Grand Theft Auto as Art

Playing The Grand Theft Auto Series, created by Rockstar games for the past couple of days has been an exciting learning experience. When I was trying to describe this game, I couldn’t because it’s practically about nothing. You as the player start off in what appears to be a random location in a city, however after playing the game for some time you come to realize that there’s a storyline to it. You then start walking  around assaulting people to get money, weapons and cars. Afterwards, the police will certainly come look for you and your mission is to not get caught by them or die. You could do this for as long as possible, or start a mission where the game play becomes more elaborate. Missions start by engaging with certain people, through following a map. An example of a mission I played was to chase a guy and kill him, simply because he was a rebel gang member. The setting of this game is typically an imitation of a real city. It simulates a virtual reality and allows the player to have a lot of control and power.

Now when I think of art, GTA doesn’t necessarily pop into my head. I am assimilate my ideals of art to those of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, an important art historian in the 17th century. Most of his artwork consisted of nude males, with what seems to be ideal bodies and many other beautiful sculptures. He talks about the transcendence of human nature, and also touches on technology as progress. He also touches on the idea of a hierarchy of taste as objective, and art ideals belonging to the greeks and how we can only improve upon their artwork. He was the first to touch on taste in art, “Good taste, which is becoming more prevalent throughout the world, had its origins under the skies of greece” (27). In his opinion GTA, would definitely land on the bad taste scale.


Johann Joachim Winckleman


Howard Becker

However, Howard Becker, a sociologist who writes about social action surrounding art would definitely consider GTA art. This is due to his introduction of deviance amongst art, where it places an emphasis on the abstract forms of art and how art connects or interacts with people. Grand Theft auto may be considered art because it inspired Stephen Bliss’ work.

If a game has the power to make an illustrator turn it into art, there is no doubt in my mind it should be considered art. Also, if we focus on judging the game with a Becker background, this game for many interacts with them in ways a lot of artwork might too. Through,  inflicting a specific emotion or getting that accomplished feeling of understanding a piece of art. In the case of GTA, I found myself getting that same exact feeling after accomplishing a mission in a virtual world where a lot of it doesn’t make sense, like stealing, fighting etc. Abstract art is similar to this, at first one doesn’t really know how to figure it out and after some research one comes to an understanding of the piece.  



One thought on “Grand Theft Auto as Art

  1. I like that you went with Winckelmann. He’s one of the harder sources to use for this post. I imagine he’d find the story and setting to be inferior because it isn’t idealized except in the game worlds themselves, which are faithful reconstructions of existing cities. Which version of GTA did you play?

    GTA IV does a pretty good job of mimicking Manhattan, but GTA V took it to the next level. As someone who’s lived in LA/Santa Monica for ten years, it was eerily accurate. I recognized specific landmarks like stores, restaurants, streets, and so on all over those cities. Even though the world was scaled down, it did a great job matching the general feel of every part of LA. That in itself is worthy of being considered art, and maybe even good art by Winckelmann’s standards because it mimics “nature” minus some of its blemishes. The story starts off by thrusting the player in the middle of the characters’ lives without any background, but it turns out to be deep and interesting in itself.

    What kinds of feelings did you have completing missions? Did you like the game?


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