It’s no secret that Grand Theft Auto has often mirrored epic moments from Hollywood.
Take Grand Theft Auto: Vice City for example, Tommy Vercetti is essentially Tony Montana, despite not being an immigrant. He leads a humble life just trying to do what he’s told, gains good ground, and eventually takes over the business. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is basically a culmination of every “urban” movie that’s ever had any major Hollywood success, but most notably Boyz in the Hood, Juice, and Menace II Society. Grand Theft Auto IV uses the immigrant angle left out of Vice City, and instead creates an original idea around Niko Bellic; but Niko more than anything was a character who, possibly for the first time in the series history, actually seemed to not want to hurt people. Grand Theft Auto V is no stranger to borrowing from Hollywood, but much like Grand Theft Auto IV, the characters seem almost too lifelike to be safely detached from.
That’s part of the reason that Grand Theft Auto V is by far the best game in the series to date, because it blurs the lines, and makes you feel compassion for characters in a game that’s typically only admired for what you can pull off in its sandbox.
Grand Theft Auto V consists of three main characters: I believe Michael draws a lot of inspiration from Tony Soprano. He’s rich but absolutely miserable, despite not having to do anything with his days but whatever he wants to. Trevor is a methodical psychopath, whom I feel draws a lot of traits from Bruce Willis’ character from Pulp Fiction. While he’s mostly unhinged, you can’t help but feel for him because he’s loyal to a fault, despite being a seemingly irrational meth head. Franklin is probably the most uninspired of the three main characters, as he’s essentially an older version of CJ from San Andreas. He just wants to be successful enough to live happily. Franklin doesn’t aspire to hurt people or cause many problems at all, he just wants enough money to get out of his Aunt’s house. This is a pretty typical struggle from just about anyone who lives in a broken home, and it’s a little more real than you’d typically expect from standard GTA characters.
Though it’s a bit stereotypical, it’s hard not to appreciate this level of character depth.
It’s sad that the mainstream media looks at Grand Theft Auto as a game where you can carelessly murder people, abuse women, or possibly do pretty much any illegal thing you’d want to with absolutely no filter; the truth is actually pretty far from that. Because while you can murder someone violently in GTA, the game isn’t coded to know the difference between male and female characters, so you’re essentially just doing damage to a wire frame that someone decided to dress up to look like a girl. The problem is, people don’t see that. They see a video game guy beating up women and assume it’s all chauvinistic fun making women look weak.
As humans, we feel remorse for the things we do, and in part of that, there’s a slight bit of remorse that naturally kicks in once you dig into a game like GTA. You might randomly gun down people or splatter as many pedestrians as you can at first, but eventually you find yourself more annoyed at the people who walk out in front of you than you would finding any sort of joy in recklessly destroying them.
The other interesting thing in Grand Theft Auto V? When you hurt someone, the other pedestrians often seek retribution. If you run over someone, you can see other pedestrians walk over in concern, or sometimes other people will just attack you because you carelessly harmed another human being. This isn’t much different than real life, as starting a fight in a public place will often find you with someone who’s much tougher than you setting you straight for acting like an uncivilized moron and putting other people in harm’s way.
Sure, you can continually do all the Hollywood crazy stuff without any real consequence. The cool bank heist looks great in movies, and works like a charm in Grand Theft Auto V, but you won’t be doing anything even closely related to that in real life – because in real life detectives and crime scene investigators exist. In movies, it’s easy to refuse to speak to the police; but in real life most people act hard and then spill their guts at the very hint of trouble. This is what keeps GTAV and the rest of the franchise in the fantasy element. There’s no real recourse for anything you do in the game, except for getting killed by virtual police or busted, resulting in a loss of some money and having to restart at an inconvenient checkpoint.
Life doesn’t have these checkpoints, so the people who have committed crimes based on what they’ve seen/played in GTA are using it purely as a scapegoat to try and avoid trouble. Like I said before, people are far more likely to snitch in real life where you’re held accountable for your actions. While Grand Theft Auto V is the finest example of art imitating life, it still has those designs that keep it from being as realistic as possible. What I’d love to see Rockstar do is put in some harsher triggered consequences. Permanent death would make GTA a much more interesting and lifelike experience. If you get gunned down running from the police, you start over completely because in real life you can’t just respawn.
We are responsible for the media we consume, and the media we allow those we influence to consume.
Destroying pixels when you’ve had a bad day is a favorite past-tome for many of us and the trend is going to continue whether certain advocate groups condone it or not. Rockstar continually succeeds in creating an environment that lets people be their own gangster movie hero, and it’s why GTA continues to sell well. Controversy aside, GTA continues pushing the envelope because Hollywood continues pushing the envelope. We’re seeing it constantly in cinema these days. Male nudity used to be almost forbidden, but now it’s quite common to watch a flick and have to catch a peek of some dude’s hog. Nudity is a way of life and because sex shows up in real life, you can bet money it’s going to continue to show up in games. Do I think the strippers are pretty overboard in GTA V? Of course I do, but pointless nudity always annoys me. I don’t want a random set of boobs in my game, just like I wouldn’t want some topless-for-no-reason girl showing up in my movies. It happens, and I move on. I don’t obsess about why it’s wrong, I just make smarter choices in the media I consume.
Instead of being real life, GTA V continues to build a world where you choose what you do within it. You can recreate some epic things you’ve seen crafted in Hollywood blockbusters, but you can play the game without ever taking a single mission or story point. GTA V only imitates real life, it doesn’t try to emulate it. Take a look around on Youtube. There are videos of people driving cars carefully in GTA abiding by speed limits and normal traffic laws and they’re having a blast doing it. You can just enjoy flight simulation or enjoy a walk down the beach admiring the sites off the peer.