“Grand Theft Auto V” has finally been released and to a lot of critical acclaim. There has been a resounding industry wide consensus that the game is a masterpiece in terms of presentation, gameplay refinement and storytelling.
If I were to write a review on this game, it would be redundant as I would only be telling you the same thing every other TV commercial, magazine ad and review have already said: it is a good, good game. Instead of telling you about what makes it so great, I’m going to talk about the controversy it has brought along with it.
The Grand Theft Auto (GTA) franchise is no stranger to controversy, in fact the two go hand in hand since the game made a jump to 3D on the Playstation 2. The controversy is usually tied to the insane amounts of violence and shootings in the game, but in GTA V the controversy is tied to the male centric cast and an unsettling torture scene midway into the game’s story.
The male cast caused some controversy in that women are still portrayed as sexual objects and inferior to men.
In comparison to other mainstream games and specifically the “Saint’s Row” franchise, which features a gender neutral story and protagonist, GTA V is considered highly misogynistic. The main point or reasoning lies in the story being told, a male power fantasy, the main characters are looking to regain their power and strength as men through a complicated story of virtue, crime and friendship.
The bigger controversy comes from GTA V’s torture scene, an unskippable game sequence midway into the story.
As one of the main characters, the player has to interrogate a person and does so by torturing the victim. The scene plays out by having a set of tools on a table that the player can choose to use and proceed to use them in a minigame in order to get information. This is not a scene, this is not optional, and this is part of the story.
In order to understand, but not justify, the scene is to know that GTA V is a satire on post 9-11 America and with that subject matter, torture was certain to be touched upon. After the scene is done the victim is put on a plane to escape, but not before having a discussion with his torturer.
The discussion is about the uselessness of torture; it’s a powerplay for the torturer since it causes the victim to say what needs to be said, which may not be the truth in some cases. It’s also mentioned that the media will play off torture as a necessary evil if done by the ‘hero’ rather than the villain.
The gray area is discussed, and in the end, the torture is still unjustified as a gameplay sequence and as an action in the story by the characters. Grand Theft Auto is an adult’s game, and the subject matter is very much the same. GTA is a step forward in showing that games are legitimate storytelling medium, but with that in mind, not all stories are family friendly.