GTA V’s Strip Club: How Much is Too Much?
Now obviously the world is decidedly smitten with the latest instalment in the Grand Theft Auto franchise. I mean, the graphics are delicious, the characters compelling and the activities more numerous than the few words I have at my disposal can illuminate. Basically it’s the dream sand box for many a gamer (and plenty of recent converts) thanks to its virtually limitless supply of recreational activities and thought provoking encounters.
But there is one that still, at the risk of eliminating what little masculinity I have left, bugs me a bit.
I’m talking about the graphic detail that Rockstar has gone into to create its line of strip clubs.
Now there are plenty of sides to this argument. I could launch off on a Maude Flanders-esque tirade asking “Will someone think of the children?!”, who will inevitably buy this game despite its R18+ rating; I could ask if this is really necessary in an age where female gamers still struggle for respect and equality at the best of times; hell, I could even dispute it based on the simplest concept that vidya gamez have enough trouble in the world without becoming full-on porn simulators.
But instead I’d prefer to ask why. Why exactly is this part of the game so well developed?
Is it because the game is well developed in general? Is it because Grand Theft Auto as a series has a history of mixing in some sexuality with its violence, and this has only become more overt over time?
Is it just to prove exactly what you can do with that R18+ sticker on the front of the box?
Well I suppose firstly we should take a step back and examine exactly what we are talking about for those of you in the audience (and I don’t really assume there are many of you) who don’t know what I’m talking about.
The strip club sections of GTA V, found by following the unicorn icon on your map, are basically one of many novelty areas of the game which don’t add much value to your overall experience (except for occasionally functioning as an area explored by a mission in the game). Basically they are exactly like most strip clubs in real life (or so I’ve heard),
sparsely populated, under lit and soul-dirtying in a guilty pleasure kind of way.
I suppose it’s the ‘private dance’ section which is really the focus of this article. The other sections of the strip club, while suggestive, aren’t that much more than you would have found in GTA: Vice City (aside from slightly better choreography and far better graphics). The back room section, on the other hand, basically allows you to manipulate a very close up camera angle on a topless stripper while she bumps and grinds her way into your good graces. You can flirt, tip and grope the stripper of your choice (there being about four choices with typically white trash names) for as long as you want – presuming the security guard doesn’t catch you groping her and throw you out of the club.Specifically the actions you can enjoy within a GTA V strip club are: watch women pole dance, tip women pole dancing, “make it rain” on women pole dancing (which I’m pretty sure costs more than $6 in real life), order a drink and get a private dance in the back room.
Incentivised groping aside, this section is fairly graphic in its depiction of a half-naked female body in a sexual setting – and realistically is worthy of the R18+ rating all by itself.
Now I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy (if that’s the right word) a little bit of trivialised nudity between my killing sprees while playing the game – but that guilty pleasure I talked about earlier had less to do with the “what my wife doesn’t know won’t hurt her” mentality occupying most strip club veterans and a lot more to do with “what does everyone else think about this, and why is this really necessary?”.
I mean, sexuality in video games has been a button issue ever since Mass Effect allowed you to have (heavily censored) intercourse with your ship companions, but GTA V was definitely pushing the envelope in a conscious way by including these graphic sections into the final game – and especially by having them freely accessible at virtually any point in your journey, as opposed to being a 10 second cinematic in an otherwise long and sexless adventure (Mass Effect).
I don’t want to be the guy saying “what about the kids playing this” since at the end of the day these sections are optional and children shouldn’t be playing adult content – but the reality is that you don’t make 1 billion in sales in your first three days by marketing to purely 18 and over.
So I have to ask, how much is too much? Did Rockstar cross a line by including these freely accessible sex scenes (for want of a better word) in the most popular game of the year? Is this kind of content short-sighted in a market where parties below the age group are regularly involved? Is this offensive to female gamers or just another part of life?
I’d like to answer all these questions with a black and white response. But I can’t.
And that makes me uneasy.