Satire is an escape rope games are all too willing to utilize to get out of tricky situations they themselves have created. And you thought dropping a deus ex machina was a cliche.
David Chandler argues that GTA V is not satire, and hey, while we’re at it, neither is Bayonetta nor Far Cry 3. David, take it away:
GTA V’s gameplay lacks both an ironic punch and a didactic end. As often as the game seems to make judgments about a player’s operating in a morally bankrupt world, the gameplay only reinforces the virtues of morally bankrupt activity. We steal cars and shoot people because that’s what people in San Andreas do. If the game were satire, there would be some type of mechanical, formal acknowledgment that the roles the player perform are repugnant and awful, but there’s no mechanical comeuppance for the sins of the player.
So, what games are satire then? Hotline Miami certainly counts.
Abrasive, pixelated visuals and repetitive music accompany hyperactive violence. Braining an unsuspecting guard with a crowbar or shooting up a room sends red and purple pixels across the floor and walls, but the walk back through the building after everyone has been killed slows the gameplay just long enough for you to take stock in your handiwork.
Chandler hedges his bets, noting that his choice of language—in breaking down “satire” — may be “splitting hairs”. We’re using language, though. The words we use makes a difference. If a developer claims their work is satire, then it needs to be satire. Otherwise, they’re making use of that escape rope.
Chandler, David. “Video games and the struggle with satire” (AWESOMEoutof10: September 30th, 2013) <http://www.awesomeoutof10.com/features/video-games-and-the-struggle-with-satire/>.