Grand Theft Auto V is is labeled as an action adventure video game boasting a free roam and open game style developed and published by Rockstar Games. This game and its predecessors before it stand as one of the most controversial video game series of all time. Hard core fans of the game exclaim how it is an expression and within the game lies numerous freedoms to take advantage of, much like the world we live in now. Freedoms such as yoga, driving all over the map (which is HUGE and modeled after the real city of Los Angeles), purchase weapons, steal vehicles, kill the innocent, kill the guilty, go to the strip club, and various other taboo topics that we see humans indulge in. There is a linear story with in the game where you take control of the three protagonists (Trevor Phillips, Franklin Clinton, and Michael De Santa, List of Grand Theft Auto V characters) and follow their individual stories until all three paths cross. While there is a story and linear missions within that story to progress, Grand Theft Auto V has an ABUNDANCE of side missions and miscellaneous interactions throughout the game. This title has received numerous rewards and accolades such as; Best Xbox Game by Canada.com, GameSpot, and IGN, and the the Best Multiplatform Game by Destructoid (List of accolades received by Grand Theft Auto V.) Clearly this game is highly received and critically acclaimed but with all that being said, can we possibly consider Grand Theft Auto V to be an art?
To answer that question I feel we need to touch on what “art” is. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary art is “the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.” piecing that definition let us look at the “expression or application of human creative skill and imagination”. Grand Theft Auto V from my experience playing is only limited to the user’s imagination. The game puts forth NUMEROUS imaginative tools with an array of vehicles and being able to customize those vehicles to the user’s desire, to customizing the characters and manipulating the hair, clothing, and actions of those avatars, and of course, deciding what to do. Grand Theft Auto V to me was the all-in-one video game. If you wanted to street race, rob banks, be apart of epic gun fights, do yoga, play tennis, pilot a helicopter, swim in a beach, ride a bike, go hiking, go mountain climbing, or simply go on a murderous spree killing anything and everything in your way, you can. I feel as though this is something Becker would agree with me on through his ideas of “collective activity”. Becker mentions that “arts we know, like all the human activities we know, involve the cooperation of others” (Becker). We can see that Becker understood that cooperation and collective capability is the basis of art and it is what leads to that creative expression that can be found in all branches of art, including video games.
In my opinion, Grand Theft Auto V is a direct expression of the user. From being able to customize your personal home, avatar, and vehicles no two gamer’s experiences will be the same. The game is molded by the user so essentially, the aesthetically pleasing aspect comes from the choices made by the user. Much like a painter would use a brush and paint to construct a unique artwork, the user can use the controller and the massive options within the game to create and genuine, unique and absolutely expressive experience. That being said, the beauty of Grand Theft Auto V can be seen and appreciated by the respective user.
On the topic of emotional power, Grand Theft Auto V has invoked A LOT of controversy ever since the first game in the series came out on October 1997 (Controversies surrounding Grand Theft Auto V. ) It is ridiculed for its insane opportunities for violence and its depiction of women. One of the big “stand out” scenes in GTA V was the mission that required the user to implement torture equipment to interrogate a hostage. Many felt that mission was in poor taste and those who despise the series for its violent behaviour often bring it up in their arguments. Many journalists and bloggers have sparked debates on how the game depicts women and how violence towards them is condoned throughout the game. The controversy became so bad that Target Department Stores in Australia pulled the game from their 300 stores nationwide for its depiction of women and intense violence. If there was ever an emotionally powered video game, this would be the one. So with imaginative, creative, and emotional/expressive powers taken into account Grand Theft Auto V in my opinion is in fact, art.