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Social and satirical commentaries in Grand Theft Auto - your views nee

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UAL
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    Mark Chump

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#1

Posted 17 April 2014 - 05:09 PM

Whats going on people,

 

I'm doing a university project that explores wether gaming can be used as a tool to comment on society and the issues within.

 

It's no secret that Grand Theft Auto has always utilised some form of social commentary to highlight and depict political issues, American culture and general world affairs.

 

So what I want to know from you guys, the GTA community, is...

 

Do you think social commentary has a place in gaming?

 

Do you notice Grand Theft Auto's attempts at social commentary?

 

Do you feel comfortable with Grand Theft Auto depicting society? 

 

Do you think social commentary within Grand Theft Auto can benefit the player or even educate them?

 

Do you think Grand Theft Auto is helping gaming veer away from the 'just entertainment' tag that it has?

 

I'd appreciate as much answers/replies as possible, they don't have to be too detailed but of course the more detailed the better. 

 

Thanks guys.

 

p.s. serious replies only


DCBlackbird
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#2

Posted 17 April 2014 - 06:56 PM

While I can't speak for the contemporary GTA's (GTA III, IV, and V) the period pieces always do their best to parody the era's they're set in. There are some moments where it captures it in realistic light. In one mission in San Andreas, Big Smoke makes a comment on how it has become mainstream during the 70's and 80's to hate the Russians but once the wall fell they were expected to just accept them. Then there is Tommy's fish out of water moments where he can't seem to relate to the people of the era because he's 15 years out of touch, such as not seeing the Vietnam War as a bigger deal than Big Mitch Baker and most of Vice. In the end I think gta does a good job at making a social commentary retrospective, but not a good contemporary one. GTA V although is their best one with the millennial characters like Rocco, Tracey, Jimmy, and Packie all act totally in the mindset that they can do anything because they have no pre-millennial context on what is good or not.

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universetwisters
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#3

Posted 17 April 2014 - 08:21 PM

Didn't we have a near identical thread to this a few months ago?
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UAL
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#4

Posted 17 April 2014 - 08:42 PM

Didn't we have a near identical thread to this a few months ago?

 

I dont come on here that much so I may have missed it, Sorry if it's a repeat thread but as stated I'm just making the thread for a project I'm doing.

 

Do you have anything to add with regards to my questions? Would appreciate your answers a lot tbh I've seen your posts on here (long time lurker) and you seem like you'd be able to contribute something that would help.

 

@DCBlackbird thanks for your input, interesting answer. You reckon you could answer the questions I put forth in OP, thanks.


universetwisters
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#5

Posted 17 April 2014 - 08:46 PM

The only thing I can contribute is that the world the plots exist in are too wacky/quirky to co-exist with the plot, which is mostly serious. I know that's probably an opinion, but there's something questionable about people still flying an airline whose radio commercial specifically states how bad they are and how they mistreat their customers.

I get the fact that its a joke on the airline industries, but I don't get how people still fly it. I wish it were the other way around though, a quirky plot and a realistic world. Black market Christmas ornament smuggling anyone?
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ssbawesome
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#6

Posted 17 April 2014 - 08:57 PM

1. I find that certain games do comment on society. I can't think of some off the top of my head, but there are some.

2. Yes. Rockstar's commenting on society most of the times is satire. They make fun of a lot of things, but also show realistic sides of life that you wouldn't know. Criminal activity is one that many people don't know the depths of. R* reveals the actual face of crime.

3. Totally. It makes fun of things that we can relate to.

4. Yes. There are some things that I learned from GTA (apart from certain swear words).

5. Not V. I feel like IV and the others (besides SA) veered people away from buying a game just to have fun. V just threw that out the window with online. I have friends that only bought V to play online. It's sad, really.

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Drunken Cowboy
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#7

Posted 18 April 2014 - 02:05 AM

I think that a reserved, standoffish approach is necessary. That's when the ridiculous nature of society really comes out.

GTA 4 nailed the satire of the GTA series in my opinion. The story was kept realistic enough to feel you were in a real world, and all the radio and billboards that crept into a game that already felt so real just made me really double take, "that's something we actually do, isn't it?"

When Weazel (FOX) news comes on, deliberately and briefly stating something important like a health care or financial crisis before moving onto something sensational like TERRORISM or a new cupcake store, I start drawing the parodies in real life yourself. In 2008, we're still a bit more heated in the Iraq war, and the fact that police and civilians blame everything out of place Niko does on terrorism is reminiscent of things we've deemed ludicrous like the Red Scare.

Introducing all that, I'd love to take a jab at your questions.

 

Do you think social commentary has a place in gaming?

 

After spilling out my initial thoughts, I must agree, in that background, you only really notice it when it creeps up on you and throttles you sense. GTA V's "Oh man, we're on social networking all the time and torture's bad, m'kay?" felt like another bad GI Joe PSA, or something to that effect. GTA V's story also felt like some sh*tty action comedy. Something that took itself seriously like IV definitely was spot-on with its views on sensational media and corrupt politics.

 

Do you notice Grand Theft Auto's attempts at social commentary?

 

Of course. ^ 

 

Do you feel comfortable with Grand Theft Auto depicting society? 

 

To a degree. Being a British company, some criticisms R* has had of American society have been either through European glasses or completely wrong. They still have the misconception that we treat immigrants of all origins like sh*t, which is hardly an issue in 2008 or 2013. Same with the whole torture case, I never really noticed that to be a hot-button issue. I think when it comes to their criticism, specific aspects of social corners of life, social media, television, theater, consumption, etc, are pretty flexible and they've done fine with them so far. (America's Next Top Hooker showing our fascination with sleaze and objectifying. The motorized power-scooter commercials mimicking Americans trying to justify an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.  Burgershot, taking quite the literal approach on reminding us of our fatal attraction to the slow death of fast food.)

Politics are a different issue. GTA does a good job satirizing general ideas of class separation, the futility of partisan loyalty, but I'd wish they'd stay away from specific issues like torture, healthcare, and immigration. American issues Europeans think are black and white but they really don't know sh*t about.

 

Do you think social commentary within Grand Theft Auto can benefit the player or even educate them?

 

Yes and no. I think the exposure is a good introduction into what's wrong with America and human nature. When I played GTA III when I was twelve, I didn't really know what aspects of society the radio shows were mocking, but I did enjoy them. Humor is the universal educator. I bet more people have become politically aware through stand-up comedy than through Fox or CNN. Mainstream media never really capitalizes on the real issues of the country, worried about loss of funding or ratings. Comics, like Lazlow was saying while being interviewed about his work in GTA, have no censor to fear, and without that censor, really can "tell it like it is" AND reach large masses through humor.

 

Do you think Grand Theft Auto is helping gaming veer away from the 'just entertainment' tag that it has?

 

GTA is a loaded franchise. There's a lot I expect out of a capital GTA game like The Lost and Damned or GTA IV. There's plenty of fun mechanics, layer one on the cake. But then we move to the demonstration of graphical scale and ability. Vice City, modern Liberty and Los Santos, they're an experience even when not on a mission. Game's are fun, but also, games are art. GTA has covered two of those. Layer three on the cake is the story, the fact that GTA can convey such intelligent stories (in some of their games) and remain a really good time easy on the eyes is mind-opening. GTA 4 and its episodes have really stuck with me with their characters and story even more than some classic movies or books. GTA might not be educational in the sense of those math games you'd play in elementary school computer labs, but their comments toward how we function as Americans, as human-beings is definitely another layer on the cake. After Red Dead Redemption, GTA 4 is really the pinnacle of what video games can hope to achieve. 

 

 

Sorry if I typed so much. I saw you were doing a report so I wanted to be thorough. 

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#8

Posted 18 April 2014 - 12:46 PM Edited by UAL, 18 April 2014 - 12:51 PM.

I think that a reserved, standoffish approach is necessary. That's when the ridiculous nature of society really comes out.

GTA 4 nailed the satire of the GTA series in my opinion. The story was kept realistic enough to feel you were in a real world, and all the radio and billboards that crept into a game that already felt so real just made me really double take, "that's something we actually do, isn't it?"

When Weazel (FOX) news comes on, deliberately and briefly stating something important like a health care or financial crisis before moving onto something sensational like TERRORISM or a new cupcake store, I start drawing the parodies in real life yourself. In 2008, we're still a bit more heated in the Iraq war, and the fact that police and civilians blame everything out of place Niko does on terrorism is reminiscent of things we've deemed ludicrous like the Red Scare.

Introducing all that, I'd love to take a jab at your questions.

 

Do you think social commentary has a place in gaming?

 

After spilling out my initial thoughts, I must agree, in that background, you only really notice it when it creeps up on you and throttles you sense. GTA V's "Oh man, we're on social networking all the time and torture's bad, m'kay?" felt like another bad GI Joe PSA, or something to that effect. GTA V's story also felt like some sh*tty action comedy. Something that took itself seriously like IV definitely was spot-on with its views on sensational media and corrupt politics.

 

Do you notice Grand Theft Auto's attempts at social commentary?

 

Of course. ^ 

 

Do you feel comfortable with Grand Theft Auto depicting society? 

 

To a degree. Being a British company, some criticisms R* has had of American society have been either through European glasses or completely wrong. They still have the misconception that we treat immigrants of all origins like sh*t, which is hardly an issue in 2008 or 2013. Same with the whole torture case, I never really noticed that to be a hot-button issue. I think when it comes to their criticism, specific aspects of social corners of life, social media, television, theater, consumption, etc, are pretty flexible and they've done fine with them so far. (America's Next Top Hooker showing our fascination with sleaze and objectifying. The motorized power-scooter commercials mimicking Americans trying to justify an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.  Burgershot, taking quite the literal approach on reminding us of our fatal attraction to the slow death of fast food.)

Politics are a different issue. GTA does a good job satirizing general ideas of class separation, the futility of partisan loyalty, but I'd wish they'd stay away from specific issues like torture, healthcare, and immigration. American issues Europeans think are black and white but they really don't know sh*t about.

 

Do you think social commentary within Grand Theft Auto can benefit the player or even educate them?

 

Yes and no. I think the exposure is a good introduction into what's wrong with America and human nature. When I played GTA III when I was twelve, I didn't really know what aspects of society the radio shows were mocking, but I did enjoy them. Humor is the universal educator. I bet more people have become politically aware through stand-up comedy than through Fox or CNN. Mainstream media never really capitalizes on the real issues of the country, worried about loss of funding or ratings. Comics, like Lazlow was saying while being interviewed about his work in GTA, have no censor to fear, and without that censor, really can "tell it like it is" AND reach large masses through humor.

 

Do you think Grand Theft Auto is helping gaming veer away from the 'just entertainment' tag that it has?

 

GTA is a loaded franchise. There's a lot I expect out of a capital GTA game like The Lost and Damned or GTA IV. There's plenty of fun mechanics, layer one on the cake. But then we move to the demonstration of graphical scale and ability. Vice City, modern Liberty and Los Santos, they're an experience even when not on a mission. Game's are fun, but also, games are art. GTA has covered two of those. Layer three on the cake is the story, the fact that GTA can convey such intelligent stories (in some of their games) and remain a really good time easy on the eyes is mind-opening. GTA 4 and its episodes have really stuck with me with their characters and story even more than some classic movies or books. GTA might not be educational in the sense of those math games you'd play in elementary school computer labs, but their comments toward how we function as Americans, as human-beings is definitely another layer on the cake. After Red Dead Redemption, GTA 4 is really the pinnacle of what video games can hope to achieve. 

 

 

Sorry if I typed so much. I saw you were doing a report so I wanted to be thorough. 

 

Man, thanks a lot!!! Nah dont be, the more detailed answers the better, really appreciate your input. Will definitely be able to use some of your answers towards my study, once again, thanks.

 

One more question for you, it's no secret that Grand Theft Auto has A LOT of influence over other games and how they're made, do you think other game developers will eventually start implementing their own depictions and commentaries on society, as a result of what they see in Grand Theft Auto games?


B Dawg
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#9

Posted 18 April 2014 - 01:29 PM

Watch Dogs maybe? We barely have any info on that game but it might have some of its own views on today's society.


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#10

Posted 18 April 2014 - 03:58 PM

In my eyes, GTA is all about an outsiders view of Americana. It's like all the ridiculousness and lack of subtlety in American culture in a living sandbox world. I think the social commentary is one of the biggest parts of GTA, which is why I was disappointed with V because it just seemed out of place from the heavily themed and satirical  previous games. 

It wouldn't be the same if it was made by Americans, because its all about the international impact of American culture, how other cultures see the Americana that has touched even the most impoverished and undeveloped corners of the world.

 

Personally, I think the next one needs to return to this idea heavily. These are some issues which I think should be shown in the next one and I think a mash up of the South would fit them perfectly:

* Right wing militia/ minutmen groups. 

* Mexican Cartels.

* Mass shootings (A bit controversial)

* Racist, hardline Christian groups like the Westboro Baptist Church.

* Crazy, UFO hunters claiming to have being raped by and killing aliens.

* Porn industry, this is a big part of American culture that's never really been shown in GTA, think Boogie Nights.

* Crazy survivalist and Doomsday Prepper groups.

* Black Nationalist groups promoting the annihilation of the white devil.

* Demolition Derbies.

 

These are just some ideas, a lot I've gotten from Louis Theroux documentaries where he meets various subcultures around the US.

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Drunken Cowboy
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#11

Posted 18 April 2014 - 08:55 PM

 

One more question for you, it's no secret that Grand Theft Auto has A LOT of influence over other games and how they're made, do you think other game developers will eventually start implementing their own depictions and commentaries on society, as a result of what they see in Grand Theft Auto games?

 

 

I can't really think of which other games GTA could be compared to. Being in the real world, GTA not only has the opportunity, but does dabble on most ideas of modern society, where as a game like Dishonored, set in a dystopian alternate reality, only really tries to go in depth with class separation. Or one of my favorites; Bioshock Infinite, took a while to really explore toxic patriotism and race conflict. I doubt the premise of either of these games would have changed had Grand Theft Auto not existed. In fact, the take on reality is one of the least capitalized upon parts of GTA. Saints Row, Mafia, Just Cause, Crackdown, The Saboteur, Assassin's Creed, and PLENTY of other games adopted GTA's take of open world, the law and punishment, vehicles, gunplay, etc. But the one thing really missing in all those games (whether for the better or worse) is GTA's distinct "this is and isn't the real world" incorporation of satire and realism.

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