GTA's Morality Is More Complex Than You Realize

GTA's Morality Is More Complex Than You Realize

You'd think that the GTA series throws morality and ethics out the window entirely, but you'd be wrong.

Read Full Article

Robert Rath:
GTA's Morality Is More Complex Than You Realize

You'd think that the GTA series throws morality and ethics out the window entirely, but you'd be wrong.

Read Full Article

About that whole "police aren't that corrupt" thing, you should visit Eastern Europe sometime.

Because they are and the levels of corruption within government and its branches are appalling.

Other than that, interesting article, but in order to assume that GTA is some massive statement on the modern age is a bit strange, considering that the series only started taking this turn towards realism after Vice City, and has lost its wackiness, which makes me sad.

I want to play GTA to have fun and unwind as I always have, if I want to feel bad about myself or the world I live in, I will play Spec Ops: The Line.

This is a better argument than Greg Tito's argument. Tito ignored a lot and never gave much thought more than "Me sad". I actually enjoyed reading this.

Akichi Daikashima:

About that whole "police aren't that corrupt" thing, you should visit Eastern Europe sometime.

Because they are and the levels of corruption within government and its branches are appalling.

Funny you mention that. Last year I wrote an article where I compared GTA to a Hungary's most famous bank robber and suggested that the series would actually make more sense if it were set in Eastern Europe: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/criticalintel/10077-Ordinary-Players-Extraordinary-Characters

Actually I really wish GTA would drop its obsession with the US and set its next game in Shanghai, Mumbai, Panama City, Dubai... pretty much anywhere but New York or LA again.

This article read more like a defense of Rockstar's overall output than only the GTA series. I was expecting a total rebuttal of Greg Tito's Feature about why everyone in GTA V sucks. If everyone is awful, and not a in a winky, cartoonish manner, then it's just not really fun beyond the rampages.

Apart from GTA VI having a take on immigration and the American dream, the others in the series ARE textbook moral nihilism.

And since when did we call that a morality?

The article reminds me of those Tarantino movies, if you like it, fine, to each his own. But if you argue there are moral messages and serious debates of social problems in them? Sorry, can't agree.

Akichi Daikashima:

I want to play GTA to have fun and unwind as I always have, if I want to feel bad about myself or the world I live in, I will play Spec Ops: The Line.

I would've chose DEHR.

Even Mirror's Edge hints more social criticism.

Robert Rath:
Hypocritical as it may be, audiences will generally allow criminal protagonists to do reprehensible things provided they're motivated by a larger idea like redemption, justice, or the American Dream. We're more comfortable with people who kill for their values than those who kill for greed. Rockstar, it seems, has decided to push this envelope in GTA V. Only time will tell if it pays off, or if they've made a vast misjudgment and made their characters unlikable.

That's the best summary of this whole situation I've found yet. Rockstar games are pretty great and offer tons of freedom to do whatever you like and make your own path, but this time around, especially with Trevor, they've forced people into a situation where people dislike their own character so much some would even want to stop playing. It all depends on an individual's ability to block out or separate themselves during those times to determine whether they're willing to keep pushing.

Robert Rath:

Akichi Daikashima:

About that whole "police aren't that corrupt" thing, you should visit Eastern Europe sometime.

Because they are and the levels of corruption within government and its branches are appalling.

Funny you mention that. Last year I wrote an article where I compared GTA to a Hungary's most famous bank robber and suggested that the series would actually make more sense if it were set in Eastern Europe: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/criticalintel/10077-Ordinary-Players-Extraordinary-Characters

Actually I really wish GTA would drop its obsession with the US and set its next game in Shanghai, Mumbai, Panama City, Dubai... pretty much anywhere but New York or LA again.

Rockstar has stated in the past and even recent history that they see their games going global. I think so far what has limited it is their comfort and familiarity with US cities and habits. The games traditionally have focused not just on the US cities, but the "American Dream." GTAV moves away from that a little, so I can easily see them using another, or multiple countries in the future.

Robert Rath:

Akichi Daikashima:

About that whole "police aren't that corrupt" thing, you should visit Eastern Europe sometime.

Because they are and the levels of corruption within government and its branches are appalling.

Funny you mention that. Last year I wrote an article where I compared GTA to a Hungary's most famous bank robber and suggested that the series would actually make more sense if it were set in Eastern Europe: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/criticalintel/10077-Ordinary-Players-Extraordinary-Characters

Actually I really wish GTA would drop its obsession with the US and set its next game in Shanghai, Mumbai, Panama City, Dubai... pretty much anywhere but New York or LA again.

That would be a breath of fresh air.

Hell, if they have the balls and the ambition, they could easily do games about the seedier, actually corrupt cities of the world, and it work quite well with their current vision of GTA.

A good read as always, it doesn't change the fact that I don't wish to play a game that forces me to


For no reason

TiberiusEsuriens:

Robert Rath:
Hypocritical as it may be, audiences will generally allow criminal protagonists to do reprehensible things provided they're motivated by a larger idea like redemption, justice, or the American Dream. We're more comfortable with people who kill for their values than those who kill for greed. Rockstar, it seems, has decided to push this envelope in GTA V. Only time will tell if it pays off, or if they've made a vast misjudgment and made their characters unlikable.

That's the best summary of this whole situation I've found yet. Rockstar games are pretty great and offer tons of freedom to do whatever you like and make your own path, but this time around, especially with Trevor, they've forced people into a situation where people dislike their own character so much some would even want to stop playing. It all depends on an individual's ability to block out or separate themselves during those times to determine whether they're willing to keep pushing.

I think one problem with Trevor -- and the tone of GTA these days, it seems like -- is that it seems like its going for a "black comedy" theme? I'm thinking of an old Jim Carrey film like "Cable Guy" where the humor is based upon ethically questionable actions that might be funny to some (Jim Sterling) and not to others (Greg Tito). Not implying one is right over the other, but "black comedy" could be seen as offensive to one person yet comical to another. I guess it could be said that this theme is part of the core mechanics since the first GTA game as the player is expected to go nuts at some point (as this article states). However, with Trevor, the player is meant to do ethically questionable things for the sake of comedy.

I guess you could say that GTA is a game where you are supposed to leave your morality at the door when you enter the game. But maybe Rockstar pushed the line too far on what people can do for humor/fun?

Voltano:
I think one problem with Trevor -- and the tone of GTA these days, it seems like -- is that it seems like its going for a "black comedy" theme? I'm thinking of an old Jim Carrey film like "Cable Guy" where the humor is based upon ethically questionable actions that might be funny to some (Jim Sterling) and not to others (Greg Tito). Not implying one is right over the other, but "black comedy" could be seen as offensive to one person yet comical to another. I guess it could be said that this theme is part of the core mechanics since the first GTA game as the player is expected to go nuts at some point (as this article states). However, with Trevor, the player is meant to do ethically questionable things for the sake of comedy.

I guess you could say that GTA is a game where you are supposed to leave your morality at the door when you enter the game. But maybe Rockstar pushed the line too far on what people can do for humor/fun?

I'm all for dark comedy, but I personally feel there's a bit too much of it thrown in our faces in a row. There's shock, disgust, then reprehension, then just plain getting tired of it. I think they pushed it enough at times to simply break some people's limits.

putowtin:
A good read as always, it doesn't change the fact that I don't wish to play a game that forces me to


For no reason

Well, the former has the character that does it literally pointing out how pointless it was afterward. The latter we didn't even know was GOING to happen until it did. The character was unaware, as well, and expresses his dislike of not being told about what the device was.

chadachada123:
The latter we didn't even know was GOING to happen until it did. The character was unaware, as well, and expresses his dislike of not being told about what the device was.

And that gets left by the wayside in a lot of these arguments. I think most of us can identify with the feeling of being used, and he clearly was. He, like us, was complicit, but didn't expect the outcome to be so...Extreme.

Maybe he should have seen it. Maybe we should have (and in retrospect, one of the lines is pretty ominous). But still.

Also, Trevor is a monster. If we're talking the other spoiler, I have trouble believing people got that far into the storyline and suddenly found things objectionable. Then again, I'm not to that one yet, maybe it is truly worse. It's just....He's a monster. It's not like he's a role model who suddenly crossed a line, like doing a risque dance with Vanilla Ice at the VMAs.

"GTA's Morality Is More Complex Than You Realize"

No it isn't, I've known it's more complex than the media seems to think I do from the beginning. You don't give us enough credit. The media have been tearing apart the torture scene since it got a hold of it and it's been GAMERS that have been defending it as a work of art.

It's a terrible idea to focus on GTA V in terms of giving a beatdown. GTA protagonists are no worse people than the characters in Reservoir Dogs, unless made to be so by the player. GTA V is also one of the best games of all time in terms of the quality of the world, gameplay within the world, voice acting, and scripted sequences.

I'd much rather have a game like GTA V which makes an effort towards realism rather than one where realism is thrown out the window in the name of massacring aliens or monsters. At least GTA V mans up enough to have the protagonist murder human beings.

It's precisely in murdering humans that gamers can start to see the possibilities for morality in gaming, which they are blinded by when the victims are aliens, monsters, or enemy soldiers. The GTA series has done a lot to push morality in the right direction.

GTA is a shining light of realism in a sea of gaming nonsense, and should be lauded as such.

I don't think "morality" is the real issue with GTA V or its characters, it's more that the characters are annoying, unpleasant to play, and poorly-written.

Aside from that, in the 4 hours or so that I've played so far, the gameplay is fairly dull. It's mostly like GTA IV with some minor technical improvements, and a worse story. I really enjoyed GTA III and IV, and therefore pre-ordered GTA V - but so far, this just isn't doing it for me.

With other recent games, flawed as though they may have been, were more engrossing - and I couldn't wait to get home to play them (e.g: The Last of Us in particular and Bioshock Infinite as runner-up). With GTA V, I just don't have that desire, it feels more like a chore to sit through the painful dialog and contrived missions.

People will say "it's a sandbox game," who cares about the story or characters"? But if it's all about the sandbox, then even put the story in there in the first place?

rasputin0009:
This is a better argument than Greg Tito's argument. Tito ignored a lot and never gave much thought more than "Me sad". I actually enjoyed reading this.

I have to agree with you, Tito's came across as if he didn't want to like it just to subvert fans and create a polarizing article/review. I highly doubt that's what he set out to do but that's what it felt like.

Maybe I haven't got far enough into the game yet but nothing has made me cringe or want to give up, I've always been able to separate fantasy from reality. Just because I play as these men, doesn't make me these men.

Akichi Daikashima:

Robert Rath:
GTA's Morality Is More Complex Than You Realize

You'd think that the GTA series throws morality and ethics out the window entirely, but you'd be wrong.

Read Full Article

About that whole "police aren't that corrupt" thing, you should visit Eastern Europe sometime.

Because they are and the levels of corruption within government and its branches are appalling.

Other than that, interesting article, but in order to assume that GTA is some massive statement on the modern age is a bit strange, considering that the series only started taking this turn towards realism after Vice City, and has lost its wackiness, which makes me sad.

I want to play GTA to have fun and unwind as I always have, if I want to feel bad about myself or the world I live in, I will play Spec Ops: The Line.

Try South Africa. Many police there probably qualify as terrorists. You know, if the U.N. cared about South Africa.

briankoontz:
GTA protagonists are no worse people than the characters in Reservoir Dogs, unless made to be so by the player.

I'm confused. I assume you're arguing that OP is wrong and that the morality isn't any more complex than straight-up moral nihilism? Or are you trying to agree with him that there's something deeper and just picked literally the worst movie analogy possible to support the assertion?

I really like the characters in gta V, I don't at all see that they do thing solely for their greed. (With the exception of Trevor, but he is insane.) Michael and Franklin is frequently forced along by their "betters", and more often than not they NEED to have that money.

And they are all likeable, great persons. Though maybe a bit grumpy.

I don't know about all this moralising and hand wringing; sometimes a cigar is just a sick jump off a ramp, you know what I'm saying?

Robert Rath:

Actually I really wish GTA would drop its obsession with the US and set its next game in Shanghai, Mumbai, Panama City, Dubai... pretty much anywhere but New York or LA again.

Hmmm, of course it's hard to disagree there and I figure that there must be at least some amongst Rockstar who'd like to experiment with designing a new city again rather than being confined to expanding on previous constructions. That said, I bet some higher-ups would prefer they save on resources and the time it would take to map out such expansive exterior [and interior] locations.

Also, I get the feeling the writers they currently have are probably much more comfortable taking stabs at American culture than any other, not to mention the marketing team and their concerns about global recognition of references and jokes etc. Going back to London might be an possible compromise rather than some place a little too globally obscure like Panama City or Mumbai.

Anyway, I feel like this 'hoo-ha' largely boils down to one critic not being particularly aware of his own preference for main characters who at least have 'a heart of gold', even if they're not "good guys". I can't help but feel like the over-reaction to his review wasn't actually primarily based on dumb disagreements with what he wrote but rather with what he wrote about. Most critics surely realise that while GTA gameplay does lean quite heavily on its storytelling the experience is anchored fundamentally around the quality of the worldbuilding and the mechanics of exploring that world [of which the mission mechanics are one].

As for picking out some sense of morality in the series, I'd argue that if there is any philosophy to be construed its not so much nihilist but anarchist in nature. The satire of the series goes particularly after the hypocrisy of human beings and, of course, consumerism. While the focus is of course on poking fun in anything and everything there's nothing to say that there isn't meaning to be found in the world- just that everything is available for criticism. After all, there is a certain reverence lying behind some of the comedy, especially in Vice City and San Andreas where nostalgia permeates a little bit more.

I loathe that people are trying to give GTA a message, as if this game is any different than the rest of the series which, at best, makes some off the cuff social statement once every twelve hours of hooker bludgeoning.

If you like the game, fine. But don't disguise it as some deep social commentary. It isn't. It's a sandbox shock genre cash cow. It's butt fucking and domestic terrorism. It's designed to get a rise out of people. It isn't a picket sign. It isn't deep. Cloud using trains as a metaphor for pre-destined slum life in FF7 is a statement. Spec Ops: the Line's hint load screens turning from gameplay tips to self-reflection of horrific deeds is a statement. James running from sexualized monstrosities in Silent Hill 2 is a statement.

GTA's statement is and always has been that it's fun to do fucked up things and piss off parents. Stop treating it like it's the Ulysses of gaming.

The_Scrivener:
I loathe that people are trying to give GTA a message, as if this game is any different than the rest of the series which, at best, makes some off the cuff social statement once every twelve hours of hooker bludgeoning.

If you like the game, fine. But don't disguise it as some deep social commentary. It isn't. It's a sandbox shock genre cash cow. It's butt fucking and domestic terrorism. It's designed to get a rise out of people. It isn't a picket sign. It isn't deep. Cloud using trains as a metaphor for pre-destined slum life in FF7 is a statement. Spec Ops: the Line's hint load screens turning from gameplay tips to self-reflection of horrific deeds is a statement. James running from sexualized monstrosities in Silent Hill 2 is a statement.

GTA's statement is and always has been that it's fun to do fucked up things and piss off parents. Stop treating it like it's the Ulysses of gaming.

I think this has to be the best description of GTA 5 I've seen yet. It's too bad that outraged fans feel the need to fight anyone to the death who doesn't love their "precious" as much as they do. I love how this article writer essentially told those that find the characters to be morally reprehensible or just fundamentally unlikeable, that they just "don't get it." That at the same time GTA 5 is "just a game which shouldn't be taken too seriously" yet somehow is also "much deeper and complex than you peasants can fathom". Nice how he gets the critics both coming and going. Apparently to him and many others it isn't a matter of personal preference for someone to not like the game or at least the characters, but instead that they are just too uptight or stupid to grasp the games supposed incredibly deep morality.

Sorry but I agree with The Scrivener. GTA 5 is just guns, fast cars, tits and explosions, like any ultra-violent popcorn fare. It isn't Shakespeare. And there's nothing wrong with that if that happens suit your tastes. And times being what they are I imagine for most it will be exactly what they are looking for. However, get off your high horse and stop yelling at the people who feel that Rockstar went a little too far with how hate-fueled and vile the main characters are and find them neither fun nor likeable.

Akichi Daikashima:

Robert Rath:
GTA's Morality Is More Complex Than You Realize

You'd think that the GTA series throws morality and ethics out the window entirely, but you'd be wrong.

Read Full Article

About that whole "police aren't that corrupt" thing, you should visit Eastern Europe sometime.

Because they are and the levels of corruption within government and its branches are appalling.

Other than that, interesting article, but in order to assume that GTA is some massive statement on the modern age is a bit strange, considering that the series only started taking this turn towards realism after Vice City, and has lost its wackiness, which makes me sad.

I want to play GTA to have fun and unwind as I always have, if I want to feel bad about myself or the world I live in, I will play Spec Ops: The Line.

This is pretty much my thoughts when it comes to GTA V. You can write away all the horrible ethical decisions the protagonists make in the game as being deliberately alienating so as to emphasise exactly how morally reprehensible those decisions are, but I can guarantee you the typical player isn't going to care in the slightest.

Because this is GTA, and the game doesn't get millions of automatic pre-orders for presenting a complex moral statement; it sells because people like to have fun and unwind by engaging in exactly those activities the game supposedly presents as morally reprehensible.

In short, I too agree with The Scrivener:

The_Scrivener:
I loathe that people are trying to give GTA a message, as if this game is any different than the rest of the series which, at best, makes some off the cuff social statement once every twelve hours of hooker bludgeoning.

If you like the game, fine. But don't disguise it as some deep social commentary. It isn't. It's a sandbox shock genre cash cow. It's butt fucking and domestic terrorism. It's designed to get a rise out of people. It isn't a picket sign. It isn't deep. Cloud using trains as a metaphor for pre-destined slum life in FF7 is a statement. Spec Ops: the Line's hint load screens turning from gameplay tips to self-reflection of horrific deeds is a statement. James running from sexualized monstrosities in Silent Hill 2 is a statement.

GTA's statement is and always has been that it's fun to do fucked up things and piss off parents. Stop treating it like it's the Ulysses of gaming.

Extragorey:
Because this is GTA, and the game doesn't get millions of automatic pre-orders for presenting a complex moral statement; it sells because people like to have fun and unwind by engaging in exactly those activities the game supposedly presents as morally reprehensible.

Maybe, but consumer interpretations are irrelevant when discussing author/artist intentions. The series since GTA III has always been about social criticism, parody, irony, and morality.

TiberiusEsuriens:

Robert Rath:
Hypocritical as it may be, audiences will generally allow criminal protagonists to do reprehensible things provided they're motivated by a larger idea like redemption, justice, or the American Dream. We're more comfortable with people who kill for their values than those who kill for greed. Rockstar, it seems, has decided to push this envelope in GTA V. Only time will tell if it pays off, or if they've made a vast misjudgment and made their characters unlikable.

That's the best summary of this whole situation I've found yet. Rockstar games are pretty great and offer tons of freedom to do whatever you like and make your own path, but this time around, especially with Trevor, they've forced people into a situation where people dislike their own character so much some would even want to stop playing. It all depends on an individual's ability to block out or separate themselves during those times to determine whether they're willing to keep pushing.

Robert Rath:

Akichi Daikashima:

About that whole "police aren't that corrupt" thing, you should visit Eastern Europe sometime.

Because they are and the levels of corruption within government and its branches are appalling.

Funny you mention that. Last year I wrote an article where I compared GTA to a Hungary's most famous bank robber and suggested that the series would actually make more sense if it were set in Eastern Europe: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/columns/criticalintel/10077-Ordinary-Players-Extraordinary-Characters

Actually I really wish GTA would drop its obsession with the US and set its next game in Shanghai, Mumbai, Panama City, Dubai... pretty much anywhere but New York or LA again.

Rockstar has stated in the past and even recent history that they see their games going global. I think so far what has limited it is their comfort and familiarity with US cities and habits. The games traditionally have focused not just on the US cities, but the "American Dream." GTAV moves away from that a little, so I can easily see them using another, or multiple countries in the future.

See I rather like the idea of hating my character its unique. tv did that for awhile always making sure the main character never did anything the viewer disagreed with but with shows like breaking bad thats changing. I think its time games did that too

ancylostomiasis:
Apart from GTA VI having a take on immigration and the American dream, the others in the series ARE textbook moral nihilism.

And since when did we call that a morality?

The article reminds me of those Tarantino movies, if you like it, fine, to each his own. But if you argue there are moral messages and serious debates of social problems in them? Sorry, can't agree.

Akichi Daikashima:

I want to play GTA to have fun and unwind as I always have, if I want to feel bad about myself or the world I live in, I will play Spec Ops: The Line.

I would've chose DEHR.

Even Mirror's Edge hints more social criticism.

I agree. GTA clearly goes with a moral nihilism viewpoint no matter what the message they are trying to bring across. Its one of the reasons I've never wanted to play GTA.

The question asked by GTA V is "What if the world really WAS like this?" Given some of the observations in this thread about Eastern Europe we know that there is a precedent for this question. If you lived in the world of GTA how would you react? There are people out there just like the characters on GTA V, and perhaps the reason they are the way they are, is that they view the real world in the same light that we view the world of GTA V.

For me it goes a long way to exposing the mindset and worldview of a monster. I find it very engaging.

On an unrelated note Robert Rath is quickly becoming my favourite Escapist contributor after Shamus Young. Thank you for writing genuinely informative features without resorting to rabble rousing. I don't know when this started to become high praise, but I learn things from your writing.

rbstewart7263:
See I rather like the idea of hating my character its unique. tv did that for awhile always making sure the main character never did anything the viewer disagreed with but with shows like breaking bad thats changing. I think its time games did that too

It's definitely a cool way to do story telling, but my issue with it is about exposure time. Breaking Bad is the current successful model of how to make you love hating the main characters. I can watch one or two episodes and feel really involved but then I need a break. As a TV show this is essentially encouraged; those 45 minute chunks of time are perfect bite sized bits. Anyone who's ever played a game, sandbox style in particular, knows that 'break time' is pretty much non-existent. The games are designed to keep us occupied for hours and hours, never stopping, with all activities snowballing into others.

Like you I think it's great that games are finally experimenting with this stuff more, but over time it will become more apparent what each medium's strengths and weaknesses are, in particular testing the limits of what people can handle in what is essentially and endless game.

Jim_Callahan:

briankoontz:
GTA protagonists are no worse people than the characters in Reservoir Dogs, unless made to be so by the player.

I'm confused. I assume you're arguing that OP is wrong and that the morality isn't any more complex than straight-up moral nihilism? Or are you trying to agree with him that there's something deeper and just picked literally the worst movie analogy possible to support the assertion?

The American Dream itself is a morality. As 50 cent puts it, "Get rich or die trying". Right is whatever serves the interests of the dream and wrong is whatever opposes it. Decent people think it's a terrible morality and don't agree with it, but that's doesn't make it a matter of moral nihilism.

Tarantino films, one after another, are filled with dreamers. Jackie Brown is about "escaping the ghetto", Reservoir Dogs is about the practical reality of strict adherence to the American Dream of wealth without working within the corporate system, Kill Bill is about wishing away the horrors of the dream through celebration of a bushido code of honor. I don't understand why the Reservoir Dogs comparison is the "worst movie analogy possible".

 

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