Ines Schumacher
Ines Schumacher

Another feminist review of GTA V

My grubby little paws got their hands on Grand Theft Auto V yesterday and I cannot wait until Friday when I can start playing the hell out of it. Having it sitting at home without being able to play it because of late work nights is akin to a new form of torture.

To tide me over, I’ve been reading the reviews with a growing sense of excitement. IGN and Gamespot are my go-to gaming websites and I checked those first. IGN gave it a 10/10 and said it dropped the mic on this generation of games. Rockstar Games didn’t disappoint, as expected. Over to Gamespot. The reviewer gave it a 9/10 because it was overall absolutely amazeballs, but there’s misogyny and some muddled political issues. Penalty of one whole point. That means Gamespot is rating GTA V worse than the fourth and third part of the series. I find that hard to believe. Gaming review aggregators are listing a score of 9.8 for the game. That’s insanely high.

Both the IGN and Gamespot reviews were written by women, so this isn’t a case of a different or unique perspective on behalf of Gamespot.

Where do you begin talking about Grand Theft Auto V? Do you start with the vast, varied, beautiful open world? Do you start with the innovative structure that gives you three independent protagonists you can switch between on the fly? Maybe you talk about the assortment of side activities you can engage in, or the tremendous number of ways in which you can go about making your own fun. Or perhaps you dive right into the game’s story problems, or its serious issues with women. GTA V is a complicated and fascinating game, one that fumbles here and there and has an unnecessary strain of misogynistic nastiness running through it. But it also does amazing things no other open-world game has attempted before, using multiple perspectives to put you in the thick of cinematic heist sequences and other exhilarating, multi-layered missions like no open-world game before.

Games reacted with fury and called for the reviewer to be fired. Completely unnecessary? Yes. But let’s not overreact. There are lots of trolls on the internet and her job was never really in danger. But the outcry shows how upset fans of the series got with the comments.

I’m just plain puzzled.

I don’t think the reviewer is wrong about the misogyny in GTA V but she is wrong about why it’s in there. This is what Gamespot says:

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.

But then you look at IGN’s far more intelligent commentary and read this:

Grand Theft Auto V is … an intelligent, wickedly comic, and bitingly relevant commentary on contemporary, post-economic crisis America. Everything about it drips satire: it rips into the Millennial generation, celebrities, the far right, the far left, the middle class, the media … nothing is safe from Rockstar’s sharp tongue … if GTA IV was a targeted assassination of the American dream, GTA V takes aim at the modern American reality. The attention to detail that goes into making its world feel alive and believable is also what makes its satire so biting.

The GTA series has always been satirical and shocking. What makes the Gamespot reviewer so upset about the fifth instalment in particular? She seems to say: “Oh, we can excuse the violence, the classism, the condemnation of the society, everything. But not the sexism.” How is the misogyny any less satirical than the rest? We live in a truly shockingly sexist society. But treating the issue with more sensitivity than everything else shocking in this game makes no sense to me.

In any case, I can’t wait until Friday to continue my love affair with the Grand Theft Auto series. I’m adult enough to distinguish real misogyny from a satirical commentary on our society. I hope other gamers are too.

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