Grand Theft Auto: When Sh*t Maybe Gets Too Real?

For me, gaming has always been about being able to escape reality, experience adventures, and just have fun while playing. Franchises like Mario, Sonic, Donkey Kong, etc. (basically most Nintendo games) exemplify this. However, as technology and generational tastes evolve, games have become more realistic in their depiction of characters and environments. A perfect example of this is the popular Grand Theft Auto franchise (GTA for short). Considered controversial for it’s realistic approach to character design, while also glorifying violence and sex, GTA as a game carries some weight to it. What I think is important to note with it, is how gaming visuals have become very close to appearing more than just “realistic”.

Above you can see a trailer of a franchise I hold dear and is cutting edge in terms of “realistic” graphics. Like GTA, Metal Gear is a franchise that prides itself on being visually appealing and looking more or less life-like. Unlike a Mario or Sonic game, players get the feeling the the events and actions within the game can actually occur in life. The thing about GTA, specifically looking at the 5th installment (GTA V), is the level of realism within the game. Just from this video, you can take control of one of the main characters and take your dog out for a walk on the town. Little seemingly menial things like this, highlight how real gaming can get.

Also, if you watched the video, you should have noticed that it takes place from a 1st person perspective for parts of it. 1st person isn’t particularly new to the gaming medium (Doom, Far Cry). However, the actions you can take in GTA V highlight the negative aspects of “realistic” gaming.

This is a prostitute from GTA

This is a prostitute from GTA

I chose to post a picture here of a 1st person interaction between the playable character and prostitute. In GTA V, you can pick up prostitutes and then pay them to do things of sexual nature with your character. It’s not completely graphic in terms of showing genitalia, but it does show the actions being taken between the playable character and the prostitute (oral sex and sexual intercourse for example). Now this was already a controversial topic in gaming, but the addition of 1st person made it a bigger issue. Being able to do things of a sexual nature from a POV perspective is questionable, especially for a game that is popular, and many pre-18 year olds play (mostly because they’re parents may not know what the game includes).

Just another example of how GTA can be graphic in regards to both violence and sex.

Just another example of how GTA can be graphic in regards to both violence and sex.

In a world where we try to shelter kids, and try to limit their exposure to any and all graphic material, the GTA series has always been that specific entity that doesn’t “pull its punches” and does/shows whatever it wants. Looking at the video below, you can see that if you want to emulate a serial killer and commit murder, you can go ahead and do so.

In this video, one of the GTA V protagonists (Trevor) is seen torturing a man for information. Interrogation by torture is hotly debated topic in regards to how military and federal institutions ascertain their information. By incorporating it into the game, GTA adds to its already existing controversial nature. It’s not that I these scene/gameplay to be particularly graphic in nature or bothersome, but it is something that begs the question of what is and isn’t acceptable to be put into video games (or depicted through any medium).

For the most part, I find that games allow people to experience new and interesting things. “Realistic” games, for me, allow you delve into more personal gaming, where reality can be blurred with fantasy. It allows the players to act however they want within the gaming world, with no real world consequence. This is because no matter what, these things you’re playing are just games. They’re not real. I can differentiate that and I’d say that the vast majority can to. However, as games keep pushing the boundaries of possessing realistic qualities, will a line be crossed where fantasy and reality can’t be differed? Better yet, has that line already been crossed? Fortunately, I don’t think that line has been and isn’t near being touched in that aspect. I still think we’re far from experiencing such a phenomena, but that day could come at any time as technology continues to evolve. GTA V is just a small look at how realism in gaming is something to be looked at and studied in regards to its effects on the mind. Hopefully, games will always stay just games and avoid real-life consequences.

  6 comments for “Grand Theft Auto: When Sh*t Maybe Gets Too Real?

  1. jamerive
    February 16, 2015 at 9:16 pm

    Realism in video games is an odd thing as a whole, in my opinion. For a lot of my childhood it seemed that the video games I was inclined to had little to nothing to do with any semblance of the real world and were just fun little escapes into colorful landscapes with even more colorful characters. Story was optional. But as we’ve gotten older, as you’ve noticed, games have made a drastic shift. A lot of the games that people would claim are artistic/beautiful, aesthetically and/or from a narrative standpoint take the player and throw them into some situation that’s supposed to be “real.” Whether or not that works is subjective but I find it odd that this virtual realism is what escapism has come to– doing realistic (or pseudo-realistic because MGS has its moments) things with no realistic consequence. Either way, I still have fun playing both GTA and MGS, so there are no complaints from me.

  2. gothamscribe
    February 16, 2015 at 9:43 pm

    Video game violence is a very controversial topic, and while typically I do label the media’s focus and obsession with video games being the source of many real life tragedies, it’s very hard not to be unsettled by some of the stuff in GTA. Like, of course, I realize it’s all fantasy, that’s the magic of gaming. But GTA and several other games have elements of very realistic, horrifying violence/torture/chaos that… well… it almost seems to give the argument validity. I have played, and have watched others play, this game, and yes, it’s a fun, over dramatic and ridiculous way to blow of steam and live this ridiculous fantasy, but the violence can be starkly and hideously uncomfortable.

    I definitely still don’t believe video games promotes or creates instances of real life violence, but as the games get more and more realistic, the fantasy just seems to get more and more blurred.

  3. Carter Nordike
    February 16, 2015 at 10:11 pm

    The Oculus Rift and virtual reality add a very interesting wrinkle to this argument. With the coming games with full immersion, I think it is important to step back and evaluate what qualifies as a game and what is a simulator. I think that games have the capacity to be “too real,” and that there is a certain danger. However, I also believe it is absolutely nothing that we as a people cannot counteract. Parents and other adults need to be responsible for what their children play, and age-appropriate content is necessary. Outside of this, the common sense of people not taking things too seriously and differentiating reality from fiction will ultimately be the only defense we need. I do not feel there is a need to neuter a game to make housewives feel more secure from the “evils” of video games.

  4. Casey
    February 17, 2015 at 8:38 am

    It is interesting how a pursuit of the most realistic graphics has become a driving competitive aspect of modern game development. Many games that want to tell stories set in our world or in fantasy worlds similar to ours avidly pursue the goal of the most real graphics. Although I think it is worthy to note that many games still choose their own unique art styles as opposed to this trend. For example, the Borderlands series has a distinctly cartoonish, almost drawn style that I think gives it’s crazy world and ridiculous characters/violence a distinct charm that wouldn’t have come from realistic graphics. The type of graphics used in a game a crucial to the portrayal of its themes if it means to tell a story, establish a world, or set a tone.

  5. Butch
    March 27, 2016 at 1:07 am

    Wipe your pussy.

  6. sarasciulla
    January 24, 2017 at 9:29 am

    I agree with your argument, how you say that some games can blur the line of being completely realistic but also giving the game player the ability to know what they’re playing isn’t reality. When it comes to your point on if Grand Theft Auto has gone too far, I have to say that I believe in certain ways it does. Although Grand Theft Auto is a game that is intended to be crude and grotesque to the unknowing player, I also agree that that is what their audience expects, as that’s what they’ve come to know and distinguish as being part of the Grand Theft Auto franchise. However, when you bring up the part about quote on quote “It’s not completely graphic in terms of showing genitalia, but it does show the actions being taken between the playable character and the prostitute (oral sex and sexual intercourse for example). Now this was already a controversial topic in gaming, but the addition of 1st person made it a bigger issue” I believe that this is an actual issue which should be addressed. Although Grand Theft Auto is built for a more mature audience, its target demographic does also include young teens who are exposed to this sort of crude material. I believe because of the violent sexual nature, those actions such as “forcible oral sex” not being completely blurred out is a problem. This either should not be included in the video game or be more blurred out, with shorter scenes you cannot interact in, rather than playable actions.

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