Grand Theft Auto 5 is a Bad Game

Drew Dixon played Grand Theft Auto 5 and didn’t like it. Is that okay?

When I first became the editor-in-chief of GameChurch.com, I was convinced that the world didn’t need another game website with consumer-oriented game reviews. No one needs us to tell them whether or not a particular game is worth their money. There plenty of websites already doing that more efficiently. Instead, we asked our writers to explore the spiritual side of videogames. What do the games we play say about human nature, the world around us and our place in it? What value do the games they play add to their lives?

We were still technically posting reviews, but those reviews were distinct from those found at a typical videogame site. Initially, we included a numerical score in all our “reviews.” This was, in some sense, a way of throwing a bone to our readers who wanted clarity on the reviewer’s opinion of a game. In another sense, however, we saw it as a way for the writer to summarize a game’s cultural and personal worth.

Eventually, however, we started feeling weird about scoring games given the unique nature of our reviews. Like Jason Schreier of Kotaku we were convinced that review scores discouraged “nuance” and “criticism that strays from the norm.” We wanted GameChurch to be a site where people come to read such analysis–games criticism from a unique Christian perspective. We were determined not to undermine that perspective.

Grand Theft Auto 5 changed all that. If there ever was a time for GameChurch to quantify a game’s value with a number, it is now.

4/10

When I was 12 years old and my friends and I had just discovered alternative rock, we would play Offspring’s “Smash” over and over because it was the song with the most “bad” words. We would laugh at the line in Green Day’s “Basket Case” where Billie Joe Armstrong sang, “I went to a whore. She said my life’s a bore.” We drew comics about thugs who shot up strip-clubs and used an insane vocabulary of misogyny. When we went to the mall, we would dare one other to steal candy from the collectible card store. These things were hilarious to us.

Eighteen years ago I would have laughed at Trevor’s incessant penis jokes, Lamar’s stunted vocabulary, and Tracy’s naive sexual posturing. It is important to note, however that I would have laughed at these things not because they are actually funny but because I would have thought I was supposed to laugh at them.

A twelve year old should not be playing Grand Theft Auto 5.

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GTA5 shines brightest during its heists, as these missions are the most elaborate, most likely to incorporate the game’s most impressive settings, and deliver the game’s most memorable moments. But the build-up to these missions is often excruciatingly boring–you go to stores and buy clothes, steal multiple slow vehicles with little-to-no resistance, and drive back and forth from the same location over and over.

GTA5 gives players more to do than any previous Grand Theft Auto game, but I never really found myself enjoying anything. I played tennis, watched a movie, played golf, watched television, invested in the stock market, raced jet skis, and rode roller coasters. I did these things because I assumed that their presence in the game meant that they would somehow add to my enjoyment. While racing cars and planes was pretty fun, the vast majority of these experiences add very little to my experience. My twelve year old self would have been impressed by this vast array of activities. My thirty year old self sees through the veneer.

I am told that GTA5 is a satire of the American Dream… kinda like GTA4 was satire of the American dream. Satire, however, generally has something to say. GTA5 makes fun of social media, videogame addiction, women, minorities, drug abuse, and promiscuity but it is never really clear whether the game has any goal in mind in doing so. Satire seeks to improve humanity by arousing our disapproval of an object or idea. GTA5 just wants us laugh at how misguided its black characters are, how annoying its female characters are, and how many penis jokes Trevor can recite.

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Much has been said about GTA5’s misogyny. Chris Plante said that there were “more interesting female characters on Grand Theft Auto 5’s disc art than there are in Grand Theft Auto 5. Carolyn Petit called the game “profoundly misogynic”:

. . . GTA V has little room for women except to portray them as strippers, prostitutes, long-suffering wives, humorless girlfriends and goofy, new-age feminists we’re meant to laugh at.

Characters constantly spout lines that glorify male sexuality while demeaning women, and the billboards and radio stations of the world reinforce this misogyny, with ads that equate manhood with sleek sports cars while encouraging women to purchase a fragrance that will make them “smell like a bitch.” Yes, these are exaggerations of misogynistic undercurrents in our own society, but not satirical ones. With nothing in the narrative to underscore how insane and wrong this is, all the game does is reinforce and celebrate sexism.

Petit’s review, which was largely positive despite pointing out the game’s problems with women, was met with over 22,000 comments, the majority of which took issue with this section of her article. Commenters, most of which were male, called Petit names, dismissed her as a mere “feminist,” accosted her for giving the game a lower score than most other outlets (an impressive 9 out of 10), and accused her of devaluing games as an art form.

gta 5

It shouldn’t surprise us that a game with a largely male audience has large and vocal male support, but what should infuriate us is how recklessly GTA5 depicts women for a vocal male audience. GTA comes closer to reveling in the misogynistic undercurrents in American society than it does illuminating them. When a game devalues 50% of the population, that merits mentioning in a game review.

GTA5 isn’t particularly fun or funny. It is a well-crafted dumb action game in a long line of well-crafted dumb action games.


Drew Dixon

 
Drew Dixon is editor-in-chief of Game Church. He also edits for Christ and Pop Culture and writes about videogames for Paste Magazine, Relevant Magazine, Bit Creature, and Think Christian.


  • svfoxhotmail

    morons running around killing each other

    sam
    http://www.scrabblecheat.com

  • William Andrews

    Games do not need to “make you a better person”.
    Example: Sonic and Mario.

  • Vic 2.0

    You may be taking it too literally, but that’s OK because the other person is being nice to the point of being unclear. The question is really, “Could it possibly make you WORSE in some way?” Ultimately, video games in general might improve certain cognitive functions, but what ELSE might they change? Or are we wanting to believe the influence can only be positive and never negative?

  • Danavan Pryce

    um…..gamechurch…..ok thats what drew me to this review u said in ur first paragraph that you would review games from a christian’s perspective but all i read was just any normal review….i dont see whats the christian views about this game….to me you were just beating around the bushes….if ur gonna do reviews through the christian’s perspective…..be hardcore bring in scripture convict me or rebuke me whatever it is, but let me when am finish reading ur review i can say ‘ok this reviews different’….so misleading.

  • Vic 2.0

    What a unique comment…

  • dolphins

    so true, such a grossly over rated game

  • Xavier Clinton

    Keep in mind the Los Santos portion of the Ifruit app only works to the fullest in offline mode u can’t order wheels online but you can offline. You have to pay with in game money not real money. The Ifruit app is free to download from the app store and is compatible with IPhone,iOS,Android,and Windows phones.to stop those annoying alerts to take care of chop just disable notifications.

  • disqus_fyy1HxoUzu

    im playing gta 4 . .

  • disqus_fyy1HxoUzu

    im playing gta 4 .

  • Akemi Akamatsu

    this game has a lot of contents against men too, men are portrayed as criminals, scums, maniacs, pimps, drug dealers, a$$holes, etc..

    I am a girl but still find this fine because this game portrays the real world ,if you want a game like an utopia then please don’t go out too because real world is more violent and horrific than this game. beside playing this game can have an idea about the real world and how to behave in a way that we can secure ourselves. is this game misogynistic? nope, it’s just being real. so get over from it.

  • Akemi Akamatsu

    this game has a lot of contents against men too, men are portrayed as criminals, scums, maniacs, pimps, drug dealers, a$$holes, etc..

    I am a girl but still find this fine because this game portrays the real world ,if you want a game like an utopia then please don’t go out too because real world is more violent and horrific than this game. beside playing this game can have an idea about the real world and how to behave in a way that we can secure ourselves. is this game misogynistic? nope, it’s just being real. so get over from it.

  • Vic 2.0

    “Just being real” doesn’t excuse anyone of anything. But along the lines of women vs. men, don’t you find it strange that women are almost never respectable not even for a split second, in GTA games, while the men (though some of them are painted as fools) tend to have redeeming qualities? Competence, if nothing else? You defend them by claiming they’re just showing the real world, but I’m quite certain women are at least right AS often as men in the real world. So why isn’t this depicted in GTA?

    And in general, no game in which you can flip your car over without even getting out of the damn thing is trying all that hard to be “realistic”.

  • Vic 2.0

    “Just being real” doesn’t excuse anyone of anything. But, along the lines of women vs. men, don’t you find it strange that women are almost never respectable not even for a split second, in GTA games, while the men (though some of them are painted as fools) tend to have redeeming qualities? Competence, if nothing else? You defend them by claiming they’re just showing the real world, but I’m quite certain women are at least right AS often as men in the real world. So why isn’t this depicted in GTA?

    And in general, no game in which you can flip your car over without even getting out of the damn thing is trying all that hard to be “realistic”.

  • Akemi Akamatsu

    they don’t have to excuse anyone , people get hurt all the time and if someone doesn’t like something they should learn to move on than trying to change it, beside in virtual world no one gets hurt so why would someone deeply cares what happens in there?. maybe you should worry about real world than virtual world. your 12 years old daughter or sister might have a secret date with a 20 years old guy tonight so you should worry about it than a video game.

    gta universe is darker and negative so if you expect political correctness in that universe then you are in the wrong place.
    ” I’m quite certain women are at least right AS often as men in the real world. So why isn’t this depicted in GTA?” why it should even be in gta v?

    I don’t understand what’s your point? rockstar made a game they want ,it’s all their ideas ,their creation, their art and why would you want to change it because you are not happy? it’s like you are going to change da vinci’s arts because it doesn’t fulfil your taste.

    It might not be 100% realistic but it’s realistic to some degree.

    I am happy with gta v ,it’s a beautiful world ,so many things to do ,the only thing I worry is not having a female playable character in story mode and a lot of cheaters in online.

  • Vic 2.0

    “they don’t have to excuse anyone , people get hurt all the time and if someone doesn’t like something they should learn to move on than trying to change it, beside in virtual world no one gets hurt so why would someone deeply cares what happens in there?”

    It’s not a question of what happens to the fictional characters in the game; it’s a question of what message is being sent by the non-fictional developers OF it. Which is a perfectly legitimate question, considering the difference between how men are depicted and how women are depicted in the games overall.

    “maybe you should worry about real world than virtual world. your 12 years old daughter or sister might have a secret date with a 20 years old guy tonight so you should worry about it than a video game.”

    These things are not mutually exclusive. And part of being a good parent is determining what types of media they should be exposed to while they’re growing up, so as to nip attitudes like “Sex is not that big a deal” in the bud BEFORE our daughters make it to 12+ years of age.

    “gta universe is darker and negative so if you expect political correctness in that universe then you are in the wrong place.”

    No, we expect game developers (yes, even the almighty Rockstar) to be held accountable for what they put in their games, particularly when there is really no call for it.

    ME: “I’m quite certain women are at least right AS often as men in the real world. So why isn’t this depicted in GTA?”
    YOU: “why it should even be in gta v?”

    Because you just finished trying to defend GTA 5 on the basis of it “just being real”. When it departs from realism (in canon, not just gameplay) so blatantly, you can’t use that excuse anymore.

    “I don’t understand what’s your point? rockstar made a game they want ,it’s all their ideas ,their creation, their art and why would you want to change it because you are not happy? it’s like you are going to change da vinci’s arts because it doesn’t fulfil your taste.”

    I tend to disagree that video games are art, and that’s because it’s created with pleasing the customer in mind. True art is just made as an expression of the artist, with little to no concern of what people will think while it’s being made. By contrast, game developers make a game and they have to follow countless rules to make sure it works properly, make sure it’s “fun”, make sure people won’t criticize it for this or that, etc.

    It’s fine if you like the game. As a game, I think it’s okay, but I don’t feel comfortable supporting a company that actually put the line “cum on my face” in their product. Not to mention the torture scene. That’s just me.

  • Akemi Akamatsu

    ” it’s a question of what message is being sent by the non-fictional developers OF it. ” they don’t send a message. video game is just an art to express the creator’s imagination and if you get it in a wrong way it’s your fault not the artist fault.

    “considering the difference between how men are depicted and how women are depicted in the games overall.” men are depicted in a worst way and women are depicted in the same way, there is no different. when men are portrayed as assholes, scums, criminals women are portrayed as sluts, dumb, whores ,so you can’t find a great character in gta series.

    I remember there was a scene in gta iv expansion pack where this guy was completely naked but none of gta game has full frontal female nudity and in gta series most of criminals are men, most of assholes are men ,almost all bad characters are men. there are like street hookers in gta universe but there are street hookers in real world too. so I don’t get how gta series is misogynist.

    “No, we expect game developers (yes, even the almighty Rockstar) to be held accountable for what they put in their games, particularly when there is really no call for it.” can’t agree. it’s a matured game not for children so rockstar expects people to be matured enough to understand the contents.

    “ME: “I’m quite certain women are at least right AS often as men in the real world. So why isn’t this depicted in GTA?””

    why it should even be in gta v? you don’t get the entire thing, video games DON’T HAVE TO BE politically correct, because it doesn’t harm anyone in real world unless you purposely play it to be hurt.

    “It’s fine if you like the game. As a game, I think it’s okay, but I don’t feel comfortable supporting a company that actually put the line “cum on my face” in their product. Not to mention the torture scene. That’s just me.” yeah it’s your free will, and in the same way rockstar has a freewill, if you don’t like gta then move on because there are many people who like it and gta has many things to do not just strip clubs and hookers ,I never go to strip clubs unless it’s related to a mission , you don’t have a right to organize people and harass rockstar in a way that violate their freewill ,I have seen that happens a lot and because of this reason many developers have to change their game.

    the issue of you and many people is you people get offended so easily for everything ,like little babies always ready to cry for something and then sue, bully and harass until you get whatever you want instead of ignoring the thing that bothers.I don’t like homosexuality and don’t even support it but I played ballad of gay tony and even went to the hercules bar a couple of times and enjoyed a lot and I really liked that game. so that’s the different between you and me. as long as people in real world are safe that’s all I care, I don’t have time to worry about pixelated people.

  • Vic 2.0

    “they don’t send a message. video game is just an art to express the creator’s imagination and if you get it in a wrong way it’s your fault not the artist fault.”

    Nonsense. There has to be a reason for the way they portray women as compared to men, as well as the other decisions they made. It does NOT boil down to “just art”, as I explained later in the comment.

    “men are depicted in a worst way and women are depicted in the same way, there is no different.”

    Of course there is. And since the last time I spelled it out you just dismissed it by saying “They don’t have to explain themselves!”, I’ll just re-post it here:
    Don’t you find it strange that women are almost never respectable not even for a split second, in GTA games, while the men (though some of them are painted as fools) tend to have redeeming qualities? Competence, if nothing else? You defend them by claiming they’re just showing the real world, but I’m quite certain women are at least right AS often as men in the real world. So why isn’t this depicted in GTA?

    “when men are portrayed as assholes, scums, criminals women are portrayed as sluts, dumb, whores ,so you can’t find a great character in gta series.”
    Those “assholes, scums, and criminals” tend to at least have their mental faculties in check. They get stuff done! They are successful if immoral. The women on the other hand? They’re just there to make the men in GTA 5 happy, if not sexually then just by way of being disrespected by these men. How can you deny that?

    ME: “No, we expect game developers (yes, even the almighty Rockstar) to be held accountable for what they put in their games, particularly when there is really no call for it.”
    YOU: “can’t agree.”

    With what part? You think there IS a need for all that junk?

    “it’s a matured game not for children so rockstar expects people to be matured enough to understand the contents.”

    First off, it’s “mature” without the ‘d’. Second, it’s always been humorous how people use the word “mature” when referring to decidely IMMATURE content (without the ‘s’). They seem to have you fooled. But no, no full-grown man who is truly mature will be getting a kick out of most of the “comedy” in GTA 5, sorry. You want to know who will find “cum on my face” funny? Perverts and children/teenagers. End of list.

    “video games DON’T HAVE TO BE politically correct,”

    It’s not about “political correctness”. I’m blasting it solely on the basis of ORDINARY correctness. Even if I personally HATED women, but I was a stickler for the facts, I’d be wondering why the females in this game are pretty much all stupid while most of the men at least have brains.

    “yeah it’s your free will, and in the same way rockstar has a freewill, if you don’t like gta then move on”

    That’s not what having “free will” (or freedom) means. It means that Rockstar is more than free to make their ignorant little games, and I am more than free to blast them for it.

    Yeah, there’s a lot to do in GTA 5. Personally, I think about 1% of it is actually fun more than once. It’s like the Dollar Store. Oh they have EVERYTHING, but… you can’t expect any of it to be the best quality…

    “the issue of you and many people is you people get offended so easily for everything”

    Actually, no. I have many M-rated games; I think that puts me in the clear. But you have to draw the line somewhere, my friend. My question to you is, Where do YOU draw the line, and why?

  • Akemi Akamatsu

    “Nonsense. There has to be a reason for the way they portray women as compared to men, ” in tomb raider they portray lara croft as strong and agile but all other men are weak compared with her and they always get beaten by lara at end, and in attack of titans they portray mikasa as strong female character but the main character as a weak one so women ain’t made worse in GTA V because of sexism, it’s just a story, it’s all in your mind, you saw there are hookers and strippers in gta so you automatically think it’s sexism without a clue. but you don’t care when men are portrayed as worse. I bet you are a insecure female.

  • Vic 2.0

    ME: “Nonsense. There has to be a reason for the way they portray women as compared to men”
    YOU: “in tomb raider they portray lara croft as strong and agile but all other men are weak compared with her and they always get beaten by lara at end, and in attack of titans they portray mikasa as strong female character but the main character as a weak one so women ain’t made worse in GTA V because of sexism”

    I wouldn’t know about the other games you mention. But I’ve followed GTA since day one (GTA 5’s now sub-par gameplay has convinced me to stop, however), and game after game it’s the same formula I described to you already: men are often competent while women are usually just there to please the men. Yes, I DO think there has to be a reason for it, particularly if the franchise’s defenders are correct in saying “It’s just satire” or “They’re just being real”. If it is anything along those lines, then it’s apparent they either purposefully portray women as inferior to men or accidentally do this (game after game after game). Logically, the former is more likely.

    “it’s all in your mind, you saw there are hookers and strippers in gta so you automatically think it’s sexism without a clue.”

    BS. My argument is far more solid than that. You are just trying to employ the stereotype of GTA-haters at this point. It is not simply a matter of “Filth! GTA is the devil!” for a lot of us. It’s the kind of filth, the degree of it, the way it seems to favor one sex (or one race) over another, and in general the incessant attempts at “shock value” that make me agree that GTA 5 is a bad game. Both ethically and as a video game (story, gameplay, etc.)

    “but you don’t care when men are portrayed as worse. I bet you are a insecure female.”

    Nope, I am a very secure grown man, but thanks for proving my point about the employment of stereotypes! And it’s not an issue of “better” vs. “worse”, as I said before. I’m not even blasting it for a lack of political correctness, just correctness in general!

  • Akemi Akamatsu

    gta v isn’t sexist at all, I am playing it nowadays and I don’t find it as sexist at all. it’s being so realistic I would say. strong men are like muscular unlike lara croft who is so skinny but beat muscular men so easily. father protects the family, father loves children, wife is scared what if something happened to her husband etc.. so realistic I would say. skinny women beating men, children beating men, lgbt propaganda are everywhere they are actually nonsenses.

  • Vic 2.0

    Why’d you come back only to make the same assertion over again, despite the conversation we just had after you originally made it? No, it is NOT being “realistic” when it keeps portraying women as mostly stupid and incompetent and men as mostly smart and competent (though immoral). And yes, that is grounds for calling GTA 5 misogynistic. As for all the other stuff, I don’t see how it’s relevant, sorry.