“Actually, Grand Theft Auto is a clever satire of the American Dream” is the sort of toe-curlingly obvious declaration that tiresome pseuds like me used to come out with in the early 2000s, in order to assert the artistic merit of a game in which you could get a blowjob from a prostitute to replenish your health, then murder her to get your money back.
We felt inclined to defend video games as a medium back then, as it always seemed precariously balanced on the cusp of mainstream acceptance, never quite tipping over (see: blowjobs, murder). Nowadays, the form no longer has anything to prove: its legitimacy is self-evident, and needs no grasping-at-straws intellectualising. But evidence of its unrefined, uncouth past remains in abundance – particularly in its long-toothed mainstays.
Grand Theft Auto is so old that it carries its legacy jokes in the same way that Windows 11 features an MS-DOS command prompt. It’s a world in which the stockmarket is called BAWSAQ; a sort of school jotter gag more likely to raise an acknowledging “hm” than a real laugh, and not exactly a deft skewering of late capitalism. I’m not sure it even works outside of Scotland.