Grand Theft Auto 5 is great for gamers and the industry, whether you play it or not
There are plenty of reasons to not like the Grand Theft Auto series. Anti-hero protagonists, criminal subject matter and aimlessly bombastic sandboxes aren’t for everyone, after all. And seeing as how there isn’t a law requiring gamers to fawn over the game (we just gave it a 10/10 because it’s really good), this applies to Grand Theft Auto V as well. However, Rockstar’s development recipe is sound, if a bit lacking in spice at times, and the success of GTA V is unassailable.
After earning $800 million in its first day, GTA V went on to break the $1 billion mark in just three days, putting the previous record-holder, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, to shame. Even looking at gaming icons like The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim or mammoth franchises like Final Fantasy, little comes close to this kind of return. Grand Theft Auto V is Take-Two Interactive’s most successful game and the biggest media hit this year.
This is about what Rockstar's top-brass is seeing right now.
That last bit is particularly noteworthy, since, beyond lining Rockstar’s pockets, GTA V's monolithic sales figures benefit the interactive entertainment industry as a whole, if only through reaffirming the financial significance and literal value of gaming as a medium compared to more widely embraced media like cinema and television. More impressive, however, is GTA V’s testament to gaming, and consequently, to gamers.
Few games reach the scale where not playing them is strange. But that’s exactly what Grand Theft Auto V has done, and in doing so, quashed many of the stigmas associated with video games. In its ability to attract veteran gamers and action-loving newcomers en masse, GTA V can stand among the ranks of games like ICO and Journey in the contest of defying social norms. While the latter two are touting, among other things, unprecedented aesthetics and uniquely minimalistic gameplay, GTA V has the support of a culture on its side, one which flies in the face of the denigrating and misinformed perceptions of mainstream news outlets and politicians (read: disconnected old fogies) crying, “Games cause violence.”
That about sums it up.
It’s ironic, isn’t it? To see a game as openly violent as Grand Theft Auto V discredit the violence versus games debate. However, the ability to steal every car in sight and mow down enemies like there’s no tomorrow is a central point to the tired argument. The opposing side — which is, coincidentally, composed universally of individuals who’ve never touched a game — argue that games encourage violence through association and warp gamers’ perceptions of reality. And, despite a wealth of information disproving any connection between violent behavior and violent games, many argue for games to be neutered and censored. Ridiculous as this notion is, it’s also not a solution.
It’s impossible to pretend games aren’t violent; the popular Assassin’s Creed franchise literally revolves around killing people. But do gamers parkour around the Renaissance as Ezio Auditore treating dictators like pin cushions solely to satisfy some primal instinct to kill? Of course not. We do it because it’s fun, which is usually why games are violent to begin with. Violence isn’t a prerequisite, clearly, but shooting things and blowing things up certainly hasn’t gotten any less entertaining. But the underlying point here, which the aforementioned bigwigs fail to realize, is that games are so over-the-top violent because developers trust gamers to distinguish between games and reality and to think for themselves — not unlike how writers of violent books or movies expect their viewers not to reenact their stories. Games like Grand Theft Auto V are proof of this, and while it’s unfortunate to see degenerates like Evan Ramsey and Zachary Burgess blame gaming for their inhumane actions, there simply isn’t an association there.
And we just look so good while doing it.
Further parallels can be drawn to the likes of Angry Birds and Call of Duty, which excel in attracting people to gaming as a medium — demystifying the recondite veil and showing the everyman how enjoyable gaming can be. In this sense, and for the reasons above, even if you fall into the side that wouldn’t spare it a passing glance, you’ve got to admit that Grand Theft Auto V is a hell of a game.
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