Users, commentators and the media have been falling over themselves almost without exceptions to praise the advent of Grand Theft Auto 5.
More hype than a blockbuster movie. But then it’s probably deserved.
That august publication the Daily Telegraph, known for its generally sober commentary and factual researching of the state of the nation, gave space to two of its reporters to review the game.
Sophie Curtis described it as ‘among the country’s greatest exports.’ It doesn’t mater who owns the company, it’s a British invented product. She said despite its fictionalised US setting and the global business outlook of Rockstar Games, it ‘retains a wry British outlook’ reflecting its Scottish beginnings.’
Telegraph chief technology blogger, Mic Wright, said that since 1997, the GTA franchise has been a ‘powerhouse of the video game culture.’ It is an art form he said, much ‘more than an interactive gangster film.’ It now ‘defines its genre.’
With extreme violence, its availability among younger people and questionable ethics, criminality and cutting-edge technological innovation aside, it’s a huge part of the economic infrastructure now. And as such deserved discussion here in these blogs which focus on life’s interaction with the digital world.
The nuances of characters, with ‘inner lives and motivations’ are in ‘the same pantheon as Mean Streets or Mario Puzo’s Godfather novels’, according to Wright. He said, ‘as with great art, it provokes questions and breaches uncomfortable territory.’ He said that Rockstar always had a ‘nasty streak’, reinforced by the dips into homophobic, misogynistic and hateful humour.
Stats Speak Louder Than Words
- As a top expert, an ideas vehicle, a hybrid branch of the global/universal entertainment business, GTA5 leads and the figures are impressive.
- Gaming is now the UK’s biggest entertainment sector.
- The UK game industry contributed £1 billion to national GDP last year
- 9000 skilled development workers are employed in it
- Of the games industry workforce, 80% are based outside London, spreading benefits nationwide
It could be that over 14 million copies of GTA 5 will be sold in the opening month, certainly by Christmas. That could generate around a billion pounds. Few Hollywood movies expect such returns on investment
It’s not just that the technology is awe-inspiring, that the interplay is conducive to universal popularity, it’s that games playing now goes right up the age range. As Curtis said, ‘gaming is no longer a pastime for geeky teenagers.’
Many older people may expect a game or two in their Christmas stockings, then. They are playing games on a variety of devices, just the same as their younger relations.
Some pundits are urging the game be used as an opportunity to discuss moral issues with young people, about respect for life, about human obligations and the fact that women are rounded, sentient beings worthy of respect greater than the game allows. That seems unlikely to happen, doesn’t it?
New games companies start and some don’t last long. It is a tough global digital environment and competition is keen. The Government is talking about tax reliefs to help new companies develop products and techniques. Reputation is everything at this time, but a concept that sweeps all before it today may not be around tomorrow.
We shall see. But certainly it should be good for a few more games till it it drops out of fashion. And a few more zillions into the public purse by way of taxes and jobs. In the meantime, it is a welcome British contribution to the global economy, and as such should be embraced as an icon.