Weekend Confirmed 183 - Grand Theft Auto 5

By Ozzie Mejia, Sep 20, 2013 11:00am PDT

It's Grand Theft Auto V week at Weekend Confirmed! Hosts Garnett Lee and Jeff Cannata welcome in "Indie" Jeff Mattas and Game Trailers' Marcus Beer to first discuss Diablo 3 and the closure of the auction houses. Then it's a full-length discussion of GTA V, diving into everyone's first impressions of Rockstar's newest opus, the game's similarities to real-world Los Angeles, a breakdown of the game's characters (including the sociopathic Trevor), and the ways in which Rockstar will (both fairly and unfairly) shoulder the controversy burden for years to come. That's followed up with some listener questions before everyone drives off into the weekend with a new round of Finishing Moves and the post-show Tailgate.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 183: 9/20/2013

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Weekend Confirmed comes in four segments to make it easy to listen to in segments or all at once. Here's the timing for this week's episode:

    Show Breakdown:

    Round 1 - 00:00:35 - 00:29:15

    Round 2 - 00:30:35 - 00:57:28

    Round 3 - 00:58:05 - 01:34:21

    Round 4/Finishing Moves - 01:35:01 - 02:01:49

    Tailgate - 2:01:49 - 2:10:36

The Press Row Podcast is the official podcast of Operation Sports, your home for sports video games. The best sports game writers in the business from Kotaku, Polygon, GamesRadar, Joystiq, PastaPadre and Operation Sports join host Rich Grisham to analyze the victories, struggles, challenges, and solutions that creators and consumers face in modern sports game design.

Follow the Weekend Confirmed crew on Twitter, too!

Weekend Confirmed @WeekendConfirmd

Garnett Lee @GarnettLee

Jeff Cannata @JeffCannata

Jeff Mattas @JeffMattas

Marcus Beer @AnnoyedGamer

Remember to join the Official Facebook Weekend Confirmed Page and add us to your Facebook routine. We'll be keeping you up with the latest on the show there as well.

Original music in the show by Del Rio. Check out his latest music video, I Brought It Here, featuring cameos from Jeff Cannata and Christian Spicer on YouTube. Get his latest Album, Club Tipsy on iTunes. Check out more, including the Super Mega Worm mix and other mash-ups on his ReverbNation page or Facebook page, and follow him on twitter @delriomusic.

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  • Thanks for being one of the few podcasts actually approaching their discussion of GTA V with some grounded critiques. I do think it’s important, though, to flesh out and explore some of the issues you touched on in the last episode.

    For me, the most pressing idea from your conversation was the notion that if certain elements of the game at least spark a debate, or even cause the player to pause for a moment of moral self reflection, then that was perhaps a valuable artistic contribution on the part of Rockstar. This is not a new defense for controversial artistic expression, and there is merit to the argument, but when this argument is made it is also important to make the often muddy attempt to discern what we can about the intent of the artist(s). Just because a game or story makes one think does not release the makers of that story from the burden of their intention. One can include a horrible act in a work of fiction, but whether one's intention is to either glorify or condemn that act, both are going to make the reader/viewer/player think. The author's intention is relevant to the discussion; whether it be the peppering of anti-Semitism in "The Great Gatsby" or the bigotry in "The Birth of a Nation", to the portrayal of sexual abuse in "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" and the Gaspar Noé film "Irreversible". If art makes the consumer of that art reflect on an idea, that can be extremely valuable, but it's just as important to also contextualize the intent or message of the artist.

    Interpretation of the work of art is critical, but the work does not exist in a vacuum. The artist(s) possessed a point of view that was either the seed that birthed that work, or the paint used to produce it. The other option is that the work possesses no point of view at all, in which case the creator was either incapable or unwilling to intentionally produce something of artistic merit (granted this is an oversimplification in order to make a point; trying not to write a whole graduate thesis here).

    The creation of and participation in a video game is an artistic endeavor (sorry, but the debate on that really is over. It’s time to move past that counterproductive dispute), but the messenger is important, as is the messenger's skill at delivering that message.

    Fans of the series tend to defend its content by labeling it as parody or satire. This may be a legitimate classification, but the more important question would then be: is it a successful one?

    (I bring up the following not as an example of ideological right vs. wrong, but as an example of satire and the object of that satire.)

    I’ve encountered a few people who brought up Steven Colbert during this most recent GTA debate. Anecdotally speaking, there are a number of people out there who have watched “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central and not understood that the persona of Steven Colbert on that show is a satirical fiction. The truth of this isn’t particularly comfortable to me, but those people are out there. Fortunately, those folks are a substantial minority of the Colbert audience, and the rest are all in on the joke. The majority of the viewers of this show have been cultivated by Steven and his crew because of its very specific design. Were it the case that the ratings for “The Colbert Report” on Comedy Central were abysmal and the show’s main audience was found to be on Fox News where that audience somehow managed to take him seriously, then the show would be a failure by design. GTA, also anecdotally speaking, seems to appeal to a majority (or perhaps a very vocal minority) of players who get a tremendous amount of joy from the criminal and degenerate acts they can perform in the game as well as the prevalent themes of misogyny and sociopathy. The idea of parody or satire rarely seems to enter the equation for them.

    Let me clarify that I am completely fine with GTA existing as it is. I’m even fine with it existing as a middle finger to all that is decent and good in this world as some of its detractors both in the media and elsewhere often like to portray it. What I’m not comfortable with is what seems to be the prevalent notion in the enthusiast press that GTA is something of a triumph of satirical social commentary. Academically speaking, that idea comes off as uninformed, or at least as one coming from an artistically underexposed perspective.

    GTA, of course, has every right to exist, and its fans are wholly justified in their fandom of it; but when I examine the content of the games I'm still unclear as to Rockstar's intent with the GTA series. Based on the evidence we have in each of the entries of the series and the other various gaming properties in the Rockstar catalog, it seems they either need to figure out how to better communicate their ideas, or they need to be more forthright about their inconsistently nihilist thematic points of view.

    Thread Truncated. Click to see all 3 replies.

    • Very well said. I've been thinking a lot lately: can we really call GTA "Satire"? Does satire not need to have a specific point or message? Is naming their social network "Life Invader" actually satire, or just a 1-note joke?

      I go back to the point that Spicer made about Bioshock Infinite. He said that he felt the racial and class issues presented in the game were the videogame equivalent of an "Oscar grab". As if simply having these issues exist in the game was enough to convince the audience that there is some sort of deep message or commentary happening, when in fact there wasn't.

      Now I'm not far enough along in GTA V to say if all the supposed satire is leading towards some sort of actual commentary or not. But a friend of mine made an interesting point. He told me that he doesn't think Rockstar puts any higher thought into the narrative of the GTA series. He thinks all this analysis and introspection is the natural reaction that intelligent people have when they are confronted with something that produces mixed feelings within them. (ie I'm having a blast with these missions, but the characters disgust me, I need to figure out what is going on in my own head).

      I might argue that even if that is true, even if there isn't any real intellectual point to GTA V, that Rockstar still deserves credit for creating something that gives the player room to think about it in such ways.

      But again, I can't say how I feel one way or the other yet. I just find it interesting to think about.