Thursday, 3 October 2013

Grand Theft Auto: The trouble with those pesky Saints and Sleeping Dogs

So after baited breath, GTA V has finally landed. When the delays were initially announced I was one of the folks who weren’t that fussed, why? Because I knew that not only did there have to be a damn good reason for it but I had faith in Rockstar that they wanted to get the game right more than hitting the schedule. My faith was not misplaced, it is a beauty to behold and technicalities aside, I can breathe the characters (except Trevor, no-one should breathe that guy). This game is amazing, it is a true force of nature. Characters feel real, I can genuinely relate to the them, especially Franklin and that is what raises the bar above the well documented violence. Yes there is violence and the fact is that we should feel uncomfortable, it should give you reason for a bit of pause as far as I am concerned. For me, the simple truth is that I brought an 18 rated game. End of.

This is not however a review of the magnificence of GTA V, this is about one little frustration that I have with the series. A frustration highlighted by playing 2 other games, 2012’s Sleeping Dogs and Saints Row 4.
Sleeping Dogs is a brilliant game and I urge anyone who hasn’t played it to give it a go. Basically it’s about an undercover cop making his way through one of the Triads, the Sun On Yee in this case, in modern day Hong Kong. It plays well and the story is compelling. This game came from leftfield to totally surprise me; it was a game that I couldn’t put down. About ¾ into the game, the character of ‘Broken Nose’ Jiang is introduced, a red pole or lieutenant in the Sun On Yee. Initially I was surprised and buoyed by the experience but also a bit wary. The game has it’s fair share of women, the usual girlfriends and victims so I was expecting one of the inevitable awful demise or ‘doing it for love’ cop out storylines.

But Broken Nose Jiang is a gift that keeps on giving, shrewd, intelligent, very aware of the fact that whilst some her peers despise her presence as a female in the Sun On Yee, she has commanded respect by being badass enough to maintain her position and rise through its ranks.

As the game unfolded, I was treated to some tough love and further revelations via Winston’s Mom. Although not an affiliate, she is a force to be reckoned with. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t played but urge you to find a copy and give this a go.
Then we come to the 3rd Street Saints in the form of Saints Row. One of the things I love about this game is that by its 3rd instalment, it is not trying to be GTA, it’s a giant pisstake (for the love of God, Hulk Hogan has a part in it!). We then have the DeWynter sisters, Kiki and Viola and Kenzie Kensington, which is Saints Row does Lisabeth Salander and of course Shaundi, the lieutenant to your character.
This is not a review of those games but both Sleeping Dogs & Saints Row 3 & 4 have done something which I am sorry to say GTA does not. They have kick ass strong females in lead positions. There is a distinct lack of them in GTA V and while I fully understand that the focus of the game on Michael, Franklin and Trevor could not allow for another and that there is pastiche and fun to be poked at our way of life and world we find ourselves in, you mean to tell me that you couldn’t have just made one of them a woman?
I do think this is a weak link in the chain of GTA, I have watched the games evolve and focus not merely on the joy of carnage, but also about people and the situations they find themselves in and what they do about it, right or wrong. There is a part in GTA V *spoiler* which Franklin’s Aunt reminds him to not forget where he has come from and about his people to which Franklin responds by asking her if she is asking him to be a gangbanger now because he has experienced success. It is a perfect summary of the attitude in those cities and towns all over the world, this idea that because you have become a success, you are no longer keeping it real. You threaten to shatter the façade by daring to be different and the haters around you would prefer that you did what was comfortable.
That is why I love the advance of gaming and the current state of games. That simple exchange, mired in waves of frustration and puts it out there in technicolour as to why our teenagers find escape from their known environment so difficult, so challenging and for some a death sentence. You have to know that the haters do not want you to change the status quo.
Now if this level can be infused to Franklin and Michael….we’re still working on Trevor, give me a female character of substance. So far I have found one. C’mon Rockstar, you know you can. Please don’t tell me no-one is interested as a certain lady by the name of Lara Croft, still carries weight. We are not talking tampons and deep and meaningfuls here, Saints Row and Sleeping Dogs didn’t have to pull that to make good games and good characters.
If your argument then that there are no believable women like this, ok we all know strong women who do amazing and marvellous things but not the trigger happy lunatics like Trevor, allow me to impart this one name to you: Griselda Blanco
Born in Cartagena, Columbia at aged 11 kidnapped and tried to ransom another child. She then shot the child when the ransom was not paid. She was a prostitute until aged 20 and in the 1970’s emigrated to the US with her 2nd husband. From Queens, New York they established a sizable cocaine business, and in April 1975, Blanco was indicted on federal drug conspiracy charges along with 30 of her subordinates, at that time the biggest cocaine case in history. She fled to Colombia before she could be arrested, but in the late 1970s she returned to Miami.Blanco was involved in much of the drug-related violence known as the Cocaine Cowboy Wars that plagued Miami in the late 1970s and early 1980s, when cocaine supplanted marijuana.
Her distribution network spanned the United States, and brought in US$80 million per month. She was suspected of masterminding over two hundred murders. She was known as The Cocaine Godmother and ‘The Black Widow’ until her death in 2012 which was ironically in the style of motorbike assassination that she created and favoured.
I could go on and on about the woman, there is more than enough info out there and some of the stuff, you just couldn’t make up. But she is not alone. All over the world there are examples of women who do not shy away from criminality but take an active part in it. We know of the infamous exploits of Madam Alex & Heidi Fleiss but there are other examples like Judy Moran in Australia and Concetta Scalisi in Italy.
The point is that the material is out there, it is ripe for extraction. Apparently during the creation of Saints Row the Third in an early concept stage, Kiki and her sister Viola were originally Japanese twins called Natsuko and Yukako, nicknamed Suki and Yuki for short. They led their own all-female gang, to contrast with the original Morningstar concept of an all-male gang. The two gangs were merged to streamline the story, and the DeWynters were made Caucasian to avoid the stereotype of “badass Asian chicks that are subservient to an older man.”
That’s the kind of consideration I like to see in developers. So my question is RockStar….what are you waiting for, will you rise to the challenge?

I don't know about you, but how about a drink before the devastation, courtesy of The Drunken Moogle
Liberty Carbomb (GTA Drink)
Ingredients:1 oz Baily’s Irish Creme
1 oz Jack Daniel’s Whiskey
1 glass Guiness Stout

Directions: Drink like any other “bomb” drink.
Best before or after drinking Hot Coffee.

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