As I type this, a few hundred thousand people are likely skipping class and/or work to bask in the newly released universe of Grand Theft Auto V.
Believe it or not, however, there are a few scattered people out there who had the balls to post a review score that was not perfect. Most notably thus far would be Greg Tito of Escapist Magazine, whose 3.5 out of 5 star review has received comments not even said about Ariel Castro before he killed himself. Worse off is Carolyn Petit, Gamespot editor and reviewer for GTA V. Despite giving it a 9/10, she called out what she felt was a “politically muddled and profoundly misogynistic” gameplay experience.
That review has 15,996 comments. I’ll let you figure out what they sound like.
Dearly departed, Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert spent the majority of his career never needing to deal with people who got their knickers in a bunch over his ratings. Long before iMDB could be exploited by users and rigged to bring down the average score of classics such as The Godfather to the same level as drivel like Gone Fishin’, people read newspapers and magazines to help them decide whether or not a piece of media was worth their money.
As he began to adopt the use of the internet and social media to both voice his opinion and interact with readers and fans, he got himself involved in the topic of video games as art. That is one of those sacred cows I am not going to touch with Lexington Steele’s cock, but I will say this: Ebert presented his side of the “no” argument with all of the class and respect one should expect from a professional journalist of old. I can only imagine the bile spewed in his direction on Twitter at the height of the coverage of the debate.
Ebert is dead, but the men and women publishing GTA V reviews are very much alive and able to read feedback. Shall we have a look?
I’m trying real, REAL hard to not be depressed about the gamers genuinely furious at me for “only” giving GTA V a 9/10.
— Jim Sterling (@JimSterling) September 16, 2013
My favorite comment thus far on the GTA V review: “WHY is Carolyn reviewing this title? Never forget the “Going Home” fiasco!!”
— Carolyn Petit (@carolynmichelle) September 16, 2013
Also, I’m drunk right now.
— Greg Tito (@Gregtito) September 17, 2013
This firestorm has called into question many things: the need for reviews, the issue of assigning number scores to reviews and, of course, online bullying. We all watched as Phil Fish quit the industry thanks to the consistent slandering he received online. Reviews editors may have gotten into gaming to turn their hobbies into a career, but they have to be admired for sticking to it if this is the future of discussion and criticism on the internet.
The source of this issue is an interesting one. When you consider Grand Theft Auto, I usually do not think of the nerdy, Doritos-infused fanboy pecking away in comment threads while the sun considers rising. I typically envision the everyday working person, possibly married or attached and even supporting a child or two. They bust their ass at their job and, when life allows for such small things, want to wind down a bit. Grand Theft Auto V not only allows such recreation, it looks to be a wise investment; $59.99 in American currency can be used for a lot of music and movies.
There are, however, many other iterations of Rockstar superfans, and these special people are the ones igniting the flame wars on boards everywhere. Should you find yourself in a position where your opinion on a Rockstar product is consumed by the public, said opinion had best be nothing less than “this game is better than an orgasm, cure for cancer and petting twenty-seven puppies all at once.” If not, as you have already seen, you are in for a world of venom usually reserved for the fangs of a king cobra.
This sort of behavior has been fostered by, I imagine, years of anonymous posting with no real world ramifications. Hiding behind an avatar and a monitor that is hundreds, if not thousands of physical miles away from the source of an imperfect reviewer’s hands makes it easy to wish they and their family would die in a fiery car wreck. Civil discourse is not a language any troll speaks, and we may have missed the opportunity to remedy this epidemic thanks to the size and scope of the internet.
You see, every time this happens (Resident Evil 6, The Last of Us, and now GTA V), people continue to act genuinely shocked at the hate speech sent in their direction when a spark of dissenting opinion lights up social media. Reviewers, to their credit, have developed a thick enough skin to absorb the hate and possibly one day channel it into a beam of energy that will wipe the race of trolls off the face of the earth…this is starting to sound like a great idea for a game, as it turns out. We act appalled, but in the end, writers who go even slightly against the grain have come to expect a certain level of bitter pills to swallow in their work.
Take this away from my stupid column: play Grand Theft Auto V or don’t. If you choose the former, craft your own opinion about the gaming experience and live your life. Reviews are, after all, entirely subjective based on other lives that may have been experienced in entirely different circumstances than yours.
Just my opinion.