"The Family" Business
Fall of the House of Bellic

Brendan Main | 17 Nov 2009 12:40
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In light of these impossible odds, what could otherwise be a game of choices becomes a tale of a man running out of options. No set of decisions can save Bellic from the oppressive "kill or be killed" spirit of the city. It's no wonder most characters end up dead, victims of their own philosophy. We've seen it before: The problem with Tony Montana's "Don't get high on your own supply," is that by the end, he did. The problem with "get rich or die tryin'" is that most people die tryin'. Looking upon the bloody outcome of the final, botched deal, Bellic eulogizes the dead. Though he is not a prayerful man, his words echo a verse from the Book of Matthew: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

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Usually the final missions of a Grand Theft Auto game offer closure - a chance to finally reap the rewards of all your mayhem, then sit back and count the spoils. Vercetti's rise to infamy in Vice City ends with a bloodbath in his palatial home as he mows down all opposition - think Scarface with infinite ammo. In San Andreas, CJ returns to his neighborhood as the very model of success, reuniting his hood and purging traitors and crooked cops from their ranks. But Bellic's tale ends with cold resignation, not triumph. Instead of turning to some mountain of wealth, his thoughts turn to the mountain of bodies left in his wake. It is as if he is haunted by the very people he struck down while on the job, those faceless hordes of men and women crushed under car tires and sprayed with stray gunfire.

Bellic has seen firsthand the atrocities committed under the rule of war. But the city has its own set of rules, different, but every bit as cutthroat. All he has managed is to trade one battlefield for another. Early in the tale, in justifying an unpleasant betrayal, an employer tells him: "You know, if there is one thing that I have learned, it is that we must obey the rules of the game. We can pick the game, Niko Bellic. But we cannot change the rules." The tragedy for Bellic is that the game has already been chosen - his is a Grand Theft Auto world, one that will follow him to the ends of the earth. He is smart, savvy, and capable; perhaps he would have had better luck in another game. He might have been free in New York. But he's a prisoner in Liberty City.

Brendan Main hails from the frosty reaches of Canada, where people are too polite to steal anything but paperclips and furtive glances. When not living the rest of his life like a schnook, he blogs at www.kingandrook.com.

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