A few nights ago, I got sucked into the world of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. After all the conversations in my classes before the end of the semester, I wanted to explore the world from a societal reflection of violence and culture. My challenge with GTA: Vice City is that I wanted to play it as a Role Playing Game. I tried to converse with the people walking down the street, testing the limits of the law enforcement, and exploring the city. I wanted a living world with consequences for my actions.
Although I was disappointed playing GTA this way because Vice City was mission focused, I continued to come back to explore. I wanted to see what kind of life choices I could make within the framework of the game. GTA as a social commentary is not a new idea and there's a body of work about it. One article that stuck with me recently was a post on MIT's Henry Jenkins blog.
The article was on research done by Kurt Squire on teenagers perceptions of GTA: San Andreas. You have to scroll down to get to the article via the link here... but it is well worth it. Here are a few quotes that peaked my interest:
In fact, these kids were a little offended that white researchers would focus on gaming violence rather than the real violence surrounding them... These same kids were concerned that white kids might also think that it's easy to leave the ghetto:The social dialog on race and class in America that GTA: San Andreas could stimulate would be a great discussion. Unfortunately, too often it is easier to target and attack the violent depictions, rather than engage in a discussion about the acts and circumstances depicted.
"The most unrealistic part of the game is that as a black man, you can't just up and buy a house."
Photo via Flickr.com by Gem