‘Bitches, money, weed!’ I shouted, as I ploughed through a crowd of Hare Krishnas in my stolen sports car. I was eight years old and whilst I had no idea what two of the three things I’d just shouted were, a deeply primordial part of my brain knew that I definitely wanted all of them, almost as much as I wanted the flame thrower I’d seen my friend melt a cop’s face with the day before.
This, for me, was Grand Theft Auto. It was glorious.
Sixteen years later and as Grand Theft Auto V hits the shelves, it’s still glorious. High definition glorious. Now I’m melting faces on a 46 inch plasma screen and shouting ‘Feminism, money, weed!’ because I’ve grown into a liberal who doesn’t like vocabulary that objectifies women.
And whilst, flagrant misuse of the word ‘bitches!’ aside, I’ve remained the same, the world has definitely moved on. In 1997 Grand Theft Auto was met with a veritable deluge of outraged hatred from conservatives, parents and probably hare Krishnas (who were sick of getting run over) which led to some countries pulling the title from their store shelves – here’s looking at you Brazil. But today (and unlike its recently released competitor, the highly amusing Gangster-President-Vs-Alien-Overlord sim Saints Row IV) Grand Theft Auto V has caused no noticeable outrage, err, anywhere. Not even Australia, who have a history of pointless attempts at stopping their gaming populace from indulging in this stuff, tainted by the fairly pathetic futility of trying to prevent what is arguably the smartest collective subsection of the population from accessing something they want so bad that some kids will try and absorb it through their face whilst screaming in indecipherable French.
To shed some light on on the curious absence of outrage, we turn to David Kushner, author of Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto, who in recent conversation Dave Lee of the BBC had this to say.
“I think the gamers are now in power. People in their 40s and 50s – they don’t feel threatened by games anymore.
We’ve seen this cycle in other forms of media too. Elvis Presley – when he went on the Ed Sullivan Show, he was only shown from the waist up. People thought his swivelling hips were too outrageous.”
Point. Anyone who was given a Commodore 64 for their tenth birthday is now in their forties. Original SNES owners are in their thirties. Even those youngsters who started life on the PSX are of graduate age, mid-twenties and becoming the young doctors, teachers, architects, writers, artists and lawyers of today. The gamer, has grown up.
My children will develop in a world where their father is as comfortable with video games as he is with reading books or making sandwiches. Students in my class (believe it or not, that’s how I pay the majority of my bills) will be learning from a guy who, sixteen years ago, was grinding his way through Crash Bandicoot, quite possibly shouting ‘Bitches, money, weed!’ because he really didn’t know what that meant.
Today’s young law makers, politicians and businessmen are bending the world to their will, a will which was affected by a youth spent with Defender of the Crown, Streets of Rage 2 and Pokemon Red. Soon, the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Pat Robertson will be gone, consigned to the fiery pits of hell which we all know don’t really exist. And it’s the gamers, the nerds, the cosplayers, the beautiful, liberal, diversity loving geeks of today who will run the show.
Our minds are open. Our puzzle solving skills, honed by years of Tetris and Professor Layton, are unmatched. Our will, tested by completing the brutally difficult Dark Souls on a speed run, is unbendable. Our patience, drip fed by teaser trailers and map pack screenshots, is unending. The onus rests with us to make the world a better place – and we’re no strangers to impossible quests.
We are gamers. We are the future. We are legion.