Top 10 things you never knew about Grand Theft Auto (because you're not brainy enough)

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grandtheftautobook.jpgWho said games had to be lowbrow? This week, I’ve been burying my nose in a new book called ‘The Meaning and Culture of Grand Theft Auto: Critical Essays’. It’s the first academic book to focus on a single game series, discussing issues like censorship, satire, and the intellectual impact of GTA.

That’s what it says on the blurb, anyhow. Which for a lowbrow blogger like me, is an invitation to scan the contents for examples of academics getting all pseudy about how beating a prostitute up with a baseball bat is in fact a prime example of Freudian dialectics of the other manifesting themselves through a postmodern reading of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty. Something like that, anyway. Here’s my top 10.

1. “GTA is symptomatic of the historical erasure of the mythmaking process; it is reactionary politicized speech meant to satirize through the reformation of identity and participation in the metaphoric destruction of societal obstacles. It is the mirrored fantasy space in which silenced voices are annunciated and performed.”
– from ‘Play Fighting: Understanding Violence in Grand Theft Auto III’ essay by Tanner Higgin

2. “It is tempting, given the degree to which this world is fleshed out, to consider GTA:SA in the light of Jean Baudrillard’s concepts of the hyperreal and the simulacrum…”
– from ‘The Subversive Carnival of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ essay by David Annandale

3. “One of the greatest achievements of the Grand Theft Auto series is its unflinching satire of two of the most noxious political ideologies of those boardrooms, namely market fundamentalism (also known as neoliberalism) and its dim-witted provincial cousin, petro-fundamentalism.”
– from ‘Grand Theft Video: Running and Gunning for the U.S. Empire’ essay by Dennis Redmond

4. “In both the demonization and celebration of the virtual reality offered through the GTA series, the horror and praise resulting from suburban bodies entering the otherwise impenetrable (segregated) world of gangstas, thugs, hip-hop, and ghettos, and the surrounding discourse of reception, dominant understandings of race, hegemonic rationalization (explanations) of contemporary social inequality, and the advizable methods (policies) needed to address current issues become visible.”
– from ‘Virtual Gangstas, Coming to a Suburban House Near You: Demonization, Commodification, and Policing Blackness’ essay by David Leonard

5. “The aesthetics of spatiality in Grand Theft Auto games extends from two primary frameworks: systems of play and systems of representation. The structures of these two frames in many ways mimic one another or succeed on parallel criteria, and in the overlap between the ludic and medial systems, emergent resonances fall under the purview of the uncanny.”
– from ‘Cruising in San Andreas: Ludic Space and Urban Aesthetics in Grand Theft Auto’ essay by Zach Whalen

6. “Each game is certainly multifarious, but homogenized by its staunch adherence to stereotype. Each group, whether delineated ethnically, socially, or economically has its own turf, identified by architecture, style of vehicles on the road, and people on the street. Traversing the game space one gets the impression of a land of diversity yet great gaps and fissures.”
– from ‘Play Fighting: Understanding Violence in Grand Theft Auto III’ essay by Tanner Higgin

7. “Cesar’s cousin, Catalina, who provides most of the missions in the Badlands section of the game, is worth noticing. First seen fighting off two men in a bar, Catalina compensates for her double marginalization (of gender and of race) with hyperbolic aggressiveness, transforming herself into a very explicitly femme castatrice.”
– from ‘The Subversive Carnival of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ essay by David Annandale

8. “The Hot Coffee patch makes sexual encounters in the game much more explicit but not any more sensual. Reduced to the stilted rock of the ‘joystick’, sex is quite literally mechanized. The result of the abrupt breaks with everydayness precipitated by the mechanical nude image is a ‘step outside the everyday without actually leaving it: it shocks, it seems brutal, and yet this effect is superficial, pure appearance, leading us back toward the secret of the everyday – dissatisfaction.”
– from ‘Everyday Play: Cruising for Leisure in San Andreas’ essay by Timothy J. Welsh

9. “Edges are employed to define geographical, social, and aesthetic boundaries, and within the overall ludic framework of the game’s magic circle, the city’s aesthetic and psychological edges also come to signify various ways of understanding play spaces in relation to the city. The idea of space as ludic depends in this sense both on the spatial properties outlined by game play as well as the created sense of enclosures…”
– from ‘Cruising in San Andreas: Ludic Space and Urban Aesthetics in Grand Theft Auto’ essay by Zach Whalen

10. “Tommy and CJ always exist as a co-constructed semiotic event prompted by the game narrative and player perception of prominent signs during game play. It could be argued that the biomechanical nature of signification during game-play… which is grounded in the computerized and structural nature of the game, exists in a dialectic tension with the social nature of signification…”
– from ‘Positioning and Creating the Semiotic Self in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas’ essay by John A. Unger and Karla V. Kingsley

Stuart Dredge

17 comments

  • Hehehe, I like blowin’ stuff up and killin’ people.

    Translated into pendantic academic:

    In traversing the nascent reality of a hyper-satrical microcosm, an almost primitive sense of ludic pleasure permeates my spatial proverbial noodle.

  • Skyfam said:
    >>If the audience has to make a quick evaluation of the speakers prowess it is often better for the speaker to use language that reflects a greater understanding of language. While not neccessarily related to their understanding of the topic this gained respect will often add credence to their argument.<<

    Sorry if you were being sarcastic, Skyfam; it went completely by me if so. I believe exactly the opposite of your statement above. IMO, it is best for a writer to use language geared toward the audience. To do otherwise almost ensures disrespect (which is actually the return of the disrespect the writer shows to the audience) and resultant ignoring of the writer’s message. No one cares about the writer’s understanding of the language if he or she is incapable of communicating his/her points clearly.

    These academics have their heads lodged so far up their own asses that when sound is made you can’t tell if they’re talking or farting. Their points are simple but they’ve been trained to disguise that with convoluted sentence structure and complex vocabulary.

  • Ahahahahaha! This is not so much pompous as it is complete and utter BS. If the essayists tried to get their point across like a real human being, people would figure out that they really aren’t saying much at all. Eg: “…GTA:SA in the light of Jean Baudrillard’s concepts of the hyperreal and the simulacrum…” basically translates to “there is a false man in the computer. Is the man so false that he becomes real in some way?” (The answer is no. Baudrillard is a wanker.)

    The scary part is that these people paid tens of thousands of dollars to learn this stuff in school and probably wholehearted believe in what they wrote.

  • I think their full use of the english language adds an air of legitimacy to their arguments. When writing an essay for review people often need to convey their own legitimacy by managing the tone of their statements.

    Even while speaking people use different words to convey their ideas between friends, or when standing in front of a large audience.

    If the audience has to make a quick evaluation of the speakers prowess it is often better for the speaker to use language that reflects a greater understanding of language. While not neccessarily related to their understanding of the topic this gained respect will often add credence to their argument.

  • Each game is certainly multifarious, but homogenized by its staunch adherence to stereotype. Each group, whether delineated ethnically, socially, or economically has its own turf,*********************

    yeah right!

  • I second that. Throw the elitist babble out the window and try to get your point across like a real human being, for pete’s sake.

  • What an excellent compilation of verbose stupidity!
    Some people will write anything about anything just to see if they can use more pompous-ity.
    They need a dose of get-over-yourself, administered hourly.

    It’s just a hyper-violent video game for Pete’s sake, not a difinitve representation of the mythos or archetypes of modern culture.

    …at least no more than the daily comics or traffic reports.

    It’s just a cigar. :-/

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