| I did not realize how many of the societal issues Grand Theft Auto would display in its very beginning, but I was certainly surprised. Issues like dirty cops, racial stereotyping, gang violence, desperation, loyalty, and more were all things I experienced in an hour and a half of play time. I'll admit I did not get very far into the story as I couldn't even get past the first mission (I kept getting separated from my fellow gang members on my bike). But even outside the narrative, I still saw many of these themes appear in one way or another.|
While you, the character of CJ, is being driven into town, Officer Tenpenny lays down how your stay in San Andreas will work. There is an understanding that the cops are not the men in white hats, but in fact crooked and almost utilitarian in their view of criminals. They are allowed to treat you how they want, throwing you out of the moving car and framing you for a cop's murder, because they are the protectors of the city. Also, if you are busted during the game, you are sent to the police station and some of your money is taken away, not for legal expenses or court costs, but for bribes. This dynamic with the officers of the so called law perfectly displays how even the good guys are not good in Los Santos.
Racial stereotypes are also seen throughout the game. Everyone speaks however their race is stereotyped as acting. While carjacking a cab, the driver said, “I hate America,” in a thick Middle Eastern accent. The other minority characters feel just as two dimensional as well, many being caught up in gang violence and other criminal activity. The neighborhood CJ grew up in is also stereotypical. The houses are small and meager, and when you enter, your brother Sweet thinks it is a burglar. The game shows that people from low income houses are part of gang violence.
These issues also tie into the much larger issue of justice. There is no justice in the GTA world. When you are arrested, you immediately are released back into the streets, and when you die, you are treated and allowed to enter back into the city you riddled with bullets. Driving slowly or following is actually very difficult, forcing you to speed down streets (there isn't even a speedometer). If you hit a pedestrian, no one calls the cops, unless the cops are right there when you do it. I am not very good at driving in the game yet, so I had to carjack my ride more than a few times. But because it was part of the built in gameplay, I did not feel very guilty doing it. That is until I carjacked a young woman's ride. Everyone else I'd carjacked was a normal adult male, and while carjacking, CJ punches them in the face and drags them out of the car. But this also happened with the girl, and I was shocked to see you punched everyone equally, no matter how old or what gender they were. I guess that's equality, but jeez.
I also have no idea how many people I killed by accident due to my driving. There are many, many people on the streets at all times, so avoiding them while being an inexperienced driver is difficult. But I felt annoyance not guilt when I hit them, seeing them more as potential reasons I could get pulled over rather than human lives. They were obstacles, not people. This seems to be the way many video games treat side characters and extras.
There is no real choice in the game. You do bad things or nothing happens and the game moves nowhere. It is much easier to do bad. Ethically, the game most resembles Ethical Egoism, only without the ethics. No one benefits from any situation CJ is in other than himself. The only reason you don't kill the cops or bowl with pedestrians is because the cops will come after you. It is not for their benefit, it is purely 100% for yours. The other ethical framework that may be present is the Ethics of Virtue, but only its bad side. Loyalty, courage, and family are all used to support evil actions and bad behavior.
I had never played a Grand Theft Auto game before. There was the occasional time I was with friends or my brother, and they would encourage me to drive around a bit, just to give it a try. But I never sat down independently and played, so this experience was new. I tried not to go in with preconceived notions, but unfortunately, I don't know if I was able to shake them. I have heard so many good things, I was expecting to have a really enjoyable experience. But I was also expecting to be at least a little uncomfortable when committing the lawless actions the game asks of you. I was mistaken with both these notions. I found the gameplay rigid and difficult to get used to, especially driving and riding the bike. I found myself stuck in corners and having a hard time not crashing into walls and dividers. These things halted me from progressing in the narrative, and frustrated me to no end. I also found myself feeling very little guilt when stomping a man to death or driving over hoards of pedestrians. The game presents the situations in a way that makes you feel no guilt. The people are just pixels as it is now. But if they were to zoom in on the dead faces of all those you've left dead in the city, perhaps murder would have more of an impact.
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