Oh the Virtual Humanity: Richie G & GTA4

Niko Bellic runs from his guilt...

Friend Of EDR Richie Garton has words that must be shared. Here they are. Enjoy, EDRites.
As a youth, nothing gave me quite as much pleasure as mucking around on the PS2-generation Grand Theft Auto games. There was something about the freedom of roaming the streets of Vice City and San Andreas without a care in the world, jovially wreaking havoc upon a helpless society with an apathetic, inept police force that made the experience downright unmissable. Being as immoral as possible seemed to add to the fun. Dear me, I was Satan incarnate! I would fire rocket launchers at ambulances. I would cruise along the pavement in a 4×4, mowing down dozens of innocent citizens. I would attach C4 to cops, and cackle madly as they ran into crowds and I pressed the detonator, blowing them all to smithereens. Perhaps the most fun was the simple random thuggery you could engage in; there was nothing like strolling down the road, seeing another pedestrian coming towards you, and launching a frenzied, unprovoked assault with a knife. A slice here, a slice there, and an unconvincing splash of pixellated blood would appear, the victim’s blocky, poorly detailed body falling to the floor, where I would repeatedly stamp on it until several dollar bills appeared, signalling their death. Those were the days.

A couple of years ago I played on GTA IV for the first time, at a friend’s house. I was amazed by the game’s graphical quality and the use of actual physics- its realism far surpassed its predecessors. Naively, I thought this would make the game more fun. I was soon proven wrong. As I walked down the street, I glimpsed an old lady struggling along. Flicking through the weapons list, I chose the baseball bat, and advanced, lunging at her (building up quite a bit of momentum) and striking her in the head. Words can’t properly express my horror as blood realistically spurted from the impact point, the game’s advanced physics causing the pensioner’s face to react perfectly to the powerful way I hit her. My stomach clenched and my mouth dried up as she moaned pitifully, and her frail body crumpled to the ground. I immediately pictured this gentle old dear in a hospital bed, connected to all manner of unholy machinery, and the confused, distraught faces of her grandchildren-‘why would someone do this to our lovely gran?’ My self-disgust was only increased further by the knowledge that my victim had, almost certainly, wet herself. As I looked at her non-blocky, well-detailed body twitching on the ground, my guilt was so great that I ran to the nearest river and immediately drowned myself. I have barely played GTA since.

I think this is part of the reason for GTA IV’s mixed critical reception- the game is just too real. You can’t distance yourself from the horrific violence, as the people you kill and maim look and feel like real people; people with jobs, families and credit cards. Only now do I realize that the greatness of the PS2-era games lay in their inherent crappiness- the depiction of gleeful violence was almost Tom-and-Jerry-like. But now, this wonderful gameplay experience has been tainted forever. Thank you, Rockstar, thank you. You have taken away yet another young man’s innocence.

-Richie Garton

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One Comment on “Oh the Virtual Humanity: Richie G & GTA4”

  1. Joe Says:

    I like the trend for realistic portrayals of violence in games. It’s very good for making you see the consequences of your actions if you choose to play a sociopath. It also makes revenge feel so much better when you finally get your hands on a villain (my one complaint about Dragon Age was my inability to torture my enemies and then desecrate their corpses. Harsh, I know, but Bhelen and Arl Howe died too quickly!)
    On the other hand, some games take it way too far and have limbs go flying off and blood spurting everywhere if you sneeze at an enemy. There’s a reason I don’t watch slasher films, thank you very much.

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