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Making Grand Theft Auto Costs $278 million, Criticized For Violence And Not Having a Female Lead Character

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Grand Theft Auto V was reported to be the most expensive video game ever created so far by scotsman.com. Whether believing in numbers presented by scotsman (£175 000 = ~$278 000 for development and marketing together), or the other sources from internet, development and marketing budget estimate combined is around $265 million - $278 million. The game is now out for PS3 and Xbox 360. There's possibility that the game could be ported to the next gen consoles PS4 and Xbox One later one, also.

Lets compare budget of GTA V to some other previous high-end budget games: Star Wars: The Old Republic ($200 million), Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim ($80-100 million), GTA IV ($100 million), Gran Turismo 5 ($80 million).

As we can see, GTA V:s budget is enormous, topping it's predecessor's and Elder Scrolls Skyrim's budget by far, being over two times more expensive game project. That's what it takes nowadays with top quality graphics and game engine, combined with voice acting and vast open game world. Is it all that necessary? Well, at least gamers seem to appreciate efforts of the creator, Rockstar Games, since the series has already sold approximately 135 million copies this far. GTA V is expected to sell 25 million copies within the first year since it's release, achieving sales of £1bn (New GTA V release tipped to rake in £1bn in sales. scotsman.com.).

Game industry has reached the point, where high budget games with high-end graphics require budgets equivalent to big modern Hollywood movies, with real actors. For example, Pirates of Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, which had quite much CGI (computer generated graphics), did cost around $225 million to make. Less, than GTA V. Reasonable? The Terminator (1984) required around $6,4 million, while it's highly praised sequel T2: The Judgement Day, with expensive special effects at the time, required $102 million to be created, somewhat equal to Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's budget.

You can pretty much recognize the scale of expense in modern AAA (top class, top graphics) games such as GTA V right here. They're big business now, compared to the games in nineties, which required only fraction of the development budget of nowadays big games. Fallout 1 (1997) required $3 million for development, while Wing Commander IV (1996) was made with $12 (big budget on it's day, with real actors acting in the movie cut-scenes).

In GTA V, you have not one, but three main characters, each having their own personalities. You can switch between the control of characters pretty much as you like, on the fly. This will bring fresh tactical approach to some missions such as heists, where each character is doing his own job. Maybe you want to switch from the close range assaulting character to the sniper in the background. Several critics have been complaining that all the lead characters are men. There's no strong woman characters, and the ones included in game are seen rather as "objects" for men. Needless to say, since the Rockstar Games (the developer) have taken such direction, it's obvious that the game is made to appeal more towards male audience, than female. Rockstar have taken their direction, and I fail to see who are the critics to complain about sexism and lack of strong female lead character in a video game? Do we have to bring real-life "equality" and real life aspects into a fictional video game, really? Are developers in gaming business not free to choose their own fictional presentation of their game world in their game anymore?

Critics are demanding developers of big games to turn their game worlds into family friendly real-life simulators, with equality of sexes. Jesus, if developers wants to make a game with open world, with lead characters being only men, without strong women - if they want to create it for male audience, who are critics to whine about it, demanding, that the game should had been made with female audience in mind too? I believe in freedom of artistic presentation.

Here are some of the complaints recently made by critics considering GTA V:

"[...] For all that the game does right, it has a genuinely problematic aspect that is not its enthusiasm for violence or sex but its lack of interest in women as something other than lustful airheads (notwithstanding a late-game cameo by Mr. Houser’s mother, Geraldine Moffat, a British actress of the 1960s and ’70s). One of the only young women in the game not oversexed and under-read is sucked into a jet turbine" (Grand Theft Auto V Is a Return to the Comedy of Violence. Chris Suellentrop. New York Times.).

"[...] Rockstar will be bashed about the fact, that game doesn't have a female lead character, and rightfully so" (Jonas Thente. Dagens Nyheter (Swedish magazine, translated).

Some other subjects of criticism focus on immigrant discrimination and interrogation tactics, which are quite similar to those which US military used when interrogating terrorists. Needless to say, critics are just throwing fuel to the fire, and it's going to be all just extra publicity for GTA V and Rockstar Games, helping game sales to shoot through the roof.

Too violent for everyone? Make it R-rated or NC-17. Can't rely to the lead character (because no female, or whatever the reason may be)? Then don't buy the game, get another one with a lead character you like to play as and can rely to. It's up to us customers to choose what we want to play and which games we'll pass because they don't appeal to us. In my opinion we can't demand game developers to make their own work of art appealing for everyone.

What do you think, is the criticism justified, or should the creators be able to choose their target audience freely and create the game world as they like?



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