Junot Díaz on Grand Theft Auto IV

I haven’t purchased this game yet because, as the new more responsible version of myself, I haven’t wanted to pony up for a XBOX 360 or PS3 and, more truthfully, there isn’t enough room in my life for my marriage, fatherhood, my job, this blog, and GTA IV. Vice City and San Andreas took up significantly large enough chunks out of my life to know what I’d be getting into with GTA IV. With age comes the knowledge to know when to quit while you’re ahead.

However, I do fear that I’m missing a relevant cultural phenomenon. This article by Junot Díaz in the Wall Street Journal explores the cultural impact GTA IV and finds it wanting. GTA IV, he argues, is not the video game generation’s “The Godfather.” It’s not even its “Scarface.”

“GTA IV for all its awesomeness doesn’t have the sordid bipolar humanity of “The Sopranos,” and it certainly lacks the epic flawed protagonists that define “The Godfather” and its bloodier lesser brother “Scarface.” Successful art tears away the veil and allows you to see the world with lapidary clarity; successful art pulls you apart and puts you back together again, often against your will, and in the process reminds you in a visceral way of your limitations, your vulnerabilities, makes you in effect more human. Does GTA IV do that? Not for me it doesn’t, and heck, I love this damn game.”

Despite GTA IV’s cultural and narrative shortcomings, Díaz recognizes this platforms potential and relishes in the belief that the next truly transformative video game is on its way. Díaz quotes “The Six Million Dollar Man,” by saying, “we have the technology.” I’m wont to agree. It’s a no-brainer. With GTA IV’s box office success, $500 million worldwide in its first week, top narrative talent (like Díaz, perhaps) will inevitably find its way into the video game industry. Maybe it’s time for a console upgrade.

Photo illustration by Sergio Capursi/WSJ; Rockstar Games (stills); iStockphoto (frame, nail)

(Thanks for the link, jdlrm.)

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