I put my gun to an innocent bystander’s head. His only crime was to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Kicking and screaming, I drag him down an alleyway to the sound of ricocheting bullets and wailing sirens. With the barely audible thud of a silenced Luger, I silence him forever. Of course, you are not reading “Cherwell Culture tries… Assault and Battery” (though if we run out of ideas later in the term a little violent crime might not go amiss). Rather, I have ventured into the stygian world of Grand Theft Auto V.
“It’s great,” my friend blithely assures me. “You can torture people and everything, look.” With an innocuous waggle of a joystick his on-screen avatar picks up some unfortunatelooking pliers. A further flutter of fingers over his control pad and some extremely amateurish dental work is suddenly being performed before my eyes. I still have nightmares about the giant pie machine in Chicken Run, so this was frankly all a bit much. “Yeah, great,” I murmur, suppressing my breakfast and eyeing the room for possible exits. “Really tests the bounds of human morality and stuff. Yeah. Really artistic.”
My friend doesn’t hear me – his eyes glaze over as he pounds frantically on the buttons, giving his animated victim a shot of adrenaline to restart his heart so he can continue applying animated electrodes to his animated nipples. “Definitely really artistic,” I repeat to myself. To give the game’s producers their credit, it’s a gorgeously-produced artwork, animated nipples and all. When I take the control padand clumsily roam the fictional city of Los Santos, I can recognise the freedom bestowed and the breathtaking scope of the game. My only point of reference is Snake on my trusty Nokia 5110. It seems things have moved on a bit in the computer world since then.
One thing that has not changed since those days of merrily charging around a green-lit screen is the portly girth of my pudgy fingers. I mash wildly at my control pad, while my friend provides calm and lucid direction. “Left! Not your left, my left! No, other left! Don’t let him – OK, well, get the – put down the – Jesus. Pick up the thing. Not the thing, the thing! The thing. I said the thing.” “Shut up,” I retort wittily. Despite my best efforts, my character blunders around with the grace of a potato. If there is a car, Iwill crash it. If there is a wall, I will run into it. If I am sitting quietly an empty room with padded walls and no exits, my head will explode for no apparent reason.
My friend’s continuous refrain is “I don’t even know how you did that”, as I find a myriad unexpected ways to blow my own brains out. By the end, I am prodding at the control pad with my eyes shut, whimpering as my friend sighs reproachfully beside me. “I did say to pick up the thing”. I’d rather hook up my real nipples to an A/C generator than spend another gory and chaotic hour running roundin circles and inadvertently shooting myself in the ear.