The shocking truth is that this notorious video game is no longer shocking
Opinion: Grand Theft Auto, now defanged, has sunk into the cultural mainstream
Onee used to feel guilty about playing a game about street hoodlums.
There’s more to Grand Theft Auto V than driving fire engines over school children. You can play golf. You can run a triathlon. You can shop for clothes. Indeed, every now and then, you get the feeling you are vicariously living a life somewhat less interesting than your own.
One thing you can’t do is read newspaper columns about how video games are turning children into sociopaths. So, it’s not much like the real world at all.
If you have been above ground within the last week, you will be aware that the latest game in the hugely popular Daily Mail-poking franchise has just made its way into stores. The figures are staggering. In its first day alone, the extravaganza took in $800 million. As Variety magazine noted, that is more than Man of Steel, the latest Superman movie, generated in its entire theatrical run.
The fans do still seem to be on board. It does, however, look as if the fulminators are struggling to stoke the fires of righteousness. It wouldn’t be a Grand Theft Auto release without some sort of scandal. In the early years – the first version emerged in1997 – most of the bellowing came from the post-Whitehouse right.
The news that players were being invited to break the law as they robbed banks, hot-wired cars and drove enthusiastically through spiralling Hare Krishnas inspired oceans of prose concerning lost generations and moral plagues.
As time moved on, warriors against misogyny and racism – disproportionately skewed towards the left – became more prominent in campaigns against the current release.
The game has, for paid-up, spectacled lefties such as your current correspondent, always poised slippery dilemmas.
Do we really believe the extreme violence offers a commentary on society or are we using that argument to excuse our own bloodlust? I can’t think about that now. I have to steal a taxi and rendezvous at the strip club before Big Luther plugs my homie.
Later, more complex versions of the game triggered very modern, previously unimaginable guilty pangs. One felt uncomfortable because, rather than writing facetious columns, delivering babies or doing whatever it was you do, you were playing a video game about American street hoodlums.
Then one felt nested guilt because, rather than carrying out the designated missions, you were driving around aimlessly, picking fights with passing coppers or playing darts at one of the game’s virtual bars. In retrospect, it was a little like a dosser’s version of Christopher Nolan’s Inception: distractions within distractions within distractions.