Has GTA blurred the lines between screen and reality?

A game that degrades women and fetishises violence and yet there’s no Angry Mob. asks why not?

gta5

The 17th September 2013 brought the release of game developer Rockstar’s latest episode in the Grand Theft Auto series , GTA 5. The holy grail of games; the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 release of the year. Now, less than a week after its launch, the game has reached universal critical acclaim. One of the few games that has transferred from console to console, since its launch in 1997, it is arguably a cult sensation. Grown men that took days off work in order to play it on release day. A mugging victim who happened to be carrying the game made front pages. It’s no surprise that it provides a focus for mothers, crime and gaming campaigners.

Since its first instalment, the game has developed across cities both fictional and real, two games writers and through 2D to HD. Now realising the 15th game in the GTA series, Rockstar announced this week sales of GTA 5 to have surpassed $1billion, making $800 million on the first day of sales. In its essence, GTA follows its namesake. Grand Theft Auto is the American term for what we British known as “Motor Vehicle Theft” or, in the breakdown of the law, the criminal act of stealing or attempting to steal a motor vehicle. Now, in these terms, it sounds like a very boring game. I wouldn’t rush out and buy it to throw against a wall, or use as a coaster.

But this latest release, GTA 5 is so much more than just stealing someone car in Los Santos and having a joy ride. The gamer has the ability to make or break gang warfare, control not one but three different criminals and the webs of firearms, drugs and prostitutes that follow them. Giving you options to complete missions, along the narrative of the game, or just roll around town doing, stealing and killing. GTA 5 prescribes violence, the degradation of women and criminal activity to its gamers. So, in the wake of upset following Robin Thicke’s number 1 hit, ‘Blurred Lines’, surely GTA is next on the list for the Angry Mob?

In case you missed it, Thicke’s reasonably catchy song caused controversy earlier this year for its blatant misogynistic and sexist stance. Angering and offending people in a sublimely comprehensive way – the song’s lyrics, video, its onstage performance (especially when concerning Hannah Montana) and Mr. Thicke in general – ‘Blurred Lines’ was met with public outcry. It generated a whole series of parody videos, increased passion behind feminist movements and a number of student unions banning it outright. The song was ridiculed and unpopular. Certainly, ‘Blurred Lines’ was not a victim of “the Angry Mod”, it was correctly bought to the gallows. The song was repulsive to not just women, but everyone. It trivialised rape, belittled women, was undeniably sexist, and posed the ridiculous question of “What rhymes with hug me?”. That and it was way too overplayed.

So why, as GTA stands for a similar message, is it yet to spark such a reaction? It seems GTA does so well because it packages what sells (sex and violence), and however much the rest of us degrade this form of entertainment, people are still buying it. On the back of this, it successfully channels the negative press that Robin Thicke received. In its early days, Rockstar employed sensationalist, spindoctor and general all-round douchebag Max Clifford as the games publicist.

GTA provides the best example of a game where the soundtrack list should actually include ‘Blurred Lines’. Following the huge growth in social media since the game’s beginnings in 1997, the consumer has more of a voice and more right to speak up when unhappy. However, a loud and clear voice is yet to do that. The release date, Tuesday 17th September, saw the stabbing and robbing of a 23-year-old victim, over his GTA game. Quite clearly, the game’s premise and message is skewing the moral compass. The whole saga is ridiculous, demeaning to women and actively trivialises horrific criminal acts, how much longer until we do something about it?

14 comments

  1. Whilst I appreciate the assumptions that you have made (although I take it you have not played Grand Theft Auto or read about it), GTA 5 parodies and satires the conventions of contemporary culture. It purposefully exaggerates sex and violence to the point of it deconstructing our idolisation of American gangsters and guns. Sometimes the best way to show our depravity and rampant, out of control consumerism is to turn them up. I would say that the majority of people who play Grand Theft Auto know that is a very clever social critique.

    Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” does not seek to deconstruct anything

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  2. So just to recap, Grand Theft Auto is SATIRISING the kind of attitudes and media expressed by Robin Thicke

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  3. Stating GTA is ‘skewing the moral compass’ is like saying Cacther in the Rye caused John Lennon’s murder

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  4. GTA is far from the type of game the author of this piece thinks it is. Violence and crime are core parts of the gameplay, but so what? This game does not glamorize and glorify violence, and people know fantasy from reality. Enjoying violent video games has nothing to do with having violent attitudes in real life.

    As others have said, GTA is hugely satirical. It mocks so many aspects of contemporary culture, and is pretty hard hitting at times, providing some serious social commentary.

    Also I don’t think calling someone an “all-round douchebag” is proper journalism, regardless of whether said person is a douchebag or not.

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  5. Of course the game’s blurred the lines between screen and reality. Why, just the other day after a particularly intense session, I jacked my neighbour’s Ford Fiesta, drove it through the fence of the army barracks, stole a tank, then took it up Micklegate for a lovely evening of “making it rain” on the strippers in Mansion.

    HULL ROAD CREW 4 LIFE MOFO

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  6. It’s so obvious that you haven’t played GTA or even done enough, if any at all, research about it. It sounds like you read the first couple of lines on its wikipedia page and wrote it off as an amoral work of satan right away. Do some research before you write your next article. Did you think the millions of people that are writing such positive reviews, some even going as far as calling it the best game ever made, are all stupid and/or just play it because they get to steal cars and shoot hookers?

    Also, “bought to the gallows”, “general all-round douchebag” – I know this is just a university newspaper but are you serious?? You can’t possibly think you’ve written a respectable news article either.

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  7. 24 Sep ’13 at 4:30 am

    Liquid Football

    “Has GTA blurred the lines between screen and reality?”

    Nope, and you are obviously not somebody who plays games, you’ve got no authority regarding this issue. I can’t wait until people get tired of nonsense new-wave feminists and stop publishing this shit.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcPIu3sDkEw (a recent feminist fraud outed on this same issue)

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  8. “I would say that the majority of people who play Grand Theft Auto know that is a very clever social critique.”

    What an interesting perspective Johnny! I think its a little innapropriate and judgemental to assume that Miss Verroken Jones has not so much as played or even read about GTA. Rather brave, considering she has taken the time to write this article.

    Personally, to view GTA as a “social critique” is also a considerably strong statement. I play the game, and thoroughly enjoy it. But I refuse to believe that every individual who plays and consumes this form of media percieves a wider social message, and “critique” as you say. For many, it is a game about violence, not a critique of violence. You cannot surely think is not reflected in the cultural values of the violent youth in todays society?

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  9. You go girl! Way to smash the patriarchy, GTA has crossed the line no matter how “blurred” Robin ‘Facist’ Thicke might have made it. Nouse needs to address more feminist issues, this is a start but the patriarchy still has a hold of the British education system in a Warren-Farrell-esque choke-hold! We need to stand up and call it like it is, this feminist critique of GTA V should be extended not only to the whole of the franchise, but to the gaming industry, that sexualises female toddlers and sends a message, a strong message, of empowerment to the male world. People need to acknowledge women’s issues, and it starts here, it starts at the heart of the problem. Fuck the Patriarchy.

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  10. 26 Sep ’13 at 9:43 pm

    trevor phillips

    fact is its entertainment! so who gives a shit what you write. get a life and stop whining. losers…

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  11. @Ben

    Think of The Godfather trilogy and The Sopranos. There’s a great deal of violence throughout The Godfather, and the people doing it seem somewhat cool, and young people might be enticed by what seems to be an apparently glamorisation of violence. Yet if you watch The Godfather trilogy all the way through you’ll notice fundamentally that the person who you thought was cool throughout the first film and the second film finally watches his daughter die, who has amazing things in line for her due to his life of crime. He never achieves repentance for all the crimes he committed despite his strong desire for it. Is this a glamorisation of violence? When you’re young you might interpret it as such but surely as your ideas develop you’ll realise that the genre of gangster films and gritty crime media is at least somewhat a commentary on the pointlessness of it all. You’re sucked in to a world of crime and violence before realising that your actions have large consequences. GTA allows you to imagine you’re a criminal before realising that being a criminal isn’t what you wanted to be all along.

    Anyone’s who’s played Vice City remembers great things like K-Chat, really interesting satires of how the media blurs reality and how we all get along in American cities.

    So no, I don’t think Grand Theft Auto is viewed by EVERYONE as a ‘social critique’ but I don’t think it takes much stretch of imagination to interpret it as one, and I think it probably dawns on everybody playing it at some point in some vague way that life is not like this and never will be. That’s why it’s a video game.

    And of course you can kill prostitutes, but is a video game where you can kill prostitutes inherently anti-feminist? Prostitutes exist in vast swathes of the underbelly of American cities and it would be pointless to pretend they don’t exist. There are also strong female characters throughout the GTA franchise.

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  12. And perhaps Mrs. Verroken Jones HAS played GTA, but seeing as she discussed no plot points and gave no details of the broader context of GTA (it was started by Oxbridge-educated English brothers as a satirical take on the American city and how it is represented in popular culture), I thought it was safe to assume that she hasn’t.

    Violence and sex media do not make people more violent and sexist and there is no evidence at all to suggest it does.

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  13. 5 Nov ’17 at 2:50 pm

    Jeremy Bonington-Jagworth

    For those who believe that violence and sex media do not make people more violent and sexist there is plenty of evidence to suggest it does.

    In the bad old days when you could get away with such experiments, various studies demonstrated that if you showed kids “real” or even cartoon violence on a screen they would copy the violence and try to knock seven shades of sh!t out of any handy toy, blow up doll or even playmate!

    And if you think the human brain, at least the more primitive and instinctive bits of it, rather than the bits you use to write essays, can tell the difference between real and pretend images, where, when, and how did it evolve this ability?

    Especially as we seem to to have an amazing ability to be fooled by images!!!

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  14. 5 Nov ’17 at 2:56 pm

    Jeremy Bonington-Jagworth

    But for those who believe that violence and sex media do not make people more violent and sexist there is plenty of evidence to suggest that it does.

    In the bad old days when you could get away with such experiments, various studies demonstrated that if you showed kids “real” or even cartoon violence on a screen they would copy the violence and try to knock seven shades of sh!t out of any handy toy, blow up doll or even playmate!

    And if you think the human brain, at least the more primitive and instinctive bits of it, rather than the bits you use to write essays, can tell the difference between real and pretend images, where, when, and how did it evolve this ability?

    Especially as we seem to to have an amazing ability to be fooled by images that aren’t real!!!!!

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