GTA V: the grind

I linked to Tom Bissell’s excellent piece about GTA V last week, and included a beautifully-written quote about how people who love video games – as well as any person who loves any medium enough to spend long, solitary hours with it – are “broken in some way.”  I thought this was a very astute observation, and I certainly related to it very deeply.

Towards the end of that piece, however, is the actual money quote regarding how he feels about the game itself, and I’m finding it equally astute and relatable:

One of GTA V‘s characters admits at the end of the game, “I’m getting too old for this nonsense.” And you know what? I felt the same thing numerous times while playing GTA V, even though I continue to admire the hell out of much of what it accomplishes. So if I sound ambivalent,… I think it’s because I’m part of a generation of gamers who just realized we’re no longer the intended audience of modern gaming’s most iconic franchise. Three steps past that realization, of course, is anticipation of one’s private, desperate hurtle into galactic heat death. I’m left wondering when I, or any of us, express a wish for GTA to grow up, what are we actually saying? What would it even mean for something like GTA to “grow up”? Our most satirically daring, adult-themed game is also our most defiantly puerile game. Maybe the biggest sin of the GTA games is the cheerful, spiteful way they rub our faces in what video games make us willing to do, in what video games are.

I’m so very much in tune with this quote that it kinda makes me want to not write about it any more.

I’m now around 30 hours into the game, give or take, and my save file indicates I’m a little under 50% completion.  I have no illusions about that number – I’ve never come anywhere close to getting 100% in any GTA game, and I’m certainly not going to start now, not with a baby in the house that I enjoy being around and a wife that I like to spend time with.  So I have already given up on finding all of the hidden collectible stuff (though I’ll still collect something if I happen to stumble across it), and I’ll probably stay away from some of the side missions and activities (i.e., I won’t do any more Assassination missions until I have enough money to make the stock market investment truly worthwhile).  

As far as the core story and missions are concerned, I am more or less entertained.  Some missions are better than others; indeed, some parts of missions are better than others.  A highlight was having Michael shoot down a plane with some sort of robotic gun, and then having Trevor chase after the downed plane on a motorbike; a lowlight was Trevor flying a cropduster into a cargo plane (even though that sounds amazing, it was actually quite frustrating).  I don’t know what it says about the game (or my enjoyment of it) that I happened to play these two missions back-to-back.

Funny thing; I’ve written so much about GTA V over the last 2 weeks or so and still haven’t brought up my biggest pet peeve.  It’s a small thing, but it’s driven me crazy ever since GTA III, and it continues to annoy me now.  Here it is, my biggest complaint of the GTA franchise… it’s not the violence or the language… it’s that the camera angle, when I’m driving, has always been just a tad too low to the ground for me to see the road as well as I’d like to.   This means that I can only really drive well if I’m keeping my right thumb angled down on the thumbstick.  Consequently, I don’t really go in for most of the race events, and the missions that require precision driving are always a bit more difficult than they should be because I’m trying to keep the camera at an appropriate angle while trying to avoid obstacles.

I am determined to at least see the story’s conclusion, and do a few more heists, and also see how the online aspect shakes out (we’ll all know tomorrow, and I’ll have more to say about that as well).  Despite my crabbiness I’m still enjoying the experience, even if it’s not what I’d hoped it would be.  (But let’s also state the obvious; the release calendar is pretty dry for the rest of the year; it’s not like there’s something else I’d be playing.)

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