that somehow the afore-mentioned Daily Mail readers tend to miss (probably because their newspaper of choice fails to inform them that this is the predominant tone of GTA games).
In-game radio stations include hilarious adverts poking fun at our obsession with plastic surgery, fast food and self-help guides, while switching on a TV allows players to watch Republican Space Rangers, a barely-disguised satire of Bush-era US foreign policy.
It’s true that female characters generally fall into ‘hormonal’, ‘crazy’, ‘shallow’ or ‘promiscuous’ categories, but the greedy, sleazy, self-obsessed male protagonists generally don’t fare any better.
No subject and nobody is off limits in GTA, and this is the brilliance of the games. They make you think, laugh, wince, and think some more, and I hope GTA V provides more of the same.