I had a moment today

November 2, 2008 § Leave a comment

Few months ago, drowning in deep dank depression, very few things lifted my spirits. Grand Theft Auto IV was one of them. Having spent a lot of time inside and playing it, I finished it with a an expectation for more. A hunger, unsatisfied, by a game that does almost everything right but was never too ambitious to become perfection. Only today did I realise how wrong I was…

The introduction of trophies alerted Jon and myself. We both started new games and wanted to score some points against the other with the new found trophy system on a game we both loved. So as I sat down and played through the first few missions, reacquainting myself with the controls, I realised what a beautifully designed city it was despite my initial thoughts on a lazy development team choosing Liberty City yet again. In fact a lot of my pre-conceived notions rapidly disappeared on this play through. Having not touched this game for over 3 months, I sat in my chair reminising about the summer. Having people over casually, or just lighting up, by myself playing GTA. Not a worry in the world with the combination of good non-sensical violence.

However, this time, I took my time reading everything I thought I missed in the game. Body language, tone of Niko and what he says. This wasn’t the non-sensical violence GTA we grew to adore from Rockstar, this was a scathing yet beautiful attack on modern day white-America. I flicked through the radio talk shows, laughing at each crude joke. I stopped to listen to conversations and was offended by the callousness of the public. The fact that I was the outside, I was the illegal immigrant was widely known. No one cared for you and no one did me any favours. As I progressed further through the story, the idea of cold hearted Liberty City became evident. This may have been funny but it definitely wasn’t a joke. The idea of unity and family remained as core above everything else and the murdering and stealing isn’t done in a distasteful way for you to feel like a superior antagonist. Quite the opposite. You are made to feel you shouldn’t be doing any of this, you have an objective that’s almost a million miles away, but you have to continue with these monotanous tasks just to pray for a spark of hope you can somehow achieve what you want rather than do the dirty work of others just to survive. Why did I not get this on my first run through? The absorbing story made me play the game to progress that in itself. I had no time to feel what I wanted as I went through the game playing as Niko. If possible, Rockstar’s storytelling was so good up to the point I forgot about the gameplay and meaning behind the words spoken.

I got to my first decision making mission, “Ivan the Terrible.” Having been asked by Vlad, a fat corrupt Russian, to kill this man, I stopped in my tracks for a second before I proceeded. Why? I remember this mission clearly. I killed him without doubt because I thought that was the way things were supposed to be done. I am in the mind of Serb Niko Bellic and to benefit this GTA-stylee story, I need to play as how I see as the “right” way to play it. However, the sharpness behind Vlad’s words and impatiency with me made me feel ambiguous. When I found Ivan, he was not a cocky, shovenistic gangster. The tone and fear in his voice finally got through to me. He was weak. He was tricked. He too is an immigrant doing the dirty to live. Does he deserve to die, if I Niko Bellic live? The answer to me, was no. I chased him across the rooftops and pulled him up, just as I would have done if I wasn’t playing GTA.

People make critisms of the game that its too realistic and you feel attachments that are just like in everyday life. That in itself is where GTA shines, next to its gleaming storytelling. There is no way to judge people on how to live their lives and in GTA you are thrown in an environment, drowing in satire, where you have to ask yourself what the American Dream really is.

Closure. The one thing you can’t ever get from the attachments you make in GTA.

Also playing: Super Stardust HD – It’s worth £5 definitely.

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