‘Grand Theft Auto 5’ satirizes society


Author: Will Westwater

“Isn’t that the game where you kill hookers?”

It is unlikely that a game solely about killing hookers would make over $1 billion within the first three days of its release. Rockstar North’s Grand Theft Auto Five (GTAV) is now out and as with every release of a GTA game, there is criticism of its violent content. The GTA release is used as an opportunity to jump on the bandwagon against violent video-games, with people claiming they are the cause of school shootings and other societal woes. If anything, GTAV shows the problems with our society today. The social commentary ranges from subtle to blatant and tackles issues such as government use of torture, celebrity worship, bipartisanship woes and invasions of privacy.


GTAV brings the player to present-day San Andreas, which consists of the mountainous and desert-like Blaine County and the L.A. parody, Los Santos. The player takes control of three separate protagonists instead of one, creating an incredibly interwoven story that works well. These three characters, each from different walks of life, join forces to pull heists, all hoping for a big score. While none of the protagonists are saints, they do have an understanding of right and wrong.

Even in the sandbox world of GTAV, where the player can do whatever he or she likes, it is evident from the story missions and dialogue that the characters don’t always agree with what each mission makes them do. Take the controversial mission “By the Book,” in which the Federal Investigation Bureau (FIB) has protagonist Trevor Phillips interrogate and torture a man. Trevor, controlled by the player, is forced to act as the FIB agent watches. The agent then orders him to kill the man, but Trevor refuses. Instead, he takes the tortured man to the airport and tells him to leave the country. The GTAV characters are, as “The Dark Knight” character Two-Face would say, “decent men at an indecent time.”

Controversy aside, GTA remains a pinnacle of technical excellence for video-games. The voiceover work is involving and realistic, and the dialogue can make a player laugh out loud. The facial animations are an improvement from Grand Theft Auto Four. Los Santos and the greater San Andreas area feel crisp and refreshing. Los Santos, the Los Angeles parody city, is accurate enough to be familiar to locals. Drive up to Griffith Park (or as GTAV calls it, “Galileo Park,”) take a selfie by the Vinewood sign, bike by Vespucci beach, buy stocks on the BAWSAQ or parachute from the top of what looks to be the U.S. bank building.

GTAV is a mirror on today’s society and puts citizens, especially those on the West Coast, under a satirical microscope. Radio stations and advertisements parody real-life experiences. The way the game looks at millennials is especially eye-opening. San Andreas is an immersive and incredible world to play around in and although full of enticing missions, GTAV still manages to provide a serious and intelligent look at contemporary American society.

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