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    dkirschner's Grand Theft Auto IV (PC)

    [April 13, 2012 05:48:31 AM]
    I keep trying to come back to this one since like September last year, but I only play it two or three hours every couple months. I can't ever seem to sit and focus on it and really get into it. It's going the way every other GTA game I've played is, so I'm not too surprised I guess, though I wonder why I thought this one would be different. Looks great, sounds great, driving and cover system still horrible...But the story and characters were compelling enough for a while until...until there just became too much and too many! Here it is. GTAIV is like a soap opera. You are that one character who everyone's life revolves around. So in the game, everyone has your phone number, your email. Everyone texts you, everyone emails you, calls you, and they all want you to do something for them, meet them, kill someone for them, sleep with them, go bowling with them, drive them somewhere, all the time! It's as if I was playing an MMO and all the NPC questgivers had my cell phone number, and instead of me going to find them for quests, they just called me all at once whenever they want.

    I found it difficult to get through one mission without another character texting me or calling me wanting me to do something else at the same time. I began missing appointments (an interview and a date today), people get pissy at me, I get distracted from my current mission. It gets annoying, way too close to real life when you're trying to focus on something or hang out with one group of friends and someone just keeps nagging you about something. Like the other day I'd been working all day and I took a book at night to go have a cup of tea and sit and read, and as soon as I sit down my friend decides it's time to strike up a text conversation. And I'm like wtf, I just want like 30 minutes of peace today with no work and no one talking to me and I want to read and enjoy my tea, not stare at my phone screen texting.

    That's what playing GTAIV is like. So, closing this log for now. Maybe I'll come back to it in the future. It's a fun game. It just feels too socially demanding.
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    [October 5, 2011 10:34:31 PM]
    I've sat down just 3 times with GTA 4 so far, and each time I've just ended up listening to the fake media in the game. Am I even playing a game? I feel like I'm on Youtube or browsing funny sites on the internet more than playing a game.

    Day 1: I began GTA IV, which starts the same as the other GTAs I have experience with. You come to a new place as a nobody with a connection or two. You begin as a low-ranking person, and as you do more and more missions for people, you meet more and more powerful individuals, working your way up whatever hierarchy it is. So for Day 1, I played up until I noticed I could interact with the TV in Roman's apartment. I ended up sitting and watching all the TV shows. Since you can't select a show at will, I ended up turning off the game and just watching them all on Youtube. This was a totally unexpected, yet entertaining, first day. The shows are sarcastic, as GTA is known to be, and mostly make fun of conservatives, patriotism, gender norms, and about anything status quo. A couple particular parodies I enjoyed were the celebrity gossip shows talking about how rich and fabulous their lifestyles were. There was a hilarious infomercial about swords and knives with this crazy black woman and her more reserved southern white business partner. Then there was a hyper-masculine razor commercial for the "Excelsior Razor 9" with 9 blades for a close shave. And I remember a comedy club performance with real comedians. Ricky Gervais did a routine, and another guy who looked familiar, but I don't know his name.

    Day 2: I did some story missions, met a few new characters, but that all ended when my attention was captured by a car radio program. I then sat outside an employer's house and listened for a long time to various radio shows in the game. I'm nowhere near listening to all the radio. I think I just listened to the cycle of one station if I remember correctly. I wrote all this down afterward because I was so amused:

    i heard a talk show yesterday, listened through the whole cycle of it, 3 shows, probably 30-45 minutes. one was a psychic show, where they parodied spirit mediums. this woman was hilarious, and the callers were hilarious. she convinced them of all kinds of stuff, like convincing a woman she was really a man, telling another woman to leave her boyfriend and to spend $500 on sustaining the phone hotline call because she 'would soon meet the love of her life, a rich man, to whom $500 was inconsequential' there was also a political-type talk show with a dumb actor, a gubernatorial candidate, and an 11-year old genius. the host sounded very much like david sedaris. then there was one other show about the health care crisis, with a woman from the pharmaceutical companies, a guy from an HMO, and this stoned out organic medicine hippie guy, who at the end of the show, went nuts and tried to drill holes in the others' heads as a homeopathic remedy for headaches. it was bizarrely funny.

    Day 3: Again, I did some missions for a while until I got to a mission where I had to create an email account. Now this was strange! Nico is an immigrant from Eastern Europe. It's interesting that it's never confirmed (so far) where he's from, though he does say he's not Russian. My guess is Serbia. Anyway, he's from a place where using the internet regularly isn't the norm. So Roman sets up an email account and the mission is to go to an internet cafe to confirm the account and finish setting it up. There's an entire freakin series of fake web pages you can browse. I uploaded some screenshots onto my Steam account. There's the Bank of Liberty City, which doesn't care about your security, promotes a Kredit Kard for Kids, and boasts about giving customers loans they can never pay off. The websites like the bank one are very satirical, and all of them make fun of their real-life sources. There's a photo-sharing site that talks about how you can post about your inane life in pictures and pester other users for comments. There's a real funny car salesman whose page mostly just glorifies himself. I stopped reading when I found a fake blog with users each with their own backlog of entries. I'll read it later. There's also a fake Myspace called Myroom that I noticed an ad for but never clicked on.

    So all this fake media, it's amazing how much time and effort was put into creating it. I'm really glad it's all here and in all its various forms. One thing that bothers me though is the fact that I'm so interested in how stupid it is. I mean, it's all over-the-top, and that's why it's funny, because it's like OUR media, but over-the-top. But wait...tons of our media is over-the-top too, or just asinine. Look at the majority of social media, Youtube videos, blogs, comments on news articles, and on and on. Most of it is just inconsequential, mundane, just everyday people talking online. Yet we sit and watch it and contribute to it. Is GTA making a comment on our willingness to participate, and invest time and self, in such nonsense? Am I, by laughing at the GTA show "Waning with the Stars," which is about drug-addled and anorexic former Hollywood actors, being complicit in enjoying all the other "______ with the Stars" TV shows? Much of our media approaches the same silliness. So if this over-the-top media is set in the context of an over-the-top city like Vice City, what does that say about life in OUR cities? Is the silliness of our own lives just being pointed back out to us by the silliness of life in Vice City, where you can run over pedestrians, walk around with guns, talk about booze and women, and go on exciting motorcycle chases? Hey, all this stuff happens in real life too. It's just a bit more normal in Vice City. How far removed is it really?

    There are a huge number of things that impress me about the game that I don't particularly remember from the others. First, this is a game for adults ONLY. If a parent buys their kid this game, they fail. There's a lot of language and humor and sex and violence that kids wouldn't get. Hell, the reason these games are controversial is that the language, humor, sex and violence in the GTA series does exist in real life. Even many adults refuse to believe it, and therefore they don't want it represented, even in exaggerated form, in a video game. GTA and moral panics indeed. My argument is that it's not that kids need to be "protected" from the content in GTA, just that they won't understand it, and they don't need to understand it. I think the harm comes in hiding language and things from kids, in over-protecting them, in pretending bad things don't exist and that there's only one way to see the world. So, I'm fucking impressed that GTA is as adult as it is.

    Going back to the communication technology in the game, you get a cell phone, which you can answer, initiate calls, read texts, use a calendar, and take video. It's a cool addition. My favorite thing about it is this bit of realism where when the cell phone rings, the speakers start buzzing like they do! It's such a cool touch. I keep thinking that my own phone is about to ring when the in-game phone rings because the speakers make that buzzing and popping that they do before a cell phone rings.

    Since you can call people, you can be one of those annoying people with a habit of calling at 1am. Characters don't like you doing this though! If you call your date (you can date girls) at 1am, she'll sound like she just woke up and tell you to call back tomorrow. If you hang out with someone (you can initiate hanging out with people to go play darts, pool, bowling, and other stuff, some of which are actual mini-games, though none too entertaining so far) and you call them to hang out again soon after, they'll tell you they just went out with you, and to call back later.

    Finally, as I remember in the last GTA I played, cops arrest you if they corner you inside a vehicle or if they knock you out first. In this one, they just get near enough to you and Niko surrenders. It's more realistic, as in, Niko doesn't just kill the cop and go on a shooting spree when the cop gets in his face. This could have been in previous games, but I don't remember it well. Anyway, I like how this one works. I assumed last time I played, when I was being chased by police for not paying a toll booth (!), that I could punch the police when he came near, but nope, I surrendered and was arrested! I rather like that you can't just assault cops whenever you please.

    That's GTA so far. I'm hardly into it at all, but have spent a ton of time watching TV, listening to the radio, and surfing the web. I think I remember playing a game or two with a cell phone before, and I've definitely played a few with email, but nothing with so much extra content as this. Fascinating.
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    dkirschner's Grand Theft Auto IV (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Got frustrated

    GameLog started on: Wednesday 14 September, 2011

    GameLog closed on: Friday 13 April, 2012

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    First time playing a GTA game since college.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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