Gamers have been clamoring 5 years for it. Take-Two Interactive rejected a $2 billion buyout and bet their existence on it. A midnight launch buyer in London was robbed and beaten after purchasing it. All the hype has been rocketing to a peak for Grand Theft Auto 5, the biggest entertainment launch in history, which is generating cash as well as concern.
To build excitement, Rockstar Games has spent an incredible amount of effort and money (estimations say $265 million) on creating a virtual reality that complements their game. The official website for GTA V is in effect a virtual tour guide for the fictional environment of Los Santos & Blaine County where the action in the game takes place. Site visitors can browse all of the activities (including investing in the stock market, driving fast cars, going scuba diving, and robbing convenience stores) they can undertake in the game. “If you wish life was just like the movies, come live where it is” reads the site. This plethora of gameplay options is reflected in the trailers that run twice per 30 minute television show, the posters that adorn retailers such as Gamestop, and the updating count of gameplay videos uploaded to YouTube.
Financially, Grand Theft Auto V made $800 million on its first day and $1 billion in three days, racing to the billion dollar mark faster than Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 which made $500 million on day one, and $1 billion after 15 days. It also beat box-office records, such as The Avengers which made $1 billion after 19 days. On release night, “There were about 250 people that came in, many of them lined up outside. Everybody was excited and happy for the game” says Orlando Cornejo, Senior Game Advisor at a local Gamestop on Westheimer. Combined pre-orders for GTA V for Xbox 360 and PS3 were 3,522,206 copies. The pre-order figures are larger than those of the next biggest game releases this year, “Call of Duty: Ghosts” and “Battlefield 4”. Given these figures, it’s safe to say Rockstar’s made a hit.
But the game has been attacked for including the very content the acclaimed series is known for. GTA is rated M for mature, and has themes such as “Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Mature Humor, Nudity, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, [and] Use of Drugs and Alcohol” according to the ESRB. In GTA San Andreas, there was a sex minigame called Hot Coffee that modders discovered in the game files that lead to its ban in several countries, so having said that, the GTA series is meant to be purchased and played by adults. Willie Jefferson, author of the Houston Gamer blog, notes that games have changed a lot over 30 years. He says, “Now with the graphics there’s going to be more realism. Talking about midlife crisis in a videogame…you’ve never seen that in the past.” Killing with a variety of weapons is required to progress in the game, players can visit strip clubs and get topless lap dances, use drugs and alcohol and drive while inebriated, and one mission has you torture a restrained man with instruments of your choice, including sledge hammers, jumper cables and pliers. In this game every demoralizing scenario is thrown at the player, although always in a satirical tone.
Furthermore, the game has been accused of being misogynistic, because the women in the game are (with rare exceptions) portrayed as prostitutes, cheating wives, brainless teenagers, or clownish feminists. In its defense, the men in game are treated with equal disrespect, as scammers, racists, angry gamers, and abusers, to list a few stereotypes they fill. The main characters are terrible examples of masculinity: Michael is deceptive, and a terrible father and husband, Trevor’s an insane mass-murderer, and Franklin is a former drug dealer and repo man who kills on contract to become a bigger player in the criminal underworld. But at least they’re allowed to develop some humanity throughout the story. There is no woman lead role which could’ve accomplished the same positive development with a female.
Grand Theft Auto is a fun game for adults that’s making a lot of money, but parents should be careful when buying it for their under-18 kids to play.