Weekend Confirmed 184 - Steam Machines, Grand Theft Auto 5

By Ozzie Mejia, Sep 27, 2013 11:00am PDT

Weekend Confirmed begins with a cookie invasion! Hosts Garnett Lee and Jeff Cannata bravely fend off the Cookie Clicker attack brought on by The Escapist's Andrea Rene, but not before sadly losing Shacknews' Andrew Yoon to the cookie onslaught. After everyone regroups from the Great Cookie Clicker Invasion of 2014, the team discusses Valve's revelation of Steam Machines before diving into some more Grand Theft Auto V. After discussing GTA's advancements in gameplay and some more character discussion, it's time to move on to Tokyo Game Show, where Andrew talks about some of the best things the event had to offer, including Dead Rising 3, D4: Dark Dreams Don't Die, Kinect, and Vita TV. The show wraps up with a new slate of Finishing Moves and the post-show Tailgate.

Weekend Confirmed Ep. 184: 9/27/2013

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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 - 00:30:02

    Round 2 - 00:30:39 - 01:04:31

    Round 3 - 01:05:51 - 01:30:26

    Round 4/Finishing Moves - 01:31:13 - 02:08:32

    Tailgate - 2:11:54 - 2:22:13

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

Andrew Yoon @scxzor

Andrea Rene @andrearene

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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  • Wondering about that GTA segment, all the characters are terrible people, even the 3 main characters! Thats the part were i find kinda silly about the argument of bad portrayal of women in the game, these main characters arent any better at all. Each one yells at everything with such a sense of cynical sarcasm that it become over the top annoying. Even Franklen, the less cynical character, fall into this category, he follows Lamar who clearly gets him into a mess every time but still sticks around him.

    People should be talking about how poorly GTA5 handles character motivations and streamlining story and game. These characters follows the orders of a very sketchy character over and over AND OVER again then getting back-stabbed without thinking about just killing said character from the beginning, which will become the solution in the end ANYWAY! Its just poor game design and writing, because they couldnt come up with a good idea for this next car chase scene or next shootout. Every cause and effect in the game is completely shoehorned in!

    Great example is the FIB missions, these characters know that doing these missions for Steve Heines is going to result in Heines backstabbing them. He backstabs them 3-4 more times BEFORE they finally take care of Heines.

    This main "mechanic" occurs through out every GTA game, but no one seems to notice it... Such poor transition to try and figure out how to make this more "gamey." This is the biggest issue the GTA series has to hurdle over.

  • Jeff C,

    Why does GTA V have to have some grand message, some big takeaway? I have to side with Garnett and say that GTA V (at least to me) is more of a large sandbox that incorporates the theme of America and it's societal ills, and not much more than that. There is no grand message, and frankly, most people who are buying this game aren't going to care, because the last thing they want is a game that they paid $60 for to preach to them. GTA IV to me was no different. When I finished the game, I remember thinking, "So that's it? I win?" And then I realized, well, maybe I'm looking for something that doesn't actually exist in the game. I remember finding myself asking while I played the game, why is Nico doing all of these things, given what he's been through and the nightmares that he claims plague him night after night? Why does he keep on killing? Why does he have no problem with serial dating if he clearly loves this woman or that woman? As someone who also enjoys a good story and relateable characters, I can understand why you'd be disappointed, but in retrospect I would argue that GTA has never been about that.

    GTA provides us with a "realistic" sandbox world in which we can do just about any crazy thing we want, but also provides us with a meaty story campaign so that we don't spend the entire time with the game roaming around aimlessly and endlessly. And naturally, as this is the fifth game in the franchise since it went 3D, and technology, performance capture and graphical capabilities of the consoles are where they are, it's only to be expected that GTA games are always going to go bigger, characters will be (or appear to be) more layered, and the promise of more closely simulating the world outside your window will be striven for with each iteration. But in the end, Michael, Franklin and Trevor are just more compelling and slightly more sympathetic versions of the voiceless Claude of GTA 3, and their storylines just highly entertaining tutorials for what can be done in the world and challenges to complete once you've mastered them. The campaign creates "reasons" for players to do things, but just like GTA IV's Nico, the characters aren't actually meant to come out of their adventures as better people, or changed individuals (as one expects in a great drama or adventure story). I get the feeling that this is what you are hoping for Jeff, but I don't think that's what GTA is about, and it may never be about that either. As Garnett suggested, it's a grand caricature of American society that you are participating in, one that just doesn't seem to let up, and yes, perhaps it's because the game isn't made in America that this is so. As for me, after GTA IV, I've come to terms with that and now I go into every GTA experience as I did with GTA 3, putting as few expectations as possible on the story and characters and just trying to have as much fun as possible. After all, I paid $60 for this, and the game IS fun, so I want to get as much out of it as possible and not overthink it.

    Speaking of expectations, I had to stop listening to the podcast at 39:10. I don't mean to sound whiny, but just like last week you guys are way too open to dropping spoilers. I didn't even know about the Trevor torture scene until you guys mentioned it (because I have been avoiding GTA spoilers online and thought that you guys would be more tight-lipped, given that you've been pretty good about not spoiling games in the past -- except for that Witcher 3 bar tattoo thing). I even skipped the whole first chapter from last week and you still managed to spoil it in the next one. Not everyone is able to blast through a game this big in one week, and many people, including Andrew Yoon, haven't played it, so what is with all these "minor" spoilers? If you can't avoid it, PLEASE warn people in advance and advise them to skip to the next chapter...you could label each chapter with what topics are discussed so people who want to avoid the spoilers can jump ahead. Don't misunderstand, I love listening to the podcast, it's hard to even go a week without tuning in, and it' impossible to expect all of you to go two weeks without discussing GTA V in depth, but you've managed to avoid revealing spoilers pretty well with other big releases, e.g. Bioshock: Infinite, and it would be nice if you could have used the same discretion here. Love you guys, but a slap on the hand to Jeff (and Jeff M. for last week).

  • I kind of agree with what Garnett was saying regarding just hope deep the satirical intent of Grand Theft Auto V is.

    I don't believe there's anything particularly satirical about the main narrative in the game. There's no core 'look how stupid this part of society is' message to the key events in the game, the journeys of the main characters, their interactions or development.

    I think there's a very serious, reflective message about modern masculinity in our culture, and how men are lashing out in frustration and anger as they try and find a place in a shifting world where the traditional definitions and tents of masculinity are in flux or straight-up outdated.

    However, this core narrative is very dark, cynical, and angry. And it's set in a world that reflects those feelings. The world of Los Santos is the fun-house mirror version of the world, every element an exaggerated and twisted.

    The only common thread linking the various satire in the world surrounding the main characters is:

    "The world is image-focused, self-obsessed, materialistic, fake, hypocritical and hateful."

    Looking for meaning beyond that, or a message that links all the shots taken at our culture through the characters, advertisements, radio stations, etc, is a fools errand. The world of Los Santos isn't a Daily Show bit with one take-away message. The point of that general, equal opportunity satire is to create a milieu and reinforce the nature of the world the characters are desperately trying to figure out their place in... or at least a place they can find satisfaction.

  • It's interesting to hear the discussion weave back and forth about the problems or meanings of what GTA 5 brings to the table but I can't help but feel the conclusions all lack a little perspective. To me it's very simple. It's a game made by foreigners about their view of the American condition.

    All of the characters, the satire, the send ups and overall view are how we as foreigners view the U.S. The impotent rage of Trevor isn't meant to be relatable. It's a treatise on a very visible part of American culture. He is constantly on edge and solves nearly all conflicts with violence first and last and yet still has the balls to lecture everyone else about how much better his life is than theirs. How he's "doing it right". Meanwhile lamenting a very bad childhood and how it warped him.

    In the same light Michael becomes the older generation sustained by the crimes of the past and consumed by the glory days of old while the family he claims to love decays in front of him because he can't see that his sins are at the root of their disfunction. So he looks for solution all around him (therapy, yoga, trying to relive the past) because facing the responsibility would crush him.

    That leaves Franklin who of course is the youth of the nation. Stuck without solid opportunities because of his sins of his forbearers, he turns to them looking for a way forward. Unfortunately all they can offer is more of the same folly that robbed him in the first place. In short, all they can do is turn him into them.

    While I definitely don't love every thing about this game, it's clear to me that many parts are a clear reflection of how ego centered and angry American society has become. Some of the the bits may be shocking (i.e. torture scenes, paparazzi missions) but look at what's happening in real life. Torture is no big deal as long as you don't know the people. Shootings have become so commonplace that they fade from view in a matter of days. So called celebrities find fame from intentionally exposing themselves to the public. It may not be nice, but at least it's honest.

  • I just wanted to give a couple of opinions on this episode of weekend confirmed regard GTA5:

    I think that the point that everyone has failed to bring up is that as artists, Rockstar has every right to be cynical and portray the world in ways that reflect reality.

    To Garnett's point about the characters being relatable:

    I find Trevor to be relatable not necessarily to myself, but to the reality of the world we live in. There are people out there that suffered great deals of childhood abuse, raised in poverty that have trouble controlling their anger. Everyone wants to talk about what Trevor is, but never what he comes from. Never once does anyone even consider why he is the way he is.

    I find Michael relatable as a man growing restless in his own comfort, with his dreams feeling more and more out of reach. He wants to work in the movie business, he wants to be a part of something he is passionate about. He wants to be a good guy, but his restlessness gets the best of him when he sees opportunity in Franklin

    I have trouble relating to Franklin in some ways, but I see his eager want to be away from the road he's traveling. He doesn't want to be a part of the african american gang culture that is surrounding him. I'm not a black man, so In that context, it's kinda hard to relate. But I know what it's like to have a bunch of shitty friends doing nothing with their lives and wanting to go somewhere with mine.

    To Jeffs point about the subject matter:

    I agree that with all of the point blank undercutting of our culture constantly being thrown at you it can start to become somewhat "noisy" and difficult to digest as little more than a cheap insult to roll your eyes. That being said, I appreciate that no one is safe, not even myself, the millennial pot-smoking, white male gamer that spends too much time on the internet. I'm not offended because I know that it's a huge exaggeration of a group that I am by default lumped into, but there is a lot of truth in what is being portrayed on the screen. As I said in the beginning of this post, Rockstar has a right to be cynical about our culture and the people that make it up, there is a lot of bad things going on in plain sight and we choose to simply ignore it while our faces are glued to our iFruits. You don't have to wear a tinfoil hat to admit that.

    I also would like to say that I actually appreciated the lectures by Trevor, it made me consider him as a person with his own thoughts and opinions on the world and society, rather that just writing him off as a psycho.

    To Andrea's point about misogyny:

    First off, I feel really sorry for you in the sense that a game made you feel so gross inside. I don't think anything in media could really trigger that kind of inner disgust in me, except maybe one thing, and that would be something that could be considered CP, which (hopefully) will NEVER surface in the medium of games. I think that's the closest I can come to sharing that feeling with you, but I do want to touch base on a few of things that were said on the show.

    Rockstar doesn't give a shit about women:

    Red Dead Redemption says the opposite, same with Red Dead Revolver: John Marston was faithful to his wife and respectful to the prostitutes when he declined service. Annie was a strong character prevalent in the advertising. I kinda think the portrayal of misogyny was somewhat of a good thing, because we're taking the time as a community to discuss it. I would also like to point out that Tanisha is actually a really strong women character, and I was kinda hoping to see more of her to call Franklin on his bullshit.

    My main point about this game, especially the point on misogyny, should we be censoring these topics?

  • I avoided last week's weekend confirmed for fear of spoilers, and after finishing the game I know to avoid that episode because it sounds like you were all having another shouting match about the content of GTA V but at an even earlier point in the game.

    I beat the campaign and found the story the best GTA has ever done and Michael and Trevor were the most fleshed out protagonists in gaming all year. I loved playing as them so much and they are VERY relatable.

    Franklin I thought was very underwritten. I though his buddy LaMarr was annoying but he at least had a personality to him and would rather him be the third character. Franklin just went along for the ride and complained a lot but always wanted to get deeper in a life of crime for reasons I'll never know. I would have loved to see his ex Tanisha fleshed out and even his aunt he lives with. Franklin just got more bitter to his family as the story went on and all I wanted was a reason for it. But you can tell they were more interested in writing for Michael and Trevor.

    Michael I found VERY relatable and he has anger issues but he was working on it throughout. By the end of the game he would refuse prostitutes and he grew as a better person I thought. He knew he wasn't perfect but he loved his family.

    Trevor was so insane I find it hard to believe anybody would take his antics as what Rockstar truly thought about society. Trevor is all "eff the world" yes but its constantly brought up by everyone in the game that Trevor shouldn't be trusted and is the embodiment of evil. We are disgusted by what Trevor does to people but it is very obvious we are supposed to feel that way, and you appreciate his style of insanity the same way the people find the Joker the best character in the Batman mythos.

    But Trevor has a great arc to him in that very slowly you see his insanity and evilness shielding a vulnerable man who cares about his friends a great deal. He loved Brad, he tries to get close to Franklin, and he hates what Michael has become but will always be reluctantly loyal to him.

    There are layers to these characters that I think Weekend Confirmed is not seeing because the game crosses lines they didn't want crossed. I was not offended by the torture scene, and Trevor doesn't lecture the player afterwards in a preachy way. He nonchalantly cracks a joke about how torturing doesn't work and this is funny because it shows how messed up Trevor is. Trevor enjoyed the torture for the act itself and I knew this going in and his joy was just infectious I guess. But I guess that's a line you won't cross. It's dark humor for sure but I appreciated it.

    I hate listening to Andrea talk about the game because she hasn't even unlocked Trevor yet AND she repeatedly states she wouldn't play this game if it wasn't a talking point. That to me is just a person waiting for an argument and I'd rather play more of the game and maybe start the campaign again than listen to her spouting hatred of what I feel is the best game of the year. She just comes off as a caricature and fits into the satiric world of GTA more than she knows.

  • I think what turns me off about the characters in GTA 5 is the fact that you're basically just playing as the villains in any other traditional narrative.

    It's fun to play as an anti-hero, and it is much easier to relate to them. But with a villain there's nothing to latch on to.

    In GTA 4, Niko does terrible things, but there is at least an undercurrent of reluctance on his part, and a feeling that he is trying to do something good, even if his efforts are misguided.

    In Red Dead, Marston is trying to leave his dark past behind him, but he gets reluctantly dragged back in.

    I haven't finished the game, but at least so far In GTA 5 there doesn't seem to be any reason for the main characters' actions other than greed and power.

    I really think that the memory of Red Dead is what is killing my enjoyment of the story in GTA 5. I find myself wanting to just skip through the cut scenes and play the gameplay bits.

    Hopefully the next Red Dead game will be have a stronger story, because at this rate I don't know how excited I would be about a GTA 6.

  • Although I appreciate an intelligent commentary on a subject matter, rationalizing GTA as an attempt to be a commentary on society because of the number of copies sold is misguided. GTA at its roots has essentially always been the same game, a game about violence and aggression. Violence and aggression appeal to the most archaic structures of our brain. They are just as much a part of our everyday being as is sex. And that my friends is GTA in a nutshell. GTA is just like porn. No matter how many layers to the onion. No matter how fancy you make the package look. At the end, porn is still sex, and GTA is still violence and aggression. Sex sells just as much as violence and aggression sell. Cheers.