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Cyncism without a Point: Quick Thoughts on Grand Theft Auto V

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Is it possible to still like a game even when there’s a lot about the game that you kind of hate? Because that’s how I feel about Grand Theft Auto 5. A lot of the game that is absolutely fantastic. But if I had to say whether I liked or disliked the game overall, I’m not sure what the answer would be. On the one hand, GTA V gives you this absolutely massive world that you can explore as you wish. The world definitely feels alive, and it’s worth exploring whatever nook or cranny you find, because there’s almost always something there. On the other hand, the story and writing kind of suck. The game is cynical to an extreme, but this cynicism has often been defended as a work of satire. The problem is that the satire isn’t exactly good. It seems the formula for GTA V’s writers was to find something that was popular in 2013, give it a new name that still makes it obvious what they’re talking about, and then just say how stupid that thing is.

“Hey, you guys know Twitter?” one writer presumably says to the other writers. “That’s a thing, and it exists. Also, it is popular, right?”

“I believe you are right, fellow writer,” says a second writer. “We should put the Twitter into our game.”

“But what would we call it?” asks a third writer who just really wants to be part of the group.

“Well, uh, Twitter does tweets, you know like birds. Oh, what about sheep? They bleat. Let’s call it Bleater!”

“Great idea, second writer!” exclaims the fourth writer, who had recently read that positive reinforcement does something for teamwork or whatever, he doesn’t remember.

“Okay, so what do we have to say about Twitter, oh, I mean Bleater? As master satirists, what kind of cultural critique are we ready to dish out?”

“Oh, I got an idea. Let’s say Bleater sucks. Also, people that use it are, uh, really stupid. Like, so dumb.”

“Fantastic, that’s the kind of keen comedic insight that we’ve come to love from you,” declares the fifth writer. “It’s hard-hitting jokes like these that you can only get from five qualified writers like ourselves.”

“Oh, what if we also put, like, Apple in the game too. And we also make a joke about how dumb it is. Like, people who buy Apple stuff are idiots.”

“Sounds great second writer, but we should also put a penis in there somewhere to really drive the point home.”

“What point is that again?” asks the third writer.

“Um, that Apple is dumb. Try to keep up third writer.”

I don’t really have a problem with juvenile humor or making fun of a wide range of targets, and I also have no problem with the decision to hold nothing sacred. But it just seemed like there was never any purpose to the criticism aside from saying, “This thing that is popular is also just sooooo dumb, am-I-right?” And it just kind of grates on you after a while. I wouldn’t have as much of a problem if the game didn’t carry itself with such an air of self-importance. It acts as if it’s cutting through some societal veil to get to that real truth that the public just can’t handle, but it’s like the game never really knows what hidden truth it’s trying to illuminate. This especially becomes a problem when the game decides to tackle topics like torture. It makes you play out the torture and then tries to justify it by having the character give a half-baked lecture about, “Torture is bad and stuff, but my character is edgy and just does what he wants, so it’s okay, because I also stuck it to those bad guys or something.”  If anything, I still play the game, because the map and many of the game mechanics are still engaging. But I really wish that this otherwise groundbreaking game didn’t have writing that was just so, well, stupid.


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