GTA V - An honest take on morality

This topic is locked from further discussion.

#1 Posted by drekula2 (1880 posts) -

One complaint that many people say about GTA5 is that they don't like the characters. They're all sociopathic and none of them are role models. Yet, I appreciate Rockstar flat-out acknowledging that the characters in this world are heartless without pretense. They are killing and stealing for greed rather than any higher motive.

GTA IV, in hindsight, was awkward. It seemed like a moving story at the time, but now with a more mature lens, I look at it and it seems so strange. In all three cases, it's a tough sell to have a protagonist being a merciless killer and believe they are any different from their protagonists. This is what often bothers me about most action games (like Uncharted 3 for example), where characters are brutal killers during gameplay segments, yet lecture the player about mercy and saving lives during the cutscenes.

GTA V closed this gap by praising hypocrisy and making the characters all-around bad. The easiest solution in a game with guns, but nonetheless a solution. Gaming often sorely lacks actual options to play as the anti-hero. Often times, the anti-hero is just a decent person with a bad attitude.

Most games' morality systems are shallow. Aka, be either the good guy or bad guy. Not siding with your heart what is right or wrong. Just "pick a team uniform" and get the benefits. ME2's morality was much like this, but Mass Eff 3's morality actually explored those gray areas for example.

In a comedically sociopathic game like GTA V, there are a lot of gray areas. But it's nice to be able to rob a bank to actually cause chaos rather than for any pretense.

#2 Posted by gamingqueen (31062 posts) -

Awesome topic. Given the nature of video games, it's very hard to fix this issue as the game-play in some games is pure combat or combat based I should say. There'll always be an enemy and you'll always have to fight for reasons as "protecting your home." or "saving a loved one." As for none combat based games, a way to fix it is by evening out parts of game play as Uncharted. They could avoid involving gamers in massive blood baths against zero dimensional people of color by increasing the amount of platforming/puzzling and decreasing the shooting.

Since I brought up the issue of POC, I find Uncharted to be very offensive in that aspect. Nate's smugness and shift in personality only supports the racist narrative of the game. I can't believe Naughty Dog is a multi-national company. I don't mean to offend anyone here but I find Uncharted to reinforce a very racist narrative other than including some of the worst tropes as guy with British/foreign accent being the villain and people of color being thugs and pirates. The whole scene of invading that Eldorado like city in Uncharted 2 when we have movies like Avatar promoting otherwise was just embarrassing.

#3 Posted by platinumking320 (642 posts) -

@drekula2: at least Snake and Max Payne acknowledged themselves early on. And it didn't stop gamers from liking them.

Solid Snake: "This isn't a training exercise. Our lives are riding on this. There are no heroes or heroines. If you lose, you're worm food."

Max Payne: "Collecting evidence had gotten old a few hundred bullets back. I was already so far beyond the point of no return I couldn't remember what it had looked like when I had passed it." XD

#4 Edited by gamingqueen (31062 posts) -

@drekula2:

at least Snake and Max Payne acknowledged themselves early on. And it didn't stop gamers from liking them.

Solid Snake

: "This isn't a training exercise. Our lives are riding on this. There are no heroes or heroines. If you lose, you're worm food."

Max Payne

: "Collecting evidence had gotten old a few hundred bullets back. I was already so far beyond the point of no return I couldn't remember what it had looked like when I had passed it." XD

But that's no morality. Morality in games is characters acknowledging that it's human beings they're killing with families and loved ones and friends and lives just like them. This is more of an issue with games that have you kill humans than zombies and monsters.

#5 Posted by platinumking320 (642 posts) -

@platinumking320 said:

@drekula2:

at least Snake and Max Payne acknowledged themselves early on. And it didn't stop gamers from liking them.

Solid Snake

: "This isn't a training exercise. Our lives are riding on this. There are no heroes or heroines. If you lose, you're worm food."

Max Payne

: "Collecting evidence had gotten old a few hundred bullets back. I was already so far beyond the point of no return I couldn't remember what it had looked like when I had passed it." XD

But that's no morality. Morality in games is characters acknowledging that it's human beings they're killing with families and loved ones and friends and lives just like them. This is more of an issue with games that have you kill humans than zombies and monsters.

Yeah I understand, but the context shouldn't have to always go thaat far for every gamer to realize who they're playing as and what they're doin y'know?

Some folks are more observant than that. It shouldn't always take Spec Ops:the Line or Far Cry 3 ot GTA5 torture scene to break the fourth wall. At that point the messaging isn't subtle its very in your face. It can be as simple as accidentally shooting one of your npc rebels in Half-life2 while going after a combine trooper to get that wake up call. (man I'm reckless) When Snake said in MGS 'unfortunately killing is one of those things that get easier the more you do it' I wasn't passive hearing that. My ears were wiide open. it told me. This man is clearly different from me, and my investment is to find out what happens these guys.

#6 Posted by cooolio (428 posts) -

@gamingqueen: The problem with that is that not all enemies in video games behave like they have loved ones or even seem to give a damn about their on morals ( if they have any).

#7 Posted by Jacanuk (3700 posts) -

@drekula2 said:

One complaint that many people say about GTA5 is that they don't like the characters. They're all sociopathic and none of them are role models. Yet, I appreciate Rockstar flat-out acknowledging that the characters in this world are heartless without pretense. They are killing and stealing for greed rather than any higher motive.

GTA IV, in hindsight, was awkward. It seemed like a moving story at the time, but now with a more mature lens, I look at it and it seems so strange. In all three cases, it's a tough sell to have a protagonist being a merciless killer and believe they are any different from their protagonists. This is what often bothers me about most action games (like Uncharted 3 for example), where characters are brutal killers during gameplay segments, yet lecture the player about mercy and saving lives during the cutscenes.

GTA V closed this gap by praising hypocrisy and making the characters all-around bad. The easiest solution in a game with guns, but nonetheless a solution. Gaming often sorely lacks actual options to play as the anti-hero. Often times, the anti-hero is just a decent person with a bad attitude.

Most games' morality systems are shallow. Aka, be either the good guy or bad guy. Not siding with your heart what is right or wrong. Just "pick a team uniform" and get the benefits. ME2's morality was much like this, but Mass Eff 3's morality actually explored those gray areas for example.

In a comedically sociopathic game like GTA V, there are a lot of gray areas. But it's nice to be able to rob a bank to actually cause chaos rather than for any pretense.

What was it about GTA IV that made it awkward? imo GTA IV was without a doubt the absolutely best and well crafted story of any GTA Game, we had Niko who was a victim of someone else's greed and had to flee to america where he found his cousin being abused by local thugs who took advantage of his gentle nature and stupidity and then even when Niko tries to help it just gets worse and worse until it all explodes and a ultimative price has to be paid.

Also what you are mentioning next is what a sometimes pretty clever person calls "ludonarrative dissonance" where a game tries to tell a story but fails because after all its a game, and you need to kill these people because its fuuuuuuun. Something that i think Dishonored does to A+++ , even tho Dishonored is a open story kind of game.

But back to GTA V, and here people who think you are just bad to be bad clearly missed the boat because every protagonist has his own reasons for doing what he does, even Trevor.

And yes most games morality is limited to a 1 or a 0, which is bad because you also have games which does it better, like Dishonored.

#8 Posted by drekula2 (1880 posts) -

@Jacanuk said:

What was it about GTA IV that made it awkward? imo GTA IV was without a doubt the absolutely best and well crafted story of any GTA Game, we had Niko who was a victim of someone else's greed and had to flee to america where he found his cousin being abused by local thugs who took advantage of his gentle nature and stupidity and then even when Niko tries to help it just gets worse and worse until it all explodes and a ultimative price has to be paid.

Also what you are mentioning next is what a sometimes pretty clever person calls "ludonarrative dissonance" where a game tries to tell a story but fails because after all its a game, and you need to kill these people because its fuuuuuuun. Something that i think Dishonored does to A+++ , even tho Dishonored is a open story kind of game.

But back to GTA V, and here people who think you are just bad to be bad clearly missed the boat because every protagonist has his own reasons for doing what he does, even Trevor.

And yes most games morality is limited to a 1 or a 0, which is bad because you also have games which does it better, like Dishonored.

GTA IV's story was very strong. In some aspects, surely stronger than V. Though it does have some flaws. The mid-section does drag, Kate is more of a small-time girlfriend than someone you truly develop a connection with, and adding Pegorino and the Godfather-wannabe plot last minute was a bit silly. That said, IV's dark stormy satire as well as the story of two Americans trying to reach the American Dream was heartfelt. I do enjoy how the final decision involves characters behaving as they would, unlike V.

But it's just strange that in cutscenes and plot points, Niko shows compassion and mercy but in the core gameplay he enjoys his bloodlust quite a bit. That, and the whole money problem. Niko has $500,000 in his bank but kills random people for $1000 a head because he "really needs the money". Kind of like in Red Dead how in the cutscenes John Marston is seeking redemption yet a callous unhesistant killer in the gameplay.

#9 Edited by capaho (1253 posts) -

@drekula2: GTA IV's story was as a clear and consistent as a GTA story could be. The GTA V story seems muddled by comparison.

Niko Bellic's motivation was clear from the beginning. His tendency to be ruthless in carrying out his work but also showing compassion outside of that context is not unusual for a combat veteran. It's apparent that he had no qualms about killing other gangsters but he didn't carry that sentiment into the civilian world. The extent of his criminal behavior on his own time was entirely up to the player.

#10 Edited by platinumking320 (642 posts) -

@capaho said:

@drekula2: GTA IV's story was as a clear and consistent as a GTA story could be. The GTA V story seems muddled by comparison.

Niko Bellic's motivation was clear from the beginning. His tendency to be ruthless in carrying out his work but also showing compassion outside of that context is not unusual for a combat veteran. It's apparent that he had no qualms about killing other gangsters but he didn't carry that sentiment into the civilian world. The extent of his criminal behavior on his own time was entirely up to the player.

Yeah. I guess with all the episodes of PTSD from real world conflict, perhaps in our era of legacy video game criticism, (and how it speaks of our real world issues) there are some that expect a more black and white portrayal of a protagonist Not a Wei Shen or Niko Beliic. But every human has different thresholds.

#11 Posted by drekula2 (1880 posts) -

@capaho said:

@drekula2: GTA IV's story was as a clear and consistent as a GTA story could be. The GTA V story seems muddled by comparison.

Niko Bellic's motivation was clear from the beginning. His tendency to be ruthless in carrying out his work but also showing compassion outside of that context is not unusual for a combat veteran. It's apparent that he had no qualms about killing other gangsters but he didn't carry that sentiment into the civilian world. The extent of his criminal behavior on his own time was entirely up to the player.

The premise of GTA IV was that Niko was pushed into a difficult situation, but when he murders when it's absolutely not necessary or profitable, it does diminish the narrative.

I do have my criticisms of GTA V's story but in the end I found it easier to laugh as Trevor tortures people than empathize with Niko (a supposed victim of American society).

#12 Edited by capaho (1253 posts) -

@platinumking320: If you think of GTA IV within the context of a drama like the Sopranos, Niko Bellic is essentially the same kind of character. He's a violent, anti-social gangster with some capacity for compassion outside of his work, but he's still a bad guy. Both the Sopranos and the GTA series appeal to the popularity of the mythologized view of the life of a gangster. The characters in GTA V, while interesting in their own right, lack the depth of character development afforded to the main characters in GTA IV.

#13 Posted by capaho (1253 posts) -

@drekula2: I don't see Niko Bellic as having been portrayed as a victim of American society, especially when you consider his predatory nature. The story had him coming to the US in search of the traitor who betrayed his military unit in Croatia, resulting in the death of many of his comrades. His motivation was to avenge his fallen comrades and his criminal behavior was a means to that end. Within the context of the missions and the side missions, his targets were always other gangsters or civilians who had gotten into business arrangements with gangsters that went awry. The extent of his criminal behavior outside of the missions was entirely up to the player.