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Grand Theft Auto

Will Neal | Monday, October 28, 2013

Today can be the day you start embracing your wild side. Today can be the day when all those years of your parents saying, “You can do whatever you set your mind to” can finally mean something. Today can be the day when you live out your long-desired fantasies of inner-city skydiving, aircraft hijacking and elaborate bank heists … all in a one-hour time span. Today, you could know what it means to truly feel alive. Don’t want to believe me? Well, you shouldn’t, because what I’m proposing isn’t a genuine reality-based experience. It’s better. It’s “Grand Theft Auto V.” 

As the newest addition to developer Rockstar’s infamous foul-mouthed, adrenaline-junky, video-game series, “Grand Theft Auto V” (GTAV) once again places the player into a realistic environment that appeals to every deadly sin in the holy book. Playing as three delinquents with extreme personalities named Michael (the criminal family man), Franklin (the gangster) and Trevor (the wild card) in the fictional Los Angeles-inspired city of Los Santos, gamers experience the thrills and consequences of a wildly destructive and dangerous lifestyle. It’s a society of rules and regulations that you must learn to tiptoe around if you plan to have any fun. You didn’t realize, however, that under its absurdly promiscuous, riotous and unrestrained outer shell, there’s a sophisticated satirical nugget of knowledge waiting to be cracked open. 

But GTAV is not only an educational experience, but also a developmental one. This is the same game series that has been the relentless target of outraged (yet secretly intrigued) parents, principals and other school officials, countless independent lawsuits, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), Glenn Beck, Jack Thompson (the archenemy of all gamers), working prostitutes (yes, you read that right), New York City, Chicago, the nation of New Zealand and the entire continent of Australia. It’s been endlessly berated for its consistently graphic acts of sex and violence, as well as its degrading portrayal of women and “promotion” of all forms of adulterated tomfoolery. Needless to say, a lot of people hate this game (complete understatement). But let’s try and look at the AK-47 ammunition (so to speak), as half full, shall we? 

I won’t get into the logistics and studies highlighting both sides of the “violence in video games” dilemma that has been sweeping our nation for years – that’s what the Internet is for. Instead, I’d like to focus on the lessons and positives one can draw from this gaming experience. First of all, absolute freedom still has its consequences. Nothing brings this point full circle like seeking your revenge on the local bar owner with an armed military vessel, only to be devastatingly shot down by a barrage of SWAT team forces. “Grand Theft Auto” teaches us that just like in life, our choices may lead to some ridiculous fun, but may also lead to some pretty horrendous consequences. And just like life, “Grand Theft Auto” offers the joys of one massive metaphorical sandbox, but it’s all fun and games until you throw sand in the other kid’s eye.

Secondly, a dose of “Grand Theft Auto” is just what the doctor ordered. Nothing relieves stress quite like driving a hijacked vehicle into an oncoming locomotive while plowing through a horde of rival gang members. Sure, there are consequences to your actions in the game, but let’s be realistic: the real fun of the game comes from its absurdly destructive nature. And you know what? That’s okay, because it provides people one of the few windows of opportunity to channel their aggression and frustration into a zero-threat environment. It’s not just fun – it’s therapeutic, man. 

Thirdly, it’s always more fun to play with friends. Now offering online capabilities, GTAV shows players of all ages the fun benefits of friendly competition and social interaction. Just because you’re virtually robbing a bank with your classmates doesn’t mean some life long friendships can’t be forged! 

Finally, play like the guy you don’t want to be. It’s fun to be a delinquent. Why? Because we’d never be influenced to be this unbelievably crude, stupid and destructive in the real world. Our three main protagonists are awful human beings, and while it’s insanely fun to live through them vicariously, they’re prime examples of how not to behave. 

“Grand Theft Auto” may always strike hatred and controversy in its lifetime, but this latest game is a reminder of the unforgettably enjoyable experience it provides. GTAV may be violent and unconventional, but it’s a heck of a way to have some fun and even learn something in the process. 

Contact Will Neal at wneal@nd.edu