| After three separate occasions of playing Grand Theft Auto for around two hours each time, I am still very much stuck in the beginning stages of the game. I'll start with my criticisms first, then move into the ethics of the game. The controls are stiff, repetitive, and the cars have no handling at all. It has taken me so long to get anything done because I still haven't been able to get a good handle on the cars. Killing pedestrians is unavoidable. But the biggest complain I have is that there is no direction in the game for the missions. They set you off to do the mission and expect you to find your way around, which is realistic in life, but the game should treat the player better. A lot of wasted time goes into driving (or jetpacking) around the city looking for the next part of the mission.|
Alright, now onto the important part, the ethics. As I'm still not very far into the story, I cannot comment too much on the narrative. But from what I have seen, criminal acts are dealt with very nonchalantly. Drive-bys, robberies, vandalism, and murder are all just ways to continue on with the game, and not important events at all. The game almost takes an objective look at violence, but then makes the player become subjective by forcing him to do bad things. In the mission where you "clean up the neighborhood," cleaning up means killing the drug dealers. Even the good things CJ does are innately bad. I saw some rival gang members shooting at pedestrians on the street, and to stop them I did the only thing I could; I ran over them repeatedly. I felt justified in my actions, but there were the farthest thing from just. The game limits the choices a player has so much that killing is often the only way to solve arguments. Calling a cop can only happen if you crash into him or punch him in the face.
The food choices are also pretty limited, which is definitely a social commentary on food deserts in urban areas. The pimple faced teen at the pizza joint actually asks, "How would you like your cheese and fat?" This raises questions about the ethical responsibility city governments have to their citizens to ensure they have a healthy diet. Moreover, the entire social climate of the game is a call to action for governments to help the lower class. When you are not the one firing gunshots, someone else is. The city is packed with cops, not just because they are potential player foils, but because gang ridden neighborhoods have increased police activity in real life. As much as critics claim that the video game glamorized violence and criminal activity, I would argue it does the opposite. It actually shows a very realistic snapshot of intercity neighborhoods, not just of the 90s, but of today. You do not live in a mansion, and neither do any of your friends in the game. You are all literally on the same block, growing up together and building a family to replace the broken one you are from. There is no glamour in CJ's lifestyle, only brutal realism.
While in my earlier post, I discussed how the virtue of loyalty is somewhat twisted in this game, but I have now seen where it presents itself in a positive way. When talking about the local barber, an older man who cut your and your friends' hairs when you lived in Los Santos, Ryder says that he's gone crazy and has not talent for the craft anymore. But you "decide" (it's not really a decision, it's part of the mission) to get your hair cut by him anyway. CJ has a sense of loyalty, not only to his gang brothers, but also to those members of the community that have shaped the person he is. Also, despite murder being a wrong act no matter who it is against, the attempt to reclaim the neighborhood by killing drug lords shows loyalty to the community. While the virtue of loyalty may by skewed, I don't know how much more realistic it could be. There are only shades of gray in life.
All the music of the game is made up of real recorded songs from real artists, so the lyrics were around way before the game. But the lyrics do add to the environment and message of the game. The radio messages also do this, but they are made specifically for the game. They are highly exaggerated and overblown, and usually humorous. They also parody real life issues, like drug dependance and youth drug use (Sooth Cough Medicine), materialism, false self-esteem, and lack of fitness (Pump Up Shoes), and misogyny and careless sexual encounters (Bouche Cologne). These all make fun of issues that affect urban communities.
I enjoyed playing the game, and in the end see it as a fun, entertaining, highly detailed work of art. But does it hold any true ethical choices? No. There is a single path your character can walk down, and it heavily if not only involves crime. It also should be noted that a majority of the main characters from the GTA games are from minorities, stereotyping them as the only ones involved in crime. All the cops other than Officer Tenpenny are white as they walk the streets of Los Santos. The game is almost a parody of real life, making fun and exposing serious problems among the urban landscapes of today. This is done by forcing the player, more than likely a teenage boy who has enough money to own a game console, to sit down and be part of the desperate, violent, threatening urban environment. This would be a great way to teach him about others' struggles, if there was any way to help. But the boy can do nothing but engage in criminal activity, ultimately making the hardships real people face everyday into fun and games.
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