Why do I like Saints Row, and not GTA? (an objective analysis)
My first blog in a little over than a year, and it's going to be about video games in a forum about writing. I'm not sure whether that's typical or ironic. At any rate, I felt like discussing this objectively. Let's begin.
In short, I have the entire Saints Row series from the first to the fourth, and Grand Theft Auto V. Yet while I could easily play Saints Row, I feel dirty playing Grand Theft Auto V. I feel as if I'm doing something wrong, something I shouldn't be doing. I feel unclean. This to me, is weird and hypocritical on my part. Why would I feel bad for playing Grand Theft Auto, yet not feel a thing playing Saints Row? As I explain this, I will break it down into the basic chunks of storytelling:
You play an undeniably evil main character who effectively does bad things to further his/her (in the case of Saints Row) agenda. You're a criminal in those games, plain and simple. You're not going to find Michael de Santa from Grand Theft Auto V or the Boss from the Saints Row games running an orphanage and donating to charity. In fact, it would be much more like them to find an orphan more likely to fall in tune with their gig and adopt them as their apprentice. (Which is kinda what happened when Michael found Franklin, only Franklin wasn't in an orphanage. Michael even outright told Franklin, "You're like the son I wish I had.")
They're both the last people you would want to meet in real life. Their motivation for their wrongdoings? Michael at least has an excuse to justify it. The Boss? In his/her own words: "This is my city (...) We do whatever the *bleep* we want."
When you think about it, the Boss is a much more disgusting character than Michael. Michael changes during the course of Grand Theft Auto V. He learns to be a better husband, a better father, and even becomes *SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER*a producer*SPOILERSPOILERSPOILER* The Boss is...pretty much the same as he/she was in the start: a power-hungry individual, that's it. The only good thing I can say about this is that Saints Row lets you play as a female, whereas you're stuck as a male in the Grand Theft Auto games, whether you like it or not.
On the whole, Michael (and to a lesser extent, Franklin) are better characters as they have justifications (wrong or not) as to why they're doing what they do. Were this any other game, they would make good antagonists. They're not evil for the sake of evil, they've got reasons that, if anything else, makes perfect sense for them. Why did I leave Trevor out? Because according to the developers, he's just a parody of the average Grand Theft Auto player, so he doesn't count.
Saints Row has had its fair share of controversies, but the big ones that I remember are the ones from Grand Theft Auto. Maybe this is one of the few reasons I don't like to play Grand Theft Auto, because I've heard nothing but bad things about this game before I bought the fifth game? I went in knowing full well the controversies lobbed at Grand Theft Auto, so maybe perhaps I feel like I'm doing something wrong whenever I play this game. After all, if you spent your life having authority figures telling you that a specific game, or a book, or a musical genre is bad, and you want to check it out, you might feel weird doing it.
Which is odd, because isn't Saints Row effectively Grand Theft Auto's oddball cousin? There's even a running gag between the two series where they poke fun at each other, examples including Johnny Gat from Saints Row being a parody of the typical Grand Theft Auto character, and a level in Grand Theft Auto V making fun of Saints Row IV where you fight aliens in a *purple fog*. My point is, if Saints Row isn't making me feel weird, then why is playing Grand Theft Auto V doing that to me?
OK, OK, so this is probably the biggest reason I may have trouble playing Grand Theft Auto V. It's the humor, and it doesn't really appeal to me. That, or I just don't really know how to take it in.
In short, Grand Theft Auto is a satire on American society as a whole, and without fail, someone's throwing in a satire left and right. There's satire in even the little details, such as the gravestones in the cemetery in Grand Theft Auto V with the phrase 'Quiet, isn't it?' written at the base of most of the gravestones, probably alluding to the stereotype that Americans are often extremely loud.
Now, here's the thing. I play a game to escape reality, not to have a game barrage me with political commentaries and satire over and over again. If I want that, I'll watch Stephen Colbert and Jon Stewart. If a game does that, I find it annoying.
But here's the ironic part. Saints Row does that as well! If I look closely enough, there are things that parodies and satire things in real life as well. So why is it OK to me if Saints Row does it, and not Grand Theft Auto V? Is it because it's more low-keyed? After all, Saints Row is more about fighting rival gangs, so maybe that's why. Grand Theft Auto exists as a satire, a parody. That's its entire point. It's like Colbert and Stewart if they were in a videogame! With that said...
Am I just taking it too personally, thinking the game is directly insulting me? Do I just not understand the offensive jokes and their existence in the game (like the stereotypical feminists, for example.) Do I just not understand what satire is? Or maybe I'm taking it a little too seriously? Maybe I should really be using this game as a way to laugh at myself? After all, they say that a well-adjusted mind is a mind that's willing to laugh at itself.
Thing is, I want to be able to enjoy Grand Theft Auto just as much as I enjoy Saints Row. I want to be able to play it without having that weird feeling in the back of my mind that I'm somehow doing something wrong, or something's not right here. Though I don't play either game all that much anyway (considering a re-play of Red Dead Redemption and weaning myself from Skyrim) I would like to be able to play Grand Theft Auto V without having the icky feeling in my stomach.
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