GTA4: our panel of reviewers plumb for moral meaning

grand theft auto IVWhen we first fired up Grand Theft Auto IV on Wednesday night, the gameplay experiences we demonstrated – running over pedestrians, being thrown out of your car, getting into a fistfight with random strangers – elicited gasps from our somewhat mixed audience of gamers and newbies. But I found it telling that, by the end of our conversation, even the newbies seemed to grasp the images for what they are: ragdoll physics played for gags. The short half-life of Euphoria illustrates Sam Gilbert’s chief complaint with the moral world of GTA4: “Through repetition, actions become meaningless… consequences are few and minor, and meaning and investment drips away.”

The next few posts are a reconstruction of the conversation our playtesters (Sam, Doris Rusch, Matthew Weise, together with Josh Diaz and Eric Robinson) had with the full group. (I should note that I (Gene Koo) have not played GTA4 yet to any serious extent, so I’m relying on y’all to correct my mistakes). I was particularly excited by the new folks at this gathering that included Helen Haste, Barry Fishman, and Scott Siedel, all of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Dave Peth of WGBH.

  1. GTA4: character and avatar
  2. GTA4: ruleplaying vs. roleplaying
  3. GTA4: values at play
  4. GTA4: choice and consequence
  5. GTA4: reintegrating the divided self