Grand Theft Auto V


… It is interesting that I should play Grand Theft Auto V so shortly after playing Call of Duty: Ghosts, in that in terms of the pacing of the single-player campaign they are almost polar opposites. Call of Duty is a rollercoaster ride – a linear stream of action delivered in a short burst – while Grand Theft Auto leaves it up to the player to set the intensity. Even between high-tempo missions you have to repeatedly perform the simple tasks of driving between them – interestingly the mission gameplay itself can be skipped but this cannot. Tom Chick calls it the negative space of interactive entertainment, and pretty much nails what it is about. Would Persona IV (or jrpgs in general) be as good if the dungeon romp or minutiae of stat-maxing was pulled out? Would Shadow of the Colossus be as engrossing if you were transported instantly from one encounter to the next?

This is why it took awhile before I started liking GTAV – at first it felt a bit like a timewaste. Allocating 40 hours to play a single game is a big commitment if you – like me – strive to try and complete many different games rather than indulge heavily in a few. Grand Theft Auto could well have kept only the mission gameplay and the story scenes and still have been an interesting experience – thing is, the negative space gives context to the content. Constantly driving through San Andreas slowly tells you the story of what kind of place it is, what kind of people are living there and how the main characters fit into it. It is not just environmental storytelling about a place where events have already happened, it is very much a place where things are constantly happening and instead of just allowing the player to observe and discover she is invited to take part and experience. In the years after Grand Theft Auto 3 was released, a few magazines theorized about “the perfect game” and used it as a model – while the notion of a perfect game is kind of ridiculous, it is easy to see why Grand Theft Auto springs to mind. The series has always been a pioneer in nonlinear storytelling.

In some respects, it is a game I admire more than personally enjoy – having been through the story, I doubt I’ll play it any more. I don’t doubt I’ll invest another 40 hours whenever GTAVI comes out, though.

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Posted on Dec 01/13 by Saint and filed under Reflections | No Comments »