GTA: San Andreas a Problem?

In 2006, Spike Lee dropped his new joint Inside Man. In this film, the only child hostage, a young black boy, is playing a overly violent video game that has the typical ‘black thug’ as the main character. I think that this is meant to be an indictment of the hugely popular 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

San Andreas begins with the main character Carl Johnson (CJ) coming back home to the state of San Andreas as a result of his mother being murdered. IGN.com, a leading video game website, lists San Andreas as a video game among “the best”, giving it a 9.9/10 rating for its portrayal of CJ’s story as he attempts to “save his family and to take control of the streets” (http://www.ign.com/games/grand-theft-auto-san-andreas/ps2-611957).

The young boy in Inside Man explains, “You get points for doing dirt. Like jacking a car or selling crack” (53:30). This is similar to San Andreas, where you can steal a car, earn money by killing the civilians that inhabit the game – with prostitutes holding a significant amount of petty cash – , or participate in the main story missions that often involve seizing gang territory for your Grove Street crew (I didn’t realize till a few years later that Samuel L. Jackson played the crooked Officer Tenpenny). San Andreas became so massive that even Dave Chappelle had to give CJ a shout out in his Chappelle’s Show Tupac rap.

 

Personally, I was probably around 10 years old when I first got to play San Andreas. If Spike Lee’s critique is that video games such as this will influence the behavior of black children, then I must respectfully disagree. This is mainly because, after playing the game, I was not thinking about ‘jacking’ my next-door neighbor’s car, and neither did any of the other black kids I knew who also played the game. But, when I think back to those numerous hours spent on the beloved Playstation 2, I also realize that CJ is the only black protagonist I can think of from a video game. So San Andreas may be a damning piece of evidence that video game companies have been misrepresenting African-Americans.

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1 thought on “GTA: San Andreas a Problem?”

  1. Cool piece, @kylej16. I actually googled the video game right after I watched the movie and I think that the boy’s video game was actually supposed to resemble 50 Cent’s video game, “Bulletproof,” which was released in 2005 and which received criticism for its use of violence. Right after he shows off his video game, the young boy commends the bank robber by quoting 50 Cent: “It’s like 50 says, ‘Get rich or die trying.”

    Like

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