There is no question that Rockstar's current Grand Theft Auto formula is bringing in money, but how memorable of an experience does each game really provide? Grand Theft Auto IV has received (almost) universally rave reviews, but ten years from now, how will it be remembered? Some will undoubtedly look back on GTA IV as one of the greatest games they've ever played, while others will only know it as "The one with the shiny Russian guy", much like fourth entryin another beloved franchise. It's not that GTA IV isn't great; just that at it's core, it's just more GTA.
Hit the jump to find out.
In order to fully utilize the opportunities that come with making a game with the GTA name, one must know what that name really means. GTA may stand for the words "grand theft auto," but anyone who's played the games knows that stealing cars is just an expression of the game's true meaning: It's fun to be a sociopath. There is a part of every person that just wants to cut loose and break rules; rules of law, rules of political correctness, and rules of basic human decency. GTA gives us the opportunity to break those rules in a safe, consequence free environment. Stealing cars, murdering strangers, dealing drugs, hiring hookers, all of it is food for the animal inside of us: a filthy beast whose code of conduct is dictated solely by the pleasure principal.
I propose something more.
Imagine a GTA game staring a woman; a woman addicted to unnamed substances, who steals cars, deals drugs, screws anyone for money, all with the disaffected, disinterested stare of a monster. Already we have the opportunity for more genuinely original narrative scenarios than any GTA game in years, all sure to bring an entirely new level of controversy to the GTA name. For starters, people across the country, even some GTA fans, are sure to say right off the bat that being a hooker in a video game goes too far. To these people I pose one question: why is being a hooker worse than hiring a hooker? Every GTA game since GTA III has featured the option to have sex with hookers, why is it some how worse to actually become one?
Hypocrisy of this kind is funny because it's true to life, and it's about time GTA starts mocking some of their worst detractors; abusive parents. How many kids have been punished via a beating for playing violent video games? I've seen it happen ever since the days of Splatterhouse, and I'm sure it's happening with many a GTA IV loving kid today.
From here, our society's obsession with the super rich could be fully exploited: CEOs, children of CEOs, and the people who love them could all be roasted in an even more pointed and detailed manner than in previous GTA games. As Gladys blackmails Donald Trump, Paris Hilton, and Charlie Sheen look-a-likes with the terrible things they've done with her, we'd get a virtual glimpse of the underbelly of high society as it most likely exists (but is edited out of reality TV).
The potential for sub-plots in the "Whore, CEO, Politician" story arc are truly endless. Love interests for Gladys could include a Bill Clinton-like figure, A Gover-nator, a P Diddy-esque entertainment mogul, the Pope, Oprah, any of our world's myriad of high profile men in power. Gladys's kids could get their own atrocious reality show, be victims of blackmail and violence themselves, and, as the apple seldom falls far from the tree, could both potentially succumb to lives of crime. Will Gladys care enough about her kids to pull away from her amoral life? Will they live long enough for her to even make that choice? When the game wraps up and all is said and done, Gladys will have seen the level of psychopathic tendencies necessary to be an effective Politician/C.E.O., will she prefer life on the streets? All questions only possible in a GTA game where the protagonist has motivations beyond seeking money, power, and revenge.
A GTA game starring a woman could work. Despite its history of questionable depictions of women, the GTA series has been surprisingly successful with female audiences. That's not to say men should be alienated. That shouldn't be an issue though, as since Lara Croft made her debut over ten years ago, it's been clear that games starring women have the ability to appeal to both sexes.
There is no reason not to take this kind of chance with the GTA franchise, as there is no franchise more bulletproof. With the small risk of simply casting a single mother as it's protagonist, Rockstar could effectively multiply the shock value and social commentary of the GTA experience ten-fold. In this case, adding a female lead wouldn't just be a gimmick. It would be a window to a narrative experience more rich and multi-dimensional than any GTA before it.