| As one begins to play Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas the main character, Carl “CJ” Johnson, is seen returning to a city with palm trees. We gather that it is 1992, that our character has flown from Liberty City to Los Santos, San Andreas, and that CJ is returning home for his late mother’s funeral. When CJ was taken out of the taxi at gunpoint I realized that there was something bad going to happen almost immediately. Despite having spent many hours in years past playing this game, I was surprised to hear that this cop was framing me the moment I entered the game. As per the other titles in the genre I knew that law enforcement was for sale, but this was a more aggressive presentation to the one force in-game that is something to be reckoned with for its sheer size. Before getting dropped off by the police in the rival gang’s neighborhood, I am informed that I am being framed by the police for the murder of an officer on the force. This kinda sucks, immediately the law is blackmailing me, but that does mean (true to GTA form) the police have a price and I can pretty much roam as I please without too much hassle.|
I begin the first mission, riding a bike back to the Grove; on the way back I took notice of the expressions and responses of the people that I passed on the way. It was interesting to see how much detail (for the time) was poured into the environment and the people’s interactions with it, and with each other. The gang members gave long looks and started to walk towards me on my bike. As they walked up I could hear them asking what I was doing there, at this point I was presented with one of the many ethical choices in GTA, even from the beginning of the franchise; to kill or not. I am a firm believer that within the context of this particular type of video game I do not need any logical reasoning for my actions, and am confident that those actions are totally independent of my actions/intentions in real life. SO…I beat the piss out of the two gangbangers and came up $47, a knife, and a 9mm handgun. Things are looking up, and in CJ’s defense those gangbangers looked huge and they did pull those weapons on him, so lets call it self-defense.
I go on to learn that in CJ’s world everything is about how it appears to be, image is most important and there are even meters that quantify attractiveness. That amount of attractiveness is determined by factors, such as the clothes that CJ wears, his hair cut, his tattoo’s if any, or his fitness. The interesting thing is that almost from the very beginning you are able to do as, and as much as you please until the cops overpower you, without much outrage from the general populace around; save for the random citizens that run toward you with a weapon drawn aiming to kill (which by in large are easily dealt with).
In conclusion I took my time in game for this first post to kind of explore and indulged in all the potential evil, destructive, and chaotic situations that this sandbox game creates for the player. Inherently, the game world operates independent of CJ’s actions and is governed in a similar fashion as our current societal framework; cars will stop at red lights, pull over for sirens and lights, or people will walk down the street and address your character. So, one could arguably play this game as if bound by the same societal strictures found applicable in real life. Ethically, I think that this videogame provides an arena for players to explore choice freely without hesitation within that context, not breed sadism, sociopathy, or criminality. Insofar as this is true, the game may present us with less than angelic circumstances but can anyone say that the reality we live in is any less horrific? At what point does one draw the line when doing what is necessary to survive? (These questions are mostly for my own reflection, but feel free to reply)
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