Arguing 'Grand Theft Auto IV' With N'Gai

Once a month or so, N'Gai Croal and I debate a video game. Usually we do it well after a game's been released. We call our exchanges Vs. Mode, co-publish them on both of our blogs, and hope that people have enough bathroom time to read them.

The latest debate concluded this morning. It's all about Grand Theft Auto IV. We talked about bringing our A game for this one. Or at least we would have if we spoke in sports metaphors. It's full of spoilers... about the game's moral quandaries, its ending and other stuff. So beware.

But if you're looking to see him have a go at me for preferring San Andreas to GTA IV and if you're interested in stuff like this...

N'Gai: I'm wondering whether the fault lies not with inconsistencies in the work of Rockstar's writing team, but with the credulity of all of us. Liberty City is filled with self-deluded characters like Playboy X, Manny and Brucie, who present themselves one way only to be exposed by their behaviour. Why do we take Niko at face value? Is it just because he's our avatar? ... Maybe Niko is deceiving himself as much as do the rest of the lowlifes he runs with. Maybe as much as he believes he's fatigued with death and killing, he's actually drawn to it? Maybe we have all misunderstood Niko Bellic.

...then head to either of our sites and read the loooong debate. I'm linking to his version, because I'm classy.

Round One
Round Two
Final Round


    Great debate. I personally find a big hole in the debate - both attribute a bit too much maturity to Rockstar. Rockstar have never come across as a particularly mature developer group - they've always come across as awkward teenagers, trying to understand the need to be mature and how to address their own need to express complex emotions and attachments. They're still too enamoured with the immature glory of gaming - the ability to kill every motherf- in the room.

    So despite their nascent attempts to produce a living, breathing city and characters that you can empathise with and get emotionally attached to, they only know how to express the game in a singular fashion - with guns.

    Is this because the games market doesn't want anything different (see MGS4 and the 'long cutscene' debates) or is it that Rockstar doesn't know/dare to offer something different? Given their propensity to include fairly awkward attempts at jokes/cynicism (that come across in a "aren't we so clever" fashion) in their games? I would think it's the latter. Part of them wants to create something special, but they can't get over their own insecurities, so hide the complexities of character inside something more familiar.

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