Errant Signal: Grand Theft Auto V

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jan 6, 2015

Filed under: Video Games 140 comments

Link (YouTube)

The video makes it sound like Rockstar is taking the game even further in the direction I hate: Now with 50% more arrogant sneering hypocrisy! It’s the ultimate product of bombastic, base, crass, violent, stupid, shallow, consumerist culture, and it spends the entire game looking down on bombastic, base, crass, violent, stupid, shallow, consumerist culture. You could argue that it’s going for some kind of “Spec Ops” style criticism of the genre, but GTA is the genre. It’s like making Spec Ops into a core Call of Duty title, so the game spends its entire running time criticizing the existence of tropes that it invented and continually perpetuates.

And that would be fine if it was self-deprecating, but instead the game pretends it’s somehow above all that. GTA V making fun of beer commercials for their excess of tits and marketing-engineered machismo is like David Cage making fun of the button-mashing stuff in Telltale games. Dude, your house is a pile of glass shards and you are out of rocks. Shut up already.

Rockstar should just make the protagonist Holden Caulfield, except in their version instead of a red hunting hat, Holden is wearing a Nike baseball capThe original red hunting cap would be available as a pre-order bonus. It would still have the Nike logo, though., Levis, Air Jordans, and a Nickleback concert T-shirt. He’s got a spray tan and drinks Mountain Dew while bitching about all those big corporations that are like, hurting the environment or whatever. He would call people phonies, but only if you buy the “Everyone is a Phony” DLC.

And yet, as much as I hate the swaggering stupidity and tone-deaf condescension of GTA, that footage from Errant Signal really makes me want to get the game and explore that world. Which means I am the dumbass consumer they took me for, and they really are the soulless corporate shills they’re mocking. I guess the joke is on all of us.



[1] The original red hunting cap would be available as a pre-order bonus. It would still have the Nike logo, though.

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140 thoughts on “Errant Signal: Grand Theft Auto V

  1. McNutcase says:

    I love the sandbox game, but GTA has always had the problem of insisting you go through their “story” before you get to play in the sandbox. They have at least learned from the mistakes they’ve made, in some ways (GTA 3 made some areas permanently hostile through story progression, and I don’t think they do that any more) but the underlying issue is still there. Frankly, they lost me to Saints Row for “faffing about”, and to Sleeping Dogs for story. GTA may have defined the genre, but it’s very bad at doing the genre well.

    1. Bitterpark says:

      I think Rockstar “lucked into” discovering the sandbox genre, at least in an easily digestible format with lots of mainstream appeal (games like Elite were doing the sandbox years before GTA, yet they are considered “Space exploration games”, whereas GTA-style games came to be called “sandbox games”).

      From then on, the only real step forward the series ever made was the move to 3d and third person. Aside from that, they’ve just been adding various minigames and increasing the size of the world, never changing the (flawed) basic formula, while the genre evolved and eventually left them behind.

      At this point, I’m convinced Rockstar has no intention of catching up. Even if they had the acumen to do it (and they seem more interested in coming up with crazy characters and cool cutscenes, with token stretches of gameplay thrown in-between), they don’t really have to change anything to sell, at this point. While I don’t see much reason to play GTA when games like Saints Row or Just Cause 2 exist, people like me are in the insignificant margins of the blockbuster international franchise that is GTA.

      1. Thomas says:

        When each release is the best selling game of all time, it’s probably hard to find motivation to do much differently.

        Three protagonists was a neat idea though. And the way different activities are open to different people was also a cool way of building character/heavy-handed social commentary (only the rich middle aged white guy can go golfing for example). Theoretically they were trying to line the protagonists up with what the player was doing to fix the problems Chris was bringing up about GTA IV. It just highlighted the other flaws even more

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I don’t think they “lucked” into the open world thing. An open world is absolutely perfect for what they were trying to do. Too perfect to be an accident. It reinforces the core appeal too well.

        The minigame thing is a botched next step but I think I like where they’re going with that. It gives you more to do in the world and more importantly, it gives you things to do that aren’t crime related. Ever since I played Overlord, its been clear to me that being a criminal or a dick means more in a setting where the gameplay supports not being a dick. Maybe they still have some work to do to finding engaging activities that place you that much more in the world but I like the thought behind it.

        1. Bitterpark says:

          Ever since San Andreas they’ve been trying to veer the minigames away from the arcade-y violence of the older GTA games and towards some sort of life simulation. In SA you shop for clothes, do triathlon or go to the gym, GTA 4 had that whole dating/bowling with your cousin shtick…
          However, I question the viability of trying to immerse the player in a world designed as a twisted, violent joke. Not to mention the issues that inevitably come from sandbox player behavior: whatever humanization of your character playing golf may have achieved will likely be undone when he runs over 20 other golfers on his way out of the country club.

          1. Humanoid says:

            My total experience with the GTA series: bought San Andreas for PC, repeatedly failed the bicycling ‘minigame’ (I think it was the first thing of consequence you can do in the game?), ragequit. The End.

          2. Keeshhound says:

            It could work, if Rockstar was inclined to reverse on their previous stance. Instead of projecting a nihilistic pseudosatire they could make a GTA style game about finding your place in the world. Maybe the main character(s) start out thoroughly disengaged and disaffected, and through the course of the main plot and minigames find themselves becoming more invested, and ultimately growing to be (though horrifically violent) a fully integrated and vital part of their society.

            1. Ciennas says:

              Thrilling and interesting idea!

              In the ultra ‘serious’ world of GTA, they could heft some real gravitas out of that.

              Except Saints Row already did it. The game as a whole began with horrifying violence that ended with the character becoming one of the most integral components of the society at large- first a celebrity, then the president of the US, and then finally the savior of humanity.

              The problem they have seems to be the same problem a lot of works that take themselves too seriously do- Your beautiful manor can be undone by mockery and humor.

              The Boss was at least human at the end of their adventures.

              Name a recent GTA protagonist who would gracefully take getting electrocuted through the tongue to save a religious icon they don’t even believe in for the sake of their homies and crew.

              Also, the Boss had a friend in Keith David . Check and mate really.

              1. Keeshhound says:

                Was the Boss ever really disengaged though? I would have said that in all the SR games I played (SR2 onward) they were invested in the world and those around them. They’re a horrifically violent sociopath, but the second mission in SR2 is saving your best friend, and for all their faults, the Boss never seems to push others away. If anything, they even seem to be something of an extrovert in that they gain energy from being around others, at least in cutscenes.

        2. Peter says:

          It was an accident, actually. GTA (the original) was supposed to be a racing game, but a bug that made the cops homocidal maniacs that tried to kill you turned so popular with the testers that they remade the game to fit.

  2. Zak McKracken says:

    Crowdsourced autocorrect: “Errent Signal” (in the title) -> “Errant Signal”

  3. Nytzschy says:

    I recently played about 28 hours of GTA: San Andreas, just because it was on sale on Steam over the holidays, and it’s been sort of like going back to my high school days. San Andreas itself feels like a place I used to live, and seeing recognizable bits of it in this video gives me little whiffs of nostalgia.

    But I’m not in high school any more, so I see GTA’s problems more clearly now, and Chris articulates a lot of them. I haven’t played GTA V in any incarnation, but I’m kind of amazed to see that the NPC AI seems to behave exactly the way it does in GTA:SA. That ambulance crashing into the terrain seems especially egregious. All that extra processing power hasn’t done a lot to make the world more interesting or intelligent; the NPCs are basically just the same dumb jokes as the graphics covering the billboards and storefronts.

    Other problems are a bit more deeply rooted. The “Transfender body swap shop” exemplifies the frat-boy, spaghetti-at-the-wall style humor GTA tends to employ. It’s not satire: not even close. It’s a pun, and a bad one, based on a bad idea of what it means to be transgender. The problem of the NPCs being equivalent to the joke signage shows up here, too, a problem which has been highlighted concerning the prostitutes visible in GTA V.

    And then there’s the weird moralizing angle around drug dealing, which strikes me as pretty odd for a game about doing the kinds of things you do in GTA. You can never buy or consume drugs, except indirectly as I remember it, only kill drug dealers, the background of which is that drugs are treated by the story as a force undermining the solidarity and morale of the Grove Street Families. Unlike the conflict with Tenpenny, which centers around being framed for a police officer’s murder””smash cut to CJ going on a rampage killing 30 police officers””the anti-drug angle is actually consistently reinforced by the game’s mechanics, which encourage constantly killing drug dealers for the thousands of dollars they always leave upon their deaths. The one political idea the game seems to take seriously is the US Government’s involvement in the narcotics trade, as reported on by Gary Webb.

    I share Chris and Shamus’s desire to see San Andreas, or any modern GTA world, realized as a more sober, explorable space, without the relentless GTA-ness of it all shoved in my face, but it’s also clear that no GTA game will ever deliver that.

    I also really just want to take pictures.

  4. Bitterpark says:

    So here’s my interpretation: because the systems simulating ambient events in these games are always too simple, and generate cartoony nonsense (ambulances running over 17 people on their way to rescue 1 and stuff like that), you have to make the world an overexagerated cartoony nonsense parody of reality. Otherwise you end up with an uncanny valley effect, where realistic-looking entities interacting like cartoons makes both look fake and not draw you in.
    GTA started out that way (and probably reached the perfect balance in Vice City). But then it had to keep increasing visual fidelity, because marketing.

    Yet it still has the overblown crazy setting details, the vulgar brands and billboards, the over-the-top characters. Those fit the broad-strokes depiction of the world used in older gta games, but in these newer ones increased visual realism tries to sell the world as genuine, and not just a guilt-free mishmash of the most vile cultural stereotypes for you to shoot. So it just doesn’t mesh.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      There’s also the issue that in a realistic world, most people wouldn’t want to go on rampages. By making the world and everyone in it relentlessly crass and stupid, it gives you permission to not take it seriously, to not feel bad when you run someone down because it’s quicker than waiting for the lights to change.

      I don’t think they’ve got the balance right, but it’s not a trivial problem to solve.

      1. Vermander says:

        Saints Row did a much better job of solving this problem than GTA. They eventually made their setting and characters so cartoony and over the top that it eliminated any guilt you might feel about acting like a psychopath. It’s clear that it’s not set in the real world.

        I’m not sure what other answers there are for this problem. Even if you’re not inclined to act be a mass murdered, it’s virtually impossible to drive around San Andreas without eventually running over a pedestrian or accidentally causing major property damage. You have to come up with some way of distancing the player from their actions or this type of game is going to get really ugly.

        1. Matt Downie says:

          The trouble is, as the video pointed out, one thing GTA probably does better than anyone else is making a realistic detailed world you can explore. It does sound like it would be awesome if they went all the way in that direction, if there was just a way of doing that without killing the fun.

        2. Geebs says:

          I think Saint’s Row gets far too much credit. In my view, it’s an example of how incredibly bland these games become when you remove GTA’s rampant misanthropy. The fashionable comparison between Saints Row and GTA tend to gloss over the more unpleasant bits of one and ignore the presence of actual characters in the other. Saints Row is a dreary, samey world and its idea of wacky fun times is beating up guys in animal costumes and pimping. The fact that it has a character customisation option is a tiny, tiny fig leaf that’s been blown up into a plantation.

          1. Ciennas says:

            I dunno. Taken across the three games that they want to talk about (2-4, as available in their franchise pack.)

            The Boss displays a character arc. The companions who make it through all the games get to explore themselves and reflect on who they are, the story of a thug who became a messiah is a staple of our species storytelling, and games stayed true to their core: having fun, and letting the player goof off.

            The character customizer makes it work even better: Every other game makes sure the default character is bland and uninteresting (30 something brown haired white dudes. Not a bad descriptor, but so overused as to be white noise.)

            The Boss is whoever you wish, and it’s all in character and it’s all rewarded in story.

            1. Geebs says:

              I dunno, I think the characters in Saint’s Row start out as broad stereotypes and evolve into slightly different broad stereotypes, and I think the Boss’ character arc is so shallow that it an only be measured with a laser.

              I don’t really see how character customisation makes up for, say, forcing women into sex work as part of the plot. It’s not less offensive than GTA, it’s just infinitely more toothless.

  5. Tse says:

    Well, I disagree with the video.
    First off, the satire of GTA V may be somewhat shallow, but it still is satire. Nobody is praising anyone’s actions as being good. In fact, given how players are expected to play the game, it has gotten rid of the ludo-narrative dissonance in GTA 4.
    Second, this sexism thing is becoming somewhat grating. More bad things are done and said to men in the game than to women. When you compare the two, it turns out that the game is not sexist against women, there is more evidence for it being sexist against men. Then again, it’s not a serious game, it’s satire.
    And I wonder how people would react if one of the main characters was a woman, a woman just like the men in the game- a monster and a mass murderer.
    And third, the game wasn’t made with the intent of making a real-life environment. The goal is still wacky fun and murder. If you find more enjoyment in watching people or the rain, you may not be the intended audience. Nothing wrong with that, of course. Different strokes for different folks, as they say.
    P.S. I have nothing against enjoying the game in ways it was not intended. That’s the beauty of art, people can find enjoyment in ways even the authors may not have expected.

    1. Jokerman says:

      I don’t think GTA is sexist to any gender… it pretty much hates everyone equally.

      The clip shown of Michael and his wife certainly lacks a lot of context, they constantly bicker and say “outrageous” things to each other… In fact, as horrible as his family is the plot sounding them all is pretty nice, i started to actually like them by the end of the game and was quite invested in protecting them all when things hit the fan a little later.

    2. Zukhramm says:

      Well if the goal is not a realistic environment maybe they should stop putting all their resources into that and move some of them to that “wacky fun” you say they’re intending.

    3. Pylon Dogg says:

      On the second point, I agree there’s a risk someone taking offense to their way of handling a female protagonist regardless of what they actually did, but the multiple-playable-character system in GTAV would’ve been the best opportunity for it. Trevor would likely be a really shitty character to have if he was the only playable character, but now he adds contrast and possibly enables the player to play more openly because they can just tie certain behaviours to a character based on mood and flavor.

      This also is relevant to what I’ve been thinking about Call of Duty and Far Cry (and other similar big franchises) lately. Especially the multiple characters storyline thing in the CoD games I’ve played (MW, WaW, MW2) is a good opportunity for a female player character – it’d be quite safe and the PR could be played out for free marketing points. Similarly, say, in a hypothetical Farcry 5, you could have a female protagonist because you already have multiple male characters in the series.

      As for the reactions to an immoral female character, I’ll just go all opinion on this and say it’d be likely that ultimately the only people who would really be offended at this are the same ones that are making loads of empty noise about it already.
      It may be just me, but I feel like we, these supposed “gamers” as a whole, would actually be entirely comfortable with a proper female character even in big, stiff franchises, regardless of what the politically motivated commentators on any side would like to believe.

      I don’t even know if I’m on topic anymore. I just like good games even with their flaws and want more of them.

      1. Tse says:

        I completely agree. But look at how GTA is regularly bashed on the media. Look at the stores that stopped selling it based on false information. It’s not the gamers’ opinion Rockstar is worried about when it comes to gender. I would love to play as a female version of Trevor, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

        1. I’m sure they completely hate the free publicity and do all they can to make their games about murder, theft, etc. as non-controversial as possible.

          Their games are about being criminals. They’re sold as wacky hijinks or gritty real-life crime tales told as action movies (their ads are kind of schizophrenic on this point). They have had mechanics where sex is a way to replenish health, and you could murder the prostitute in question to get your money back.

          Rockstar courts controversy and negative media attention like a high school crush. Yes, the media look for their “outrage of the day” on a regular basis, but Rockstar serves it up with a side of boobs and runs over five people to make sure it’s front and center. If “Hatred” actually manages to sell and make money, RS is going to have to up the ante somehow.

    4. Shamus says:

      Ooh boy, the sexism debate. Welp. I brought this on myself when I linked the video. Let’s see if we can keep this from blowing up.


      These are the mistakes I fear:

      * Two people arguing over whether or not something is “sexist”, while both of them are working from radically different definitions of “sexist”. Sometimes “sexist” just means “targeted towards one sex”. There’s nothing wrong with marketing your romance novels to women or your aftershave to men, but according to the dictionary you could argue that while not evil, it is “sexist”. (Preferring one sex over another.) But then the other, broader definition of sexist is evil: Denying rights and being prejudice against one group over another. If you’re going to argue sexism, make sure you and the other person are both talking about the same concept.

      * People confusing artistic criticism with entitled demands for different social treatment. Like, I regularly rag on cover shooters for the lack of player freedom, or RPGs that make me play as a fixed character. I don’t like it, and I wish it was otherwise, and so I say so. Then a woman comes along and says something similar (“I wish this game let me play as a woman”) and she gets attacked because people assume she’s saying games are obligated to give her what she wants. Saying, “I would like this game better if X” is not the same as saying, “Games without X have no right to exist or are evil”.

      * People assuming that you are evil because you disagree with them. This is less of a problem on this site, simply because people that make this mistake too often end up saying something that gets them banned. But let me just post this reminder: The person saying they are happy with the state of games is not trying to oppress woman and the person advocating change is not trying to destroy gaming as it exists now.

      * Don’t extrapolate someone based on keywords. This happens ALL THE TIME on Twitter. How it works is this: You follow group A on Twitter. When you see a smart group A message, it makes to feel good so you retweet it. If you see something STUPID that group B said, you retweet it, because THIS SHOWS HOW TRULY WRONG AND BAD AND EVIL THEY ARE. So you only see the best of A and the worst of B. On the other side, group B is doing the same. Here is a test: Have you ever said, “Group B is nothing but X”? Yeah. You’re probably guilty of this. Be very careful. The other side is just as complex and nuanced as your side is, and your side has plenty of rampaging assholes that you never see.

      I’ve got my banhammer ready, but I love you guys and dread using it. Please be good to each other.

      1. Phill says:

        You should probably pre-emptively ban a few people, just to show you mean it. Banning a few red-shirted security crewmembers, or Worf, ought to establish your credentials as a tough guy ;)

        1. Grudgeal says:

          So who would Worf be in this scenario? It would have to be a regular known to be a tough customer and the ability to hold his own in a civil debate so his/her sudden banning would be all the more shocking for the rest of us.

          1. krellen says:

            I feel like I’m the Worf in question here.

            1. Grudgeal says:

              Well I wasn’t going to say it…

            2. Henson says:

              “One ship, ONE bridge! ARRRGGGGGHHH!”

            3. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Because of the wrinkles?

              1. Henson says:

                Sorry, that’s actually a reference to an episode of TNG where the Enterprise is stuck in a weird nebula, they find their sister ship, Riker and Worf beam aboard the bridge, and find another identical bridge in the next room. This being early TNG, Worf freaks out and attacks the door.

                I need to get out more.

                1. MichaelGC says:

                  Aye, I got that reference straight away! If you do get around to it, perhaps you could send me a photo to remind me what outside looks like…

        2. Zukhramm says:

          I volunteer for a preemptive ban.

          1. Phill says:

            …and he’s not posted anything since this. Proof that the system works ;)

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        If you fleshed this out a little more into a proper blog post, you’d be doing us all a real service. I’d link to it all the time when discussing sexism in gaming forums. I think people on all sides of this debate would find this kind of clarification to be useful.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          “Shamusessssss rules about proper internet debate” would indeed be a nice article.

          Though ultimately,all the rules can be summed up in one sentence:
          Thou shalt not be a dumbass.

          1. Ciennas says:

            Due to ignorance, or by being incapable of understanding, either through being oblivious or egotistical, that statement is only useful in the broadest sense.

            I’m overall optimistic about people, but misunderstandings can screw up an otherwise good dynamic or discussion.

            So every once in a while a reminder or set of guidelines is in order.

            We all need ’em occasionally.

      3. WILL says:

        My only problem with all these accusations of sexism in video games is it prevents any interesting flawed female characters to be made. I can name hundreds of flawed male characters where those flaws were important to the story, even the dumb not well written ones like Isaac Claarke.

        Best I can name for women is a few characters from KotOR2.

        1. guy says:

          How about every Bioware game?

          1. WILL says:

            Bastila’s only flaw is falling in love.
            Mission’s only flaw is being 14 years old. Never really affects her story.
            Liara goes from a cute nerdy scientist to crime lord but she has 0 character flaws that affect her story.
            Ashley has one flaw, her racism, and it never really comes up in an important way, not even when confronting Wrex.
            Tali… again, can’t think of a meaningful character flaw or errors she made.

            I vaguely remember DA2 not having a single interesting character so I can’t really comment on this one. The only character to truly be flawed and make mistakes are Meredith and Anders, so I guess that’s one. That’s not to say any of the female characters I mentioned are bad – and you can point to a lot of simple male characters as well.

            The reason I mention KotOR 2 is you get characters like Atris and Kreia who represent something more – their ideals are flawed, they are well written characters you can agree with in some way but see how ultimately they are diluded and it is a MAJOR part of the story. It’s not about being wrong, but having ideals and having them being proved false and having that be a major aspect of the story. To this day these and Handmaiden are the only female characters whose ideals were front-and-center and thoroughly explored and tested throughout the game I can think of.

            Compare this to the multitude of male characters whose flaws directly impact the main theme or story of the game – Spec Ops I don’t even need to explain why. Joel and his anger/violence in the name of surviving. Big Boss and how he misinterpreted the Boss’ wish or turned into a violent warlord is the catalyst for an ENTIRE SERIES. Alpha Protocol’s main character can be turned into a violent psychopath and this in turn leads to a very different story where almost everyone despises you. Edward Kenway’s nonsense quest for a better world for himself by treasure hunting leads to every single on of his friends dying or turning on him. Altair is an arrogant man who during the entire games learns of the error of his ways. Solidus Snake arguably wanted to do good things but he was ultimately fooled.

            What’s the most tragic (as in “tragedy”) failing a female character has ever had? I’m sure there is one – I haven’t played every game, but Bioware is by no means a good example. I can’t blame all this on people holding up women in games as needing to be portrayed in a very specific, positive or neutral way entirely – I think most of it is just inept writing. I’d argue this is also the source of most complaints from whatever you want to call the social justice crowd – game writing needs to evolve naturally into more solid and intelligent storytelling, not by being told to do it.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Actually Bastila’s biggest flaw is pride. From the moment you help free her at the beginning of the game, not only does she fail to acknowledge that you helped her but goes on to insist that she was about to free herself and that she in fact rescued you. And this pride continues throughout the game. And plays a role in her fall to the Dark Side. She falls whether you romance her or not.

              You’re also forgetting Juhani who’s jealousy need to prove she was strong led to her trying to murder her master and fall to the Dark Side. The rest of the game she struggles with her guilt and seeking atonement.

              Mission’s flaw is being young, true, but that does lead her to be a bit naive about her brother and to blame the wrong person for her leaving.

              Liara, I agree. She’s very introverted (and remains so throughout the series even after she kicks her shyness, which I like) but could have stood to be a little more flawed.

              Samara is dedicated to an outdated code to the point where she’d literally rather shoot herself in the head than violate it.

              Merrill is too naive for a woman her age and with a hint of pride. She ignores all warnings and has trouble accepting that what she did was wrong.

              Aveline I found to be wonderfully flawed. Socially inept, too serious, too official, prone to temper, but not beyond reason.

              Isabela struggles with being tied to anything or taking responsibility for her actions to the point of betraying her friends. She’s rude, nosy, and inappropriate.

              Morrigan is cruel, thinks sentiment is weakness, and is scared and ashamed when she feels any attachment or sentiment herself (and I find her cleverness to be an informed ability).

              Lelianna has a flaw I think her writers didn’t intend. She’s easily swayed by others. She has a cruel side she’s scared of.

              Wynne is a busybody (though she means well). Really enjoyed Wynne as a character.

              1. WILL says:

                I see what you mean, they do have character flaws. I have to admit I don’t remember every character in Bioware games all that well. That takes care of the Edward Kenways and the like being flawed – people who have plenty of say about themselves and their relationships.

                My other point remains however – it is rarely truly about their ideals being challenged but them being flawed in a personal or emotional way, and rarely does it impact the main storyline. That’s the key aspect. It’s hard to find a female character on the level of Andrew Ryan or Solidus in that they are :

                A) The main focus of the game or directly related to the main theme
                B) Have ideals/philosophies directly related to the main theme

                Surprisingly, I can think of one right now – Amita (?) from Far Cry 4. Her ideals are very important to the story and in the end she turns out to be very flawed, just as well written as her brother, although I’m not sure they are all that well written.

                I would count Meredith from DA2 as well. Ignoring the dumb boss fight, she was a good character that represented something more than herself or her own flaws.

                So there are a few. I still think people tend to push the sexism argument against characters that are not, just like people identify the new Lara Croft as a strong female character when all she really did was get punched for 10 hours and had nothing interesting to say.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  If you’re looking for ideological failings, Morrigan and Vivienne are both cruel, arrogant, and elitist.

                  For a more direct example, Anora from DAO. Her arrogance and willingness to lie and manipulate you makes it a tough choice when choosing between her and the reluctant Alistair.

                  Isolde’s myopic overprotectiveness of her son leads to the possible destruction of Redcliffe and her husband falling ill when he’s needed most. Worse, this is all because she, who is supposed to be a ruler, is willing to secretly break the rules when its for her own son.

                  Branka gets her entire platoon killed because she puts the Anvil of the Void above human life and is more than willing to enslave dwarven souls with it if you don’t stop her.

                  In DA2 Sister Patrice escalates tensions with the Qunari through lies and manipulation, going behind the back of the Grand Cleric. Isabela’s theft of Qunari property is also very important to that plotline and she hides this fact from you when knowledge could have helped end this before it led to violence (Varric and Aveline could have been especially helpful). You already pointed out Meredith.

                  Grand Cleric Ethina’s reluctance led to tensions festering for years while she hid behind spiritual platitudes. She was scared and over her head.

                  In DAI Grand Enchanter Fiona is so desperate she sells herself and all mages who still look to her for leadership, into Tevinter slavery.

                  Warden Clarel decides to sacrifice all the Grey Wardens on the chance that she can end the Blight forever, a foolhardy action born of fear.

                  Mass Effect is more lacking in examples.

                  1. guy says:

                    Ah yes, Vivienne. In any Bioware-style RPG, some characters get benched because I have a limited number of slots and they just kind of fall by the wayside, and some get benched because I cannot stand them. Vivienne holds the record for fastest and most solid benching of any of them. I spoke to her once after her recruitment mission, asked her one question regarding the mage-templar conflict, and then pulled her off the bench precisely once to test-drive Knight Enchanter. There were lots of times when I looked over my roster and thought, “maybe I should mix up my mage selection a bit more. But then she might start talking”

                    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                      I wonder if that was on purpose, making the most powerful character the most insufferable.

                      And I agree. Sera was a close second for me for benching.

                    2. MichaelGC says:

                      Aye. I talked to Vivienne all the time and very often included her in the party with a view to uncovering her true (if initially well-hidden) friendly & engaging — even playful — personality.

                      It didn’t work.

                    3. Wide And Nerdy says:

                      Right? I mean Bioware actually does that pretty well. Usually if you stick it out after your bad first impression of a Bioware companion, they’ll show you the vulnerable or warmer side of them that wins you over (or at least softens your negative opinion).

                    4. MichaelGC says:

                      @Wide And Nerdy Indeed! – they’re usually so good at doing that (near-geniuses, I’d say, as it’s very difficult to pull off successfully, and they have a stellar track record) that I assume they actively decided not to in Vivienne’s case, for some reason.

                      Oh well, I had an interesting time failing to find her softer side, anyway! And Viv is certainly useful in a fight… So, it may well be as you say – I certainly wouldn’t put it past them to have come up with a way of giving the player a dilemma which isn’t a ‘moral’ dilemma.

                  2. WILL says:

                    All these characters make mistakes yes, but not ideological ones. They have no particular philosophy behind their motives, only their own personal failings are highlighted.

                    This is why I mention Meredith – she had the job of handling mages and finding the difficult amount of restriction to place on them. Her ideology is clear at the end, right before the dumbest fucking bossfight ever made – she understands there can be peace but when challenged she believes 100% that you should defend those who cannot access Magic. She is a jailer who believes that her role can be fair and is in the end challenged by Anders downright stupidity – she goes through a character arc when every. single. aggressive. mage. is a blood mage and stereotypes are proven right at every turn. She made no mistakes, no lies, no manipulation, nothing evil, she simply had a code.

                    In the end this isn’t even about female characters anymore – simply about characters with ideas and concepts to prove that don’t fail by being stupid or evil.

                    1. guy says:

                      I am now totally baffled by your argument. You’re saying that games have female characters who fail by being terrible people instead of having bad ideologies because they’re afraid of being called sexist? Isn’t that the opposite of what that fear would cause?

                      Anyways, Patrice was motivated by ideology, seeing as how she was a religious fanatic and all, Ethina was at least partially motivated by her belief in trusting in the Maker and her role of guidance rather than leadership, Warden-Commander Clarel was motivated by her duty, the Grand Enchanter wanted to protect her followers. Morrigan has an ideology but it’s hard to tell how much of her behavior it dictates and how much is her being a jerk.

                    2. WILL says:

                      I can’t reply to guy but essentially this deep into the argument I don’t think gender no longer has anything to do with it. It’s just a question of bad characters vs flawed characters vs flawed idealist characters.

                      Short answer : I have been proven wrong on “there are no flawed female characters”

              2. Adam says:

                Interesting. The way you frame it, it seems that Bioware’s characters are all flawed individuals, but whereas men either don’t realize they’re flawed or realize it and don’t care, women (at least those you can add to your party) realize and learn from their mistakes. (Sometimes.)

          2. Ciennas says:

            Hard mode!


            Name a Non Bioware game with a flawed female protagonist.

            Halo 4 gave us five, but I’ll stick with the big one.

            Sarah Palmer is a hypocritical elitist, but she genuinely cares for her people and even was willing to sacrifice her good will with everyone else to preserve the command of a good man.

            She’s intriguing for a protagonist, lemme tell you what.

            1. guy says:

              Ar Tonelico one and two.

              The most clear-cut is probably Lady Cloche. She’s quite a jerk in her personal interactions and has a firey temper. She is also leading an oppressive government that has been transforming random innocent people into near-mindless monsters to launch a war against the heavens in order to destroy the goddess who has forbidden the creation of new land. Which, since they’re living on a floating continent that is slowly falling apart, is admittedly an understandable motive. It ultimately turns out that the truth behind every single one of these things is way more complicated and she backs a much less super-villainous plan once the party finally gets the remotest clue of what is actually going on. It DOES involve dropping ~50% of the outer sections of the continent, but there was a perfectly valid reason for that.

        2. Retsam says:

          Regardless of arguing over the flaws or lack thereof of various female characters, how is “accusations of sexism” preventing flawed female characters? The most prevalent complaint about sexism in video games that I’ve seen is that there aren’t enough female characters. (Particular main characters)

          Sure, if you portray a flawed female character, I’m sure some people are going to mistakenly regard that as sexism, but I think the majority would just be glad to have an interesting female characters.

          So, my take is the opposite: if we get more female characters, I think we’ll naturally get more flawed female characters too.

          1. WILL says:

            I agree, more characters and eventually you’ll get somewhere interesting. It took a while before we got generic white male characters with an actual point to them.

            I just hate when someone points at Bayonetta and says “this is incredibly sexist” when she’s a female power fantasy designed entirely by a woman. Or when someone thinks because a female character sticks to a trope or two she is null and void. Or when someone downright states “there are no good female characters”. Or when Hollywood thinks a strong female character is a fashion model wielding dual uzis flipping everywhere and doing generic action stuff.

            It’s like some people are chasing the perfect female character that will offend no one and will be strong, complex, flawed while also avoiding every single trope/cliche you can name.

          2. Wide And Nerdy says:

            This used to be more of a problem than it is now. I think writers have become more comfortable with how to present flawed human female characters without falling into stereotypes as much. But there was a while there where too often the way to put a woman in something in media outside of video games was to make her hyper competent and/or wiser and more moral. In comedy she’d be the serious one surrounded by male clowns.

            Family Guy sits astride the shift in this trend in my opinion. If you look at the early seasons, Lois fit a by then tired role for the wife in a sitcom being the mature level headed intelligent one married to the slovenly idiot clown Peter. In later seasons she developed her now familiar character flaws being a thrill junkie with a hard partying past that occasionally resurfaces leading to bouts of comically irresponsible behavior. Whatever else you may think of the writing or the humor on that show, this change was an improvement.

        3. boz says:

          This’ll probably get lost in this crowd but Jeannette from Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines was pretty interesting.

          1. guy says:

            Was she the Malkavian who ran the nightclub?

            She was most definitely memorable.

      4. Purple Library Guy says:

        While all your points are pretty well taken, I suspect this one note is an overstatement:
        “The other side is just as complex and nuanced as your side is”
        I actually find it difficult to believe that all sides are equally complex and nuanced. It also comes fairly close to the notion that in any given argument, nobody is actually wrong (and by the same token, nobody is actually right). It’s a surprisingly common idea, particularly in the media. Side A and Side B are arguing, the truth must be somewhere in the middle.

        But for many things, the truth is not somewhere in the middle. If you have an argument between a flat-earther and a scientist, the flat-earther’s arguments may be less complex and nuanced because they’re dedicated to full-on denial, or more complex and nuanced because they’ve invented tons of weird details and fallbacks and epicycles with which to obfuscate the truth. But no matter how they argue it will not make the world into a shape somewhere in between flat and spheroid. The flat-earther is simply wrong. Not only that, but while it would be really weird if the flat-earther were right, it would be even sillier for the truth to be in between the two views.

        Social/political issues are somewhat different from matters of physical fact. But even here . . . if you’re going to be all fake-Nietszchean you could argue that in social matters there ultimately is no right or wrong, and I wouldn’t buy it but an argument could be had. But that’s ethical right or wrong. You can still make pretty solid calls on whether example n is a case of political definition X. So for feminism, if you have any kind of working definition of something being sexist, there are going to be cases where anyone claiming (n) isn’t an example of it is pretty simply wrong, and probably is not working with a complex and nuanced understanding.
        They could claim instead that sexism doesn’t matter and a society being sexist and patriarchal is OK; many religions, for instance, do just that. And that’d be, you know, evil, but if you reject certain basic common ethical underpinnings it would be defensible. This is perhaps mixed in with the becoming-old saw about people being entitled to their own opinions, but not their own facts. I’d claim that there are things which count as facts even in social/political issues, and also questions of consistency which are not negotiable–if you claim certain principles or definitions, it can be determined whether your conclusions follow from those.

        1. Shamus says:

          Ugh. You made the leap from me saying the other side is nuanced to me saying there is no right and wrong. I was specifically cautioning against making broad assumptions about people on the other side. Which you then do when you seem to suggest that anyone saying they’re okay with GTA V is in favor of patriarchy.

          I’m not trying to be “Nietszchean”. I’m just cautioning people against being overly reductive, because that leads to long angry arguments that don’t accomplish anything. You don’t have to participate in the debate, but if you do, don’t immediately shove everyone on the other side into a box and write “bad guys” on the side. Ideally, begin with the assumption that they are good folks who drew some wrong conclusions, and see if you can find out what those conclusions are.

          EDIT: It occurs to me that I probably sound a little wishy-washy because I’m trying not to take sides. Having a debate sucks when the guy with the megaphone and the banhammer gets involved. I’m not perfect and I’m as prone to bias as anyone, but I’d be a lot worse if I was taking part.

          1. WILL says:

            I blame Twitter for ruining arguments.

            1. Geebs says:

              Here’s a complex issue superficially addressed in 160 characters. Quick! REACT!

              1. Sigilis says:

                Uh… BUTTS!

                – Every tweet I have made, ever.

              2. Ivan says:

                Lol, no one needed twitter to learn to do that. They just need the title of an article.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  But Twitter has multiplied the effect by a large factor. Probably a millionfold. Twitter’s impact in this area is special and cannot be ignored.

                  There’s a difference between seeing a journalist fling mud, or use clickbait and sensationalism and seeing the general public join in greatly swelling the chorus. With journalist, you can trust that they’re either doing it because, if we’re being nice, we can conclude that they are unusually dedicated to a cause, or, if we’re being cynical, they’re doing it because they want to make a name or they need ad revenue. But the general public has no such motivation and that really galvanizes people which then polarizes debate.

                  And the general public doesn’t mean to do it much of the time, but Twitter doesn’t allow room for qualifiers and most people don’t seem to yet be savvy to the impact that has.

          2. Purple Library Guy says:

            Well, actually, I wasn’t saying anything whatsoever about the debate at hand; I really was being nearly as abstract as I was claiming to be. I haven’t played GTA V, haven’t watched any clips from it, am not very interested in it, so while I have suspicions about how sexist it may be I’m certainly not about to argue them. I do have a fairly strong general position about feminism and patriarchy, but even there, I wasn’t really arguing that position. I was thinking of mentioning fascism as an example of something whose believers are/were not working on a basis of nuance or complexity but rather parroting of slogans, but I thought it would be controversial; I guess it would have been less so than sticking to the topic at hand.

            And again, I wasn’t pushing back against your whole post even. I just want to be saying that not all sides are created equal. When you say that the people on every side are just as complex and nuanced as each other . . . well, no, they aren’t. I appreciate that you raised it in a context of respecting the other side as people even if you disagree with their positions, and/or appreciating that even if you think someone is wrong, they may have complicated reasons which make sense in their context for being wrong. All fair enough.

            But it still isn’t actually a true statement in itself. It’s a nice thought in a way, but some positions really are typically characterized by simpler and more categorical thought than others. Heck, many right wing positions affirm their lack of nuance or complexity as a virtue, to be contrasted with the complex sophistries of liberals. On the other hand, science also values simplicity and elegance in a thesis, when they can get it.

            And many opinions from any side of any political spectrum, or social opinions held without any explicit political positioning, are in fact just self-serving BS latched onto with no real coherent justifications at all because believing them is useful to the believer. Such beliefs will be disagreed with by essentially anyone who has actually studied whatever issue is involved (who may themselves disagree with each other). Now, even if the knee-jerk BSers happen to have hit on a truth which has eluded academic researchers, in an argument between them and any strand of informed opinion, the knee-jerk BS side will be characterized by less nuance and complexity than the informed study side.

            A minor point for a lot of verbiage, I suppose. But I do also think that people who say things like this are implicitly saying things like “Well, there’s a lot of truth on both/all sides” (which there often isn’t), or “The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, between the extremist positions” (which it often isn’t), and that you personally with your dislike of strongly held political opinions seem to have something of this approach. Sometimes we even get to positions along the lines of “There is so much complexity and difficulty of definition that social/political issues are ultimately undecidable”, which I definitely don’t think is true (with your strong efforts at maximizing clarity I would never tar you with that kind of belief). Also influential is the negotiation model, which tends to assume that you take the negotiating positions of two sides, split the difference, and that will represent justice. However, in Rwanda, the position of the Hutu genociders was that all the Tutsis should be killed, while the position of the Tutsis presumably was that none of them should be. The non-extreme, “Something to both sides” solution would have been to kill just half of them. Some difference should not be split, and some starting positions are not reasonable (or nuanced, or complex).

            1. MichaelGC says:

              As I read Shamus’ initial comment, it seemed as if he was saying that ‘the other side’ consists of complex & nuanced people, and not necessarily that the particular argument they propound is itself complex & nuanced.

              This alleviates the problem somewhat, I think – i.e. it’s entirely consistent for me to acknowledge, given a Group A who avow Belief X, that Group A is a complex & nuanced bunch, whilst Belief X is a worthless abomination which makes logic cry.

              So, that said:

              Some difference should not be split, and some starting positions are not reasonable (or nuanced, or complex).

              Aye, completely agree!

        2. Retsam says:

          Are some issues as clear cut as “flat-earther vs person with common sense”? Sure. Maybe a more realistic example than the “Flat Earth Society” (which I’m half-convinced only exists so that people have a condescending comparison to make about the views of people they disagree with…) is that I think we can all probably agree that people who argued for slavery 150+ years ago were wrong. (Though even in that case, the American Civil War, itself, is still a bit more complex, and is probably a good example of “the other side is more nuanced than you think”)

          Virtually everyone feels that virtually every issue that they feel strongly about is as clear cut as slavery/flat earth society… but few issues actually are, that’s only really clear in hindsight, and going around assuming that everyone who disagrees with you is as wrong as someone arguing for a Flat Earth… that’s a shortcut to the front of the “internet asshole” line, AND generally produces an argument that’s more self-congratulatory than convincing.

          It’s much better to assume that everyone’s opinion is at least well-thought out and nuanced and run the risk of being too civil and courteous to someone than the alternative.

          1. Purple Library Guy says:

            It may well be better most of the time to assume or imagine or behave as if people on other sides of arguments have opinions as complex and nuanced as my own or my side’s. That does not, however, make it necessarily the case.
            There is always a distinction between politeness and reality; conveying an impression that is more pleasant than reality is practically the definition of politeness. I’m absolutely willing to be polite. But I’m not willing to convince myself that politeness and reality are identical.

            1. Wide And Nerdy says:

              Its really starting to scare me just how often I encounter this kind of thinking (not specifically your last post but the combined sentiment of this thread of discussion). I’ve seen this kind of argument being made by mainstream journalists covering our recent community controversies arguing that there is on one side, a legitimate progressive movement and on the other side, nothing but braying ignorant jackasses who can’t accept their looming irrelevance.

              And maybe you think that too. And that really scares me. Its only going to make things worse.

              The disagreements we’ve had recently do not stem from any one side believing a wholesale pack of lies with the other side having a monopoly on truth. For example, Sarkeesian tweeted several weeks ago that there is no such thing as sexism against men because sexism is prejudice plus power. You can find that definition here

              Not exactly the commonly understood dictionary definition is it?

              When you take that statement into context with her series, I hope you can see why so many people have legitimate problems with her however right they may think the cause of feminism is. And it goes to make Shamus’ point about having a common understanding of what we’re talking about. Ideological groups often have their own definitions for commonly used words loaded with their ideological assumptions which is ripe ground for equivocation in any debate.

              1. Purple Library Guy says:

                Well, I would certainly say your example is a fine sample of the folly of conducting argument by tweets. Not, perhaps, so much because of Shamus’ point about people tending to grab hold of the worst of the opposing side and spread them about, as because of the more basic problem with talking about complicated things in 140-character sound bites.
                At that, it worries me that you appear to be treating a tweet as a “definition”.
                In fact, I’d say that when you elaborate on that basic idea, qualify it a bit, and make with some context, it’s a solid and defensible one, based on the ideas of female emancipation back to the 19th century (and for that matter, emancipation for anyone else). The point is that feminism is about power–women traditionally don’t have it and men do. That has shifted a bit, but it’s fairly clear that women still don’t have as much power as men.

                So coming to sexism and for that matter racism, the point isn’t so much that, say, it’s impossible for a black to be racist about whites, as that it doesn’t matter in the same way. I mean, say you look at medieval Europe. Women mostly couldn’t own property, they very rarely had political power, their husband was their boss and could brutalize them with impunity and so on. They were chattel. Now, there was widespread anti-woman rhetoric in popular culture, pontificated from on high by the church, and so on and so forth. This rhetoric legitimized the bad treatment of women, on the basis that women were inferior and needed to be controlled by superior men, as well as on the basis that God mandated it and so on. At the same time, it seems clear that women at the time had some rather tart things to say about men. Many no doubt had bad attitudes about men generally. Would it be reasonable to say that since women were just as “sexist” as men, there was no problem or that female “sexism” was just as much of an issue as male “sexism”? Well, obviously not. Women’s opinions about men didn’t matter in the same way men’s opinions about women did. Women’s opinions about men did not become the justification for an elaborate system of control and degradation. The opinions, or nasty comments, or what have you, are clearly not the core of the issue. The problem that makes sexism an important thing is not that somebody said something nasty and hurt your fee-fees, it’s that somebody said something nasty and that’s part of the setup that leads to you not getting paid as much, having to do more housework, not being listened to, it being kind of okay to rape you, etc.
                Similar things could be said about racism and, for instance, black slavery in the US South, the strong likelihood that the black slaves of the day really hated whites, and the foolishness of deciding from that data that black anti-white racism was the real problem in the Southern slave economy.

                So the difference being pointed to by something like that tweet is that while both men and women are vulnerable to having their feelings hurt by people dissing their gender, mostly only for women does people dissing their gender make up part of a system of social control that keeps them second class citizens.

                But yeah, as a tweet it looks pretty stupid. And so as Shamus said it’s certainly a bad idea to deal with a side of a serious issue as if its proponents’ positions were summed up by their tweets. But I still don’t think that in order to practice the kind of forbearance and careful thinking that implies, you have to believe that all sides are characterized by equally nuanced, complex ideas and positions. They aren’t.

                1. Wide And Nerdy says:

                  Within those movements are usually people who have formulated more nuanced versions of those views.

                  1. Purple Library Guy says:

                    Sure. But both what I said and what you said can easily be true as long as “more than some others” < "as much as that found on another side".

            2. Trix2000 says:

              You don’t have to.

              Yes, reality has its share of ‘Flat-Earthers’, as it were, but I see no reason why we can’t still be polite to them.

              1. Purple Library Guy says:

                Then we’re in complete agreement. Unless you’re arguing that nobody has said otherwise–it seems to me they have.

    5. Alex says:

      “And I wonder how people would react if one of the main characters was a woman, a woman just like the men in the game- a monster and a mass murderer.”

      It would make me actually consider buying a GTA game. I still might not buy the game if Rockstar continues to spew contempt for the world they create, but it would be a step in the right direction.

      1. Josef says:

        When Payday 2 added female mass murderer, SJW types were okay with it, it was the bros who protested…

        1. Otters34 says:

          Please don’t use that abbreviation. It does and means nothing good when it shows up, no matter who uses it.

        2. WILL says:

          Yeah, you can’t just say one group is angry about something while another is not without any source or backing to your claim. I doubt anyone got really mad about this one at all.

        3. Wide And Nerdy says:

          I may have to reconsider buying Payday 2. Its easier for me to play comedic sociopathy with the distance that comes from playing the opposite gender.

      2. Jokerman says:

        And they still would get flak from some people for it… you make a female exactly the same as Trevor and you can bet a whole lot of people would still be bashing GTA’s portrayal of women. GTA’s portrayal of humanity is bad, everything in it is bad…

      3. Adam says:

        I said a while ago that Trevor should’ve been a woman. People who don’t want female protagonists in GTA games argue that in the real world, very few major criminals (meaning Mafiosos, street gang members, etc) are female, so it wouldn’t make sense for there to be a lady mafia hitman or woman running a street gang for you to play as. Ignoring for a moment that GTA as a franchise is only interested in realism in the most superficial sense, the “make Trevor a woman” tact sidesteps that entire argument. Trevor is NOT MEANT TO BE A REALISTIC CHARACTER. He’s the Saint’s Row Boss character given a thick wash of hobo blood and skuz. Trevor would be exactly as realistic if he were “Trevorina” instead, and I think it would be really interesting to see Rockstar make a truly ugly, unlikeable female character.

    6. Otters34 says:

      Comrade, the problem is not that “bad things happen to” women, the problem has always been, as it usually is, that “bad things happen because they are” women. Whenever they’re the butt of jokes or violence, it’s relatively rare for anyone to have it be because of anything they’ve done. Their participation in what’s going on is all too easily distilled into being accessories to the men driving the plot.

      1. Shamus says:

        I think it would be less of a big deal if there were more women in general in the plot. I haven’t played GTA V, but San Andreas was a story where some dudes were making your group of dudes fight another group of dudes, until a government dude and a mafia dude get involved so your protagonist can sort out a problem between them and some other dudes. (Although they did have the evil chick from GTA III in there. It wasn’t much, but it was something.)

        It’s a game by dudes, for dudes, about dudes. And I don’t really condemn that on principle. But I also don’t blame a woman who sits down to play the game and is disappointed when the only women in the game are hookers, strippers, or dead.

        Once again I feel the need to compare to Saints Row, where we’ve got Shaundi, the Kinzie, Asha, and (optionally) the boss. (And that’s not including the non-combat ladies like Jane Newscaster.) The generic NPC women in SR aren’t treated any better than the ones in GTA (they’re all target practice) but they’re not the ONLY women.

        1. Otters34 says:

          I agree entirely. Variety and agency does nobody disservice.

      2. Tse says:

        Well, in the case of Michael’s wife, Amanda, their conflict doesn’t arise from her being a woman. He’s a dick, she’s a bitch and they both are at fault. No sexism there.
        And violence… Only one case of (implied) murder of a woman in the story of GTA5 and it wasn’t because she was a woman.
        I really don’t see any targeted sexism. Yes, a lot of sexist themes are explored (and mocked) in the game, but nothing singles out women as the butt of the joke.
        Also, if you ask me, any supporting character in any story is an accessory to the main characters driving the plot. I don’t have any problem with the evil men in Tomb Raider being accessories to Lara Croft, for example.

        1. WILL says:

          There’s that one time Trevor said shut up to three very annoying women chanting “We are women we are free” while going out jogging. I guess this means the entire game is mysoginistic and not just the character to some people.

          1. Jokerman says:

            I actually thought that was hilarious… GTA5’s humor was hit and miss a lot of the time, but whenever Trevor shows up i found it funny.

            1. WILL says:

              Oh yeah it’s hilarious.

        2. Otters34 says:

          “Also, if you ask me, any supporting character in any story is an accessory to the main characters driving the plot. I don't have any problem with the evil men in Tomb Raider being accessories to Lara Croft, for example.”

          That’s very fair and reasonable, can’t argue very far with that. Though I will say that while it’s entirely logical for secondary cast members to not affect the plot nearly as much as the main actors, their actions and portrayal do carry weight. The Grand Theft Auto series has long been about some guy dealing with crime-men and cop-men in a gritty drama of some kind, with women ONLY as supporting cast members. That might be ‘realistic’, in that statistically and stereotypically speaking crime dramas usually favor male protagonists and antagonists, and violent male criminals are a notable majority in our real world, but it supports a real-world thinking flaw where women committing the same kinds of evils as men or being the lead in these kinds of stories is borderline unthinkable. Amanda, for instance, isn’t bitter because Michael took them both away from a hedonistic life of crime, but because she’s a greedy and petty human being.

    7. Jabrwock says:

      Second, this sexism thing is becoming somewhat grating. More bad things are done and said to men in the game than to women. When you compare the two, it turns out that the game is not sexist against women, there is more evidence for it being sexist against men. Then again, it's not a serious game, it's satire.

      I’d argue that it’s sexist. Mainly because the portrayal of the male characters doesn’t use their gender as the punchline. They are a parody of a type of person, or an ethnic group (so for women it’s sexism across the board, but for men, it’s either personality types, or racism, I don’t know if that’s an improvement.)

      As for the killing, you could argue it was sexist, but I’d say only if the game actively discouraged you from killing women, or even made it impossible. Instead, as we saw in earlier games, it was encouraging you to do things like (and here’s where the critics were right, but used the wrong game terminology) have sex with a hooker then run her over to get your money back (no “points” per se, but it’s definitely a sexist mechanic, right? there’s no female lead, and no male prostitutes…)

      The biggest difference I suppose is how the attitude comes across from the game aesthetics. Guy on the street acosts your character, “dude what an asshole”. Girl on the street acosts your character, “bitches be cray cray, amirite?”

      I guess my question is “does their behaviour parody, or merely reinforce the stereotype?” If they’re not doing anything to show that the portrayal is meant to mock the “bro-fest” view of women, then it’s not doing anything but reinforcing it.

      1. Jokerman says:

        Well everyone drops money… and any money gotten that way is so insignificant i would say it barely counts as a reward.

        It’s actually just a realistic depiction of what happens when you give someone money, kills them… then take your money back.

        1. Jabrwock says:

          It’s a minor amount, true, but here’s where I see the distinction. The only characters you give money to, that you can then kill to get it back, are prostitutes. Every other “shop” is invincible.

      2. I’d also think one would have to ask which gender was doing the bad things to the men?

        It’s kind of how I keep seeing some pointing out that more men than women die in wars. They kind of leave off any gender assignment to who is killing them or who started the conflict in the first place.

      3. Otters34 says:

        To my mind, the flaw in the “Well lots of men are killed, brutalized and shown to be ugly, ugly people” argument is this: It’s vanishingly rare for the reason those things happen to be because the characters are male. More often, it’s because of narrative logic or the demands of the story. You’re not gunning down men in Watch-underscore-Dogs because they’re men, or because they’re really bad people, they’re just opponents, obstacles. They might as well be robots spouting gang cliches for all that their maleness comes into it. For some intractable reason women aren’t that same kind of “Generic Person” in games, a lot of the time their femaleness outright defines what they can and cannot be in the game world.

        1. Sleepyfoo says:

          There are be two cultural biases at play here. Many games use people doing Bad Things(tm) to women as justification for whatever atrocities you are going to commit upon them, Watch_Dogs uses your niece for this purpose. Anything you do to your male enemies is justified because they do Bad Things(tm) to women. Women (and children) in western culture (historically) are to be protected at all costs. “Women and children first” to lifeboats and such is still a thing and culturally based, taught, and “enforced” (inso much as any social construct is enforced).

          The second one is Men are the combat gender, and it is literally their cultural duty to die for the beliefs of their society. So you think nothing of killing them in combat, because that is what you do with Enemy Men. This allows you/game developers treat them like robots/Generic people. Women in the same position cannot be reduced as easily, due to social expectations. Additionally, in the context of many games killing women in combat counts as Bad Things(tm), and then you would be the Bad Guy, and that’s not cool man. America has recently made strides to get past this particular bit of bias, but it’s a very recent thing indeed.

          “To my mind, the flaw in the “Well lots of men are killed, brutalized and shown to be ugly, ugly people” argument is this: It's vanishingly rare for the reason those things happen to be because the characters are male.”

          They may not happen specifically because the characters are male, but they are allowed/accepted/pass without comment because they are male. It’d be controversial if they were female, after all.

          1. guy says:

            Would it? It happens all the time in Fire Emblem and I don’t recall seeing anyone even comment. Every pegasus rider, hero or mook, in the entire series is female, and the player tends to fight a number. Granted, enemy air power is usually primarily provided by wyvern riders, with the mooks being male and named characters split, but the player always fights at least some pegasus riders. I’ve only seen people remarking on it when they want a male main character with a flying horse (possibly because that particular game has a reclassing system). And in a lot of the games there are other female-only or female-primary classes; pegasus rider is just the only one I know of that’s been constant for the entire series.

      4. Daemian Lucifer says:

        So youre saying that in a game full of stereotypes,you have the problem with the female stereotype the most?I agree,that is sexist.

      5. M. says:

        “I'd argue that it's sexist. Mainly because the portrayal of the male characters doesn't use their gender as the punchline.”

        I hate to say this, but I don’t think you got what the game was trying to say. Each of the three main characters is a direct and obvious satire of a specific version of masculinity: Michael the family man, Trevor the immature, violent jerk, Franklin the amoral social climber. Jokes at their expense — and there are a lot of them — are very much jokes with masculinity as the punchline.

    8. Lisa says:

      I must admit, when I heard they were going for multiple playable characters, I hoped one of them would be a woman. I imagined someone a bit like Elizabeta from GTA IV, but perhaps less coked up and whiny.
      If anyone could have been replaced, I think it would have been CJ – sorry – Franklin. He seemed to me a lame riff on CJ, and even with the lampshading “I’ve got to learn to say no”, he just came off as someone there for the plot.
      So yeah, replace Franklin with a hustlin’ woman, and away we go! Then we could also have the male strip bars :)

    9. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “And I wonder how people would react if one of the main characters was a woman, a woman just like the men in the game- a monster and a mass murderer.”

      Personally,I would welcome that.My boss in all the saints rows was always female,because female criminals are cool.

  6. Thanatos Crows says:

    I’d like to agree with what Chris is saying, but I’ve got this nagging feeling that its just about pleasing the consumers by ramming in shit thats popular. Big wide open worlds are great. Photorealistic graphics are great. Shallow, accessible humor that seems profound to the “jock” whos never encountered actual satire…and so on. All these things look great from a marketing standpoint and look gorgeous in stills. But there’s no coherency or commitment, as I see it. GTA has huge brand recognition and sells like waffles so it doesn’t really need to improve in a meaningful way as long as it can look as good as the other game and offer loads of random hilariousness.

    1. Tizzy says:

      But I get the sense that little of what Chris criticizes is what makes the game sell. GTA V was going to sell like crazy anyway. Do we seriously believe that the tone of the story, of the quality of the dick jokes, would impact sales in any significant way?

      That’s why you have to wonder what happened here. And, in a project this size, who exactly gave that parcticular direction to the material.

      I mean: you mention no need to improve and I agree. But what we see here is not simply laziness. It feels actively destructive, shitting all over everything so to speak. And when you see all the hard work put into the game, it’s sad.

    2. I really liked the video, and I’m not prepared to say this ramming full of popular but lazy stuff is why GTA is popular, but I do agree in that R* trapped themselves with a history of this lazy stuff and that, for some continuity, they are required to lean on it. I agree with Chris that this makes for a weaker product, but one where I can spend 60 hours totally immersed in (avoiding some of the content I do not care for but mainly letting the dumb stuff kinda be there as I enjoy the occasional barbed sarcasm and the sense of a place that’s been built for me to walk around in and take part in scenes ripped from classic movies).

      As to the need to improve: see the long term reaction to GTA IV, where they toned back the lazy stuff and ended up getting significant blacklash (over the lifetime of criticism of that game, only a few places focussed on the ludonarrative dissonance of the story and open world and lazy humour that was left in there when the game came out). GTA V was, it seems, a reaction to that and pushing back more of the “classic” GTA content into the game. Going more serious without completely rebuilding the possibility space of their open would was too dissonant for some so, screw it, go with what works and build something that’s a bit silly, a bit narcissistic, and a lot nihilistic so it bounces around a bit less (as the review comments).

      Of course, there’s another reason to keep it lazy. Listen to Chris take down the blunt, child-like, and finally slapstick humour car narration after the torture scene. The way R* explicitly lay out exactly what their message and intent was for the scene you just played where you tortured an innocent guy to kill another innocent guy. Then read professional reviewers talk about that torture scene. Some got it, others, well…

      “Unless they break the habit of a lifetime and start speaking out about their work in the coming weeks, however, the writers’ true motivation will remain shrouded in mystery, because I don’t think this sequence is particularly effective without some commentary.” [major gaming site source]

  7. Tizzy says:

    Watching Chris’s video, I was stunned at the love of details that was put into the game. It’s hard to think of any game that made it’s world feel more real (and Chris didn’t even touch any of the spectacular underwater stuff). What an incredible amount of hard work and talent in play here, just to put the environment together (including radios and cars and all these important details). I suspect that’s more man-hours than most game, put in there before any game proper.

    And I would play that. I would love to simply walk and drive around the place, just exploring the little details…

    But I am afraid I won’t play it: I never got into the GTA gameplay. It’s always been the price I had to pay to enjoy their open world.

    And now to see the devs mar all this hard work by pouring this toxic sludge all over it. So sad. So uncalled for. The most frustrating thing is to think that all the objectionable stuff could be so easily removed. Even leave the bad puns in the environment, if you want. (GTA 3 had students walking around holding legal pads. Zoom in on them with a sniper scope to discover a doodle of a penis: stupid but funny easter eggs I can live with).

    Ultimately, my favorite will still be GTA1, I guess. Nowhere near as immersive, but fun to roam around nonetheless, and offering fun, consequence-free mayhem given the top-down perspective and the victims who are so obviously cartoonish sprites. Rockstar had been struggling with their turn to realism ever since.

    1. Ivan says:

      It is a really strange situation. This world looks like a lot of fun to dick around in but it doesn’t seem to support the gameplay. Personally I find all the crass humor and stupidity just makes it easier to enjoy going picking pointless fights and causing enormous explosions (and this and all the potential for emergent gameplay is the selling point for the game for me), but you’re right, there is all this great detail in the game that seems to be completely at odds with the core gameplay. I just don’t know what type of game would benefit from such a detailed open world environment. Maybe some sort of spy sim or hitman type game where all the little details are important to planning your next move?

      1. Otters34 says:

        That is the best idea I’ve heard. You as a spy, needing to get to intimately know the city so you can get around quietly and safely and arrange its destruction.

  8. Vermander says:

    I wonder if it would be possible to make the “notoriety” stat in this type of game more realistic. Maybe give the player a sense that the authorities are actively looking for you even when they’re not onscreen. If you commit more violent or brazen criminal acts it becomes impossible to purchase cars or rent apartments without fake IDs or a ton of cash. If you sleep in the same home for multiple days the police will eventually show up at your door. If you mistreat NPCs or make them angry they will eventually rat you out.

    It should be very difficult, if not impossible to remove your wanted status (no magic “hacking”), so as the game progresses you eventually have to start wearing disguises or get plastic surgery to go out in public and need to avoid using phones and other communications devices.

    1. Alex says:

      It could be interesting to go into more depth with how notoriety “sticks” to your character. Your gun might have some notoriety “stuck” to it, so if you’re seen using it without some kind of mask, you’d gain a bit of face notoriety as well. Be seen making your getaway, and now your car has some notoriety too. Petty or anonymous crimes would have little or no long term effects, but robbing a bank and then driving back to one of your hideouts might make that hideout functionally unusable for quite a long time.

  9. Bropocalypse says:

    I think one factor at play here is that there’s no incentive for change because the game is already successful. And it’s not successful because or in spite of any message it has. I would be very surprised if a significant portion of GTA fans played the games for the story. If that were the case, GTA:SA would be the most popular one.
    GTA is popular for the same reason, I feel, that the Elder Scrolls is popular: Not because of the story or setting, but because of the gameplay.

  10. Purple Library Guy says:

    Just for the record, I volunteer to not buy or play the game so there will be somebody the joke is not on.

  11. Matt says:

    I pretty much agree with most of the points made in the video, yet I still enjoy GTA so much more than any other open world game (other than Red Dead Redemption), and that’s mainly because they so absolutely nail the look and feel of a place. I enjoy *being* in Los Santos the way I never do in Saints Row, Just Cause 2 or whatever other GTA-style game you may care to mention.

    Having said that, though, the satire (and the kneejerk defense of its satire) has been wearing thin for a while. It works when they go for outright weird (as with the British couple who’s way too into celebrities), but their mockery of any- and everything is simply too shallow and smug to work. It’s a shame – there are bits that are surprisingly strong (though still cynical, in the way that a lot of The Sopranos is cynical), but they’re vastly outnumbered by the Dick Jokes’R Us brigade.

    As such, I’ll definitely buy the PC version and I’ll love returning to Los Santos, but I’m not sure whether I’ll play much of the single player.

  12. MadTinkerer says:

    Let me explain an uncomfortable truth about uncomfortable parts about the Grand Theft Auto series. It’s made by a British developer.

    Now I’m sure I’ll get a ton of disagreement from people who didn’t spend almost all of their teenage years being an American teenager talking with actual British citizens in the Greater London Area, getting two high school diplomas (graduating once at 16 and once at 18 because that’s how it works if you are in that exact situation), and eventually moving to New Jersey, but this run-on sentence is already too long and I think you understand my point about how I’m infinitely more qualified to point out this next sentence. British people have a really, really shitty attitude about the USA and citizens of the USA.

    It’s like this: racism is unacceptable. Sexism is unacceptable. Nationalism is distasteful. American bashing isn’t racist, sexist or nationalistic, which means it’s not hypocritical to bash Americans. Americans are all more racist, sexist, and nationalistic than we are, so they are acceptable targets. Also they are “ungrateful cunts” who can’t appreciate everything we did for them or how much better we are, instead they all think they’re better than us, so they need to be taken down a peg.

    Now, from person to person there is a sliding scale on exactly how much the above is actually how they think: to how much they are actually aware of what real American people are like. Of course I’m not saying all British people think this way. But many of them do, because that’s what they told me themselves. Things might have changed for the better since the 1990s, but I’m pretty sure they haven’t changed that much since the teenagers at the time are now adults. So what does this even have to do with GTA?

    For quite a few British people I’m sure there is little to no tonal dissonance in the Grand Theft Auto series. Now I’m sure most of them are aware that it’s satire, but are more than a little confused about where the satire starts and ends. I’m even more sure that more than a few of the people I went to school think that’s exactly “how all Americans are”, because that’s essentially what I was told every day. This is where the problems in the above video come from.

    Now am I saying that all British people are bigoted assholes? Of course not. But many of them, people I’ve actually talked to, do indeed think that the United States in real life is more or less exactly like that depicted in the GTA series, because that’s what they told me they thought about me and my country. I’ve had multiple people, people I don’t consider bigoted assholes, tell me they were too afraid to visit the U.S.A. because they were too worried about getting shot.

    GTA is totally inconsistent because the developers don’t know where to draw the line between satire and what their audience thinks the real place is like. They don’t know where stereotype ends and social commentary on real people begins. They don’t know how to depict the difference between fiction and fact. So you get beautiful landscapes clearly based on real places and characters that are piles of stereotypes dumped in a blender, and to certain people in the audience, people I know personally, it’s all just how Americans are. Innit.

    P.S. I am normally a lot more sensitive about the C-word, but you need to realize I am simply quoting. It’s 100% necessary to get my point across. If you think it’s gratuitous, please enroll in any British high school for a few years and then make your decision.

    1. Geebs says:

      I can confirm that you’re pretty correct about the British psyche, except in a couple of points:
      1) c*** is as much a term of endearment as it is an insult
      2) Brits don’t hate Americans. We hate everybody, but mostly we hate ourselves.
      3) GTA is actually made by Scots, who are like English people but with the self-loathing dialled up to 11

      And, yes, GTA makes perfect sense to the UK populace, because we love people being taken down a peg and we don’t understand American optimism.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        re: 3) Yes, okay, my ancestors will probably take me to task for not making a clear enough distinction between what I see as a mostly English (but just as mostly British-Isles) cultural issue which I technically mostly witnessed in the Greater London Area and mostly from teenagers. But there were some adults. And not all of the adults were from that specific area. And the bigotry wasn’t exclusively aimed at me or my home country. But the bigotry was there.

        The fact of the matter is that what Shamus and Chris would label as strange and borderline nonsensical or at least thematically/tonally inconsistent, more than a few people I have met in real life would say something like “That’s just how Americans are, innit?”. Not everyone. Of course not everyone. But not an insignificant number, either.

        Back at the time, I had to endure questions about Beavis and Butthead, a series I didn’t even watch. Questions along the line of “Is it really like that?”. And then South Park started. I don’t currently wish death upon the creators, but broadcasting that series in the U.K. was/is a crime against American expatriates.

    2. Phill says:

      I think that’s a pretty fair analysis. Bigotry against Americans is the one socially acceptable form of bigotry (disclaimer; depends on who you hang around with. For some people racism of any sort is alive and well). Amongst the university graduate types I tend to know, racism, sexism and bigotry of any kind are very much forbidden, but the same people take it more or less as an article of faith that all Americans are overweight, racist, clueless gun toting survivalist. Or Mormons. And in either case being rude about them isn’t bigotry, it’s just accurate…

      ( Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly, but not as much as you might hope).

      And whether the c word is a severe insult or term of endearment depends entirely on the context :-) It’s probably one of those things you have to be born in to to grasp properly. Outsiders will get it offensively wrong at some point.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        To sum up my long-winded comment now that I have reflected on it, the problem that I see with GTA is that it started out as a goofy over-the-top cartoony arcade-y game that definitely had no relation to real life. Currently, the GTA series is a confused mix of satire and social commentary on a culture that is not entirely understood well by the creators of the games, and thus it’s unclear where the satire ends and where the bigotry begins. Or, at the very least, a not insignificant part of their audience certainly is bigoted enough to not understand that there even is a line. Because I’ve met them and talked with them and they have made their opinions of my culture very clear.

        ” And in either case being rude about them isn't bigotry, it's just accurate…”

        Yep. That’s the attitude I had to put up with for six years.

    3. Mailbox says:

      Clarifications that I would like to insert:

      Rockstar Games was founded in 1998 (reformed from BMG Interactive, a British game developer, after purchased by Take Two Interactive, an American game developer and publisher)

      Take Two Interactive and Rockstar Games Headquarters are in New York, NY. USA
      Rockstar North is located in Edinburgh, Scotland and is the developer studio used to make the GTA games.

      Rockstar Games is a multinational video game developer. The people hired by Rockstar to work on the GTA games probably range from a wide variety of nationalities and cultures.

      1. MadTinkerer says:

        Yes, but you have to understand:

        Americans are actually like that.

        No, no, stop. Everyone knows Americans are actually like that. GTAV is practically a documentary in video game form. They’re just telling it like it is.

        No, no. Stop. Listen. Americans. Are. Actually. Like. That.

        Everyone knows this. Watch American telly if you don’t get it. Americans are actually like that.


        1. Mike says:

          As a British person, from London, I can tell you that we don’t have that view of all Americans. Of some Americans, yes, but that’s the “Bible-bashing” types, or possibly Californians.

          Having been to America several times, I think the GTA series is this way because parts of America actually are overblown like that. I don’t know about the rest of the country, but Florida radio adverts and DJs are totally insane. I was bemused why the GTAV radio ads were so weird until I heard the real thing. The same with TV ads (and some shows *cough* Fox News *cough*).

          From what I’ve seen of American satire, it has the same over-the-top feel as GTAV. When I’ve watched the Colbert Report I felt like the jokes are being explained to me. It’s certainly no Jonathon Swift :P

          (This is not to mention the time that, on a train in Europe, I had an American man accuse me and my friends of being communists, question why we weren’t joining the army, and accusing Obama of ruining everything ever)

    4. M. says:

      This is a fascinating point, and dovetails with what I’ve noticed when reading books by British authors or watching British TV that is set in, or involves, the United States and Americans — often, even in a book that has thoughtful and understanding portrayals of all kinds of cultures from all over the world or all over the universe, an exception is eagerly made to portray Americans as stupid, violent, manipulative religious fanatics. Look at Charles Stross’s novels, for example, or the Russel T. Davies era of Doctor Who.

      1. To be fair, American movies regularly cast people with British accents as villains, especially in Roman epics.

        I thought it was a huge leap when they actually cast a Brit as John Constantine, though I fear they’re going to cancel the show (which is better than average at least, IMHO).

  13. WILL says:

    People mistake GTA for satire when really it’s jut a caricature – an exaggeration. And like any crude humour it’s only going to be funny or interesting to a certain group of people.

    Personally I love the fact that Rockstar gives no fucks when it comes to GTA, it keeps things interesting in a time when so many people want “safe spaces” where no offense can ever occur. They have plenty of other games for nuanced stories, anyway.

    1. Nytzschy says:

      People seem to mistake “making fun of people” as “satire” pretty often. “It’s satire” gets thrown out like it’s some kind of revelation to the person making a criticism of something. I’m pretty sure Chris played the game too and knows what satire is.

      “Personally I love the fact that Rockstar gives no fucks when it comes to GTA, it keeps things interesting in a time when so many people want “safe spaces” where no offense can ever occur. They have plenty of other games for nuanced stories, anyway.”

      Yeah, Rockstar’s £170 million video game is a real poke in the eye to the PC establishment. Goodness knows people can barely find any spaces where offense is allowed, let alone delighted in, these days.

      1. WILL says:

        Now now, I didn’t say GTA was an underdog in whatever you want to call the PC debate. I’m not going to buy Hatred but I’ll defend its right to exist.

        To quote Patrice O’neal – I’m not defending the joke, I’m defending the attempt.

        1. After reading the comments above, I do sometimes wonder if GTA’s concentration on mayhem is/was partially to not have to work as hard on the “game” part of the game as they did on the scenery.

          Given that a lot of players like to muck about with the sandbox part of the game (driving an ambulance, a taxi, etc.), It’d be interesting if they put some kind of “Paragon path” stuff in for people to try as well as the gangsta things, or maybe made their stories have more branching paths.

  14. Smejki says:

    “It's the ultimate product of bombastic, base, crass, violent, stupid, shallow, consumerist culture, and it spends the entire game looking down on bombastic, base, crass, violent, stupid, shallow, consumerist culture.”

    Oh yeah. It feels like those anti-establishment punk-ish bands gone succesful and rich while still singing about the same crap.

  15. Jabrwock says:

    I can’t remember which comedian it was who said he no longer told racist or sexist jokes to satirize racists and sexists because there were too many people in his audience who didn’t realize he was making them the butt of his joke. So he was never sure if people were laughing at the caricature of racism, or just laughing because they were just idiotic racists. And it made him uncomfortable.

    1. Lisa says:

      There have been many over the years that have had that issue. The first I remember was the character Alf Garnett (Created in the late 60’s I think), who was often mistaken by bigoted idiots as ‘one of them’.

      I think if you’re saying something that someone believes, then they’ll miss the fact that it’s satire unless you write ‘satire’ on a shovel and hit them repeatedly with it. Even then, they’ll probably believe you secretly believe what you’re saying.

    2. James Bennett says:

      I dunno if this is the person you had in mind, but Dave Chapelle quit his wildly successful show because he felt that some of the people in the audience didn’t get the satire. I think he miscalculated just how many Americans still held the deeply backwards, racist views he was attempting to skewer.

  16. MichaelG says:

    Shamus, how is anyone supposed to keep up with this blog? I swear I checked in yesterday, and now here’s another 10,000 words of interesting comments to read.

  17. The thing is that GTA III, GTA Vice City, GTA San Andreas, GTA IV, GTA IV Lost Boys, GTA IV Ballad of Gay Tony, and now GTA V are not sandbox games.

    Rockstar may have “invented” the sandbox game, but the GTA games themselves are well, GTA rather than sandbox games.

    To distill down what Chris said, GTA is a sandboxy GTA world, awesome to play around in, the humour ranges from juvenile to intelligent, anything and everything is poked at or made fun of, and then there is a lot of things to do , and finally there is some story or plot that takes place in this world.

    And that is why the GTA games are so popular and well liked, despite not being um liked (how the hell did that happen?)

    Saints Row took the sandboxy to the extreem, and it seems like an interesting romp. But GTA is a oddity, it’s teethering between simulation and arcady while Saints Row is plain arcady.

    GTA is a genre unto itself. When a GTA games is no longer a GTA game that is when I’ll stop playing GTA games. I’ve played the Saints Row games and I’ve played the GTA games, and seeing Chris video scratched my GTA itch (or caused it, not sure) while Saint Row is uninteresting to me now.

    The game that is possibly closet to GTA in comparison is the Mafia games (Mafia and Mafia II).
    The tone in the Mafia games are darker and more serious than GTA, but the feel of the world is similar to how it feels in GTA. (at least to me)

    Bottom line, I kind of wish that Chris had compared GTA and Mafia II rather than Saints Row.

    Also, for the love of all holy, give us a Mafia III game please.

    1. straymute says:

      Yeah, to me sandbox implies the player is capable of actually building something within the world or that the world evolves as you play. Something like Mount&Blade for example. With GTA I would say it is open-world with mostly linear mission design. Even the stuff you did 3 blocks down the street gets reset quickly so there is not much opportunity to build anything with the sand of this “sandbox”.

      I would love a truly sandbox GTA though. A GTA that basically says “This world has drugs, cars, money, cops, gangs, and guns. These are your buckets and shovels, this is your sand. Now build something.”

  18. I don’t know Chris, I can’t really agree with ya here. GTA’s been GTA for a good long while and I’m guessing the fidelity just makes it seem worse when it was always kinda gross and honestly…well…look, I love ya and the work ya do, but saying they should change gears now smacks of all kinds of enlightenment to say nothing of considering just how massive of a demand that is.

    There’s a reason they say, “Sincerity, if you can fake that, you’re in!” Intimacy is difficult to execute and it is very very easy to fuck up. Hell, just to pull it off in TLOU, they segregated it from the gameplay entirely. How in God’s name would you expect them to add that kind of painstaking effort to the sheer size of GTA V and still make sense? There’s only so many hours in a day man.

    GTA as a franchise seems to be stuck in the porn paradox, where the demand is so high for the content and the context so difficult to execute, they gotta double down on what sells and stick with cheap parody/jokes to satisfy the rest. I may not like it, but at the same time, I can’t really blame ’em. Beside, if you don’t like the tacky signs in the game, wait for a texture mod!

  19. Kagato says:

    I kind of want to get my hands on GTAV just so I can experience this magnificent world they’ve constructed. I have pretty much zero interest in playing the story missions at all. It’s almost a shame that there’s so much amazing content locked up in a game whose core holds no interest for me.

    Actually that leads to one of two things I’d like to see done with a GTA style open world game.

    I’d like to see an open source project to build such a world, without dictating the game that gets played in it. I guess there would be three main parts to such a venture:
    1) a game engine that can render such large environments seamlessly, and support massive entity counts with decent physics
    2) an art asset project to create buildings, scenery, vehicle & character models etc, and assemble them into a complete city
    3) world simulation code, to manage traffic, NPCs, and everything else to make it all feel ‘alive’

    At this point, you’ve got a lovely environment to experience, but no actual game to play. And that’s good! Because it provides a blank slate for people to build their own games into it. Players download scripts that provide the stories and game modes they want — races, heists, dating sims, taxi fleet manager — or mods that replace or add larger elements, like a zombie apocalypse or alien invasion.

    The other thing I want is a proper full-on Cyberpunk open world game. Basically the same GTA gameplay, but played straight in a high-tech dystopian future. You get more toys like flying cars and cybernetics, and more excuses to break away from reality when it’s better for gameplay. You still get to play criminal, but can better justify it fighting against the corporate oppressors. You might even be able to work towards positive change, instead of just personal gain.

    And I’d like to see the wanted level mechanic extended to a permanent reputation. You’d still have a “police aggression” meter as to how hard they’re trying to catch you at any time, but the reason you gain levels goes on your “permanent record”. If you do a lot of hacking raids, people won’t fear you but you’d gain respect for your skills, and your work to bring down the corps. If you shoot a lot of cops, you’d be feared as a badass but you’d more often face heavily armed opponents and any time you’re spotted your wanted level would shoot up again. Mow down too many civilians and you’d be a sociopath no-one would do business with, except as an expendable assassin/terrorist.

    I want my Cyberpunk sandbox. :(

    1. Galad says:

      Cyberpunk Sandbox sounds quite interesting, maybe it will appear a few years down the line.

  20. Jon Wood says:

    > It's like making Spec Ops into a core Call of Duty title, so the game spends its entire running time criticizing the existence of tropes that it invented and continually perpetuates.

    COD actually does that. The WW2 games were about how war is a horrible thing that wears down on the souls of men, and the modern games are about how war is a horrible thing that wears down on the souls of men and women, with cooler toys. For all the complaints that the series is jingoistic America propaganda, the most popular characters are all British. The Black Ops games are even murkier in their morality than Modern Warfare, constantly making the player ask if it’s worth it.

    The most famous moments in the series involve American soldiers getting nuked, and an American undercover agent participating in an act of terrorism.

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