Is it Art?
Grand Theft Auto 5 can be considered as art in the idea that it took many people to complete the production of the game. Rockstar North was mainly responsible for the development of GTAV and was published by Rockstar Games. Other Rockstar studios contributed to the game in small ways. Howard Becker in Art Worlds and Collective Activity states that “Imagine, as one extreme case, a situation in which one person did everything: made everything, invented everything, had all the ideas, performed or executed the work, experienced and appreciated it, all without the assistance or help of anyone else” (Becker 7). Now, this is not true for small indie games that can be completed in 30 mins or less in terms of playing the game but, is impossible for Triple-AAA games to be made this way. The game would be development hell for years to come. Becker later states on the same page “Think of the opposite extreme, a situation in which each activity is done by a separate person, a specialist who does nothing but that one operation, much like the division of tasks on an industrial assembly line” (Becker 7). Most development studios employ up to 1,000+ that all have different jobs on the same project. Some employees might be tasked with working on the cinematics that takes place in the game and within that team, they might be responsible for the specific areas of focus.
Note how the characters change the locations of their arms. Trevor covers his eyes while Franklin covers his mouth and Michael cups his ears. That was someone’s job to rig the animations so they would look that way in the final version of the game. Another person oversaw the lighting in that scene so you could even see the characters properly as they were making those actions. And there was someone who had to program the scene to trigger when you reached it after a certain point in a mission.
Is it not Art?
People who believe the GTA series are not art routinely cite the fact that it is a game that imitates real life. Critics are more likely to point out all of the violence of the series contains. The player has almost total agency in what they want to do outside of missions. They can go on shooting rampages which can attract the attention of the cops and eventually the military when you reach 5 blinking stars.
I believe that Grand Theft Auto V can be considered art in the idea that the game gives the player total agency to do whatever the player wants to do. The art comes out of being able to say I completed a mission this way and then later complete the same mission in a totally different way. Some games limit player choice and this does not lead to a freedom of expression which I believe is key for something to be considered a piece of art.
Howard Becker – Art Worlds and Collective Activity