So I finished playing the new Grand Theft Auto today. I think I’m supposed to act slightly embarrassed that I continued playing it for this long (“Maybe I shouldn’t admit this publicly but…”) but hey, I enjoy playing a new video game once every three or four years and besides, I didn’t beat the game—that would require me to spend a few months retrying missions until i completed them with a gold rating, tracking down objects impossible to find without internet assistance, and then continuing indefinitely through xbox live missions—I just finished story mode.
And why was this my one game in the past three or for years? I don’t know— probably because I’m not good at first person shooters, fear that I might become addicted to any sports game and once upon a time got really into Grand Theft Autos 2, III, and San Andreas. The simulacra aspect is appealing to me, as is the ability to shoot, explode, or run over random characters. What can I say? At it’s best, the game’s heists play out like those a Donald Westlake novel, and at its worst, the game’s conspiracy-heavy storyline disappears up it’s own ass like something written by Ellroy.
Naturally, that’s the part where the new game loses me: Just as the L.A. Trilogy (I’m thinking of Big Nowhere in particular) ‘s supposed uncovering of the city’s corrupt, hidden history was undone by its moving too far in the other direction, unnecessarily creating an L.A. where the Sleepy Lagoon murder was committed by a corrupt, racist policeman out for blood, GTA5 presents this remarkably interconnected world or peoples, companies, places and whatever and then places nearly its entire development in the hands of the three main characters, the Federal Investigations Bureau and …. (its hinted at) aliens.
Whatever, it’s not only just a game but a game that I decided to play because I for whatever reason find some pleasure in the occasional robbing of virtual banks. But I’m here writing a tumblr post about it because that sort of defeatist, above-it-all worldview is so typical of (duh) so many video game playing semi-smart bros and so malignant, smug and all-encompassing that it can literally make otherwise nice people impossible to spend time with. And back in the game, it comes through not only in the power structure of the fictional city but in just about every pixel or dot on the screen from the tongue-in-cheek radio broadcasts (you can youtube “Weasel News,” though the station’s name is evidence enough) to the foreign film parodies that you can watch in the theater and the fact that the easiest way to make money is through insider stock trading. The whole thing is very #capitalistrealism.
One possible point of optimism: Art/entertainment/cultural products that promote this sort of stoner worldview tend to be easily to spot, usually because they can’t help but implicate their own position it. Enter Jimmy, the main character’s lazy, idiot son who prefers to spend his time smoking weed and playing a Grand Theft Auto-esque video game. I imagine that the people at Rockstar created him as such in order to gesture toward their own cleverness or creativity, but instead he serves as a nice example of why self-awareness isn’t always a virtue.