As you may have noticed Rockstar Games‘ Grand Theft Auto V came into being this week, raking in a billion dollars in the first three days of its release – marking the fastest time that any piece of entertainment has reached the milestone according to Take-Two Interactive. It took Call of Duty: Black Ops fifteen days to make a billion dollars. GTA V is perhaps the biggest deal that gaming has, and I haven’t played it yet.
GTA IV left me cold. I managed to slug out ten hours in the company of Niko Bellic before coming to the conclusion that bowling was as boring as all hell, and that chick that kept calling me should go die in a fire. Couldn’t I just mess around in peace? Why did driving have to be so hard? Can I have a proper mission now? Is this really the shooting mechanic?
My dislike for IV needs some context. During the previous console generation I had ended up on the Gamecube side of the fence, and being a cash poor teenager that was where I had to stay. No GTA for me. No Vice City, no San Andreas, no nostalgia. So when IV came along and bashed me around the head with boring tasks I had no drive to hang on for the good stuff.
That experience led to me being seriously unfazed by the release of GTA V. I was firm in my belief that I wasn’t a GTA person, but it was cool that the vast majority of the gaming world seemed to be. It took over everything, I saw posters everywhere I went, Twitter was bursting with GTA stuff, Facebook became a GTA V progress report network and the sales figures floating around were incredible.
Then it started – that little niggle in my head. Like some sort of gaming Gollum I began to hear little thoughts protesting the lack of GTA V in their life. “Gets it! Play it! We wants it!”. Now in a not so bizarre twist I am no longer a teenager but I am still cash poor, so it’s not possible for me to lay down the best part of $100 for a game and not bat an eyelid. I need to eat.
But should I? Should I forego a significant amount of nutrition and coffee so I can take some selfies, participate in torture and film someone having anal sex? Stephen Fry appears to be playing it, or at least is aware of it to the point of character names – Stephen Fry!
I have to say that Trevor in GTA V is not a very nice man at all… dear me.
— Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) September 21, 2013
Every man and his dog is playing this game – is that good enough reason for me to? If you never try you never know, but is it me that cares or is the media super-saturation fuddling my brain?
This disconnect I’m having seems to be a common theme – Capsule Computer’s Joe Morgan has already spoken about his experience with the franchise in Grand Theft Abstinence, and I share a similar world view when it comes to crime drama – for the most part it just leaves me cold.
There’s also been a lot of drama around reviewers for a handful of websites who haven’t rated GTA V quite as highly as everyone else – or maybe a better way to express it is that they haven’t rated it as highly as the public think they should have. That’s a stupid avenue to start travelling down internet dwellers – free press remember?
But with my Gollum moment I began to understand why there had been such a backlash against these reviewers. If someone with little previous experience of the franchise and a firm disinterest in it can suddenly want to play it for reasons purely stemming from media exposure and peer pressure – how are the people who are huge fans affected by this stuff? If I can feel the cultural effect of this game release, what’s it like for those in deep already?
What’s it like for the guy who lined up at midnight, got his copy of GTA V and was then stabbed and mugged on his way home? His attackers may have mugged him regardless of the game being involved, but the story certainly plays into the cultural cocoon that is forming around GTA. I’m willing to bet that the mugging wouldn’t have hit the media the way it did if the guy had been walking home with a copy of any other game.
The strength of the Grand Theft Auto phenomenon is undeniable – it is one of the few games that can break out of the gamer world and take it’s billion dollar haul stomping around the grounds of mainstream pop culture. People, not just gamers, pay attention when GTA is around. It’s a financial and critical success, has a pop culture impact and social media presence to die for, and it’ll most likely walk away with numerous game of the year awards.
Should I care?