Let me state up front that I have no problem with GTA 5 being violent, full of crime, endorsing drug use, or whatever nonsense critics are coming up with.
It’s a game; and people who have trouble distinguishing reality from games have more pressing concerns than what game they happen to be playing. I personally own the entire GTA series with exception to GTA 5, enjoy playing them, and have never as a result gone out to shoot at people, rob stores, or deal drugs. Neither have, (and I know it’s bad reporting not to have the actual numbers but I assume something like…) millions of other people who have played at least one installment of the series. So with that out of the way, this week is not the week to be playing GTA 5. Nor next week. Maybe not even the week after that. For the simple reason that doing so feeds a frenzy that hurts our gamer community as a whole in more ways than one.
The most obvious is that it’s harder to convince non-gamers that we aren’t all a bunch of blood thirsty time bombs ticking away in our basements when the biggest game of the year is about committing crimes. And don’t give me that line about all the other things GTA is/can be about like scuba diving or enjoying the view, the name of the game is Grand Theft Auto and it’s about crimes. So while I have no issue with violence or crime in games, this mad rush to play it immediately glorifies it a bit too much, and goes a long way towards reinforcing the worst stereotypes about gamers. As a community we would get more respect and gain more followers if we made a bigger deal out of Gran Turismo than GTA.
The less obvious detriment is that we give away too much of our power as a community when we act like a mob. I’ve waited in line overnight before and yea it can be a lot of fun, I’ve preordered more titles than is worth listing here, and I still get all nerd fan-boy when I hear one of my favorite studios is working on a new project. That’s all ok, there’s nothing wrong with being a fan and showing it. But like every good thing, please, in moderation. Because when we show this massive die hard fandom to AAA developers and publishers they start thinking they own the place and they don’t try as hard. Remember how that worked out with Aliens: Colonial Marines? When a title can count on being a financial success before their game is even finished we lose all the positive attributes of capitalism and market competition. A game should need to be a worthwhile experience to have financial certainty. Let’s not let the game industry wind up like the film industry. One of the reasons we’re seeing so many amazing titles and huge risks paying off in the indie world is because of that uncertainty. Now I can see some of you in the back starting to get up in arms about how many boundaries GTAV pushes or what an amazing improvement it is over the other games in the series but stop right there because that’s not the point. The point is that as a community we don’t need to immediately mob on a title and assure its success before it’s been out even a week. Along that same line of thought, don’t preorder a next gen console. It’s that mob mentality that has robbed us of our ability to demand backwards compatibility, lower price points, or something more significant than simple hardware improvements between generations. Hold off immediately funding whatever slapdash effort is put out by the big guys and I guarantee we see more fan service and innovation from them.
Lastly, to those extremists out there; don’t make games the only important thing in your lives. Don’t be the person who calls out of work to get their copy on release day, or spends all weekend inside playing it. There’s a whole world out there, and GTAV will be there next week too. So by all means, play GTAV if it’s the kind of game you like, but do us all a favor and wait till the frenzy has died down to do so.
Caveat: here’s a handful of titles I encourage you to get at in advance, (titles on my personal radar). Not having tens of millions of dollars to spend on development and marketing these need some fan support upfront or they won’t have a chance to really get noticed by the community at large;