Wednesday, October 02, 2013

I Like GTA, And I'm Still A Feminist

I am a fan of the Grand Theft Auto series. Many of you may have picked up your first GTA with San Andreas or 4, I started with the first game, when it was only available on PC in 1997 and was a top-down version of the game. The infamous birds-eye view of driving around a city, completing missions, and leaving a path of destruction in your wake. Good times. 

About this point I would have a group of men raising the Question Mark Flag. “Wait. You play Grand Theft Auto? But you’re a girl.”

Good eye, Copernicus.

Correction: I’m a woman. I entered adulthood a long time ago and it was painful. Still is.

And yes, I play Grand Theft Auto. I enjoy it immensely. #5on my Top 10 games will always and forever be Vice City. There is a satirical and sophisticated manor in which RockStar approaches the series that makes me smile. I enjoy GTA for many of the reasons men do: the cars, the random acts of over-the-top completely unrealistic violence, the ridiculous stereotypes, and the ability to steal an Army tank and just go crazy driving into a city. Having different genitalia doesn’t restrict what I can and cannot find entertaining.

For those who are ready to point out that I am a feminist, and GTA should be the last game on my “to play” list, I respond in kind with the overkill nature that is Grand Theft Auto.GTA is so into its own headcannon that insanity ensues. You can’t take this game seriously. You have to have an open mind and a very forgiving sense of humor in order to appreciate what the developers are trying to present. While misogyny and elite sexism are rampant in the games, by no means do the worlds themselves relate to a realistic counterpart. They are over-saturated and comical versions of any potential real world comparison. I can be a feminist and enjoy GTA because I understand that the franchise is about the excess and over-the-top nature, very much in the same breath as Scarface, Goodfellas, and Miami Vice (movies and tv shows that thrive on the excessive nature of the genre they are attempting to embody).

You can’t play GTA and take it seriously. And at the same time, that’s part of the message Rockstar is conveying to the audience.

I’m sure I had a few readers tune out after that last statement, but think about it. One of the things that we appreciate about RockStar as a developer is their ability to tell dynamic stories. Bully, Red Dead Redemption, and LA Noire represent some of the best that games have to offer. They are also very genre specific. RDR is the gritty Cowboy movies of the 1960’s and 70’s. Bully is the school-age romp from the 1980’s ala. Animal House. And LA Noire is a page out of the detective dramas of the 1930’s and 40’s. By focusing on particular sub-sets of the narratives, RockStar is able to provide more focus on the messages they are trying to convey to the audience/gamers. Bully, for example, is about how life really can get better after school. RDR: Hope is a fragile, metaphysical concept. It can easily flicker away with a blink of an eye. But if you believe in it enough, it can be your courage, your strength, and your motivation to do the impossible.

So what is GTA trying to tell us? It’s an over-stylized game of the crime genre: sometimes dealing with the mobs, sometimes drug dealing, and other time’s just random acts of insanity. But at the heart of it, GTA tells us to dream bigger, be bolder, be ambitious, and don’t let the lies of society trick you into believing that a world like GTA actually exists. Actions always have consequences. At the same time, GTA glorifies said actions. It gives you the opportunity to live this life that is completely unlike your own, in a movie-glorified manner.

This is why I play GTA. The ludicrous nature of the series gives us all the more reason to sit and analyze what the developers are trying to tell the gamers. It’s a complex and constantly evolving series. Where one person may see random acts of violence, another may see it as a great prompt to discuss race relations in the U.S. I relish the fact that these games are seemingly simple on the surface, but incredibly intricate the more you dig in. Because just when you think you get what GTA is trying to say, you find something else to latch onto that you never realized before.

I like GTA. For all of the misogynistic overtones, the ridiculous acts of violence, and the questionable taste in incorporating demeaning stereotypes, there are so many things the franchise can teach us. If you’re willing to take a look, that is.

1 comment:

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