Read the article below from the The Los Angeles Times complaining about sexism in Grand Theft Auto 5.
View the Grand Theft Auto V: Official Gameplay Video
Read this article by Anita Sarkeesian’s analysis of violence against sexually objectified women in video games. You can also watch part of the video linked to that article. http://ew.com/article/2014/08/28/video-games-can-be-better-violence-against-women-isnt-for-decoration/ (Links to an external site.)
Answer the discussion questions. You need to post your answers to my questions.
Discussion questions: Your thoughts on Grand Theft Auto 5 and other games
1. Do you agree with the Los Angeles Times critic’s opinion about Grand Theft Auto 5? Why or why not? Cite specific points/arguments from the article with which you agree or disagree.
2. Why do you think all three main characters are men?
3. If you have played Grand Theft Auto, can you think of examples of stereotypical portrayals of different ethnic/racial groups? If you haven’t played the game, what stereotypes did you notice in the promo video?
4. How are gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people portrayed in this video game or other games you have played?
5. What’s the main argument of the Entertainment Weekly article? Do you agree or disagree with the author? Write about a specific example of a scene from a video game that fits the article’s argument. Write about a specific example of a scene from a video game that doesn’t match the article’s argument.
6. Do you think video games can impact players’ views about women, gays, lesbians and ethnic/racial minorities? Why or why not?
7. Do video game makers have a responsibility to combat stereotypes or at least to avoid reinforcing them? Explain your reasoning.
Todd Martens, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 20, 2013
In 2001, the â€œGrand Theft Autoâ€ franchise landed on the radar of mainstream culture by offending most everyone who wasnâ€™t a gamer. Its carjacking, prostitutes and murder scenarios were defended as a satire of violent and misogynistic video game culture. Watchdog groups and politicians didnâ€™t see the irony.
But beyond the controversy, its appeal was in its danger â€” a place where the kill-at-will, hypersexualized fantasy worlds of interactive entertainment were let loose in cities based on grown-up, real-world places (New York, Miami and now, once again, Los Angeles).
Today, the series has become a well-honed formula, a place guaranteed to deliver top-of-the line game mechanics in the most fully-realized digital worlds. Culturally, however, the franchise has hardly grown since 2001.
The first rape joke is delivered by a college-age boy whoâ€™s playing a violent video game. â€œI donâ€™t care if youâ€™re 12, Iâ€™ll still rape you,â€ he shouts at a character in the fictional game-within-a-game titled â€œMolested.â€
Many â€œGrand Theft Autoâ€ staples later â€” strip clubs, robberies and murders that come as easy as blowing bubbles â€” characters tune into a talk-radio show in which theyâ€™ll be advised to crush a womanâ€™s sternum during sex. â€œMost women,â€ itâ€™s reasoned, â€œlove that.â€
The need to offend has become shtick for the 16-year-old series, and at this point, itâ€™s a tactic thatâ€™s exhausting at best. Consider it the video game equivalent of the MTV Video Music Awards. It exists because itâ€™s too big to fail, and where it once represented risk-taking unpredictability, the franchise is now simply twerking its way into the headlines.
This week the game raked in $1 billion within three days of its Tuesday release. And it isnâ€™t just the public who made this installment of the series the fastest-selling entertainment product ever. On the aggregation site Metacritic, itâ€™s trending close to a 100 out of 100 among video game cognoscenti.
â€œGrand Theft Auto V,â€ which follows three morally corrupt men in â€œLos Santosâ€ (the franchiseâ€™s take on Los Angeles), is technologically impressive in its re-creation of the world we actually live in. Its open universe is unparalleled, allowing players to go anywhere at nearly any time via cartoonishly high-speed car chases and an ability to swap between three characters at once.
But its stubborn sexism and stale social commentary is lazy at best; a relic from a time when games werenâ€™t regularly offering thoughtful experiences.
Here a fancy boat is described as the kind â€œthat makes a young impressionable girl drop her pants and spread her legs.â€ Lap dances are a game where you attempt to grope a girl out of view of security guards.
Yet the majority of the game critic community has decided to treat â€œGrand Theft Auto Vâ€™sâ€ rampant misogyny and violence against women as a pesky housefly, a slight annoyance that doesnâ€™t detract from all thatâ€™s remarkably polished. Though some of the defensiveness may be genuine for this ambitiously free-form game, itâ€™s also rooted in the fear of being labeled as one of those clueless souls who doesnâ€™t quite get the joke or, worse, is offended by it.
But much of this knee-jerk cheerleading is a lost opportunity. If â€œAuto Vâ€ had advanced as much culturally and emotionally as it has mechanically, it might merit the kudos and prove to those who write off games as immature just how far the medium has come.
Even attempts at social commentary here are embarrassingly one-dimensional. One hip coffeeshop brags that its tea is exploited from the Third World. Thereâ€™s the Whole Foods-like store with a â€œshop with superiorityâ€ slogan, and a dumpster-diving movement of â€œfreegansâ€ are described as â€œnonproductive members of society by choice.â€ Perhaps they need to go back and take tips from â€œSouth Park,â€ a series that started around the same time.
As for its treatment of Los Angeles? Our city is certainly deserving of satire, and had â€œGrand Theft Autoâ€ created a restaurant with a 45-page water menu, it might have been funny, but even LACMAâ€™s Rayâ€™s and Stark beat them to it. Instead, the denizens of Los Santos complain about casting directors, whine about scripts and sleep with producers. All thatâ€™s missing is a dingbat blond. Oh wait, thatâ€™s in there too.
For all its expertly detailed traffic patterns on freeways and city streets, creative takes on places like the Hollywood Bowl and Pershing Square and intricate heists, â€œGrand Theft Auto Vâ€ lacks the deft narrative touches of its modern-day peers. Naughty Dogâ€™s â€œThe Last of Usâ€ and Telltaleâ€™s â€œThe Walking Deadâ€ prove that you can wring tears out of the zombie genre, and the tiny little border control game â€œPapers, Pleaseâ€ shows games can capture human desperation almost as deftly as film.
As the biggest game around, â€œGrand Theft Auto Vâ€ should be able to reach these notes and more. But just when you think the game has hit a groove and maybe somewhere around Hour 30 will turn into â€œBreaking Bad,â€ you get in a car, turn it on and hear someone advising a character to crush a womanâ€™s sternum. Nearly everyone who plays the game is smart enough to know this is all done in the name of satire, but to what end? One of the best-designed games in the world doesnâ€™t even attempt to answer that question.
â€“ Todd Martens | todd.martens