Grand Theft Auto IV as notorious of a game as it is, presents one of the best commentaries on modern American society to date, in a highly interactive and free environment. The game revolves around the values of the modern American Dream, bringing about phrases such as, "The money makes decisions, it's the American way" or "I'll do it as long as it pays." It strives to embody the insanity in which our consumer driven capitalistic in every feature it has to offer, as a means to mock "the American way".
Brenda Laurel in her book the Utopian Entrepreneur makes a valid and very intriguing point, "Values are everywhere, embedded in every aspect of our culture and lurking in the very natures of our media and our technologies" (Laurel 62). The most fantastic stories told are the ones that have the most impact on our values as a culture. In terms of GTA IV, the designers have modeled a similar representation of one of the most symbolized cities in America, New York, and filled it with what they perceive as our "values" everywhere throughout this place known as Liberty City. One of the most iconic figures is the Statue of Happiness on Happiness Island, a mockery of the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York. The Statue of Happiness holds in it's hand a cup of Starbucks coffee, and a book of corporate law. It speaks for itself as an icon and satire on America. Another key medium in which our values as a culture are portrayed is within the radio station heard anytime the player's avatar is inside a vehicle. In particular the commercials poke some serious fun at our consumerist values, trying to get the player to almost go out and buy fake products advertised in a fake world. The player hears commercials like, "Did he really do it? That's not the question, it's are you going to win or are you going to go home! Watch the Science of Crime a crime show where scientists sit in a lab all day, while we watch with utter boredom. We are taking out the drama of from the crime show and making it forensically boring. The Science of Crime, only on CNT." This is obviously a mockery of CSI or other modern crime shows. The game also has an in game television that allows you to watch shows advertised on billboards, the radio, or even the in-game internet, one of which is called "I'm Rich", a show that mocks E!'s portrayal of Hollywood glamor and the over spending of wealthy Americans. One quote from the show is about a fake yacht a hotel heiress owns, the narrator states, "This is Chloe Parker's 9 trillion dollar yacht that costs 300 million dollars a day just to run." Though one can only laugh at the seriousness the in game characters use to present the culture of this fake world that mimics our own, it's all but frightening that some of these values have truth in their roots.
The tortoise and hare story Laurel tells us, where the Hare wins the race due to his ability to do everything fast, from trading stocks on his handheld, to eating fast, and driving fast, is a grand example of the use of the story in relation to our cultural values. She states, "Okay, what's wrong with that story? It's cynical. It doesn't give good advice about how to live. We probably don't want our children to believe it, even though some of us may be afraid that it's true" (Laurel 65). This relates back to GTA IV's utter influence on culture, it aims not to grow our children in to consumer hungry adults bent on using any means necessary to make a dollar, but to show us how ridiculous our society has become.
There are radio commercials in the game that are almost insane to think as real. For instance, "Babies Overnight," a company that sends you a baby of your choosing overnight in a box on your doorstep, in much the same manner couples who have trouble conceiving for whatever reason depend on 3rd party companies to receive children. The commercial can be played here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4XQzOrqPMA. After hearing an entire game full of advertisements and fake media such as the one just presented, we as American's are either angered at the deprecation of our culture, or wake up and realize how true this portrayal is of our culture.
Laurel states optimistically, "Change the stories, and you change how people live" (Laurel 65). The most iconic trait of GTA IV is the mere fact it can only represent American culture. Perhaps if we stop emphasizing the importance of wealth in our stories our culture will change. GTA IV in the context of European or other foreign cultures causes it to make absolutely no sense, it is a an American phenomenon. Perhaps the story GTA tells isn't so harsh, but it's quite frightening to think a world where killing for money, helping corrupt politicians, and utilizing any form of violence as means to gain wealth, isn't so different from the one we currently dwell.