It’s already been well established that Rockstar’s ‘Grand Theft Auto’ series is clearly aimed at the bloke market, and no, there’s no option to play as a female character during the games themselves. Both of these issues have been covered numerous times before in, often vitriolic, online articles that have generated countless arguments in the process, so let’s only cover this bit briefly.
To be honest, as a female gamer I don’t have a problem with either of those things. Yes, it’s most definitely bloke-orientated but that’s no secret, and there are games out there that are geared towards female players too. There are also lots of games with female leads, male leads, the choice of a male or a female character, or both combined in a team. And there are so many more that will let you customise your character to create a version of yourself, if that’s what floats your boat, although I did that in Guitar Hero and it was so creepy seeing an animated version of myself that I ended up making an alternate-reality version of David Tennant’s Doctor instead. He was cool. He had TARDIS-blue bat wings, tattoos and guyliner. But I digress.
While I’m not fussed about the gender of the lead characters or the market it’s aimed at, there are some things that do matter to me aside from good gameplay. I look for great scenery, good character development and yes, good music. Perhaps that’s a female thing, perhaps not, but I find that if a game location feels like somewhere I would actually enjoy spending time, I’m going to find it easier to get immersed in the game. Ubisoft’s ‘Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag’ and Rockstar’s ‘Red Dead Redemption’ spring to mind as excellent examples – they both had fantastic and detailed scenery, interesting characters and well thought-out musical scores.
The GTA series ticks all these boxes but is actually huge so, for the sake of time, let’s concentrate on the most popular title ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’, which follows newly-immigrated Niko Bellic as he murderously rampages and thieves his way through the four districts of his welcoming new home, Liberty City. He’s the very definition of the immigrant that Donald Trump warned you about.
And it’s actually quite a lot of fun. As you might have already guessed I’m a big fan of open-world gaming, mainly because you have the option of either taking it seriously and progressing through the game missions, or just generally farting about for laughs and causing havoc. The latter is very much my style.
After a long day, it’s quite therapeutic to steal a taxi cab complete with passenger and then find a jump to take – their random screams are hilarious! Then there’s the joy of nicking a moped so you can play pedestrian bowling along a busy path, or searching for the man with a saucepan on his head. Let’s not forget how much fun it is to run along the park benches kicking random folks in the groin! And who can beat wrecking a car until it catches fire, abandoning it at a packed intersection and then seeing how many other cars you can get to chain-explode from it? My record is ten. Glitched, hovering, crispy people are a bonus too!
Honestly, I may be a Viking but I’m not a psychopath – it’s just a game, you know?
GTA IV also has one of the funniest and most entertaining glitches – the Swingset Glitch. This is basically a swingset at a park which isn’t correctly attached to the ground, causing anyone who walks or drives into it to be randomly crushed and/or launched high into the air contrary to the laws of physics. It proved to be so popular that Rockstar never produced a patch for it, and you can still be hilariously flung to your death in the game today.
Now, as a female, I feel that I do have to say something about the choice of locations available to take dates and friends to, because they’re all very bloke-ish – fast-food joints, bad cabaret, bowling, pool halls, darts and strip clubs. While I’d probably be up for the bowling, I’m not sure I’d be that happy if Niko took me to play darts and then on to the burger place that’s routinely complained about by other NPCs. There’s also a comedy club in town but the performances of both Katt Williams and Ricky Gervais are cringe-worthy so, if you do take a date there, take the opportunity to go and make a cup of tea or something while the cut-scene is playing.
Speaking of dates, here’s where my one gripe at GTA IV comes in. Rockstar has come under heavy fire due to the rampant misogyny included in these games, which portray most of the womenfolk in the GTA universe as vacuous and annoying slappers. It’s true, although speaking as someone who has gone out of their way to boot a random NPC granny up the arse, I don’t really feel I have the right to complain about it.
However, as side missions in the game, Niko can set up dates with certain women through a website at the TW@ Cafe, or if you prefer, The Twat Cafe. Now, these ladies are all supremely annoying. If you don’t get it just right they will criticise what he’s wearing, what car he’s driving or where he’s taking them. One of them constantly refers to herself in the third person, and one of them will start stalking him and texting him kinky pictures.
But, get this, the whole point of these dates is to finally shag these women so that they will give you in-game bonuses. Bang Carmen and she’ll give you health boosts. Boink Kiki and she’ll get the cops off your back when the heat’s on. Give it to Alex and she’ll get you a 50% discount at clothing stores. Now that all sounds useful, but what kind of crappy message is that giving out?
“Hey gamers! If you shag women, they’ll give you free stuff in return!”
That is not good, Rockstar, not good at all. And does Niko ever turn up for his dates with flowers or a box of chocolates like a proper gentleman? Does he hell, the unromantic git. Not even one damned heart-shaped balloon.
Having said that though, the guy-friends are quite unappealing, annoying or whiny as well, so the door does swing both ways a little bit. They’ll also grant you favours (although you don’t have to shag them), but at least two of them are completely frickin’ insane, one is lecherous to the point of being creepy, and one is a huge complainer. Even Niko himself has major issues, stemming from the fact that he’s portrayed as a two-timing, mass-murderering cleptomaniac. It’s odd, but most people don’t seem to pick up on that.
So in conclusion? Pretty much everybody will feel insulted by this game at some point, but it’s actually fun to play. Yes, even for a female!