Sex and GTA: What Has Changed Since 2004

I discovered a book, Porn & Pong : How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture, in the library that sparked my interest in sex in GTA, so I read what it had to say and explored the sexual opportunities within GTA 5. Prostitutes have been available for players to consult in…

I discovered a book, Porn & Pong : How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture, in the library that sparked my interest in sex in GTA, so I read what it had to say and explored the sexual opportunities within GTA 5.

Prostitutes have been available for players to consult in GTA since the 2001 release of Grand Theft Auto III. In this version, some controller vibration, car movement, and squeaking sounds were the only indicators of sexual intercourse between the player and prostitute. This changed with the release of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas in 2004. While the encounters with prostitutes remained the same, a modifier called Hot Coffee became available for PC where the player character’s girlfriend invites him in for coffee, strips naked, performs oral sex on his invisible phallus, and has sex with CJ (playable character) on her bed. The girlfriend does not have any nipples, and CJ remains clothed the entire time, even while pumping during intercourse. The rhythm of intercourse could be controlled via joystick, and the CJ’s energy bar increased with steady rhythm. This mini game was also available in PS2 and Xbox game versions, though Rockstar Games originally tried to claim it was the work of hackers and mods (Brown 135).

Female sex workers remain a part of GTA today, and make up a large portion (perhaps most) of the female characters the player comes into contact with. The sexual encounters are more explicit than regular in game sex in the 2001 version, and combine some elements from the Hot Coffee mini game but is not quite as explicit.

In GTA 5 players can visit a strip club and receive a lap dance from a female stripper. During the lap dance the female is topless and has animated nipples. The player can touch the stripper as she dances. The player can also take the stripper to her home and have sex with her after receiving a lap dance. None of the intercourse is portrayed, players enter the home of the stripper as the camera stays at street view. Some sound effects play as the night turns to day and then the player exits the home.

Another opportunity for sexual encounter comes from picking up a prostitute on the street. After driving to a private location the player can select three sexual favors (unlabeled but presumably oral, vaginal, and anal sex) each a different cost. While these are performed the prostitute and player remain clothed. No breasts, genitals, or skin not already shown by the clothing the characters wear are shown. The prostate moves on top of the player character in a suggestive way, but that’s it.

So, why add this mechanic in the first place? It clearly caters to a male audience, and I suppose adds to the immersion of the game. I find it interesting that Rockstar in 2001 covered up the sex mini game rather than just deleting it entirely. Their argument seems to be that burying it under code is easier than deleting entirely when you’re dealing with all the code it requires to write a video game. However, it seems suspicious and something as vulgar as the Hot Coffee mini game should be treated with care. To me it sounds more like an easter egg that was poorly received (not by all, though, but mostly by game distributors.)

While I don’t think having female prostitutes available in game is inherently bad, I believe it becomes problematic when in the larger context of a video game that celebrates masculinity in rather grotesque ways and ignores and denies narratives of complex female characters. While GTA5 is undoubtedly better than GTA3 (with characters like Molly Schulz, a female business VP), there’s still a ways to go.

 

Works Cited

Brown, James. Porn & Pong : How Grand Theft Auto, Tomb Raider and other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture. Port Townsend, US: Feral House, 2008. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 13 December 2016.

Simeon and Jimmy: The Untrustworthy Men of GTA5

In my previous post I mentioned a racially charged interaction that occurred in GTA’s intro. It took place between a young man who entered Simeon’s car dealership to purchase a car and Lamar, Franklin and Simeon. Essentially, when the player enters the shop Simeon is accusing the young white man of being a racist, neo-nazi,…

In my previous post I mentioned a racially charged interaction that occurred in GTA’s intro. It took place between a young man who entered Simeon’s car dealership to purchase a car and Lamar, Franklin and Simeon. Essentially, when the player enters the shop Simeon is accusing the young white man of being a racist, neo-nazi, and having said the n-word. The characters in the game turn on this young man, and the player is meant to as well (especially as the player character at this point in the game is a black male.) To make matters worse for the young white man, a large tattoo on his neck reads “entitled.”

This interaction seems unimportant as the white customer doesn’t appear again for some time. However, once he does the race relations in GTA become a little more complicated.

Simeon, the Armenian man who owns a small dealership

As the game progresses after the cinematic intro, it becomes clear that Simeon and his business are not as trustworthy as players might have assumed. We learn Simeon’s business thrives off of scamming. He sells cars at jacked up prices to people he knows can’t afford them. Multiple times players hear Simeon say “You think because of the color of my skin I am cheating you. You are racist!” or something to that extent. This claim carries less and less weight the more it’s used.

The first player character Franklin works for Simeon, repossessing cars that he has sold to people who can’t afford. Franklin must eventually repo the car Simeon sold to the white customer from earlier. A lot happens, and we learn this customer is Jimmy De Santa, who’s dad eventually become another player character. Jimmy is a big screwup, and pretty stupid, but is an underdog and seems to feel some remorse for his actions. Jimmy and Franklin share a car ride and have an ok conversation, but Jimmy tries to relate to Franklin in a way that is racially insensitive (relying on stereotypes.)

This all creates a tension between Jimmy De Santa and the minority characters in the game, specifically Simeon and Franklin. Franklin comes out on top of this masculine battle, mainly because he has been the playable character for most of the game. Simeon and Jimmy are broth frauds in their own way, but as we get to know each character more, attitudes start to shift. We see Simeon for who he truly is- a scammer through and through who uses his Armenian heritage to manipulate people into buying his cars. This makes players question if Jimmy truly was racist and using slurs in the beginning of the game. Jimmy, while certainly entitled and selfish due to his privileged upbringing, is a victim of Simeon’s scams, and his stupidity causes him to become the victim of other scams.

So, which character does GTA want players to side with? And what is it trying to say about race with Simeon’s character? Or, is it less about race and do all these conflicts boil down to conflicting performances of masculinity?

 

Race Relations in GTA 5’s Cinematic Introduction

As perhaps the most famous urban/street game, Grand Theft Auto is one of the most played and quoted game in our class (and across the country.) This game log marks my first experience with the Grand Theft Auto series. I found the introductory mission helpful in learning basic controls of the game, but I was surprised…

As perhaps the most famous urban/street game, Grand Theft Auto is one of the most played and quoted game in our class (and across the country.) This game log marks my first experience with the Grand Theft Auto series. I found the introductory mission helpful in learning basic controls of the game, but I was surprised when the mission ended and cut to a very cinematic introduction to the game. Complete with music, title cards, and crew credits, the intro could easy be that of a hollywood film, aside from the characteristically video game graphics.

The introduction follows Michael as he lurks in the shadows of his own funeral and, at some later point in time, attends a therapy session. The intro then follows Michael (our current protagonist) as he walks down the street along the beach in LA. From Michael’s therapy session the viewer gets the sense that he had a rough upbringing and is experiencing a sort of mid life crisis. He passes an older homeless black man (who has just been scolded by a police officer) stumbling around with an empty glass alcohol bottle and says to himself “I know just how you feel.”

Upon seeing this I wondered if Michael actually knows how the homeless man feels. Sure he had a rough upbringing and presumably came from a low income background, but Michael can now afford a nice suit and a therapist and is still much younger than the homeless man. Furthermore, Michael is white. Can he really know how a homeless black man feels after being yelled at by police? By saying he knows how the homeless man feels Michael denies his own privilege and erases the black man’s struggle. I think the developers’ selection of a black homeless man and a white cop, whether intentional or not, comes with many codes and connotations of race relations.

Michael then sits on a bench and two black men (later introduced as a playable character Franklin and friend/business partner Lamar) walk past. Lamar calls Michael homie and asks for directions to the Bertolt house. After sizing them up Michael replies sarcastically “No, homie, I cannot.” A few seconds pass before Michael stands up and calls the men back, saying “Actually, yeah,” he can give them directions. He points them to a house on the nearby row. I read Michael’s initial refusal to offer directions and use of the word “homie” as him profiling and mocking the black men. His tone suggests that they are not worth his time. When he does point them to a house, I believe it could be out of malice (perhaps the house was wrong and I have not yet uncovered that in my gameplay) or out of the same “sympathy” he felt for the homeless man.

Another scenario in a cinematic cut scene that highlights race relations occurs towards the beginning of the game when Franklin and Lamar arrive at Simeon’s auto shop for the first time. Franklin (the current player character) enters the shop as Simeon yells at a customer calling him a racist and a neo-nazi. Lamar yells at the customer asking “who you calling a n*****,” to which the white male customer replies “no no I’m not calling nobody a n******.” Lamar yells at the customer some more before Simeon concedes and says maybe he is not a racist, but that he “[doesn’t] think he is man enough for a car like this.” Simeon and Lamar continue to emasculate the customer, and as he turns to the side his neck tattoo comes into clear view.

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It reads “Entitled” in large script.

Franklin leaves the shop before Lamar and Simeon swindle (or at least that seemed to me what was about to happen) the customer.

The player does not know exactly what was said between Simeon and the white customer, but his slip up with the n word and his large (possibly telling) tattoo don’t paint the customer too favorably. In the presence of the two black characters the customer does not act overtly racist (aside from his seemingly accidental use of the slur), but he easily could’ve changed his tune upon their arrival. Or perhaps Simeon made it all up as a way for Lamar to further emasculate the customer, making him even easier to deceive. It is clear though in this situation that the power is not in the white customer’s hands.

Within the first few missions and minutes of Grand Theft Auto 5 players have the opportunity to play both as white and black characters and experience situations where relations between races furthers the narrative. I am interested to see how the game progresses narratively and how themes of race continue to develop. As this is my first time playing GTA I am not sure how the characters I have written on fit together and whether or not they will reappear/ if some of the questions I am pondering will be answered.