Tag Archives: GTA

What I’m Playing This Week

With the holidays last week, I had a ton of time to play games and managed to get through a few Steam titles plus play some of my Christmas presents. Here’s what I’ve been playing.

Grand Theft Auto V

Oh, GTA, where to begin? I hadn’t played a GTA game since Vice City, and while I completed the game I found the experience just okay. After all the recent discussion about GTAV, and all of the amazing reviews its gotten since being re-released for next gen (and getting it for Christmas), I figured it was time to play it myself. I’m only 5-6 hours in, but I have to ask – how the hell did this game get so many review scores of 9.5 and 10? Maybe it just hasn’t hit its stride yet (it did take me a few hours to start liking The Last of Us or DAI too), but the game is just not that fun. So far the game is 90% driving (I guess the title does kind of give that away), and I’ve never found Rockstar to be very good at driving mechanics. Hit one pole and you knock it over and keep going, hit another pole or a chain link fence and you smash to a dead stop. Lightly sideswipe another vehicle and go fishtailing down the road for 300 meters. Plus as far as I can tell, there’s no drift button. Other than driving, and occasional shooting, I’ve also played tennis, rode a bicycle, and swam. I just unlocked the ability to do triathlons which is bizarre. What the hell am I playing?

I think of GTA in much the same way that I think of Goodfellas. It looks good, it has great cinematography and acting, a script with lots of swearing, but every character is just awful, so I don’t give a shit what happens to them. I don’t need characters to be likable but I need something to make me care about them, make me want to know their story. So far GTA has given me nothing to hold my interest. As I play the game the main thought that goes through my head is – I wish I was playing Saint’s Row.

The Path

I’ve been wanting to play The Path for years (really couldn’t tell you what was stopping me) and I finally picked it up during the holidays. In a take on Red Riding Hood, six sisters are each sent to their grandmother’s house and told to stay on the path. Of course, if you stay on the path, you fail. Each girl must go into the woods to explore and find their version of The Wolf.

The Path - six girls

The Path is hard to describe. Gameplay is minimal, you explore the woods, finding objects that the girls can interact with before meeting the wolf and ending up at Grandma’s house. The narrative is not explicit, most of what happens is up to the player’s interpretation. For me, this was a story about girls venturing out into a scary world that changes them, forces them to grow up and lose their innocence. So it’s not the most cheerful game in the world, but it was worth playing.

Blackwell Epiphany

The Blackwell series are really great adventure games, and the finale is no exception. You play as Roseangela Blackwell who, with the help of her spirit guide, helps lost souls to realize they are dead and move on.

Blackwell Epiphany - Rosa and Joey in a graveyard

Besides having great adventure puzzles, the Blackwell series tell an excellent story that really progresses from game to game. It doesn’t feel like a series of episodes connected only by the characters, but like a true progression, with each game building up to this conclusion. Rosa’s character really develops through the series as her experience grows and she learns more about her abilities. I thought Epiphany was a very fitting, though sad, end to the series.

Catherine

Fuck these fucking blocks.

Tales from the Borderlands

I went ahead and gave this a look, despite tiring of Telltale and only one episode being out. I’m enjoying it. As I expected, the comedy does make a difference. I also don’t feel like this game is deceitfully dangling meaningful choices and multiple paths in front of my face. The options seem more about developing the characters’ personalities to my liking as opposed to changing the story. This game also makes me want to play more of the original Borderlands series.

One thing that is bugging me (which is true of all Telltale games on console) is that the right stick just tries to do too much. It’s used to find and select objects, it’s used for 1st and 3rd person aiming, it’s sort of used for camera. As a y-axis inverter it makes gameplay rather awkward.


I’ve also played The Fall and This War of Mine, but I think I might write up full reviews for those.

What have you been playing?

Violence Against Video Game Characters

With the news that GTA V has been pulled from Target and Walmart in Australia because of how violence against female sex workers is portrayed, I’ve been hearing a very familiar cry on Twitter and in comment sections. “What about men?!” “Why is it okay to kill hundreds of men but as soon as you add a woman it’s a problem?”

First of all, people have complained about violence in video games in general. Many, many, many, times. Protests have been launched, petitions have been written. While Canada doesn’t tend to ban games, a number of games have been banned or refused classification in Australia because of violence. The majority of those were banned for general graphic violence, not specifically violence against women (50 Cent Bulletproof, Dark Sector, The Getaway, Manhunt, Postal 1/2, Reservoir Dogs, Soldier of Fortune). Australia has also banned games due to sexual content or depictions of drug use.

But let’s ignore the above and pretend that only games with violence against women are subject to criticism and bans. Why would this be?

In the latest Call of Duty, you’re at war and you mow down hundreds of enemy forces. It’s hard to tell for sure with full body armor on, but they’re most likely all men.

Tomb Raider - Lara killing a man who is on fire

In the reboot of the Tomb Raider series, Lara goes around an island killing hundreds of men. Only men. There are no women. If you paid attention to the game you’d know that there are no women on the island because they’ve all already been killed (by the men). But again, ignore that, not relevant to how terribly video games treat dudes.

In Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (excuse the somewhat dated reference, but it’s the only GTA I’ve played all the way through), Tommy murders hundreds, maybe thousands of people, mostly men, in his quest to become the crime boss of the city. Running over pedestrians (of either sex) and beating up hookers (always female) is not a requirement to taking over the city, but sometimes he enjoys doing it in his free time.

These poor men have it tough in video games. They’re always getting tortured, shot, run over, killed. Why is this okay, but as soon as you murder a woman in a video game, people start crying foul?

Take your average military shooter. You’re likely playing as a male, and you’re most likely shooting other men. If you’re not also shooting women, it’s because there aren’t any in the game. This makes me question why there aren’t any women. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’d have no problem with seeing women on the battlefield (maybe I could even play as one in the campaign sometimes?) and having to mow them down along with the men. Equal opportunity senseless killing, that’s all I ask.

In Tomb Raider, the reason Lara kills hundreds of men is because they’re trying to kill her. They’ve kidnapped her friends and if Lara doesn’t kill them, her and her friends will all die. This is how action games work – the player kills aggressors who are trying to kill them.

In GTA and other open world games, you can generally kill anyone you want. However the aggressors in the game, the ones you have to kill, do tend to be males. Would people be upset if the aggressors were females instead? I certainly wouldn’t. I was pleasantly surprised when I played Saint’s Row: The Third and found that the members of my rival gangs were made of both men and women. Women can be bad guys too. It’s okay. Even better, female antagonists can be created that are actual characters with motivations beyond ‘shoot the player’. Rival gang leaders, mercenaries, corrupt law enforcement officers – put a female in one of these roles and I have no problem with having to kill them to progress in the game. The joy I get from having women in these games outside of strip clubs and street corners greatly outweighs any other issues I’d have.

GTA V - sex workers on the corner

The problem with the portrayal of violence against women, and sex workers in particular, in video games is that these characters, scratch that they aren’t characters and that’s part of the problem. These women are not your enemy. They don’t stand in your way to progress, they are no threat to you. They exist, wear skimpy clothing, and flirt to stimulate the player. That’s their purpose. They don’t impact the story. The player has the option to use them and then kill them. They aren’t necessarily rewarded for this behavior, but they probably aren’t punished either. If in Tomb Raider Lara stumbled upon a man on the beach who was offering pony rides and shot him in the face then I’d have a problem. I’d question why the developers put this scenario in the game. Likewise, I’d have an issue if the next GTA portrayed male sex workers who were completely unrelated to the story that a player could use and then kill.

I’m not a proponent of censorship. While Australia banning video games constitutes actual censorship, retail chains in Australia choosing to pull GTAV off their shelves is not. They can choose to sell or not sell whatever they like. What I am an advocate of is developers and consumers being critical of the media they produce and consume. When female sex workers are added to a game to be ogled, groped, or fucked then thrown away, what is it adding to the game? Is it taking away more than it adds? Is it more trouble than it’s worth just to make your game seem gritty?

Many video games are violent, and that’s not ever going to change. While the gender of the people you shoot or fight in games shouldn’t be an issue, it is because males tend to be the aggressors where it’s a matter of kill or be killed, while females are generally not a threat to the player. They get killed to move the story or a quest forward, give a male character a reason to seek revenge, or just because the player feels like killing them. While a couple of the examples aren’t perfect, if you haven’t watched them yet I’d recommend Anita Sarkeesian’s videos on Women as Background directions (part 1, part 2), as they really show how prevalent this issue is in games, especially in AAA titles.