GTA: The White Boys' Fantasy

With the release of the latest installment of Grand Theft Auto, Ive decided to stand on my soapbox for a moment. Bear with me.

When the second version came out I stopped playing GTA after my brother showed me that you can have sex with a prostitute to regain health, then kill her to get your money back. It was done, I would never pick up a controller to that game again. {Now I can go into a rant about gender politics, but this isn’t the space.}

GTA IV was released April 29th and I did want to see how the graphics have evolved, game play has changed, and very aesthetic things about the game. More out of curiosity than wanting to play (Gran Turismo has been a little slow lately). A friend of mine sat and showed me all the various attributes of the game, trying to convince me that I’d like it, trying to convince me that there was a moral to this story. So I sat and I saw that you can watch hours of tv, collect all types of guns, cars, women, you could walk into almost any door, you can go shopping, shoot police, talk to bums, shoot crackheads, carjack people and whatever else you might want to do. The game was completely interactive. It reminded me of something. What was that game… oh yeah The Sims.

Critics claimed that games like The Sims would encourage people to stay home and not interact with the real world because the game play was so realistic and interactive that they’d never have to leave, meaning that this digital world had become their real world. But The Sims only appealed to a certain group of people and was rarely violent (I only saw changes when people created their own bots) and most of them stayed local to their computers anyway. But it made me think, who was the world of GTA appealing to?

GTA is nothing more than a suburban White boys’ fantasy. You get to drive around in a neighborhood that you’d never actually go to, let alone live in, with people you’d never actually want to meet, do things you’d never have the balls to actually do, all at the expense of the people being mimicked in the game. Let’s be honest, GTA makes people of color look completely ignorant, deserving of the consequences and unappealing, all while being entertaining. I’ll admit that it is hard to separate yourself from the game play and take a hard look at what is going on in front of you. A Russian, is driving around the hood, killing people, tearing everything up and in effect getting away with it.

The sheer number of sales is the obvious indicator of the purchasing market of GTA. The numbers tell you there just aren’t as many Black people purchasing the game as White people. And truthfully, the true hood brothas out on the street are too busy being on the street living GTA rather than playing it. So like the consumers of rap music (whom this game is catered to) it only leaves one group.

Is the game a flagship of interactive video game design? Yes. Is the game well thought out and entertaining? Yes. Is the game a meditation on the inner city struggle? Not really. Mostly the game is insulting and degrading. So yet again, I’m left to play the faceless tracks of Gran Turismo, because games like GTA continue to reinforce the structural types of racism that I thought we were attempting to destroy.

Depends on who you ask I guess.



macon d said...

The structural types of racism that who is trying to destroy? Certainly not the white corporate purveyors of fantasy, in the form of ghetto-killing video games like GTA and booty-shaking crotch-grabbing music and videos and movies selling mainstream hip hop and rap. There's too much money to be made from structural racism!

I like your analysis of the game, which certainly makes me want to avoid it. Porn is like that too. Robert Jensen's little book, Getting Off, does a great job of explaining not only that it's primarily for men (duh), but also that it dehumanizes the men who consume it. Kinda like this game does to boys.

Your post also made me think about Hollywood movies. I think those are also most accessible for white audiences, and that they too, therefore, also dehumanize both those audiences and non-white ones.

It's a sick culture, that mainstream American blur and glut.