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?