Last week I outlined the plot of Grand Theft Auto V. As I hope my synopsis made clear, this game gets lost and spends the majority of its running time on elements that are completely divorced from the central conflict. It presents problems, and then throws a never-ending series of distractions at our antiheroes
For clarity, when I talk about the “central conflict” I’m talking about the personal drama between our three lead characters. The game opens with the job that causes the division between Michael and Trevor, and – assuming you choose the sensible ending – they nominally reconcile right before the closing credits. You could also make the case that one of these other plot threads is the “main” one, although that’s just moving the problem around. You could argue that the FIB is the main plot because it gets the most time, but then we have a story where the main plot isn’t introduced for several hours, and when it IS resolved it’s bundled with a bunch of other problems. You could claim that The Big Heist is the main plot because it feels like the most reasonable way to end a game with these mechanics, but then you have a “main plot” that gets almost no screen time and hits its finale over an hour before the story concludes. No matter how you map it out, nothing in this story feels like a properly developed central pillar.
I put the Michael / Trevor / Franklin at the center because it’s present at the beginning, the end, and we get lots of reminders about it as the story goes on, even if the situation isn’t making any progress.