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"the most elaborate asshole simulation system ever devised..."
September 26, 2013 2:15 PM   Subscribe

"Once upon a time, playing a GTA game was like sitting next to your offensive Republican uncle at Christmas dinner. He was definitely a dick but also smart and interesting, and his heart was fundamentally in the right place. These days Uncle GTA is a billionaire with an unchanged shtick, and he seems a hell of a lot more mean-spirited than before."
A letter to Niko Bellic about Grand Theft Auto V
posted by Atom Eyes (156 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Almost everyone I know who loves video games — myself included — is broken in some fundamental way."

Maybe they just like games, mate. Spare me the amateur psychology.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 2:22 PM on September 26, 2013 [31 favorites]


> One mission in GTA V involves driving your family to therapy. In another, you mop a floor.

Stuck on mop mission

Where the heck do I go

you lazy sonofabitch mop the floors

posted by The Card Cheat at 2:25 PM on September 26, 2013 [31 favorites]


It's funny, the second thing I did after I got control of the Michael character was to go play tennis with Amanda, Michael's wife. My girlfriend walked into the room at that point and asked what game I was playing, she knew that I'd just gotten GTA, but playing tennis didn't strike her as a particularly GTA-ish activity given what she knows about the franchise and from the media (she's not a gamer herself). Of course the next question was who I was playing with. The funniest part to me was I had no idea who Amanda was at that point in the game. I thought maybe she was Michael's daughter given all the comments about age and his heart etc. But it speaks to me at least about how the game presents itself and maybe how it sees itself as well.
posted by Carillon at 2:33 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Some other interesting writings about GTA V (spoiler warning):
Tom Chick on a controversial scene in GTA V
"Grand Theft Auto 5 channels the violent, lonely minds of men, especially mine" by Nora Khan
Love and Hate in Los Santos by Sean Sands
posted by juv3nal at 2:34 PM on September 26, 2013 [14 favorites]


I suspect the creative leads at Rockstar came to realize that a game designed around speed, theft, and murder doesn't lend itself so well to seriousness.

This is really important, I think. The GTA games are *comedies*. Every time someone tries to treat them as dramas (including the developers), the results are embarassing. Dramas are about characters with depth who grow and change. Comedy, pace Henri Bergson, are about automatons who cannot react appropriately to their circumstance. Even the violence in GTA is funny, precisely because every time an NPC ragdolls over a car hood, it makes you sharply aware of how artificial this seemingly real world is.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 2:35 PM on September 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


Oh and on a non critical writing note, apparently there's some kind of massive treasure hunt/easter egg buried in the game.
posted by juv3nal at 2:37 PM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


The GTA games are flaming cataracts of contempt. The vision they peddle of men, women, minorities, American culture, and video games is apocalyptic, vicious, and often highly unpleasant.

This is why I won't play GTA V. I love games with big, immersive worlds and engrossing single-player narratives. I should love this, and it certainly looks amazing, but I won't play it for a number of the reasons given in the above article. I have no desire to go somewhere that seems worse than the current actual state of things in America, and revel in misanthropy.

Instead, I'm just going to wait for X Rebirth.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:38 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


The GTA games are *comedies*

Thank you. I've been getting increasingly annoyed with histrionic editorials and commentaries that seem to have missed this incredibly obvious point. The humour is mostly intentionally crass, rarely subtle, occasionally very dark, and sometimes falls flat, but I've had one or two moments in this game that have made me actually bark with laughter. And I spend a good ten minutes just quietly chuckling while listening to the star tour guide's patter.
posted by figurant at 2:43 PM on September 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


Grand Theft Errand
posted by borges at 2:44 PM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


GTA lost its soul when it got rid of the Hare Krishnas, if you ask me.
posted by entropicamericana at 2:45 PM on September 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


> My friend Mitch flew down from San Francisco to play through the game with me, and when we hit the 30-hour mark, Mitch turned to me and asked a very simple question: "What the hell is this game about?"

I had the exact same experience with Super Monkey Ball.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:46 PM on September 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


GTA V Mythbusters
posted by exogenous at 2:47 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Leigh Alexander's actual (previously) review of GTAV: Opinion: The tragedy of Grand Theft Auto V

This is watching your sharp, witty father start telling old fart jokes as his mind slows down...it's reciting the same old gangland fantasies, like a college boy who can't stop staring at the Godfather II poster on his wall, talking about how he's gonna be a big Hollywood director in between bong rips.
posted by straight at 2:48 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I still haven't played it but I been following it pretty closely.

Saw this yesterday on /r/games. There seems to be kind of a negative buzz about this game. Even ignoring the garage bug, and the GTA online microtransactions, people don't really seem to like the game all that much.

I kinda feel like people thik GTA, and Rockstar in general, games are "important" now. More than just a game with cars they are looked upon as an experience. People expect some kind of catharsis. Each one an open world Citizen Kane, or Goodfellas, or any other thing you want it to be. A game that will consume your life for months or even years to come. Increasingly games, Rockstar's included, fall short of unbelievable expectations.

I dunno, maybe I'll just skip it.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:53 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I had the exact same experience with Super Monkey Ball.

I think it has something to do with Monkey's inhumanity to bowling pins.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:58 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I kinda feel like people thik GTA, and Rockstar in general, games are "important" now. More than just a game with cars they are looked upon as an experience. People expect some kind of catharsis. Each one an open world Citizen Kane, or Goodfellas, or any other thing you want it to be. A game that will consume your life for months or even years to come. Increasingly games, Rockstar's included, fall short of unbelievable expectations.

I think aside from "importantness," it's hard, when formulating expectations, to shake the idea of how much time and money went into it. A lot of franchises come out every year or every other year, but GTA doesn't have the excuse of being rushed. And you can't just brush it off and say "oh Rockstar are incapable of telling a nuanced story somewhat respectful to women" because they also did Red Dead.
posted by juv3nal at 3:03 PM on September 26, 2013


Leigh Alexander's actual (previously) review of GTAV: Opinion: The tragedy of Grand Theft Auto V

it's easy to forget how confining the Grand Theft Auto series now feels:

This game gives me everything, and yet I can't stop feeling sad. Trapped.

Case in point. It is really interesting that a game being a game, asking you to play it as a game with objectives, is a negative. We are questioning the very concept of a game itself here.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:06 PM on September 26, 2013


I still haven't played it but I been following it pretty closely.

Saw this yesterday on /r/games. There seems to be kind of a negative buzz about this game. Even ignoring the garage bug, and the GTA online microtransactions, people don't really seem to like the game all that much.


Interesting. I got the exact opposite feeling. I also haven't bought the game, but aside from a few annoying issues (garages, one particular money making scheme, graphical problems on the downloadable versions) everything has been pretty positive. And there's a patch coming next week to address some of the complaints.

I'm a person who hated IV though, so I'm waiting for a price drop.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:06 PM on September 26, 2013


"I don't think playing video games makes people more violent."

This sentiment annoys me. The evidence shows that violent video games induce aggressive tendencies, moral disengagement, a feeling of being less human, etc. Simulating shooting people in the head over and over again is not good for your mental health. Surprise?
posted by yaxu at 3:08 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I had a reasonably fun time playing up to about 30% completion in the first week, but this week I haven't touched it. I haven't worked out why yet, but this article elucidates at least some of my feelings about it. Good post.
posted by Acey at 3:09 PM on September 26, 2013


And you can't just brush it off and say "oh Rockstar are incapable of telling a nuanced story somewhat respectful to women" because they also did Red Dead.

While I think that is true. I feel like some players think any story at all is limiting and a frustration. Seems like current game philosophy is closer to DayZ nowadays, where they are careful not the imbue the character with past or purpose at all.

I guess I should wait till I play the damn thing before I over think it.

Interesting. I got the exact opposite feeling.

Maybe it is confirmation bias on my part.
posted by Ad hominem at 3:09 PM on September 26, 2013


It's interesting to see when dark comedy in which people take pleasure in violent acts against fictional characters is acceptable.
posted by rtha at 3:09 PM on September 26, 2013 [26 favorites]


Well I for one have been enjoying the game so far. I probably play 2-3 games a year, with the exception of sports games which I play probably once a week so I'm definitely not a hard core gamer, but not a novice either. I skipedd GTA IV but Vice City was one of my all time favorites.

I like the story so far, the music is excellent, and the city is beautifully rendered. So far the biggest problem is that there hasn't really been a great mission, some of have been fun, other a bit tedious but I get the sense I'm on the cusp of a really good, fun mission. If it doesn't come soon I'll be pretty annoyed.
posted by cell divide at 3:11 PM on September 26, 2013


The GTA games are *comedies*

I disagree, strongly. They may have been once, but now not so much. People laugh at things like faces of death, so some one finding it funny doesn't really matter. I got and played the last one, but man was it dour and just not fun to me. Watching people streaming this one, it just reaffirms how i never really want to play it. So many people were going on how much it made, but Two and a Half Men is big too, doesn't mean it's good.

I personally prefer the Saints Row 4, it started as a clone of GTA, but has spun off into absurdity, with the current one having superpowers and aliens. It has issues to be honest, but i'm so sick of entertainment with the attitude of GTA, and miss fun and silly.
posted by usagizero at 3:14 PM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd want a GTA game that wasn't a cynical reflection of Anerican media.
posted by Artw at 3:14 PM on September 26, 2013


I don't really care what the games are about. I just want a big world with lots to do.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:18 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


GTA V is a moral wasteland, way more than any of the previous GTA games and way more even than Saint's Row. Trevor is one of the most despicable characters ever devised, Michael is a loser of the highest order, and Franklin...well, Franklin is what I think the target audience believes all young black males to be like. There are glimmering moments when he seems like the most morally "correct" of the trio, but they are crushed quickly.

In fact, not a single character is in any way likeable or sympathetic. Perhaps that's Rockstar's point, that the world is full of assholes and we're all assholes too, but that's a pretty boring point to make for $200 million dollars and it's sad they've been rewarded with over a billion dollars for making it. On the other hand, this is a very good return on investment for Rockstar so I'm happy to pass judgement and say it's now ethically okay to pirate this game.

It is a terribly-written pile of cliche and college-level humor, littered with unnecessary expletives. I'm pretty much at the end game and honestly can't remember the guts of any of the missions, so none of them have been particularly innovative or exciting. Oh, wait, I do remember one, but only because it was the most recent one, and there was nothing special about it, it was just shooting a bunch of dudes.

I find it really hard to believe that this is the same mob responsible for Red Dead Redemption. Yeah, yeah, that was Rockstar Somewhere, this is Rockstar Somewhere Else, nobody gives a fuck, this game is shit and I implore you not to buy it. In fact, if you're in Australia and have an Xbox 360 and actually want the game, I will be happy to send you my copy once I'm done with it (yeah, I'm still gonna finish it, for some reason), free of charge, just hit me up in memail.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:18 PM on September 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


This sentiment annoys me. The evidence shows that violent video games induce aggressive tendencies, moral disengagement, a feeling of being less human, etc. Simulating shooting people in the head over and over again is not good for your mental health. Surprise?

Um? The abstract of the first paper on that list says:

Results from our study found no evidence for increased bullying or delinquent behaviors among youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms who also played violent video games.

The second says:

In fact, two studies revealed that playing a prosocial video game (where the goal is to help and care for other game characters) led to increased perceptions of the player's own humanity (in particular, for positive humanity traits).

The third says:

As was expected, playing the comic hero Superman led to more prosocial behavior (i.e., returning a lost letter) than playing the evil villain Joker.

The fourth says:

Participants who played a violent game in which the violence had an explicitly prosocial motive (i.e., protecting a friend and furthering his nonviolent goals) were found to show lower short-term aggression (Study 1) and show higher levels of prosocial cognition (Study 2) than individuals who played a violent game in which the violence was motivated by more morally ambiguous motives.

Emphasis mine in all cases. I haven't gone further down the list. Can we just say that the evidence is mixed and that the fictional context is important?
posted by baf at 3:19 PM on September 26, 2013 [41 favorites]


I just realized I'd play the heck out of a GTA-like immersive game set in the universe of John Carpenter's "They Live".
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:19 PM on September 26, 2013 [21 favorites]


I had the exact same experience with Super Monkey Ball.

GTA games are sarcastic hellscapes created by man's inhumanity to man, but in Monkey Ball, it's the universe that hates you -- stuck in your antiseptic plastic Absolutely Safe Capsule, endlessly rolling around terrifying landscapes, kept away from the only thing that gives your little simian mind pleasure -- bananas -- by an impenetrable wall of plastic. Aiai and friends don't go mad only because they don't have the wit for it.
posted by JHarris at 3:20 PM on September 26, 2013 [23 favorites]


When it works, GTA only works well because it isn't written by Americans. The British perspective is key, I think.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:20 PM on September 26, 2013


The GTA games are *comedies*

Yes, but I'd also never play an Arrested Developent game where I had to portray all the members of the Bluth family.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:20 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


The British perspective is key, I think.

I'm confused because it's described as a "British video game developer", but what would happen if you took that tone in Edinburgh? Bought the game yesterday out of the same stupid loyalty that caused me to buy the last one. Hoping to make it more than a few hours in; I'm not sure if Jonah Hill will help or hurt this.
posted by yerfatma at 3:24 PM on September 26, 2013


The GTA games are *comedies*

Sure, but they're like one huge racist rape joke.
posted by 256 at 3:24 PM on September 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm confused because it's described as a "British video game developer", but what would happen if you took that tone in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is certainly British.

It's not English though.
posted by kmz at 3:27 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just realized I'd play the heck out of a GTA-like immersive game set in the universe of John Carpenter's "They Live"

That would be amazing. I'm also kind of looking forward to Watch Dogs, but I don't know that I'll be playing it for a long while as I won't be buying a first-gen PS4.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:30 PM on September 26, 2013


In some ways I believe that GTA belongs back in the era of Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. Not that it's as shitty as those things, but that it's humor and transgressive appeal worked better at that time and now feels, well...

I've played the game. Not all the wya, through, but I spent about six hours with it and some of my friends this week. There is definitely a lot of fun to be had with it, no question. Los Angeles works a lot better as a setting than New York simply because one is a car-culture city and the other isn't and if you're making a car-culture game then put it in a place made for cars. Also, Nico Bellic might well be the most developed and sympathetic character that GTA has created so far, but that undercuts what one wants in a GTA game, sadly. He's presented as this guy who is traumatized and - this is key - incredibly guilt-ridden about things he did in the army back in the old country, who gets to the U.S. in the search of an American dream it turns out his cousin Roman was lying about.

So when Nico - who seems to just want to be free of all of the awful things and help his cousin out and go on dates with his girlfriend - is suddenly shooting people he doesn't know and busting up shops and whatnot, it feels jarringly out of place.

Franklin feels much the same in GTA V. He's a repo man who isn't asking a lot of questions but seems to want to be a good man. Michael, on the other hand, comes off as simply pathetic. When he catches his wife in bed with her tennis instructor, the thought is anything but shock, and more just like, "well, yeah. You suck and are unrepentant about it. Good for her." Trevor is a psychopath, but in the world of GTA there is an admirable and pleasant purity about that.

Finally, yes, GTA is a comedy. More specifically, you know that breed of British chap who is well-educated but whose sense of humor is way more broad and crass than Americans of his peer group, and who gets kind of pissy when others don't think every racist or misogynist joke he tells is gut-busting? It's a comedy by one of those guys. So take that as you will.
posted by Navelgazer at 3:32 PM on September 26, 2013 [12 favorites]


yaxu: "The evidence shows that violent video games induce aggressive tendencies, moral disengagement, a feeling of being less human, etc. Simulating shooting people in the head over and over again is not good for your mental health. Surprise?"

That's not evidence, that's a pubmed search, and one that doesn't seem to support your claim. The first paper is this:

Video Game Violence Use Among "Vulnerable" Populations: The Impact of Violent Games on Delinquency and Bullying Among Children with Clinically Elevated Depression or Attention Deficit Symptoms.
The issue of children's exposure to violent video games has been a source of considerable debate for several decades. (...) Results from our study found no evidence for increased bullying or delinquent behaviors among youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms who also played violent video games. Our results did not support the hypothesis that children with elevated mental health symptoms constitute a "vulnerable" population for video game violence effects. Implications and suggestions for further research are provided.
Please focus on your supporting materials in the future.
posted by boo_radley at 3:32 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


I just realized I'd play the heck out of a GTA-like immersive game set in the universe of John Carpenter's "They Live"

I don't know if you're just trying to be super deadpan or what, but that (spoilers) is Saints Row 4, sort of.
posted by juv3nal at 3:36 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Saints Row IV is basically GTA meets They Live.
posted by Benjy at 3:36 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh, but I guess I should temper my argument by saying that I think the bit-part character Mary Ann is actually pretty cool and funny, and I have had a lot of fun with the game, but none of that fun has been had during the missions or story. Running along the street and clocking people with a roundhouse to the back of the head will not get old for me any time soon.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:36 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Atom Eyes: "I just realized I'd play the heck out of a GTA-like immersive game set in the universe of John Carpenter's "They Live"."

How are you not playing Saint's Row 4, then?
posted by boo_radley at 3:36 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


I know I am biased, but when you write someone a letter...put a fucking stamp on it and mail it. This isn't a letter. This is a blog post.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:37 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


"The evidence shows that violent video games induce aggressive tendencies, moral disengagement, a feeling of being less human, etc. Simulating shooting people in the head over and over again is not good for your mental health. Surprise?"

This is a false statement. The last time MeFi had this discussion (earlier in 2013), there was one much-ballyhooed but small study that showed a mild and temporary increase in aggression associated with playing first person shooters (and that may be over-stating the study's scope and strength). There is a substantial amount of contradictory evidence that shows that the perceived association between violent acts and violent video games is driven by the prevalence of violent attitudes and entertainment in the US, not something inherent to games or gamers.

If we're going to rehash this discussion for the Nth time, let's be sure we're doing at it the appropriate level of nuance.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 3:40 PM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


...or the running gag in which Trevor is compelled into a homicidal rage whenever people notice his Canadian accent, or the recurring encounters with a smooth-talking marijuana-legalization enthusiast, or the mission that commences with this on-scene text: NEUTRALIZE 20 HIPSTERS.

Two of those things are exactly the same, pretend-letter-writing-guy.
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:42 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Y'all are just irritated hipsters angry that there's no way to participate in the penny farthing races advertised on the radio. It's a good game. A good game whose only fault is it provides too few of the moments of "fun core loops of gameplay aren't laid at the gamer's feet. You have to find and create them yourself."

If you are fatigued by the game it's because this is the forth iteration, and the joy of discovery that you can jump your car on the roof of a building to hide out from the cops is a known quantity the first time you switched the game on, you instinctively looked for those fun loops that made the game exciting rather than stumbling across them accidentally.

So in many ways the joy of discovery is gone and all that's left is playing tennis with your wife.
posted by Keith Talent at 3:44 PM on September 26, 2013 [7 favorites]


Case in point. It is really interesting that a game being a game, asking you to play it as a game with objectives, is a negative. We are questioning the very concept of a game itself here.

I don't think that's what Leigh Alexander is saying. She's not sad that it's a game, she's sad that it's the same game Rockstar has done 5 or more (depending on how you count) times already. She's sad that it's stuck in a rut, that Rockstar seems to think the same stuff that was edgy and subversive and exciting 12 years ago still is today. But (she thinks) it's not.
posted by straight at 3:47 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: in many ways the joy of discovery is gone and all that's left is playing tennis with your wife.
posted by Pecinpah at 3:48 PM on September 26, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you were 18 when GTAIII came out, you're 30 now. If you're 18 now, you were 6 then. Rockstar doesn't have to satisfy the audience from 2001.
posted by anifinder at 3:49 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


GTAARP: Retirement Community
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:54 PM on September 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Rockstar doesn't have to satisfy the audience from 2001.

That's exactly what I was thinking when I read someone upthread complain about it being "college-level humor". Cuz, well, yeah it is. Always was. And the main character was always an asshole doing asshole things.
posted by Hoopo at 3:55 PM on September 26, 2013


Case in point. It is really interesting that a game being a game, asking you to play it as a game with objectives, is a negative. We are questioning the very concept of a game itself here.

I don't think that's the sole criticism, or really the criticism she's trying to make at all. Take Saints Row, for example. If anything, the latest Saints Row (or any of the ones before it, really) are even more game-y than GTA. The game presents you with activities that literally keep score, like the Genki-related activities or Insurance Fraud. The mission design isn't as nuanced, and the goals in each mission are usually less disguised (though on the flip side, GTA V has its share of "kill 35 rednecks!" so it's obviously not immune either).

But Saints Row is a franchise that constantly gives you fun, absurd things to do. As much as I love Leigh Alexander's fake review of GTA V, the part where she says "games are about feeling powerful, and about you getting your way" actually applies far more to Saints Row than it does GTA V. In Saints Row IV, you are a superhero for nearly all intents and purposes. In GTA, if you steal a car and there are witnesses, you have to run from the cops for five minutes--fifteen if you ran over a cop by mistake during your escape.

GTA doesn't confine you by forcing you to achieve the game's objectives; Saints Row asks you to do the same but never really feels confining. It's the nature of what GTA V asks you to do that feels confining. The spoiler-y scene Bissell writes (you'll know the one if you've played it) about is forced upon you and you can't avoid it unless you stop playing the game altogether. Outside of the actual objective-driven gameplay, commit a minor transgression too openly or even jump into the wrong character and the wrong time and the game punishes you with police chases. Crash into too many things and your vehicle becomes a pain to drive. Want to buy that piece of property? If you've got the wrong character, too bad, you'll have to switch and walk that other guy over to where you are now. And so on and so forth.

But perhaps more to the point, GTA maybe suffers from the failure to meet its own pretensions. Saints Row never claims to be anything more than a game where you drive fast cars, shoot a bunch of fools, and revel in absurd moments like your character and one of your buddies driving down the road belting out Paula Abdul's "Opposites Attract." GTA, on the other hand, promises a criminal life simulator. You can walk your dog! Play tennis! Watch a movie! Go to a strip club! But ultimately none of those activities mean anything or leave a lasting impact, nor are any of those things particularly fun (though I hear the stuff you can watch on TV is actually pretty good). Really, the only other thing to do is pick up where you left off with the game's story, where you're a criminal who's pretty clearly not headed for a great ending. In other words, trapped.
posted by chrominance at 3:55 PM on September 26, 2013 [10 favorites]


Everyone is praising RDR's narrative and to some extent I agree (the climactic scene is the best melding of story and gameplay in the history if the medium, IMO), but that overlooks just how ludonarratively dissonant Marston's story felt while you were playing it. That's a fault I'm willing to forgive, just as I'm able to forgive GTAV's thin pastiche of well-worn cliches that it calls a story because the gameplay is super solid -- the driving is vastly improved (and fun as hell); the shooting mechanics are finally blessedly tight, instead of the usual GTA spray-and-pray we'd become inured to; and the map is huge and beautiful and a delight to explore.

I like the three-character system, especially the way it felt like single-player multi-player during a couple of the big set pieces (which there were not enough of). I like having everything unlocked from the start and I like that once I buy a weapon it's mine to keep.

Does it feel like more of the same? Sure it does.

And while that's disappointing, it hasn't stopped me from enjoying the time I've spent back in Los Santos. It's striking how badly GTA's sense of humor has aged, though. The lap dance mini-game is not just crude and sexist -- it's crude and sexist and boring, which is unforgivable. I cackled at a few jokes, but fewer than I'd expected.

So, yeah. Not the greatest game ever made. But far from a bad game, and, I suspect, largely a way of priming the pump for GTA Online, which is either going to be the most fun thing ever or a horrible awful very bad thing...
posted by BitterOldPunk at 3:57 PM on September 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


the shooting mechanics are finally blessedly tight, instead of the usual GTA spray-and-pray we'd become inured to

Are we playing the same game? GTA V gives you a ridiculous amount of aim assist by default, and if you turn it off it's next to impossible to aim properly AND survive long enough to shoot.
posted by chrominance at 3:58 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel like its a little disingenuous to take swings at GTA for the scripted story not being a perfect match up for the gameplay, since that's not a problem anyone has ever really solved satisfactorily.
posted by Artw at 4:00 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's sort of interesting, all the talk about Saints Row. I have a friend who plays GTA games primarily to run amok and cause havoc. I keep telling him he needs to play Saints Row instead. Still he bought GTA V. And, actually, GTA V does make it considerably easier to engage in serious mayhem early in the game without having to do many missions, so in that regard V is more suited to him than IV was.

As for me, I've always played straight through the story modes and hardly caused any out-of-mission chaos. I'm (apparently) 30% into GTA V, and I'm enjoying it, although I'd be hard-pressed to say why. The city is beautiful, the mechanics are mostly-good, but the actual gameplay is largely tedious and silly. I think what's saving it for me is the variety of missions. Don't feel like murdering a roomful of nuns? Go see what's at the "?" icon. Maybe you'll have to collect some panties.

But yeah, I am, indeed, getting too old for this shit. There's some humor--particularly in the radio ads--that's still amusing enough, but by-and-large it's the dreck you'd see frontpaged on /r/all with 2400 bros posting "This." underneath.

And the scene referenced in this article ... you know the one ... I played it, because I knew I had to in order to progress, but I had to shut the game off and go to bed afterwards. It was not okay.

GTA V seems unfocused and, in some ways, that's actually a good thing; the variety is probably the only thing keeping me going at this point. But I am sort of coming to the conclusion that this might not be for me anymore.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:03 PM on September 26, 2013


I don't think that's what Leigh Alexander is saying. She's not sad that it's a game, she's sad that it's the same game Rockstar has done 5 or more (depending on how you count) times already. She's sad that it's stuck in a rut, that Rockstar seems to think the same stuff that was edgy and subversive and exciting 12 years ago still is today. But (she thinks) it's not.

Maybe. She says:

All of that endless vista, and you with your eyes too-often glued to the mini-map. Orbiting missions and objectives that dot your map like bites to be scratched. You have to shoot. For a game defined by its attitude to freedom and openness, it gives you very little liberty to escape its structure. You can go for a drive, or play tennis or do yoga, but you're delaying the inevitable.

Maybe she has a a beef with developers forcing the player through a narrative in a specific way as opposed to a beef with games with any structure at all.

It just seems to me that once you offer an objective you are informing the player how the game is meant to be played and you are enforcing a structure. That structure is going to feel narrow or constricted to a huge number of players no matter what you do.

You guys are probably right. I am probably reading this all wrong since I haven't played it. I guess I should play it but I really want to play Super Monkey Ball now.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:05 PM on September 26, 2013


I feel like its a little disingenuous to take swings at GTA for the scripted story not being a perfect match up for the gameplay, since that's not a problem anyone has ever really solved satisfactorily.

Huh. Because I feel like it worked pretty damn well in GTA3 - San Andreas, where the stories they were telling were more in vein of what the gameplay allowed for. If we're sticking with Rockstar, Bully also pulled this off pretty well (while telling a very good and unique story in a fairly open world.) The Elder Scrolls games (which are probably the property most similar to GTA among the AAA market) manage it. WHere are you finding the universal problem here, because I think I'm just not understanding you.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:06 PM on September 26, 2013


How are you not playing Saint's Row 4, then?

OK. That is hilarious!
posted by Atom Eyes at 4:11 PM on September 26, 2013


All of that endless vista, and you with your eyes too-often glued to the mini-map. Orbiting missions and objectives that dot your map like bites to be scratched. You have to shoot. For a game defined by its attitude to freedom and openness, it gives you very little liberty to escape its structure. You can go for a drive, or play tennis or do yoga, but you're delaying the inevitable.

The green, bulbous mountains beckon in the distance, the texture of the brick almost wafts over you, and the goombahs rustle their spores. Yet the player's eye is always on that countdown, by which the game designers force the player to tell the same story they've always told — the immortal hero, the kingdom in danger, the voracious plantlife. It's telling that once you pass a stunning tableau of glowing question-mark blocks and fluffy shrubberies, you can never go back again — literally, as the game prevents you from going to the left. Perhaps it is a subtle commentary on the linearity of all human life. Or, then again, maybe I'm reading way too fucking far into a game where you run around killing things in a crazy made-up world.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 4:11 PM on September 26, 2013 [20 favorites]


I think Keith Talent has hit upon a gold mine: Steam Punk GTA with Penny Farthing races and mustache-growing missions.
posted by ooga_booga at 4:14 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Almost everyone I know who loves video games — myself included — is broken in some fundamental way."

Maybe they just like games, mate. Spare me the amateur psychology.


I played hundreds of hours of Dwarf Fortress, Kerbal Space Program and Aerobiz last winter because winters in Minnesota are very cold and dark and laptops and blankets are very warm. A rogue-like city builder, a space program simulator and a 25-year old SNES economic simulator. I'm not quite sure what this says about me, but it probably requires extensive therapy.
posted by nathan_teske at 4:22 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


What other game allows you to screw up while mopping? What other game even has mopping?

Ahem.
posted by gurple at 4:26 PM on September 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


There's also a game that is literally called Gib Patrol or something, where you are the janitor and must mop up the aftermath of a sci-fi first-person-shooter battle. It's about as fun as it sounds, but it's like pre-alpha or some shit.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:30 PM on September 26, 2013


It's not exactly mopping, but it ought to scratch that itch. Or, uh, clean that floor.

(The other half points out that No More Heroes has janitor jobs in it, too. Perhaps there should be a wiki.)
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:33 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


What other game allows you to screw up while mopping? What other game even has mopping?

Not mopping specifically, but if you want to do household activities like changing diapers and setting the table in a video game, this is the one for you.
posted by jbickers at 4:33 PM on September 26, 2013


There's also a game that is literally called Gib Patrol or something, where you are the janitor and must mop up the aftermath of a sci-fi first-person-shooter battle. It's about as fun as it sounds, but it's like pre-alpha or some shit.
Viscera Cleanup Detail
posted by juv3nal at 4:33 PM on September 26, 2013 [9 favorites]


Mr. epersonae has been playing GTA V, and I watch, because holy heck am I terrible at video games. (Altho...I did a bit of driving while he was out for a bit, and I actually wasn't terrible.)

I find I'm missing/nostalgic for GTA San Andreas, which he's played off and on for several years, and I wasn't sure how much of that is that it's a bit like a video game inside my adolescence (early 90s LA) and how much is a change in the actual game. I still don't know, but some of this article rang true for me at least as an observer.

The friend with whom he most often played San Andreas (they used to find the multiplayer missions, then go steal a chopper and fly around looking for mayhem) has said he thinks GTA V is probably one of the best driving game he's played, regardless of the rest of the game.

I will say that I think I might pick up a copy of Saints Row 4 for him for his upcoming birthday.
posted by epersonae at 4:42 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


Augh, did we have to wait for an overwrought muddled Grantland article before discussing GTA V? I'm sorry Tom and his 25 friends are getting too old to enjoy GTA V. But I'm too busy having fun with it myself to get too worried about that.

It's a terrific game, both technically and artistically. Right now I'm in love with the narrative innovation of switching between three characters, they do some really interesting things with that. And I actually like all the characters, particularly Michael. Yes the game is misogynistic and violent and profane and in some ways childish. It's also brilliant and good fun.

If they get it right the online game will be really interesting and fun. Over on Mefight Club (a gaming forum with many Metafilter fans as members) we have ourselves a crew going.

(Saints Row 4 is also fun, but it's like a little crass fast food meal compared to GTA V's elegant multicourse feast.)
posted by Nelson at 4:54 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Not mopping specifically, but if you want to do household activities like changing diapers and setting the table in a video game, this is the one for you.

I was hoping for Octodad.
posted by St. Sorryass at 5:31 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


The GTA games are flaming cataracts of contempt. The vision they peddle of men, women, minorities, American culture, and video games is apocalyptic, vicious, and often highly unpleasant.

I don't know about the GTA games but this is perfect description of Fox News and the Republican party in general. You want to find the source of violence and contempt in society, look to society, not video games.
posted by juiceCake at 6:06 PM on September 26, 2013


I just realized I'd play the heck out of a GTA-like immersive game set in the universe of John Carpenter's "They Live".

Saints Row 4 has many many many They Live themes, down to the Billboards and cast.

I got GTAV to play after SR4, but i haven't been able to finish it because its keeps crashing on my ps4 (near the end).

I've got a bit into GTA5, but I don't think I've ever finished any of them (certainly come close), so this doesn't feel that much different.

Also, flying lotus has stations on both games. I find that funny.
posted by lkc at 7:01 PM on September 26, 2013


Bissell has some interesting things to say, and interesting ways of saying them, but I still can't get past his characterization of some people as "broken" when it sounds more like he's describing introverts.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:03 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


turbid dahlia: "In fact, if you're in Australia and have an Xbox 360 and actually want the game, I will be happy to send you my copy once I'm done with it (yeah, I'm still gonna finish it, for some reason), free of charge, just hit me up in memail."

Man, I knew I shoulda bought an XBox360 when I was itching to. Suppose for now I'll just have to keep toodling around San Andreas on GTASA on the PC.

That reminds me though, maybe the whole reason GTAV seems so bland to people is because we've seen the British bro-deconstruction of the US five times now, and for those of us who've been along for the whole ride there's not much more left to see. Why not take the game into new and interesting places and take the piss out of them? Given that the location needs to be pretty car-centric, I think the best answer is that we need Grand Theft Auto: Australia. Probably set in the late 1980s for best effect. Then there'd be a whole new country to take the piss out of, and all the jaded US video game reviewers would surely look at the game with fresh eyes.
posted by barnacles at 8:19 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dear Gamer Culture: You can't have it both ways. You can't demand that your medium is treated like art while also flipping your shit at any and every attempt to seriously critique your medium for meaning, symbolism and intent. Sincerely, I-was-gaming-when-you-were-still-an-egg-in-your-mother's-ovary/get-off-my-lawn.
posted by Skwirl at 8:39 PM on September 26, 2013 [19 favorites]


If you were 18 when GTAIII came out, you're 30 now. If you're 18 now, you were 6 then. Rockstar doesn't have to satisfy the audience from 2001.

I'm sure Rockstar is aware that the average age of gamers (even AAA gamers) is closer to 30 than 18. And the 30-year-old gamers sure have more interesting things to say about GTA.
posted by straight at 8:53 PM on September 26, 2013


Grand Theft Auto: Australia. Probably set in the late 1980s for best effect.

Given that GTA is heavily touted in pop culture really it'd have to be the post-apocalyptic version of the 80s.

I'd buy it.
posted by Artw at 9:04 PM on September 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Artw: "Grand Theft Auto: Australia. Probably set in the late 1980s for best effect.

Given that GTA is heavily touted in pop culture really it'd have to be the post-apocalyptic version of the 80s.

I'd buy it.
"

Oh, yeah, Mad Max, Crocodile Dundee, Yahoo Serious, Neighbours, it'd have it all. One of the special weapons would be a giant boot. *goes off into a dream-like reverie*
posted by barnacles at 9:12 PM on September 26, 2013 [5 favorites]


Razorback!
posted by Artw at 9:13 PM on September 26, 2013


Inspector.Gadget: the perceived association between violent acts and violent video games is driven by the prevalence of violent attitudes and entertainment in the US, not something inherent to games or gamers.

Entertainment? You mean like movies or TV shows or... video games? If you're saying that this particular part of the overall problem is not the whole, I get that. But can you really state that GTA doesn't contribute something to the culture of violence and even rape culture? Every bit adds up to something. I'm not suggesting it should be outlawed or censored, just pointing out that GTA is simultaneously a result of our culture and an active part of the tapestry, playing its role in creating that which we are all co-creating.

Whether or not violent games alone directly lead to IRL violence, whether we could ever even prove such a correlation ... It's sad to see millions of people blithely role-playing [semi-]photorealistic cruelty: rape, pointless mass murder, and the devaluation of human life -- as their form of entertainment, for many long hours each. How it can possibly make them more valuable to their community or loved ones, or have no effect at all on their inner world, I can't imagine. (Unless perhaps they are venting on the game instead of hurting people IRL.) Anyhow I'm a softie, carry on folks.
posted by TreeHugger at 9:14 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


/Throws a tinnie on the barbie.
posted by Artw at 9:14 PM on September 26, 2013


We are questioning the very concept of a game itself here.
I think that's a good thing to do, actually, but then I lean toward the Tale of Tales side of things here anyway. It might be a bit weird to lament that you have to be a violent criminal in GTA, because that's the premise of the series, but there's no reason why there shouldn't be other games with other premises, or why open-world immersive things necessarily have to follow a mission-based game structure.
posted by byanyothername at 9:15 PM on September 26, 2013


Also, flying lotus has stations on both games. I find that funny.

He also had a station in Sleeping Dogs, I think.
posted by empath at 10:07 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


GTA V is a moral wasteland, way more than any of the previous GTA games and way more even than Saint's Row.

Ugh, really? I tried to play Saint's Row (2, I think) because I was applying for a job with Volition, and I couldn't do it. I hated my own character too much. There was a bit of crazy unlikely fun in it, but still, I just did not want to follow the story of my own character.

I've never played a GTA game and I guess I probably shouldn't.

The whole gangster thing just is not the least bit interesting to me, so there's that aspect of it. I kind of liked whichever Red Faction game let you destroy buildings with crowbars and explosives and such -- the one that somebody wrote the song "Space Asshole" to describe. But then, it was science fiction and fighting against corporate tyranny, so a whole different thing.
posted by Foosnark at 10:08 PM on September 26, 2013


I feel like the nihilistic viewpoint of the game-world and narrative is being driven by the game play. You can't live in a realistic world full of basically good and decent people and enjoy running around murdering cops, stealing cars and running over pedestrians. So they have to make literally everyone in the world that you live in an asshole or a hypocrite, or both. So a sociopath like Trevor comes across as likeable and almost moral. You're thrust into a black iron prison full of vapid, unfeeling, empty shells pretending to be people and handed a gun and immortality. It's no wonder that you kill.
posted by empath at 10:12 PM on September 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's worth noting that the only person in the entire game (including the protagonists) that's portrayed positively is the man you torture.
posted by empath at 10:14 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


empath comes upon the key to this discussion, I think. Taking all IRL issues out of the question, the character of the player-character should embody or at least reflect the morality of the game world as presented to us. Nico doesn't quite work because he wants to be a good and legitimate man. Franklin is similar. Michael is tired and bored (which, damn, that's your main character in a game that's supposed to be fun? Okay.) Trevor is an unstable psycho, but in a world where being an unstable psycho is what makes sense and how an average person would interact with that world.

Admirable isn't exactly the right word, but when placed into a nihilistic world, yes, we will empathize most with the character who also sees and embraces the same nihilism we're seeing.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:26 PM on September 26, 2013


Needs a pacifist option.
posted by user92371 at 10:44 PM on September 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


I recently replayed Oblivion, which includes a torture bit (performed by the player, in the Fighter's Guild storyline.) As far as I can tell, you can't beat the prisoner into giving you information, though it is set up that way. But you can talk them/charm them/bribe them into liking you more and telling you what you want to know.

Until you get to the last piece of info, where the prisoner self-immolates rather than submit to you.

Torture in games is disturbing, but it should be.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:52 PM on September 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm confused because it's described as a "British video game developer", but what would happen if you took that tone in Edinburgh

The writer/directors are English, the producer/studio head is Scottish, as far as I know, the team members are from all over the UK, and probably Europe too. I have friends there, who I used to work with in London who are themselves from the north of England. The games industry is notorious for churning studios over, and as a result, the people in it get well mixed.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 11:18 PM on September 26, 2013


I think a lot of people get snippy about GTA 5 because its so massively popular. For people who play a lot of amazing games, its a bit frustrating to have a game with the sense of humour of a college bro to be the face of games, when there are terrifically intelligent games out there. Imagine if Portal 2 was the face of video games, and got the level of media coverage GTA has.

Its the same frustration movie critics have with the films that everyone goes to see, which are inevitably bland and unintelligent, but at least most people have watched a film or two. Or think about Harry Potter or Dan Brown's ouvre, which get a fair amount of critical attack for works that can't really sustain such assaults, because for some people these might be the only/first books they've read.

My main frustration, having not picked up GTA 5 yet, is that reviews tend to not cover the things that really annoyed me about previous GTA games. Whether there is a better save system/ check point system. Do I have to wonder around picking up money from my properties? Before each mission do I have to trail off to a gun shop and load up? Is the mission design as constricted and punishing as it has been in the past? These little niggles are actually really important to making me enjoy a game, and I feel like a lot of reviews don't even cover them: they review GTA 5 as if its the first of its kind, not a game with a history of habits inherited from when it was an arcadey 2D doodle which actually had a password system to get to new levels.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 12:02 AM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


He also had a station in Sleeping Dogs, I think.

There were one or two tracks, but the SD stations were by record label rather than artist. As a massive Warp records fanboy, having a bunch of LFO and Aphex Twin and the like in the game pleased me greatly.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 12:10 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Whether there is a better save system/ check point system.
It's way better. There's save anywhere (outside of a mission) using your phone, plus there's checkpointing. Stupidly they seem to have omitted a restart from checkpoint option, so you have to go get yourself killed or whatever, but still a huge improvement.

Do I have to wonder around picking up money from my properties?
Don't think so. I have a couple of properties but I don't think enough days have advanced for me to actually make anything off them, so I can't say for certain.

Before each mission do I have to trail off to a gun shop and load up?
If you get arrested you lose your ammo, but if you die you get to keep everything (aside from some $), so you won't really need to for weapons/ammo that much unless you get arrested. On the other hand, depending on how difficult you're finding the missions, you might end up wanting to do so to get a fresh set of armour.

Is the mission design as constricted and punishing as it has been in the past?
Constricted, pretty much. As for punishing, not if you're just trying to get through the story; the game will actually give you an option to flat out skip sequences if you fail the same checkpoint 3 times or so. Probably just as punishing as it used to be if you're trying to gold medal/achievement hunt/100% stuff though.
posted by juv3nal at 12:12 AM on September 27, 2013


If you get arrested you lose your ammo

It's pretty hard to get arrested, since they start shooting after like 30 seconds.
posted by empath at 12:36 AM on September 27, 2013


They guy who made the little horror interactive fiction thing in the previous post wrote an interesting brief blog post from a similar perspective: Why is GTAV So Conservative?
posted by nanojath at 12:36 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was really intrigued by GTAIV when it came out; Niko Bellic seemed like an intriguing guy. I wanted to find out more about this character. But the three dudes in GTAV are just seemed kind of boring, and their story arcs are just so flat. The black guy struggling to get out of the hood! The successful white criminal with the shitty family! And the psycho redneck methhead. Okay, whatever. I don't care. And I feel bad about this, because I was looking forward to the game.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 1:09 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


A game like GTAV isn't just a game, it's also interactive fiction. I don't think judging it as such and comparing it with other fiction, interactive or otherwise, is missing the point.
posted by Drexen at 2:39 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


the game will actually give you an option to flat out skip sequences if you fail the same checkpoint 3 times or so.

I'm wondering if there's a limit to this. I skipped the biker/trailer park shootout by accident, and now I am stuck in a Sisyphean loop of only being able to shoot 22 of the required 25 rednecks. The skip option hasn't returned, and a dozen tries in a row with Trevor's VO barking in the background is much too much. I am considering just letting him die, skipping the missions altogether, and just looking for aliens.
posted by mochapickle at 5:43 AM on September 27, 2013


And you can't just brush it off and say "oh Rockstar are incapable of telling a nuanced story somewhat respectful to women" because they also did Red Dead.

I enjoyed a lot of Red Dead (have never played a GTA game) and was delighted by the character of Bonnie in it, who is presented as a hard-working, intelligent, capable woman who is able to have a friendly, platonic relationship with the main character. It was a refreshing change.

That said, let's not forget that (spoilers), she's of course eventually kidnapped, stripped, and threatened with rape because of course she'll be.

Let's also not forget that for all the talk we hear of Abigail Marston, when we finally meet her she literally does nothing but cook for John. Oh, and get jealous of Bonnie.

And beyond women...the less said about the Mexico potion of the game, the better. That part was uncomfortable, and I was glad to put it behind me. (Though, to give credit, the only decent Mexican we meet is also a woman, though she's presented as a naive idealist.)
posted by Legomancer at 5:59 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Does anyone remember Space Taxi? That was a fun game. You drove a taxi ... in space. The little people who needed rides would stand on a platform in space and wave. You would navigate your little taxi through the vacuum of space to pick them up. The more customers you picked up, the more points you got. I could spend hours playing Space Taxi.

It's pretty surprising to hear that a game called Grand Theft Auto is dark and violent.
posted by thebordella at 6:11 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Grand Theft Auto: Busytown!
posted by pxe2000 at 6:19 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm a console player, which circumscribes my gaming experience, but I'd count Portal 2 as the best game I've ever played, and I'd probably rank GTA V as second best. Portal is simply sublime in its mechanics, atmosphere storytelling, and humor--and its achievements are all he more compelling given that you never really have to kill anyone, battling the personality cores notwithstanding. It's an amazing world to be invited in to, and it's a real delight to run through the course the designers created.

GTAV is just a sandbox for me. I enjoy the missions and their structured challenges, but the real pleasure is doing whatever I want. The characters and storyline are just window dressing, and to say they're underdeveloped or unappealing seems irrelevant. The lead character is you, not Franklin/Michael/Trevor.

Also, an open letter to people who write open letters:
Hello, open letter writer! This is as tired a device as opening your with "Webster's dictionary defines 'hackneyed' as 'overused or trite.' Well, Mr. Webster..." Please give it up.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:38 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found myself in conversations over the past week or so making similar statements as the guy in the Grantland post. I was of course, not quite so fucking florid about it, but I do feel a sense of letdown about this GTA. I adored GTA IV, and was so excited about the new one.

I figured it was just me, since I started playing Call of Duty for the first time this year, and that FPSes and the infinite unpredictability of multiplayer had basically ruined me for all other video games. But then I realized that no, it's just that I am in a Murtaugh-type situation, and no matter how many helicopter pilots I snipe, Grand Theft Auto hasn't really changed, but I have, and I'm bored with it. Instead of marathon playing, I can spend a couple hours farting around, playing some missions, but then I get bored and wind up playing Rogue Legacy instead.

I am hoping that the online iteration will improve things, but I doubt it, especially since I find the aim dot basically invisible and wind up having to fire a few times to figure out where I'm aimed if there is anything but open space on the screen. More than anything, I feel like the big crime of this game is that it's just not un-boring, you know? Tedious. Grand Theft Errand is the best thing I've heard.
posted by mckenney at 7:03 AM on September 27, 2013


The one thing I miss about GTA III is that the protagonist didn't speak. He had no character to speak of and was just an errand/killing machine. I LOVED THAT. I honestly don't care about Tommy Vercetti's or Niko Bellic's back story. I would prefer to have the mute badass.

Are there other games like that where the story happens around the main character but s/he doesn't speak/have a backstory themselves to speak of?
posted by josher71 at 7:11 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there other games like that...


The Portal games, for one, as well as the Halo games (at least the ones I played; I missed Halo 4). Honestly, I'd think many, many games are like this.

I find it interesting that GTA IV gets so much love--it really didn't click for me, and it's the only GTA game after III that I played, but didn't finish. I didn't find Nico compelling.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:14 AM on September 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


The GTA games really lost something when it wasn't just a crazy psychopath anymore. I realize that makes me in the tiny minority.
posted by josher71 at 7:24 AM on September 27, 2013


GTA IV is an abomination: horrible gameplay, horrible story, utterly crass and clumsy. And like josher71 it would be nice if they just shut the fuck up. I only played it for the first time this year and it was a really unpleasant suprise having played the earlier games and Red Dead Redemption.

So... should I check out GTA V?
posted by ninebelow at 7:30 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there other games like that where the story happens around the main character but s/he doesn't speak/have a backstory themselves to speak of?

Basically every Elder Scrolls game (which, god I'm mentioning them a lot in this thread) has you create your own character who will never be voiced, and who is in prison (or the equivalent) for unknown reasons. No further background is ever explored. It's all about going forward.
posted by Navelgazer at 7:38 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Gordon Freeman, for that matter, has no resume to speak of; it's clear by implication from game start that he is a scientist or science lab assistant of some sort who works for Black Mesa (and is maybe a little late for work, too; maybe he missed the earlier transit car?), but everything about the mythos of the dude is based on his actions after the game starts.
posted by cortex at 7:43 AM on September 27, 2013


Oh, yeah--today's the day of the third Valve announcement! I wonder what we'll get...
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:49 AM on September 27, 2013


Are there other games like that where the story happens around the main character but s/he doesn't speak/have a backstory themselves to speak of?

Ever heard of a little indie game called Half-Life?
posted by word_virus at 7:51 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Saints Row IV is basically GTA meets They Live.

It's more fair to say it's GTA meets The Matrix.

Saints Row IV also gets bonus points for parodying Mass Effect by having a "Romance" button that instantly gives you sexytime with any crew member (Excluding Keith David), no matter what gender you or they are, with no fuss about increasing some arbitrary "romance" stat first.
posted by ymgve at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2013


Yeah, SR4 is not in any sense a dating sim. More like a booty call sim.
posted by kalessin at 9:15 AM on September 27, 2013


Are there other games like that where the story happens around the main character but s/he doesn't speak/have a backstory themselves to speak of?

The Half-life games are very much like this. Gordon Freeman doesn't speak. Ever.
posted by sparkletone at 9:24 AM on September 27, 2013


no matter what gender you or they are,

Including the genderless AI robot thing. Good times.

So... should I check out GTA V?

It's markedly better than IV by most accounts (including mine), but I'm too early in it to say if it's Vice City-grade great, or just merely "way better than the terrible last one."
posted by sparkletone at 9:26 AM on September 27, 2013


> Basically every Elder Scrolls game (which, god I'm mentioning them a lot in this thread) has you create your own character who will never be voiced, and who is in prison (or the equivalent) for unknown reasons. No further background is ever explored. It's all about going forward.

Same with Fallout, but at least in those games it's established that you do say things, because you choose the dialog from a menu. You just don't hear the protagonist say the words.

This is important to remember. At least in these worlds, you can take actions which shape the character as s/he exists in the your mind. You can invent a backstory and then act in a way that reinforces that backstory.

Compare this to Half-Life, where Gordon never says anything, and entire cutscenes happen in which NPCs have crucial conversations about what Gordon should do next, conversations in which it's apparently not weird that Gordon doesn't have any input. This drives me nuts. Gordon isn't a character; he's an empty vessel.
posted by savetheclocktower at 10:27 AM on September 27, 2013


What other game allows you to screw up while mopping? What other game even has mopping?

Infocom's text adventure Planetfall opens with a mopping scene. You don't have to mop particularly well, but you can fail fatally if you try hard enough.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 10:30 AM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's markedly better than IV by most accounts (including mine), but I'm too early in it to say if it's Vice City-grade great, or just merely "way better than the terrible last one."

Is it pretty much the consensus that Vice City's the best GTA? It's the only one I've played, and I adore it (hell, I just bought it on my iPad and have been having a blast relearning it on those weird controls), and one of the things holding me back from later GTAs is that they just don't look like they measure up.
posted by COBRA! at 10:39 AM on September 27, 2013


Compare this to Half-Life, where Gordon never says anything, and entire cutscenes happen in which NPCs have crucial conversations about what Gordon should do next, conversations in which it's apparently not weird that Gordon doesn't have any input.

There are no cutscenes in Half-Life.

Gordon isn't a character; he's an empty vessel.

TBH this is an area in which Half Life is superior to other games. It's immersive, you're not just filling in the action sequences to someone's shitty movie.

Unfortunately pretty much all other games decided the shitty movie was the important bit.
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


This drives me nuts. Gordon isn't a character; he's an empty vessel.

It's an interesting aesthetic choice and I'm kind of bewildered at how much mileage Valve has gotten out of it. Various Valve people have said in interviews that Gordon doesn't speak because it helps heighten the sense of you the player actually being in the situation Gordon is. You're Gordon. He's not really a character himself. You are.

I think it's started to wear thin just because .... after all this, he still says nothing to anyone? It's gotten weird, and I find it mildly comedic at this point how everyone just assumes Gordon is going to agree with or do whatever they say. He does because the games are super linear, but still. It's amusing.

I wonder if they'll stick to that if/when HL3 finally comes out or what.
posted by sparkletone at 10:43 AM on September 27, 2013


Is it pretty much the consensus that Vice City's the best GTA?

It's the one I've seen most commonly cited as the best of the series to date, but mileage does vary.
posted by sparkletone at 10:44 AM on September 27, 2013


It means your never going to be subjected to some boring-ass movie of him blathering on on third person. Or worse - dialog trees.
posted by Artw at 10:49 AM on September 27, 2013


Vice City had the advantage of (a) iterating on all the stuff that worked in GTA III and (b) being able to work from the same engine base and so put in a lot of new "why aren't there X" features III lacked instead of building a new engine from scratch, all while (c) being early enough in the franchise to not end up loading up a bunch of extra metagaming stuff that bloated things a bit.

Like, San Andreas doesn't really suffer from a lack of anything Vice City had—it is, if anything, more featured and more polished in some of the details, and bigger to boot—but what it gave up in its sprawl was some of the sense of focused style and tautness that Vice City had. In SA, later in the game you're having to contend with constant annoying upkeep on the gangwar metagame and dating/friendship minigames, which while sort of clever as additions (and I'm sure some people loved 'em) also added a bunch of sort of distracting make-work to the experiences; in VC's late game, you were just owning a bunch of property outright and being an increasingly successful mobster sociopath with a good bankroll. And everything looked like Miami Vice.
posted by cortex at 10:54 AM on September 27, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's an interesting aesthetic choice and I'm kind of bewildered at how much mileage Valve has gotten out of it. Various Valve people have said in interviews that Gordon doesn't speak because it helps heighten the sense of you the player actually being in the situation Gordon is. You're Gordon. He's not really a character himself. You are.

I think it's started to wear thin just because .... after all this, he still says nothing to anyone? It's gotten weird, and I find it mildly comedic at this point how everyone just assumes Gordon is going to agree with or do whatever they say. He does because the games are super linear, but still. It's amusing.

I wonder if they'll stick to that if/when HL3 finally comes out or what.


We actually already have a case study for this kind of transition—in the original Dead Space, the protagonist, Isaac Clark, doesn't talk at all and has barely any identity of his own. In Dead Space 2, Visceral gave him a voice and emotions, as well as much stronger interpersonal relationships. Nearly all these changes were for the better, in my opinion.

Not that Half-Life 3 should suddenly have Gordon Freeman cracking wise, but it's neither an unprecedented move nor a surefire disaster.
posted by chrominance at 11:19 AM on September 27, 2013


These days SA would have in game purchases to bypass the grind.
posted by Artw at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2013


> There are no cutscenes in Half-Life.

I misspoke. There are scenes in which NPCs have conversations and you just have to stand there and listen to them. Or get bored and wander around the room and notice how weird it is that the NPCs always turn to face you.

> Various Valve people have said in interviews that Gordon doesn't speak because it helps heighten the sense of you the player actually being in the situation Gordon is. You're Gordon. He's not really a character himself. You are.

Yeah, and that makes no sense to me. I suppose it does make me feel that I'm actually there, but then my very next thought is why am I mute and devoid of agency? Whatever immersion I gain from Gordon's emptiness I end up losing when I can't talk or make decisions, when my only form of communication is jumping up and down.
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:30 AM on September 27, 2013


Heh. It's not like you really get to talk in other games - its more like you have a tape recorder strapped to your chest and at intervals the game presses play on it for a bit.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on September 27, 2013


Sure. I guess that just fits my mental model better. In Uncharted I don't feel like I actually am Nathan Drake — he does all the talking and whatnot. I'm just the guy who takes over his motor system for a while.
posted by savetheclocktower at 11:56 AM on September 27, 2013


I'll say this about V as a longtime fan of all the 3D era GTA games - I'm having a lot of fun - I've only got about five real world hours in playing (job,wife, etc.,) but it is different somehow, and the world of V feels harsher and uglier than previous iterations. GTA games have always to me been a funhouse mirror reflection of the American moment at the time - take the culture, amp it up to 150% ridiculousness, and throw it back in our faces. I think maybe we've hit a point where the real world is so fucked up that that funhouse 150% is starting to feel less satirically gleeful, and more ominous and unpleasant...
posted by stenseng at 12:24 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suppose it does make me feel that I'm actually there, but then my very next thought is why am I mute and devoid of agency? Whatever immersion I gain from Gordon's emptiness I end up losing when I can't talk or make decisions, when my only form of communication is jumping up and down.

Whereas for me, I find the immersion much more strongly broken when the first-person character says something that's totally at odds with what I would say (usually made worse by poor writing and overacting). Then it's like, "Oh, I guess I'm not really in Black Mesa, I'm just watching a movie staring some doofus that I hate, but at least don't have to look at most of the time. Remind me why I care if this idiot gets himself killed?"

Half-Life 2 shows the seams when people are talking to Gordon (which is a tiny fraction of the game). But it's totally worth it for the benefit of the entire rest of the game letting me have my own reactions to events instead of having my experience stomped on by some other character.

Playing a specific first-person character can be done well, of course. I'd much rather be Cate Archer in the world of No One Lives Forever than myself. But very few games have writing that good, and I'd hate for there to be no games that offer silent, invisible protagonists that trust the player to experience the game for themselves.
posted by straight at 1:00 PM on September 27, 2013


Oh yes. God, I'd LOVE a new NOLF game...
posted by stenseng at 1:17 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Freeman's Mind is a guy playing through Half Life while ranting as the Gordon Freeman character, so it's Machinima. It's pretty brilliant. Some of us on MeFightClub have been following it pretty religiously. I think I've watched 46 episodes? Each is about 6 to 10 minutes long.
posted by kalessin at 1:24 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are there other games like that where the story happens around the main character but s/he doesn't speak/have a backstory themselves to speak of?

The Zelda games are pretty famous for that. Any game during the 16-bit era or before is just has Link as a sprite with maybe 1 or 2 facial expressions. When the 3D games hit, Link took on more character because he could nod, shake his head, smile, laugh, be scared, and make grunting sounds as he's slashing and jumping. I think Wind Waker succeeded most in making me feel like Link, partly because Link has no dialogue, partly because of the more abstract cel-shaded art, and partly because Link is a kid. Not everyone is a gangster like in GTA or a physicist like in Half-Life, but everyone has had a childhood.
posted by FJT at 2:28 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just finished Grand Theft Auto V, and I have a few observations, including a few generalized spoilers for midgame content.

First, while the psychotic character Trevor perhaps isn't intended as such, I find him to be the perfect answer to the questions raised by the darker gameplay possibilities of the series since GTA III. Questions like what sort of character would use a prostitute, then murder the woman to retrieve the payment. Or what sort of person would snipe the driver of a muscle car just to hijack the vehicle to reach one's destination a bit sooner.

III's protagonist was mute; his motives largely unknown. Vice City's gangster protagonist (voiced by Ray Liotta, if I remember correctly) was a sociopath, but did not seem petty enough for those acts. C.J. from San Andreas and Niko Bellic from IV seemed at times to verge on nobility, making it even more incongruous when they mowed down pedestrians indiscriminately.

Trevor, on the other hand, I could see doing just about anything. He is the avatar for the darkest gameplay possibilities of the Grand Theft Auto series, for better or for worse.

I actually spent quite a lot of time playing as Trevor, since property-buying first became available during one of his segments, and I decided to make him (rather than Michael or Franklin) the primary property owner among the three playable characters. I suppose playing so long from that point of view was responsible for the most morally disconcerting moment I had while playing: after Michael was betrayed by a family member, my first impulse was to search for a checkpoint on the map that would indicate where to go to find and kill and/or correct the bastard. Did anyone else have that experience?

I've had a few bugs playing, in order of decreasing severity:

1. In the Strangers and Freaks mission where Franklin attends (?) the Medical Marjuana rally, I had a group of suit-and-tie motherfuckers accost/attack me at exactly the moment that Barry called, thus canceling the mission while giving me no opportunity to restart it again. I suspect this may prevent 100% completion, making it a relatively severe bug.

2. One freeze, post game completion, when attempting to switch characters.

3. After purchasing the sonar business, the submersible *will* respawn, but will not be indicated on the map. This made me think that I might've fallen victim to another 100%-preventing bug.
posted by The Confessor at 2:43 PM on September 27, 2013


Is it pretty much the consensus that Vice City's the best GTA? It was pretty good, although I'd say generally that mr. e & I prefer San Andreas. How much of that, for me, is nostalgia is sort of an open question. And maybe this answers that:

I think maybe we've hit a point where the real world is so fucked up that that funhouse 150% is starting to feel less satirically gleeful, and more ominous and unpleasant...

It was one thing to laugh at the radio ads etc in San Andreas and recognize the connection with the world of my late teens; it's been another to feel that same connection with the modern world in GTAV. (Which again, may be more about me than the game; I'm not sure.)

Again, I've been an observer rather than a player, 99.99% of the time.
posted by epersonae at 2:53 PM on September 27, 2013


Vice City is pretty hard to beat. Ray Liotta and a lot of neon...
posted by stenseng at 3:41 PM on September 27, 2013


Dear Tom Bissell:

Where is my money?

- Niko
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 3:46 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Space Station 13 has Janitor as a character class.
posted by mikurski at 4:23 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's interesting to see when dark comedy in which people take pleasure in violent acts against fictional characters is acceptable.

I'm of the school that says it's pretty much always acceptable, but I'd be curious if you have any particular counter-examples in mind.

Dear Gamer Culture: You can't have it both ways. You can't demand that your medium is treated like art while also flipping your shit at any and every attempt to seriously critique your medium for meaning, symbolism and intent.

I don't agree that those are necessarily mutually exclusive positions. I'm strongly pro-ludology, so watching people critique a game based on the thin veneer of semiotic meaning contained in its least distinctive trait is a bit frustrating to me. I'd love to see some attempts to seriously critique the medium, but I don't really consider things like Bissell's essay (or Leigh Alexander's, or...) to be that; they're more akin to judging the success of the Parthenon as an aesthetic object based on how compelling the story told by the frieze is. So I'm more than comfortable saying that I think those are poor critiques (however well written) and yes, games are very much art.

A game like GTAV isn't just a game, it's also interactive fiction. I don't think judging it as such and comparing it with other fiction, interactive or otherwise, is missing the point.

This is kind of a nitpick, but is it interactive fiction? In the sense that you may develop a story through play, unrelated to the one the developers included, sure. The rest of it? I don't really think so -- you can't make choices that alter the story (as presented) in any meaningful way, for instance.

I am hoping that the online iteration will improve things, but I doubt it, especially since I find the aim dot basically invisible and wind up having to fire a few times to figure out where I'm aimed if there is anything but open space on the screen.

Change the reticle to "Advanced" in Options. It doesn't really help with the pistols, but all the other weapons become much easier to use.

It's sad to see millions of people blithely role-playing [semi-]photorealistic cruelty: rape, pointless mass murder, and the devaluation of human life -- as their form of entertainment, for many long hours each. How it can possibly make them more valuable to their community or loved ones, or have no effect at all on their inner world, I can't imagine.

Well, that's tremendously condescending. I wonder if you'd make the same statement about people who read crime novels (MURDER!) or play chess (WAR!) or listen to the blues (MORE MURDER!). I'm going to guess not. Since you're such a believer in the effects of media consumption on other people's inner worlds, I wonder what one would read or watch that would leave them so myopically incapable of acknowledging other people's intellectual and emotional sophistication.

Personally, I find the idea of gauging one's life and activities against some arbitrary standard of community value to be truly sad, but to each his own, eh?
posted by Amanojaku at 5:36 PM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


Part of the greatness of Vice City was that it was a period piece, which made the world-building both easier and more entertaining– I think it's always more fun to be in a more foreign universe. I really wish they'd make another GTA that was in another era, or even another world. WHERE IS OUR GTA 2056 DAMMIT?!?!?

Though Red Faction: Guerilla was a pretty good open-world game, as well as the most (inadvertently?) subversive video game of all time.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 5:45 PM on September 27, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really wish they'd make another GTA that was in another era, or even another world.

Yeah, I'm kind of bummed that they just bounce back and forth between Fake NYC and Fake LA these days. I'd love an updated London, 1969, personally.
posted by Amanojaku at 6:30 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where's your shootah, you muppet. Slaaaaaags.
posted by Artw at 6:39 PM on September 27, 2013


They need to make a GTA set in the south in 1979. Duke Boy missions, Smokey and the Bandit missions, you name it. That or a licensed Archer game using the GTA engine.
posted by COBRA! at 7:07 PM on September 27, 2013 [4 favorites]


In spite of never having been to your lovely country, my Aussie friends, I'm relatively certain that it's not a blasted wasteland where road warriors vie for water, so while it's not technically GTA: Melbourne, Avalanche Studios (of Just Cause fame; also, the weirdly good Disney Infinity) is doing an open world Mad Max game.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:45 PM on September 27, 2013


Though Red Faction: Guerilla was a pretty good open-world game, as well as the most (inadvertently?) subversive video game of all time.

Whoo, someone else out there thinks this too. I mean RFG came out in 2009 and was in development for at least two years prior. The player character is a terrorist and your goal is to make the occupation of Mars so uncomfortable and expensive for the occupying megacorporation that they give up and leave. The game's central theme is basically "terrorists = freedom fighters". I'm still surprised that there were apparently no reviews that focused on how astonishingly subversive it was to come out with something like RFG when the U.S. was engaged in two massive military operations where the enemy was Terror with a capital t.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:53 PM on September 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


longdaysjourney: I know, right! Not to mention that the primary form of gameplay was ferchrissakes causing tall buildings to collapse! You knew you'd gotten it right when the buildings fell straight downwards! It is so weird to me that no one seemed to notice that.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 10:23 PM on September 27, 2013


Are we still pointing out games with mopping in them? Grandia also has mopping.
posted by JHarris at 12:41 AM on September 28, 2013


The greatest game with mopping in it is Chibi-Robo, because it plays a pretty little tune while you mop *and* you get Happy Points.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:41 AM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Red Dead Redemption kind of is your GTA set in another era / time. And paced appropriately, no careening around with a horse at 120mph. Sleeping Dogs is also quite an excellent GTA-like game set in modern gangland Hong Kong, really loved the world there.

The main narrative in GTA V is very interesting. I'm about 80% done with the main story now and it keeps getting better.
posted by Nelson at 7:17 AM on September 28, 2013


The player character is a terrorist and your goal is to make the occupation of Mars so uncomfortable and expensive for the occupying megacorporation that they give up and leave. The game's central theme is basically "terrorists = freedom fighters". I'm still surprised that there were apparently no reviews that focused on how astonishingly subversive it was to come out with something like RFG when the U.S. was engaged in two massive military operations where the enemy was Terror with a capital t.

Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin actually pointed this out. Surprisingly astute, considering how goofy it usually is. (It's actually usually very astute as well, it's just an odd combination in my head.)
posted by chrominance at 11:03 PM on September 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Fuck the Man. Fuck the Earth. Fuck you." Genius.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 11:23 PM on September 28, 2013


Surprisingly astute, considering how goofy it usually is.

See also the whole of Borderlands2.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:08 AM on September 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


Which features Ash as Tiny Tina! The circle of life!
posted by Justinian at 11:26 PM on September 29, 2013


If you're a fan of Borderlands 2 and Hey Ash you might like this. Anthony Burch - Dying is Funny, Comedy is Easy
posted by the_artificer at 1:18 AM on September 30, 2013


A Tumblr user who tracks this kind of thing has been logging the transphobic jokes in GTA5: one two three four

This is a cool way to get me never to give Rockstar money again.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:40 AM on October 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


We Played GTA V
 I have to say though, I hate the voice acting. Especially Trevor. He resembles nothing in reality. He’s just a guy yelling. He’s never funny, nothing about him makes sense, and he’s not convincing in any way.NICK: Right. My read on Trevor is that he’s basically the player’s manifestation.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:20 PM on October 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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