Anyway, I read the post, and started reading the comments, and I can't help but be surprised by some of them. The Grand Theft Auto series of games are an easy target for analysis. They're full of racism and misogynistic violence, and they don't really do anything to hide that fact. In fact, the series has pretty much embraced that fact, and the creators go out of their way to try to outdo themselves with each game.
So, some of the defenses are really surprising to me. The suggestion that killing prostitutes "is never a story goal" or was "obscure" and that it's a game of "choices" bothers me. It's been a while since I played any of the GTA games, but it was *never* a secret that you could kill prostitutes. From at least GTA3, it's been pretty common knowledge that you could go out, pick up a prostitute to regain your health, and then kill her to get back the money you lost when you picked her up. It was never an obscure part of the game at all, even if it wasn't manditory. The bit about it being a choice is irrelevent. There are plenty of things that the game doesn't let you do- there are no children in any of the GTA games, so you won't find yourself a child-killer, for example. So, the choice to include prostitutes that one can then murder? It's about choice- the choice of Rockstar Games to include that element.
Similarly, a commenter suggests that the "in-game consequences are only negative" when you kill one of the prostitutes. That's not accurate. Killing NPCs in front of the police or other characters has a potentially negative consequence- it increases your wanted level, thus making the police try to arrest or kill you. But, killing anyone- prostitute or not- also has positive consequences in that you can steal any money or weapons that character is carrying. Further, killing someone in a place where you're not being watched or where there aren't any police doesn't increase your wanted level. And, for many players, increasing your wanted level isn't actually a negative consequence- I knew plenty of people who made a game out of getting the highest wanted level possible just to see how long they could last.
I really took umbridge to Scilian's comment, though:
Well Grand Theft Auto is simply a game based around violence and crime.
Violence, sex, and more violence.
Anyone can be killed at any time - so would the game be ok if women were removed completely from the game?
Or maybe if women couldnt be killed in the game?
But then the rife hypocrisy here at feministing rears its ugly head as usual - since the violence is about 99% towards males, wouldnt that reek of misandry?
Kind of funny, you know, this bullshit post coming from samhita when she constantly talks about racism against black males who tried to kill someone by kicking in their heads with steel toed boots, but then shooting people in a video game is suddenly misogynistic?
So real world violence is ok, but a game that has nothing to do with killing females is suddenly misogynistic?
Logic must have the day off today.
Where to start? First of all, it looked to me like Samhita's post was largely about the fact that "not only are the sex scenes very real looking, most of the women are killed shortly after forcibly performing sex acts." It's not just that the game is violent- it is. Yeah, you can kill pretty much everyone in GTA. But, there was a choice made about which characters you could pay for sex with and then murder, and, hint- it wasn't the characters with penises.
And Scilian's bringing up the Jena Six case is disturbing, as well. That case is ongoing, and I don't think that anyone has attempted to say that the fact that one of the white kids was attacked was good- only that the Jena Six aren't being treated fairly, and they're being punished in a way that exceeds their crime, while the white kids who also engaged in serious acts of violence are going free with nothing more than a slap on the wrist. It's not that violence in the 'real world' is okay.
And, really, this attitude that, because she's complained about the treatment of women she must necessarily also complain about the treatment of men or it's a double standard? It's bullshit. It's a game made by men targeting a male audience about a male character who spends a lot of time doing terrible things to other men. There are complaints to be raised there, for sure- but Samhita, a woman, is under no obligation to discuss them given that the game *also* features nasty treatment of women, too.
Hell, we can discuss the treatment of men all day- and I'd personally suggest that, if Scilian is really concerned with the treatment of men, a better tactic than accusing Samhita of hypocrisy would be to become an activist and write about or do something about it. Pissing on somebody else's movement isn't a good way to get your issue addressed. And, I find the criticism difficult to swallow given the width and breadth of male characters available absolutely dwarfs the portrayals of women in games.
I'm certainly not in the habit of trying to tell people what is or is not a feminist attitude. If someone tells me that they're going to play GTA4, I'm not going to try to revoke their feminist street cred. Nor do I think that the GTA series of games are completely without merit. The sandbox style and the ability to create tremendous car crashes, do Hollywood action movie style car chases and jumps, etc? That stuff is all a lot of fun. I love that part. But, the sad fact is that they've consistently packaged a really fun free-roaming car driving game inside of a really nasty narrative. The game is full of racist, sexist, and heteronormative/homophobic bile. And for that? Yes, I do think it belongs in the hall of shame. Which is too bad, because, yeah, I've actually had a lot of fun outside of the story of the game, flying helicopters and racing bikes through the city.
Ultimately, I have no interest in playing GTA4, despite the consistently high marks that it's getting. I'm not interested in more racist drivel being passed off as story. I'm not interested in seeing what kind of stupid, ignorant stereotypes they'll embrace in the portrayal of an Eastern European character. I mean, we've been treated to an Italian who joins the mafia, and a black gang member, so we've got reason to believe that they'll treat him with respect and not fall back on stereotypes. Right? Right?
edited 3:38 PM -
Shamus has a great quote about the difficulty of rating a game like GTA4. He makes a comparison between rating the game and rating a restaurant: "How do you rate a restaurant that serves mouth-watering steaks for $5 and a punch in the face before the meal?"
Anyway, his piece is about how some publication was granted an "exclusive review" of the game prior to release. Penny Arcade mentioned the same thing, and I'll go ahead and throw my gamer hat on to agree: Exclusive reviews raise some significant questions about, you know, objectivity. Color me "not a fan".