Grand Theft Auto V: We Need To Talk about Trevor

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 4, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 105 comments

I think I get what the writer is trying to do with Trevor. And to a certain extent, I think they succeeded. The writer is trying to alleviate the case of ludonarrative dissonance the series suffers from. The story tells us one thing, and the mechanics tell us the opposite. This dissonance peaked in GTA IV, and here in GTA V the designer is finally taking some steps to smooth this out.

On one hand the story is telling us that the protagonist is a generally sane and reasonable criminal and not a mass-murdering supervillain. But then all of the mechanics, the missions, and the player’s own desire to have fun work against this, turning our otherwise relatable protagonist into a madman. Even if we ignore the player’s behavior in the the open world and their crazy driving, the scripted missions themselves require the player character to kill literally hundreds of people. That would be fine, except the cutscenes then depict the character as a much more grounded person. And that would be fine if this was some absurd romp, but the cutscenes usually demand that we take this melodrama seriously.

But Shamus, you don’t have to overthink this. Just understand that the story and gameplay are separate, or that gameplay is exaggerated for the sake of fun.

Yeah, that’s what ludonarrative dissonance is. We have to mentally compartmentalize parts of the experience because they don’t quite fit together. Dissonance doesn’t mean “automatically bad”, but a work where all the elements are in harmony is often better. It’s fine if you can enjoy the gameplay and the cutscenes despite the harsh seams between them. I usually do. But it’s frequently distracting. It can also cause confusion when we find ourselves in the semi-scripted gameplay moments when it’s not clear if the content in front of us is taking place using the movie logic or the gameplay logic.

Trevor doesn’t fix this problem, but he does mitigate it.

This is usually portrayed as a conflict between gameplay and story, but you can also think of it as a conflict between the designer and the audience. The player wants to play with all of these systems and enjoy the empowerment of running rampant in this simulated world. The writer wants to take a bunch of scenes out of different Scorsese movies and string them together into a crime drama mixtape. They want the player to inhabit this story as one of the characters, and not as an outsized god of mischief. The player wants chaos and the writer wants restraint.

Don’t Judge Me

1) Plant sticky bombs on gas pumps. 2) Call the cops. 3) Wait for cops to show up. 4) Detonate sticky bombs. 5) Catch me if you can!
1) Plant sticky bombs on gas pumps. 2) Call the cops. 3) Wait for cops to show up. 4) Detonate sticky bombs. 5) Catch me if you can!

Lots of players casually engage in absurd levels of violence. Confession: I’m one of them. When I get a little tired of the story mode and find myself becoming restless, I sort of default to blowing things up and seeing how far I can go before the police catch up with me.

This activity can look pretty shocking to people unfamiliar with the hobby. They see the resulting carnage and imagine that this is an exercise in sadism. The assumption seems to be that the player is acting out some sort of fantasy about hurting others. I can’t speak for everyone, but this is very much not the case for me.

For contrast, Hatred is a game about shooting innocent civilians. Just watching the Hatred trailer made me physically ill. I can’t endure the Hatred trailer even as a passive viewer, yet I can gleefully blow up the neighborhood in GTA V? This is despite the fact that Hatred has a more distant camera and surreal design, and late-period Grand Theft Auto has far more realistic graphics and presentation. What’s going on here?

As always, context is everything. In Se7en, the entirely bloodless off-screen death of one character was traumatic for a lot of people in the audience, while the on-screen death of the Lawyer GuyI don’t remember his name and neither do you. So let’s just call him Lawyer Guy. in Jurassic Park was played for laughs. Everyone cringed when Tom Hanks had to bash out his own tooth in Cast Away, even though that injury is completely trivial compared to the grievously hilarious damage that befalls poor Nordberg in Naked Gun. We know Elmer Fudd and we sorta like him, but we still laugh when Bugs Bunny hits him with a hammer and gives him an amusing lump on his head. Meanwhile, it’s pretty disturbing when the Mute Girl bashes up all those guys with a claw hammer in The Raid 2, even though they’re nameless mooks we don’t care about.

Trevor is not a people person.
Trevor is not a people person.

Our emotional reaction to a work doesn’t just come from the mechanical representation we see on the screen, but from the tone of the world, the stakes of the story, and our own genre expectations. Sometimes a murder is the inciting incident for an entire work of fiction and sometimes it’s a quasi-slapstick joke to lighten the dark mood.

If you were an adult when you saw Jurassic Park then you probably saw Lawyer Guy’s death coming a mile away. Spielberg wanted to kill a character in order to establish the the T-Rex as a serious threat. At the same time, he didn’t want to ruin the mood of this popcorn movie by killing a sympathetic character, which could easily carry the film too far into horror movie territory. So he made Lawer Guy annoying and unlikable. For those of us who’ve seen our share of blockbusters, this firmly telegraphed Lawyer Guy’s purpose within the story. To us he was basically wearing a sandwich board sign saying, “I AM GOING TO DIE AND YOU SHOULDN’T FEEL SORRY FOR ME.” On the other hand, if you were a kid then that moment probably took you by surpriseDid it? I dunno. Kids seem to be a lot more genre-savvy in the internet age, and I’m not sure when that shift took place..

In Monty Python and the Holy Grail there’s a scene where “A Famous Historian” comes out and begins explaining the plot of the movie. It’s framed and presented as a documentary. Halfway through his explanation, a knight rides into the shot and cuts him down. It’s an absurdist subversion of expectations. “Hey! That’s not how documentaries work!” But as a kid I remember feeling literally horrified by that moment. I was feeling unintended empathy for the historian because I didn’t yet understand the cultural cues the filmmaker was usingI was also really scared for Sir Galahad at Castle Anthrax. I had no idea what those women were trying to do to him, and I had no idea why he wanted to stay..

Just because you giggle while killing waves of hapless enemies doesn't make you a bad person.
Just because you giggle while killing waves of hapless enemies doesn't make you a bad person.

Obviously in real life a guy getting brutally devoured by a T-Rex would be a horrible, shocking, and even traumatizing thing to witness, even if he was a bit of a jerk. But in movies our emotional reactions are different. The creator has the ability to signal to the audience how much we’re supposed to empathize with the characters and their situation. It’s the same thing in videogames. Like a kid being caught off-guard in Jurassic Park, non-gamers can easily misunderstand the intended mood of the piece.

A lot of these emotional cues come from the characters themselves. If the characters run in terror, beg for mercy, and weep over the slain, then it will probably engender a lot of empathy. If they roll their eyes as if to say, “Oh no, a maniac is blowing up the city again”, then this keeps the world at a distance by making it seem farcical and absurd. While the tone of GTA V is really bad for making us care about the characters at the center of the story, it works really well for reducing the inhabitants of the world to gameplay abstractions.

In Trevor's world, the only thing that separates homicide from genocide is ambition.
In Trevor's world, the only thing that separates homicide from genocide is ambition.

When non-gamers recoil in horror at Grand Theft Auto and call it a “murder simulator”, it’s like a child feeling sorry for Lawyer Guy. They don’t understand the medium, so they incorrectly interpret the tone and purpose of the scene.

Obviously there isn’t a clear line between these two extremes. I’ve known people to express empathy for your vile little minions in Dungeon Keeper, who are deliberately designed to be disposable cannon fodder. At the other extreme I’ve seen comments from people who found the Hatred trailer “hilarious”. We’re definitely dealing with a gradient here, and everyone is going to have a different point where they cross over from feeling detachment to empathy.

Despite all my whinging about how the series has evolved, I think the designers have been really good about maintaining just the right amount of abstraction when the player begins misbehaving. The inhabitants of the world are just obnoxious and absurd enough to make it amusing to enact violence against them.

The Need For Trevor

This story vastly overestimates how much I care about Trevor's stupid meth business.
This story vastly overestimates how much I care about Trevor's stupid meth business.

The writer really wants us to invest in the story of these characters, while the gameplay is encouraging us to take our protagonist out on the town for some recreational warfare. The gameplay and story are dissonant, and this maybe hurts the story.

The Mafia games solve this conflict by curtailing both the player’s ability and desireBy generally making the combat more grounded and less empowering / fun. to create mayhem. The Saints Row games go the other direction and embrace the mayhem as a central part of the character and their world. But GTA has never been able to choose which of these two masters it wants to serve, and so the internal dissonance has grown as the games have become more “cinematic”.

As far as I can tell, Trevor is the designer’s attempt to balance out this contradiction. If the player is going to behave like a madman during the gameplay bits, then why not just make the main character a literal madman? The writer gives us three main characters. We have two “normal” peopleBy the standards of the world. Michael and Franklin are still dangerous and violent criminals. who can do the drama stuff, and then we have Trevor to embody the player’s inherent desire to engage in pointless violence. He’s an answer to the question, “If we took the player’s actions literally, what sort of character would behave that way?”

The Problem with Trevor

Trevor heads down to the shore to hand out free naps.
Trevor heads down to the shore to hand out free naps.

There are two Trevors in this game. Or perhaps they’re the same Trevor, but they exist in tonally distinct contexts. Story Trevor is repulsive. He’s less of a fun-loving mass-murderer along the lines of The Joker and more like a smelly hobo crossed with Charles Manson. He’s not witty or likable. He’s not handsome or clever. His creepiness modulates from scene to scene, but on the whole he’s disturbing. On top of this, he’s a quasi-antagonist for much of the story.

Meanwhile, Open-world Trevor is more like the Boss from Saints Row. He’s still a psychotic murderer, but the world around him is so preposterous that his killing feels more like a joke than a massacre.

Back in the old Grand Theft Auto games, you could find rampage icons around the map. Pick one up, and the game would give you a single weapon (say, a rocket launcher) a goal (kill 25 people) and a timer (45 seconds) and let you go to town. Those rampages vanished in GTA IV when the game committed itself to being less fun and more “cinematic”. But here in Grand Theft Auto V they make a return. They’re only available to Trevor, but they’re integrated with the character and they seem to contain a shot of over-the-top comedy that’s lacking elsewhere in the game.

Did I mention that Trevor isn't a people person?
Did I mention that Trevor isn't a people person?

In one rampage, Trevor gets into an argument with some stereotypical hipsters. Flannel-wearing urbanites arrive en masse via mopeds and bicycles, armed to the teeth and shouting about first-world problems. It’s wonderfully ridiculous, and reminds me of the bits in Saints Row where you have to fight waves of people dressed up in furry mascot costumes.

Open-world Trevor is funny, ridiculous, and in harmony with the mechanics. I found Story Trevor to be grotesque, unsettling, and occasionally frightening. And then we get to the torture sequence, where Story Trevor is nonsensical, frustrating, sanctimonious, and completely disgusting.

We’ll talk about that next week.



[1] I don’t remember his name and neither do you. So let’s just call him Lawyer Guy.

[2] Did it? I dunno. Kids seem to be a lot more genre-savvy in the internet age, and I’m not sure when that shift took place.

[3] I was also really scared for Sir Galahad at Castle Anthrax. I had no idea what those women were trying to do to him, and I had no idea why he wanted to stay.

[4] By generally making the combat more grounded and less empowering / fun.

[5] By the standards of the world. Michael and Franklin are still dangerous and violent criminals.

From The Archives:

105 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto V: We Need To Talk about Trevor

  1. JDMM says:

    It strikes me that a lot of the problem with Trevor is the implication that all of his scenes do. You show us Trevor getting angry and killing someone that’s the actions of an action movie villain, someone we may not like but we don’t associate with reality enough to make them truly horrific. However! You show us Trevor getting angry and then the camera pans away and then we come back and the place is covered with blood, hoo boy, because then the mind takes over and the mind can fill in with details from news stories of actual violence. And this seems to happen constantly, cutaways and Trevor covering up crimes, not just showing him killing but implying that he does worse than that

  2. coleusrattus says:

    Genarro. Fitting name for a generic lawyer. And nope, for some odd reason I didn’t have to look that up…

    1. PPX14 says:

      Oh yes so it was. He looks like a Genarro for some reason. Maybe because he’s the only Genarro I’ve ever seen.

    2. Pax says:

      I also remember correctly after a moment or two of thought, and was also struck for the first time by the resemblance of his name to “Generic.” Also, it’s been a while since I’ve seen Jurassic Park, but I remember his death being slapstick. Sitting on the toilet, etc. Could be misremembering though.

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        I rewatched it a couple of weeks ago. It’s done in a gallows-humour manner (toilet and all) that’s obviously hilarious to anyone above the age of say 10 years old, but younger children might still be freaked out by.

        1. Abnaxis says:

          I was a younger child at the time, and I was very much delighted by the gallows humor. Honestly, I didn’t see it coming but that just made it hilarious to see some guy get eaten while he was pooping.

          I remember most other people in my class having the same reaction.

      2. Fizban says:

        I remember the name instantly, thanks to the way Muldoon’s actor pronounces it in one scene- I don’t actually remember why he was saying it, but the quiet voice that sounds more like a sneer he was using hits the right pitch to really stick in the head.

        Ah! Might have been talking about how even Genarro wasn’t stupid enough to mess with all the fences/the raptor fences.

        As for funny deaths, yeah Genarro’s toilet death wasn’t traumatizing for me at all. It was odd because the T-Rex just went straight to the hut and it immediately collapsed without resistance, but it made sense because Malcom was running that way. More problematic is that he wasn’t really moving when it ate him, but the mechanics weren’t explained in that level of detail and the fact that the Rex had “locked on” to Malcom after a certain amount of time made it seem plausible that people in that path were no longer safe by freezing. It made sense, it was funny, it was not excessive.

        Contrast the newer Jurassic World, where a perfectly sympathetic Personal Assistant has two bratty depressed kids foisted off on her, and apparently this is supposed to make her the “acceptable target” for being terrifyingly thrown around between multiple dinosaurs before dying? Fuck whoever wrote that scene.

        1. Pinkhair says:

          The T-Rex’s vision wasn’t great, but her sense of SMELL was fantastic… and what do you think smelled more strongly there at that moment?

    3. Nimrandir says:

      I remembered Gennaro’s name, but more because his character in the book is decidedly less . . . what he is in the film. If I remember correctly, he also survives the events of the book.

      Jurassic Park was actually my first true experience with adaptation shock. I saw the movie in high school, then read the book as part of my composition class in college. The alterations I found were . . . surprising, to say the least.

      1. Fizban says:

        I was gonna say I remembered him dying, but then I remembered the one who died to the baby T-Rex was. . . Duncan? Something with a D. One of their few generic park staffers IIRC. The lawyer is there until the end so yeah, he makes it out.

    4. ccesarano says:

      I didn’t have to look it up either, but largely because I watched that movie a ton as a child and Muldoon’s line of “I think this is Genarro” is etched permanently alongside “Clever Girl”.

      Dunno why, as one line is way more memorable and in the spotlight than the other.

      1. Fizban says:

        Oh, that was probably the line then. Or maybe both? It’s the voice.

    5. Stuart Worthington says:

      Weirdly enough, I also recalled his name as soon as Shamus reminded me of the character.

    6. SKD says:

      Wasn’t that John McClane’s wife’s maiden name in Die Hard?

  3. Infinitron says:

    It was Sir Galahad at Castle Anthrax.

    1. Neil D says:

      Looks like you fixed the first ‘Robin’ in the sentence, but the second one’s still there (“… no idea why Robin wanted to stay.”).

  4. Arkady English says:

    I was also really scared for Sir Robin at Castle Anthrax. I had no idea what those women were trying to do to him, and I had no idea why Robin wanted to stay.

    Oh! My sweet summer child.

    You did figure it out somewhere along the way, right? Just checking.

    1. evileeyore says:

      Kids seem to be a lot more genre-savvy in the internet age, and I’m not sure when that shift took place.

      Yeah Shamus, I don’t think it was kids so much as it was just you.

      For instance I was completely genre savy as a kid and most of the kids I knew were pretty on point as well.

  5. Lame Duck says:

    At the other extreme I’ve seen comments from people who found the Hatred trailer “hilarious”.

    I certainly wouldn’t describe it as “hilarious” but I have a very hard time taking it seriously because the character’s design, the palette and the opening monologue seem like such an over-the-top embodiment of the “edgelord” archetype that it feels like it’s setting up to be a parody. I’m sure I’d find it much more unsettling if the guy was a social-outcast teenager or a depressed office worker or something.

    1. Jabberwok says:

      I almost find it more offensive because of how terrible it is. It’s just so bad that it fails at parody for me, yet it’s depicting a horrible thing that happens way too often in the real world. It’s like if a child made a bad drawing of a brutal murder they witnessed. Disturbing.

    2. Bloodsquirrel says:

      For me, it’s just to transparent and shallow in it’s intention to shock me to actually do so. It has no purpose other than to shock me, which means that it doesn’t represent an actual ethos on the part of the author, so why should I care?

      It’s like someone coming up to you and saying “I’m about to insult your mother in order to miss you off so that I can laugh at how easily you lose your cool”. What’s the point of getting upset when you know that the insult means nothing?

    3. stratigo says:

      Most people who like the hatred trailer, and indeed the game, do so because it offends other people. For some people offending groups they dislike is high art.

  6. Yerushalmi says:

    A minor correction: It was Sir Galahad who went to Castle Anthrax.

    1. Jabrwock says:

      And he didn’t want to stay at first, only just before Lancelot showed up was he suddenly *very* interested in staying. “Oh come on it’s just a little peril, I can handle it myself!”

      1. Nimrandir says:

        Look, it was his duty as a knight to sample as much peril as he could.

  7. PPX14 says:

    His name is “The Blood Sucking Lawyer”

    1. eaglewingz says:

      Isn’t that redundant?

      1. PPX14 says:

        I had to have it explained to me when I watched it

  8. Jabberwok says:

    I’m sure this has been said a hundred times, but Saints Row 3 did a great job of not only marrying The Boss’s characterization to the game’s mechanics, but even managing to say something about the game’s world and potentially the medium of modern entertainment. The Boss was a celebrity as a result of being a psychopathic ganglord; posing for random photo ops in between killing sprees, being asked for an autograph while robbing a bank, accepting a trophy for carving people up with a chainsaw. In the game’s world, “normal” society condemns The Saints as violent criminals, then turns around and expresses admiration for them in the same sentence. It’s goofy, but also insightful if the audience wants to acknowledge it as such. But crucially, I never felt like it was enforcing whatever it might have to say. The writing didn’t preach a message, but it was still possible to find one if you wanted to.

    1. Gethsemani says:

      I am not sure Saint’s Row 3/4 really had much of a message, but Volition obviously understood that for a game like Saint’s Row to work, you need large doses of absurdity. The Saint’s are criminals and superstars, martial law is introduced casually and there’s a popular gameshow where the contestants kill people dressed as mascots (complete with the show’s mascot being a homicidal maniac that kills fans during promotions). This is a game series where the titular criminals help the government attack terrorist strongholds and their leader becomes president because they disarmed a nuclear missile in mid-flight. Only for Aliens to invade, blow up Earth and force everyone to live in the Matrix.

      Saint’s Row 3 and 4 work because they never take themselves seriously. The story is deliberately over the top, but so is everything else. The Boss is basically characterized as gleefully homicidal and down with doing anything that’s dangerous or violent for the kicks. The boss is opposed by a police force that will happily send hundreds of police officers to their death at the hands of the Boss, kill dozens of bystanders and cause millions of dollars worth of collateral property damage. Oh, and that police force has laser rifles, tanks, jet fighters and a flying aircraft carrier. Volition seems to have designed both games on the simple premise that Saint’s Row is absurdist comedy and that any pathos or meaning is unintentional and unnecessary. Personally, that’s what I like about them.

      1. Sartharina says:

        It’s actually stated/implied that the Boss ran for President ‘normally’ between the introduction and actual game start – I’m guessing they just liked the brief moment of being ‘President’ in the Oval Office that they officially wanted the position.

        Frankly, Saints Row 4 didn’t work as well for me narratively as much as Saints Row 3 because it’s too fast-paced “Discard and Draw” approach to parody. I was hoping for Metal Wolf Chaos-levels of Presidential Absurdity in a game about taking back D.C. We were stuck in a virtual reality, that never made sense to me (And I’m pretty sure The Boss never actually left it. The best way to placate the boss was to grant them their rebel power fantasy.)

        Learning “The Matrix” was the ‘real’ game was a major letdown after such an epic opener (Though I loved the silly 50’s segment).

        That said, I think SR4 was a lot less ‘judgemental’ than SR2 and SR3, with numerous sidequests actually coming to the conclusion that “This thing we were brutally mocking in the previous game is actually pretty fun when you get into it”

    2. BlueHorus says:

      The Boss was a celebrity as a result of being a psychopathic ganglord; posing for random photo ops in between killing sprees, being asked for an autograph while robbing a bank, accepting a trophy for carving people up with a chainsaw. In the game’s world, “normal” society condemns The Saints as violent criminals, then turns around and expresses admiration for them in the same sentence. It’s goofy, but also insightful.

      Hey, you beat me to the mandatory Saints Row comparison!

      Yeah, that kind of thing is better satire than what I’ve seen in any GTA I’ve played: it’s just more…self-aware.
      I also found the partial in-game endorsement of The Boss’s actions in SR 3 & 4 a bit creepy and uncomfortable – and more effective than just criticising the character’s actions.
      It was a tiny bit like Spec Ops: The Line, just quietly holding up a mirror to what you’re doing (though not saying anything, because they don’t want to ruin the fun).

  9. Redrock says:

    I think you’re giving Rockstar a bit too much credit when it comes to Trevor. To me, Trevor was never intended to be anything more complex than a bit of a meta joke about player rampages in GTA games. It’s difficult for me to see Trevor as an attempt by the writers to fix some of the dissonance problems in GTA V because that would mean an awareness of those problems, and I don’t believe the Housers have that awareness.

    On the other hand, like I said before, the cartoonish level of obnoxiousness that almost every character, NPC and element of the environment is imbued with can be theoretically considered a conscious effort to establish a preemtpive defense against the whole murder simulator moral panic. “See, it’s not actual California, it’s bizzaro California filled with awful people. That woman the player character is currently beating to death with a golf club is actually an unrealistically terrible person”. Again, for me it’s very hard to analyze this stuff, because it all boils down to the question exactly how smart and subtle do you consider the guys at Rockstar to be. And I have no idea.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      Well, and further to your point these open worlds are remarkably devoid of children, pregnant women, seniors, the physically handicapped, panhandlers, people in obvious mental or emotional distress, dogs and cats, etc. Basically, they let you perpetrate brutal violence on all sorts of able-bodied, relatively well-off people between the ages of ~18-55, but even these games recognize the difference between some black humour slapstick fun, and looking like a complete asshole.

      1. Leocruta says:

        Oh, I don’t know. I could see some humour in plowing into a crowd of wheelchair-bound pedestrians. Madly spinning their wheels in a desperate but fruitless attempt to escape as their brothers in arms (and without legs) are flung about by the majestic donuts performed in their midst…


        1. Abnaxis says:

          I mean, when you put it like that, SIGN ME UP! XD

          1. Redrock says:

            This. This is why people will always think we gamers are weird.

            1. Abnaxis says:

              Naw, we’ll just take over and get to redefine “normal”…

        2. Syal says:

          Every wheelchair-bound person is also moving a pane of glass, car battery, large pile of knives, or other thing you really don’t want to have in your hands when something hits you.

          Some of them take Nitroglycerin pills; those ones explode on contact.

      2. eldomtom2 says:

        Dogs at least are present (and can probably be killed), and there are some homeless knocking around railyards and the like.

  10. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I don’t think the tendency to empathize with fictional characters is just a gradient. Sometimes I find myself more impacted by the death of a nameless bystander than a major character who the writers expect me to empathize with. There’s this one guy in the second The Lost World who I always felt bad for when the T-Rex eats him while on a rampage in the city. It’s like, man, he was just minding his own business, nothing to do with any of this, and suddenly a dinosaur eats him, and the movie doesn’t even slow down to acknowledge that he was as at least as much of a human being as the jerk main characters.

    A lot of times the audience just doesn’t agree with the author with who should be sympathetic. I definitely find that when an author is too heavy-handed or transparently manipulative I feel myself pushed in the opposite direction. I’d throw 100 orphans with cancer off a bridge to save that poor guy from the Lost World; the narrative strings are just too obvious for me to take them seriously as people.

    I also have a much harder time sympathizing with murderers than fiction expects out of me. I’m fine with guys like Thanos who are clear villians; I can find them compelling without having to excuse their evil. But when a story is too blase about a character’s body count and expects me to forgive and root for them I usually wind up hoping they die instead.

    It’s one of three reasons that GTA doesn’t appeal to me at all. I just don’t want to be those people.

    1. Pax says:

      Even worse than the guy in the Lost World is main character lady’s assistant in Jurassic World. All she’s trying to do is her job, and she gets handed a crap sack and then is horrifically murdered and eaten by two different dinosaurs.

      1. Distec says:

        Good to see I am not alone in having a rather squick-ish reaction to that death. I’m not averse to horrible, undeserved deaths in media. But that scene in particular left a really sour taste in my mouth. It just sits there in all its ugliness with zero justification.

        1. Joe Informatico says:

          I think the framing of the scene also has a lot to do with it. If she was carried off by the pterodon and the camera followed the rest of the action from the boys’ perspective–i.e. from a fair distance away–it could have worked. Maybe not as a comedy moment, but at least as a “holy crap, shit just got real” moment. But the camera follows Zara as she’s thrown back and forth like a toy by the pterodons, screaming and thrashing the whole time, and makes the whole scene feel more brutal and mean than was justified by the script.

          1. Joshua says:

            That’s part of it. As noted by comment below, I’m also prone to being disturbed by body annihilation as a form of death, whether it be swallowed and chewed up or vaporized like Rorschach in The Watchmen. Basically, the idea of your next of kin showing up and the officials saying, “Sorry, we don’t have a body, the digestive enzymes of the dinosaur converted your beloved daughter into nutrients already” is rather horrific to me.

            Playing the scene for black comedy where she’s tortured right beforehand doesn’t help.

            I found a great article talking about why it might bother us so much:

            1. guy says:

              Wow, even just reading it described is shocking. She’s killed by three-four dinosaurs while drowning? That’s not just excessive, that’s the kind of death reserved for an archnemesis who does not die when they are killed.

    2. Fizban says:

      The death of random bystanders during Lost World’s rampage in the city still makes some sense though- it sucks that that guy died, but it can be directly laid at the feet of the bad guys who caused the rampage in the first place, which the good guys are trying to stop. It’s a damage marker basically. Not that I don’t latch onto randos myself sometimes, but as I think we all agree, it’s not the offense of the assistant in Jurassic World’s scene.

      1. Mr. Wolf says:

        As I recall, the only hero in that film left just before the San Diego sequence started.

        Dangerous move making the hero a “great white hunter”, but when compared to the villainous eco-terrorists he had to deal with he came off as positively saintly.

  11. Joshua says:

    “while the on-screen death of the Lawyer Guy in Jurassic Park was played for laughs. ”

    I personally found the death of Claire’s assistant due to being swallowed whole to be very much disturbing, just like I did for the lawyer in Jurassic Park and the victims of the Rancor in RotJ, or the guy getting slowly swallowed by the bug(?) in the middle of King Kong. I don’t tend to find these kind of deaths amusing or cathartic. The character has to be truly evil in my opinion, not just some annoying asshole or implausibly inattentive personal assistant.

    1. Pax says:

      Whoops, should’ve reloaded before I commented! But yeah, Claire’s assistant in Jurassic World strikes me as the director trying to do the same thing as what happened to Gennero, but failing to understand how or why that works. Though I, too, have more empathy for nameless NPCs than a lot of people. I used to be able to rampage in GTA, but not so much anymore. And games with actual good/evil mechanics that involve slaughtering innocent people? Feels so wrong trying to do it.

      1. Fizban says:

        You should have reloaded? I should have reloaded, there was a whole thread down here!

      2. DavidJCobb says:

        I, too, have more empathy for nameless NPCs than a lot of people. I used to be able to rampage in GTA, but not so much anymore. And games with actual good/evil mechanics that involve slaughtering innocent people? Feels so wrong trying to do it.

        I’ve reached the point where I’ll even try to avoid killing “temporarily mind-controlled civilian” enemies, even in games where killing them is handwaved as “self-defense.” Of course, that just makes it uncomfortable in retrospect when those games blatantly don’t react to how many you (don’t) kill…

  12. Liessa says:

    Same here. I also tend to have a higher-than-average empathy level for ‘innocent bystander’ characters in video games, which is why I always end up playing goody-two-shoes characters who kill as few people as possible. I remember my brother teasing me about always trying to save the civilians in the original Command & Conquer – and he’s younger than me, so it’s not just a question of age.

    Edit: Gah, that was meant to be a reply to Joshua.

    1. Joshua says:

      s’all good.

    2. Nimrandir says:

      I’m in this camp as well. I remember the original Assassin’s Creed having a achievement for shoving X annoying beggars. I unlocked the achievement out of academic curiosity (I was trying to figure out how the achievement system sorted games for which you had earned full Gamerscore), and I had bad dreams about it.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        They fixed this by making up the troubadours in Assassin’s Creed II. Instead of poor people begging you for alms, it’s a d-bag lute player shouting out your position in the middle of a stealth mission. I was all too glad to shank dudes like that if they caused me to fail the mission… or even if they didn’t if they were dumb enough to follow me to a back alley.

  13. Opagla says:

    As a kid, I remember I felt sad about the Lawyer guy. In one movie he was friends with Michael Jordan and the loonies. Then he fucking dies by a dinossaur.

  14. Distec says:

    In regards to children’s reactions to death in Jurassic Park:

    Lawyer guy getting eaten from off the toilet actually sent me running out of the room when I was a small kid. I had a similar reaction to that English commander getting beheaded on the battlefield in Braveheart, and that dude was an asshole. I chalk it up to not being able to read the cues of the film.

    Over two decades later I found myself babysitting a friend’s five year old. And she’s absolutely worried about exposing her son to “violent media” at too young an age (although to a bit of a ridiculous degree if I can be totally honest). I figure this is a great opportunity to do what ‘cool uncles’ do and expose him to movies he shouldn’t be seeing! We put on Jurassic Park and when we finally get to Lawyer Guy’s demise he is almost entirely unphased. “Oh no, he got a boo-boo” he softly exclaims after witnessing a man get ripped from a shitter and eaten alive.

    He’s not old enough to be genre-savvy, regardless of his generation. It made me wonder if I was just a sensitive kid.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      Now I’m wondering if children’s entertainment these days with its generally higher production values tends to make use of more “cinematic” techniques like lighting, music cues, etc. Thus kids today are maybe more unconsciously savvy in the language of film, even if they’re not particularly savvy about genre or narrative.

    2. Abnaxis says:

      I–and everyone in my cohort I remember from the time as a 9-10 year old–had completely the opposite reaction. It was nothing but rancorous laughter at the doofy guy who thought the T-Rex would respect the privacy of a bathroom and got eaten while he was on the shitter.

      I mean, Jurassic park came well after I had watched the Keaton Batman movie and the 90’s Ninja Turtles movie, both of which had their own shocking scenes at the time. Jokers death in Batman is the first movie scene I remember getting squicked over, and I think my peers and I were kind of past being traumatized by telegraphed movie deaths by the time Jurassic Park came around. Maybe it’s an age thing, or a generational thing?

  15. Dreadjaws says:

    I don’t remember his name and neither do you.

    Your baseless assumption hurts me deeply. Jurassic Park happens to be one of my all-time favorite novel and movie, so I distinctly remember each and every character’s name. The lawyer is named Donald Gennaro, by the way. He’s a far more important character in the book than in the movie, so while it’s understandable that a movie watcher might not remember his name if it has been a while since they watched the movie, any book reader will be extremely upset at your claim.

    1. Stu Hacking says:

      Basically this entire comment.

      I work in I.T. too, and often have to explain to peers that “Connection Machines” were an actual thing. (Although, the choice to use Thinking Machine instead of the book’s Cray supercomputers was probably a marketing move, given the early 90s release. Those big special purpose mainframe companies were suffering the AI Winter around then.)

      The front-end terminals are a mixture of SGI Irix workstations and a few Apples. The file-system navigator (“It’s a Unix System, I know this.”) was an actual SGI program, though it was likely a gimmick to showcase the power of real-time OpenGL graphics, not a serious way of interacting with the system.

      For me, Jurassic Park is still one of the movies whose portrayal of technology is (while slightly showy) still grounded enough in reality to be convincing and very watchable!

      1. Jabrwock says:

        The only bit where my suspension broke was when the kid “unhacked” the system by literally clicking the “turn on door locks” button. Granted she had to search around in a complicated directory to find it, but it made the traitor’s original hack seem a lot less clever (“wait he literally just did the real world equivalent of flipping the breaker?”)

        1. Fizban says:

          Well, it could be that Nedry never thought anyone would be dumb enough to flip the breaker in a dinosaur park so it was laziness that left a way to fix it. Or had enough of a conscience that they didn’t want to irrevocably lock out control of the system full of dangerous animals. The former seems more likely. I never got the impression that Nedry was particularly clever, just angry and capable of doing what he did.

        2. Dreadjaws says:

          Nedry didn’t “hack” anything. He merely turned off a few security systems to not get caught. Remember, he was the system designer, he didn’t have to hack anything, he merely left himself a backdoor. All of this is explained in the film. He didn’t intend to keep the system locked, he expected to be back in a few minutes, but the storm screwed him, and then he was killed.

          Later, when the rest of the staff tried to undo what he did without him they had no access to the backdoor, so all they could do was turn off the power, and when they turned it back on all the systems were off.

          So yeah, all they really had to do was flip a breaker. But there isn’t really anything to break your suspension. Everything was working the way it was supposed to.

    2. Pax says:

      It’s hilarious how many comments are about Gennaro and discussion about Jurassic Park, really, considering it was such a minor part of the article (and mostly a footnote, at that.) Of course, it also plays well into the overall discussion about how character deaths are coded by their mediums.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Ah, but this is part of the Twenty Sided Experience.
        There’s always some footnote or aside that draws a massive amount of attention in the comments. Some point of order that people love to debate or point out at length. Usually it’s LOTR-related*.

        Same as people correcting Shamus’ grammar or typos. If it didn’t happen, the site just wouldn’t be the same.

        * ‘Tom Bombadil was NOT a pointless diversion from the main plot! You take that back!’

        1. guy says:

          Tom Bombadil was a critical thematic element but his direct interactions with events were limited and highly self-contained and he is not critical to the underlying logical flow of events.

        2. Joshua says:

          I have also never played any of the GTA games, or 99% of the games that Shamus covers anymore. The only ones I can recollect off of the top of my head were Neverwinter Nights 2 and LOTRO. So, I’m just commenting on something where I have a frame of reference.

      2. Nimrandir says:

        Actually, we’re all scared that if we say something unflattering about Trevor, we’re gonna be pictures in next week’s article.

  16. TMC_Sherpa says:

    I didn’t really mind my DK minions getting killed (Unless they were high enough level to teleport, loved those guys) My Overlord minions on the other hand… I worked hard to get them those pumpkin helmets at the beginning of the game.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      I remember that you could slap your minions in Dungeon Keeper to make them work faster. And I didn’t want to do that. They did a tough and dangerous job, for very little reward.

      1. RFS-81 says:

        I don’t find it at all surprising if people empathize with their Dungeon Keeper monsters. I mean, you give all your monsters down to the puniest goblin a place to sleep, you can watch them eat at your chicken coops etc. They’re not some Warcraft grunts that just pop out of a barracks and do what you tell them.

      2. Zak McKracken says:

        Yes! Me too! That was maybe helped by the fact that I could never quite tell if the slapping made them work harder, or how much slapping they’d need to work harder. I had less of a problem putting them in the arena, but mainly for the purpose of levelling them up as much as possible before they’d have to face the enemy, because I’d hate if oneof them died. Ever. Which means that either I’m constantly watching the arena, and have healers nearby, or it’d be empty if there’s other stuff to do.

        Ohh, what a glorious time sink that game is!

  17. Dreadjaws says:

    Speaking of Hatred, while I can’t say the gameplay itself offended me (save on the fact that it looked bland and generic), the promotional campaign did, because I saw it immediately for what it was: a cheap attempt at generating sales through manufactured controversy. The developer knew there was nothing interesting about the game, so he resorted to play up the violence against innocents to see if the press would take a stance against it, which would end up bringing customers.

    Sadly, it seems to have worked. If you look at the positive reviews, the great majority give no information about gameplay and such. They’re all “It’s therapeutic” or “It didn’t make me wanna kill people in real life”. No one can say anything actually positive about the game because there’s nothing to say. The game is bland and generic and those who bought it at first did it because they were protesting against “moral guardians” and the like, while those who bought it later did it because all of the positive reviews.

    The funny thing is that… it almost didn’t work. The press figured out the deal with the game’s campaign instantly, so they simply dedicated to report on it, without offering any kind of outrage. Gamers looked entirely uninterested. But then Steam decided to erase the (then in preorder) game from listings, and that sparked outrage. Suddenly everyone was protesting because Steam saw fit to tell them what they could play and what they couldn’t. The game went back on listing with an apology by Gaben himself and it ended up selling like crazy.

    A sad story, but nothing out of the ordinary. People will gain an immense amount of interest in something as soon as you tell them they can’t have it.

    1. GM says:

      Honestly?. because ive seen someone play it and it looked dull and i remember it getting off steam because its a troll.

  18. Galad says:

    Aww, I was hoping the ludonarrative link leads to the Errant signal channel. Please? :)

    I’d also love to hear what those hipsters were shouting about first world problems

    Having not watched many movies, I’m likely to not figure out that some specific characters are supposed to die, and the audience should not feel sorry for them, but I’d still likely feel that way subconsciously – these messages are usually powerful

    1. Nimrandir says:

      In fairness, he links to one of his articles that includes an Errant Signal video.

  19. Sven says:

    Typo alert: the last paragraph says “tortue” where I’m assuming it’s supposed to say “torture”.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      One episode of MST3K (Teenagers from Outer Space, I think) had a guy massively overemphasize the word torture in a line. For some reason, when I read this comment, my brain was filled with the crew from the Satellite of Love yelling, “But what about TORTURE!?”

      That’s all, really. Nothing to see here. Move along.

  20. Nimrandir says:

    Lots of players casually engage in absurd levels of violence. Confession: I’m one of them.

    I’ve gotten more than my fair share of odd looks for dissonance in my willingness to do violent stuff in games. For instance, I’d pause my game of Monster Hunter World — where I’ll be killing what looks like a featherless chocobo because I need its body parts to craft a new pair of pants — to catch a bug in a tissue and release it out the back door, rather than let it become a plaything for my cats.

  21. SUPERVANS says:

    Later JP movies really messed up with some of the character deaths. In The Lost World, Eddies death seemed really out of place. He went and saved the main characters from death after they decided to put a cast on the baby T-Rex, and in return he gets ripped in half and eaten by the mom and dad T-Rexes. It just felt really undeserved. He didn’t die because of a character flaw, he died because he decided to do the right thing, and in a way that enriches his character. It just feels really out of place in a movie like that. His death didn’t really serve much; he ends up being fodder to sell that the T-Rexes are dangerous. But that’s been established already. Ditto with the assistant in Jurassic World, who had the most ridiculous, brutal, and drawn out death in the franchise and all she did was try to keep an eye on these two annoying kids that her boss dumped onto her lap. I honestly don’t know why they killed her. It just kinda happened out of left field.

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      I think the purpose of Eddie’s death is to show that the dinosaurs are DANGEROUS and even trying to treat them well can have deadly consequences. This is to reinforce the danger of screwing around with the child T-Rex, even if you’re trying to heal its leg or whatever. The dinosaurs DO NOT CARE about good and evil and will straight up eat you for merely being in proximity to their offspring.

  22. Kethran says:

    This article reminded me of Yakuza, which solved the problem by simply not allowing you to go on a murderous rampage. Why? Because the main character would never do that.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      It’s not ‘simple’ to prevent massacres, technologically speaking. If the controls let you steer cars and throw grenades, you need a lot of systems in place to stop the player from killing civilians without breaking the reality of the sim.

    2. Redrock says:

      Kinda what they did with Geralt in Witcher 3, where he’d just scare people away instead of slicing and dicing.

    3. shoeboxjeddy says:

      You can’t go on a murderous rampage, you can just attack people in ways ABSOLUTELY guaranteed to be fatal. Including firing a shotgun in at least one of the games.

  23. Ardis Meade says:

    “Meanwhile, Open-world Trevor is more like the Boss from Saints Row. He’s still a psychotic murderer, but the world around him is so preposterous that his killing feels more like a joke than a massacre”

    I do believe you just described the Joker from his own point of view.

  24. Smejki says:

    Holy hell, Shamus, how didd you know? That thing with the lawyer guy in Jurassic Park affected me as a child exactly as you described it. I was 7, we were in the theater with my mom, and I was horrified when he got eaten! And my mom didn’t expect this reaction from me at all. She laughed at it it confused the hell out of me back then.

  25. Grimwear says:

    I don’t remember the T-Rex scene being scary as a child but I do remember being so scared during the Samuel L. Jackson’s arm scene with the Velociraptors that I crawled under and up my dad’s shirt and my head smacked into the bottom on his chin causing him to start bleeding everywhere. Good times.

    1. Syal says:

      Same. I thought the lawyer getting eaten was funny but the arm got me badly enough we had to leave the theater.

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      I thought the lawyer guy had it coming and all, but I still tought it was a bit mean of the movie to try and tell me that he deserved it.
      Of course , the writer does it the other way round: “What kind of character do I give the person who dies?” But when I watched the movie (and to this day), I usually think “what should happen to a person of this character?”. And my preferred ending is usually that they should get saved despite their flaws, and then have a change of mind. Which would probably make for pretty lame movies if it was adapted as a general rule, but maybe every once in a while?
      It’d definitely translate into a more sustainable strategy in real life, to hope that some of the annoying people in my life will some day see the light, rather than hope they all die…

      … and having written that, the even more sustainable strategy is probably “learn to get along” with each other, but dude, would that make for extra-lame action movies! “Learn to get along” is excusively reserved for unequal couples and buddy cops. Although now I’m thinking if there might be some director somewhere out there who could pull that off (and still keep it from subtracting from the main plot)

  26. dogbeard says:

    I’m one of the people who found the Hatred trailer hilarious. Just the sheer over the top edge of it all made it impossible for me to take it seriously and I couldn’t help but take it as a parody of the “Grimdark McEdgeman” archetype. I can understand why people would think it’s horrible but it flipped my ‘yep this is all a joke’ switch and just seemed to keep confirming it as they showed more ludicrously edgy things.

  27. Matthew Collins says:

    Can I just say that I hate, *hate* (or at least find distasteful, sorry for the hyperbole) that grand old trope of “make the people who die unlikable”. It bothers me on multiple levels, ethically and philosophically. First of all, it gives the impression that death is considered an appropriate or fitting end for being unpleasant, which is so jarring it’s breathtaking. This person is rude? DEATH. This person inconveniences others? DEATH. “Oh that person annoyed me by being a bit of an arsehole so I don’t care that they died” is such a self-centred, unhinged, misanthropic worldview that it constantly surprises me (and in honesty disturbs me) how often it’s used. I don’t value peoples’ lives based on whether or not they make my life easy. I don’t think someone being distasteful to me renders their death more acceptable.

    The second major reason I strongly dislike the trope is that, even if you have some bizarre perspective wherein people can be “more deserving” of death by being annoying to you, death *has* no ethical quality at all. Death simply is. Making the ultimate commonality obey or honour some moral ranking system strikes me as… I don’t know, akin to harnessing God to supply your power grid. It’s both breathtakingly hubristic and bizarrely ignorant. Or so I think.

    1. Stuart Worthington says:

      I kind of agree with you, but at the same time, what would you suggest as an alternative? Let’s say you write a story where people need to die to set the stakes, and it’s ultimately a frothy story, a black comedy or a popcorn actioner. How do you approach the problem?

      1. Matthew Collins says:

        I’m afraid I don’t really understand the question. If you need to kill a few people, kill a few. Pick names out of a hat. If it’s a black comedy or popcorn actioner then character doesn’t really matter, you’re not killing people for the select drama value or their relationship to other characters, it could be anyone.

        1. Guest says:

          What happens if that character is your protagonist? What happens if you’re not just writing front to back? What if you’re on another editing pass and are trying to tighten up the story, and this scene ends up too dark for the tone of wonder and roller coaster thrills you’re going for. That doesn’t work at all. Like, you went from “I don’t like narrative shorthand because of the implications it would have about real people” to “pick things out of a hat” which is just… no? Does anyone need to explain to you why that’s wrong? Preferably, character deaths should make sense. Oh no, I picked Alan Grant out of the hat, and now the themes about family, being ready for kids, and our expert narrator for the sections about the wonder of dinosaurs, are all ruined. Oh no, I picked one of the kids, now the movie is a tonal nightmare, where a kid gets chomped on during a roller-coaster scary part, not a child-getting-eaten scary part.

          Kirk doesn’t die on the away team-none of our main characters do. SG-1 always makes it back, the other numbers are cannon fodder.

          Black comedy and popcorn action totally care about these things. You don’t kill off Mark Wahlberg in the start of your popcorn actioner, and you don’t kill off your comedy characters unless it’s funny and it’s generally better to relate those beats to their character-ideally, it should include some element of that character’s most prominent running joke. If anything, the comedy angle makes more sense, because there subversion is expected, but popcorn action is the last genre to do this, because you have big expensive action to film and a story you need to sell to many people, so our good guys are good, our bad guys are bad, and narrative expediency is king, to the point that just casting the right person does half the storytelling. But damn, I’d hate to see a Shawn of the Dead that you directed.

          1. Matthew Collins says:

            “What happens if that character is your protagonist?”

            Why would their name be in the hat if they’re the protagonist?

            To be frank, I don’t think you understood my comment at all. You’ve completely ignored what I said about drama value or relationship to other characters in order to construct a bizarre idea of someone who rejects *all* narrative convention.

            Again: when you pick names out of a hat, you must first put names *into* a hat. This essential point seems to have escaped you. Why, if the pick is for “character to kill off now”, would you place a name in there when the character is dramatically essential or ill-served by the death?

            Of the characters who could be killed off for the sake of needing a shock value/entertainment value death or to keep the stakes real, then pick at random or on actual dramatic criteria, rather than playing the distasteful (and rather illogical) game implied in the “arseholes deserve/are less tragic in, death” tropes.

    2. Guest says:

      In the meta sense, that’s true, and it is the easy option to go in writing. However, if you’re writing a family blockbuster where people get eaten by dinosaurs, it’s probably better to go that way. Yes, it’s simple, uncomplicated writing, but it’s going in a simple, uncomplicated film. Like other bits of narrative expediency, like even character focus, it’s there to make things easy.

      You’re reading way too much into the meta angle. Like, yes, if people feel that way about other people, that’s messed up, but a writer has to think that way about the characters in their story. There simply isn’t time to give everyone the same focus (Weird how all of our films elevate a small group of people to importance over absolutely everyone else, who are literally not important, right?), and you generally don’t want to traumatise the audience with what is just the T-Rex reveal. It’s called managing tone, that scene is funny, despite someone dying, the scene with the Rex, the jeep and the kids, is terrifying, despite nobody dying, because our character focus has been on Alan and the kids.

      I’m not saying there’s no place for stories not to use that expediency, but film is rarely it because of running time, and these stories tend to be more niche. My favourite one is probably ASOAF, and just look at how upset many people got because the story lacks that narrative shorthand, and actively questions those sorts of stories, leading many people to lose their minds when a good character, which they had decided was definitely the hero of the piece, bit the dust, because doing good things, being good, doesn’t mean you’re narratively safe.

      It’s nothing to do with abusing death. You have the cart before the horse. It’s that, this character is going to die in this scene. How do I keep the focus on the protagonists despite their lesser danger, how do I maintain the tone, etc. The easy answer is redshirts and a-holes die, and they’re not gonna go with the harder answers because those all use up more running time.

      1. Matthew Collins says:

        “that scene is funny, despite someone dying, the scene with the Rex, the jeep and the kids, is terrifying, despite nobody dying, because our character focus has been on Alan and the kids.”

        Yes. None of this is in dispute or has anything to do with my complaint. I’m not complaining about “audiences care more for main characters in which they are invested” or about having some characters be important and others throwaway. The lawyer is throwaway, and in context is unimportant, so we can laugh at his getting chomped. The other characters are main protagonists, they matter.

        The point — the thing I’m bemoaning — is that there’s a tendency to make a throwaway “get chomped” character an arse and therefore implying that death follows some ethical framework that is also so unforgiving it would make Old Testament God say “aren’t you going a bit far there?”

  28. Cubic says:

    Speaking of how these stories are told, I just replayed GTA Vice City and found to my surprise that skipping the Avery missions at the start meant you never activate the Cubans and Haitians. In fact, it seems you can bypass a great deal of the game and just go headlong for the end credits.

    I still did the Love Fist / Biker missions, but I’m not sure they actually were required either. And was completing Cortez strictly necessary after he introduces you to Diaz? Not sure.

    Anyway, kind of funny in retrospect. I ended up with having completed merely 46% of the game at the end.

    1. Droid says:

      I dunno about necessary, but completing Cortez is strictly FUN, so skipping his missions is a highly blasphemous act, even bordering on sacrilege.

      1. Cubic says:

        I did get a call from him at the end “Tell me Tomás, I have been hearing these terrible stories about Mercedes, the shame would be unbearable … Is it true she wants to be a LAWYER?”

  29. Guest says:

    It’s probably the best breakdown of the character, splitting him into two, that I’ve seen. It neatly sidesteps the “Well actuallys” and tiresome “Did you get its”. On the one hand, Trevor does work for the open world stuff, but when you put that character into the story, he’s hard to top as an antagonist (And they don’t), and very hard to sympathise for dramatically. I think the worst bit for me is his interaction with Cousin Floyd. Floyd is regulaly put upon and treated as insufficiently manly, in that sort of American cliche style, which is then followed up with Trevor abusing him sexually and finally murdering him and his henpecking, emasculating girlfriend. This is treated as a joke. Just another wacky Trevor bit of hijinks. Apart from being terrible, cliche ridden writing, with a toxic message, it’s just generally unpleasant. It’s funny, there’s is a more sympathetic side to Trevor that could work, especially in his interactions with Michael, but I find it really difficult to sympathise with a character who rapes and murders someone good enough to let them stay at their place.

    It really is the big problem with Trevor. He totally works in the open world, especially because the open world doesn’t care about character interactions, so you’re shot of Trevor’s worst aspects. He doesn’t work in the story, because in any functional story, Trevor would be the bad guy, and the actual bad guys are not bad enough (Or present enough) to make Trevor look better by comparison, nor is there any anti-hero, or villainous protagonist angle with Trevor, even though the crime game format totally makes all those options easy. Trevor works as exactly the same sort of protagonist as Franklin and Michael, and the game doesn’t comment on all of his nonsense. The torture scene has been covered to death, but the worst part is that Trevor is the one who says the punchline, gets the South Park moral out of it, except Trevor is Cartman and that is Kyle and Stan’s job as the straight men to his routine. To anyone still defending that scene: If it was written like the cheap South Park knockoff you’re still taking it for, it’d still be Franklin or Michael driving the prisoner to the airport and telling us why torture is bad. Framing matters.

    On one hand, I like these games fine without a Trevor. You do have to compartmentalise, but GTA V still has that problem-Michael and Franklin aren’t nuts like that and the game still has them do similar things in missions. Trevor hangs a lampshade on it and encourages open world shenanigans, which the game definitely needed more of, but he doesn’t solve it. Without completely rewriting the story, Trevor doesn’t work in it outside of the villain role. You can’t write a Michael Mann story, or a Tarantino story, with him as a protagonist, because he’s the bad guy in those films. And I don’t mind these games doing their bumbling crime drama stories, there’s room for improvement, but Trevor doesn’t improve it. To put Trevor in, either he is the villain (Which would be very easy, and it’s kind of strange they didn’t do that), or they need a ground up approach, a story that cares more that your character is insane, irrational, a torturer, a rapist, etc, and can do something thematically with it. Maybe leaning more into Scarface etc. Or, even use him to point out the hypocrisy of the other characters and the game narratives. The other characters get to be rational and sympathetic, and then, even without player choice, go and kill hundreds on story missions for openly criminal reasons. Oh, Niko Bellic is sad, but he’d still work with a nut like Trevor. Oh, Michael wants to think of himself as a better man and a higher class of criminal, but he’d still work with Trevor and do the same things together. We’re meant to care about Franklin’s socioeconomic status, and Michael’s broken family, despite them being capable of compartmentalising that to brutalise people for money. Pointing out like, a George RR Martin point about the facade of civilisation on violence, make Trevor into rapey Sandor Clegane. Make people who prefer a Niko exactly aware of how ignoble he is underneath all of his moping.

    Bright side, at least Trevor’s performance is at least truly brillaint.

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I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

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