[Editorial] Flagrant GTA V Review Comments Lie at Critical Fault


Grand Theft Auto V received a 9/10. Horrifying.

As Rockstar’s review embargo lifted, GTA V was “hit” with a less than perfect score by female game critic Carolyn Petit, who, in her praise of near everything, slighted Rockstar’s expensive development for taking misogynistic tones. Her criticism with regards to female objectivity is not a first time event for this industry, and in fact, has signaled a heavy shift in fundamental critique: We’re becoming political, and it’s wonderful.

Predictably, the fan base – defending a game which, at that time, they had never played – went far enough as to issue a petition to have Petit fired for her opinion. Her job. Which she did.

There will always be outliers, those who exceed reasonable boundaries in excess to splatter their vitriolic opinions across the web. Petit certainly came under fire personally. Those numbskulls deserve to be banished from the internet, banished to the same alternate universe with mass email armchair pundits who think Obama should be impeached because he’s a birth certificate hiding Muslim from Benghazi who caused 9/11.

But, maybe some of those registered game site responders have a point. In a rush to lambast commenters and brush off their (sometimes) ludicrous assertions, maybe industry types have ignored the reasoning for reader hostility lies in critical fault, as opposed to theorized issues over review scores.

For years, defensive video game figureheads have fought, battled, and dissected arguments regarding video game violence and its non-effects. Suddenly, those defending critics have begun an offensive attack. “Attack” is an admittedly powerful word, particularly for a change clearly pushing into the right. Good or bad, change is never accepted on simple terms though. Ask Microsoft.

But, there lies a secondary layer. While we push hardily for equal rights and less egregious male sexual fantasies, we have failed miserably to address other components. Shying from violence is not part of a game critics accepted path. We adore it, lest we appear hypocritical after decades of dueling with mainstream media sources. This past week, I engaged with Call of Juarez: Gunslinger, whose protagonist exists to kill, and with time, only increases his murdering pedigree. Scanning reviews, I found none addressing this over-the-top application of blood splatter. If anything, Gunslinger was a recipient of near unanimous praise.

There is a comfortable line to criticism which we haven’t found. Controversial as it may be, the medium has not allowed it to seep into the foundations; games remain in narrative infancy. We stick ourselves with the explicitness of violence, accept it, and wonder where change will come from. We cite independent development as greener pastures – further erecting barriers between critic and general consumer – and yet there, violence carries the same pedigree. Popular indie hit Hotline Miami is voracious and hungry to become sadistic. When its sequel debuted, an off-putting sexual assault broke that barrier, and backlash toward developer Dennaton Games has caused the scene to be altered or removed entirely. But, we cover for generalized violence. It’s too important to video game development, so it’s given a pass.

Politically, we dodge ego. The Bureau, 2K’s recent third-person XCOM spin-off, showcases American agents dropping motherships with WWII era shotguns. Preposterous, yet no one seems to notice as we’ve become numb to shooting things. No one even calls out how flaunted the USA is as a mega power in these situations (not to mention how flagrantly egotistical it is to have aliens only assault one country), certainly an interesting level for political criticism, but it remains untouched in general reviews.

As an industry, we ARE trying. Long form criticism is taking shape, and Five out of Ten Magazine adores unique pitches, but these exist outside normalcy. Fancy, exciting, and fresh as these options are, those choosing to blast critiques of critical misogyny don’t see these during their IGN visits, and thus, react as they do. After decades of sticking to the defensive side of the violence debate, suddenly they’re on the offensive, and within their own walls from people they saw as on “their side.”

I understand the confusion, and while we should not soften or shy away from the plethora of anti-women attitudes internally, we should not briskly duck accusations of failure either, which is what reasonable comments represent. We have chosen a target – a singular target – to siphon out issues and search for moral righteousness. That is not interesting criticism, but rather a shock to the system.

Who wouldn’t react under those circumstances?