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Grand Theft Auto V: Wasted Potential

We don't know too much about Grand Theft Auto V yet, obviously because it hasn't been released. I admit that I haven't had the chance to play the series myself, but I am very familiar with it. It's hard not to be. The series is critically praised, a fan favorite, and much hype has been generated for the next entry. Gameinformer is even putting the game on its next cover. And what exactly is going to be featured on it? The three main protagonists, all male, of course. 

Was I surprised? I have to admit I was a bit disappointed. I'm not saying Rockstar needs to include female characters simply for the sake of meeting a quota. Not at all. However, it would have been such a refreshing jolt for the series, especially in light of how female characters have been treated in past games. In an interview with The New York Times, Dan Houser of Rockstar had this little blurb to say:

Q. There are people who still aren't delighted by the treatment of women in your games.

A. Of course. But is their argument that in a game about gangsters and thugs and street life, there are prostitutes and strippers-that that is inappropriate? I don't think we revel in the mistreatment of women at all. I just think in the world we're representing, in Grand Theft Auto, that it's appropriate.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/10/arts/video-games/q-and-a-rockstars-dan-houser-on-grand-theft-auto-v.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

I'm sensing some malarkey on this one, Dan. And there have been others questioning this decision as well. Many have jumped to take Dan's side though, defending Rockstar in saying it would be uncomfortable for players if a female lead was included, and that it just wouldn't be believable or compelling. Both are ridiculous arguments, and I hope Rockstar didn't base their development decisions on these opinions.

Unless you live under a rock, it's 2012, and many women have been occupying various career positions. And just like with men, there have been honorable female citizens, and also criminals as well. Ever hear of Bonnie Parker, who robbed and murdered until finally being gunned down with her partner Clyde Barrow, or Aileen Wuornos, who was a prostitute and serial killer? How about Raffaella D'Alterio, a mafia boss from Naples who led extortion and counterfeit money trafficking rings, and even survived an assassination attempt from a rival gang? History shows us that women aren't simply strippers or prostitutes in criminal areas.

Human beings, no matter which gender they are, are capable of violence. You don't have to take my word on it, just do some research on female war spies, officers, and criminals, and you'll see examples of women who have fought for or against crime.

GTA is a series full of violence, so I'm surprised that Rockstar hasn't painted a broader picture of crime. They push the envelope, so why don't they have a woman take the reigns? Instead of having women serve as typical background characters- the love interests, prostitutes, and victims- why not give them a new role? Perhaps they could be a dirty cop, a vigilante, or a mob leader? Or if Rockstar is so persistent to include a female prostitute, then why not chronicle her struggle to rise above or advance out of the streets?

Again, I'll repeat that I would never say that a developer needs to sacrifice artistic integrity to meet some quota. However, in general, I firmly believe that a game will never reach its full potential by "playing it safe" and ignoring or pigeonholing women, because they bring a different perspective and depth into the mix.

In conclusion, Rockstar, if you choose to keep strong female characters out of your game, then please, please don't use them in cheap advertisements. It's wrong to use them as eye candy in posters, yet fail to develop them beyond that in your game.


 

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