About Suzie Grand Theft Auto: The MMO? No thanks!
February 11th, 2009 by Suzie
Del.icio.us | Digg | Technorati | Reddit | Stumble Upon

Sex, Lies and Video GamesA couple of weeks ago, Jon, from The Clockwork Manual, sent me an email. What, he asked, do you think about a Grand Theft Auto MMO? In fact, he did more than just ask what I thought. He wrote a post on why it would rock.

If there’s one thing Rockstar can do better than any other developer in the world it’s create a bustling metropolis that feels lived in by the thousands of characters seen roaming the streets. How easy then, would it be to see other players filling the shoes of the people you pass by in the street without a second glance. That taxi driver that dropped you off at your mission marker could be someone on the other side of the world, saving up a little more in-game cash to hire some protection. That hotdog vendor you just paid could be someone else playing a minigame in between missions.

You can read the entire email here, and he’s definitely persuasive. But somehow - I wasn’t convinced. It took me a while to figure out why, but in the end I sent him an email back. Here it is:

Jon~

World of Warcraft is, for sure, the most popular MMO, but it is hardly the only one. As you’ve pointed out many competitors have tried - and failed - to siphon away some of its legions of players. But Wow is just an evolution of Everquest, and there will be something else along eventually. The problem is that MMO’s tend to be more of a generational thing. Played one - and you’ve played them all. It doesn’t really matter if it’s WoW, EQ, or Maple Story… it all comes down to a grind, a quest, and a guild.

The problem with GTA as a MMO is not that it wouldn’t be popular. It would. And for all the wrong reasons. MMO’s are skimpy on plot; they have to be. How else does it make sense for every person to do the same damn quest? But the only reason GTA becomes more than just a pointless violent rape-fantasy is because of the story. Because of the very carefully defined main character. Because of the progression and the consequences.

Grand Theft Auto is a highly controversial series. As it should be. It steers incredibly close to being violent pornography. It’s a world where prostitutes are nameless, disposable commodities. It’s a world that worships power. It’s a world where crime is glorified, and the psychopathic rampage is considered the height of humour.

Now, in the hands of a skilled writer, this kind of dystopian background provides great fodder. But the average gamer let loose to wreck havok will push the bounds of morality as far as they can go. Because it’s not real, right? There’s no consequences, no guilt, and we all need to explore the taboo sometimes.

Now, I’m definitely not suggesting that violence in video games breeds violence. But I am suggesting that we need to be careful what worlds we inhabit for long hours of our day. I think we need to be careful about what stories and myths we instill in our kids, and what those cultural codes will mean in the long term. Stories are important to humans, that’s why we expend so much time and effort on them. They are powerful things, and when we repeatedly run a certain story or set of cultural beliefs we will be influenced by it in some way. Rockstar knows that. There’s no children in GTA.

MMO’s are more than just a game or story. They become societies. As a game, World of Warcraft is pretty repetitive. As a global economy, a social structure, and a place where people socialise, work, and play, it’s pretty awesome. GTA4, meanwhile, is a great game. It’s got a heck of a story. But it isn’t a society I want to live in. And it isn’t a society that I want every impressionable 14 year old to spend most of their teens in either.

Looking forward to your response,

~Suzie

5 Responses to “Grand Theft Auto: The MMO? No thanks!”

  1. Dave Says:

    It’s already happened, a while ago a group of modders made SAMP or San Andreas Multiplayer. Spawning from that was role-play servers that are really restrictive to the types of characters and players they allow on there servers. We are talking about creating entire back stories for your character and to have those stories checked by admins. So it dose work, its more getting that GTA audience (generic 13year old males) to play it will be the tough bit.

  2. Gamekitty Says:

    Yay a new post! I like GTA but I would have to pass if it became an MMO.

  3. Gamekitty Says:

    Yay a post! I’m just so happy to see a new post /dance . I agree, some things just don’t go together, like oil and water,toothpaste and orange juice or GTA and MMOs ;)

  4. William Says:

    I’m a little confused. Your objection seems two pronged, but I can’t figure out where you’re putting the emphasis.

    I understand the possible negative effects of emphasizing immersion so much in a world that’s hallmark is its ammorality, but you also talk about the story driven nature of GTA, and how the MMO genre kind of wrecks that. Do these tie together in your mind? Or are they just two seperate objections?

  5. Jim Gonzalez Says:

    Definitely agree with you. The GTA world is not where you would want you’re head to be for a good chunk of your day. Gonna have to agree with Gamekitty and go ahead and say “some things just don’t go together, like toothpaste and orange juice”. By the way, if you ever need a car shipped overseas, look up Auto Shipping Network. I just used them and they did a great job. Keep up the good work!! Keep GTA a game!!

Leave a Reply