Grand Theft Auto IV: Convergence that pulls a u-ey from counter-culture to cultured

Grand Theft Auto IV: Convergence that pulls a u-ey from counter-culture to cultured

The relationship between games and storytelling is usually more “hook-up” than “marriage”. But it’s a match that audiences crave and that FanTrust has counseled for years.

Storytelling is critical to compelling entertainment, videogames included. So with the release of Grand Theft Auto IV, I was psyched to see a game that Gamespot praises for its “superb” storyline and characters.

The key to the franchise’s success is storytelling, GTA IV writer/director Lazlow Jones said in a recent radio interview: “Fundamental storytelling that becomes so engaging that you find yourself emotionally involved with polygons. None of this exists, but we’ve made a living, breathing world.”

Fans and critics alike are raving about GTA IV’s attention to detail and hyperrealism, which — combined with satire — make this game great. The Starbucks in the game is called Bean Machine: “All Beans Lovingly Picked by Children in Central America.” The Statue of Liberty is replaced with the Statue of Happiness, her torch now a grande-sized coffee. Times Square billboards riff on underwear-as-fashion. “It’s a satire of not only New York, but of American consumerism and culture,” Jones said in his recent NPR interview.

In today’s America, spanking consumer culture may ultimately prove more subversive than stealing cars and shooting people.

Surprised that even National Public Radio fanned the flames for the heralded “video game event of the year”? Maybe it was a case of “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” Because in the GTA IV’s crazy hall-of-mirrors world, you can steal a car and tune in to any number of radio stations, including one that sounds suspiciously familiar to public radio listeners.

Ultimately, if convergence is about strange bedfellows: you’ve gotta love the hook-up between action adventure shooters and public broadcasting.