The Least Interesting Thing That GTA VI Could Be Is Anti-Woke
As we've learned, there's no way we'll ever be able to convince Grand Theft Auto to keep its distance from controversy. It's the blood that pumps through its veins, the very thing that has kept the franchise alive - and between the flashes of running pedestrians over and robbing corner stores, the series is more than willing to poke fun at the home it finds in America.
With each installation in the franchise, the games find something new to poke fun at, and GTA V was a scathing indictment of 2013 America, with radio ads about medicinal cocaine and mandatory concealed carry, an FBI-esque organisation that works only for the dollar, and enough blatant racism and misogyny to hold up a grimy mirror to the worst of the franchise's fans (and haters).
The franchise has never really been one to take sides, adopting a "we'll make fun of all of you" stance that's served as a winner for its fans - but it has already been in a position to be able to make some seriously bold statements. And GTA VI is joining the franchise during a compelling time that could truly make a big splash in the cultural consciousness. But it'll probably be happier making a laughing stock of the United States.
Is GTA VI Going To Take An Anti-Woke Stance?
Typically with Grand Theft Auto, the social commentary of the wider world comes through the interactions of NPCs and narrative threads that stems from overtly exaggerated caricatures of pockets of Western society. From the French chef who goads listeners by taking animals from the womb to the pan, the all-consuming social media aptly titled LifeInvader, and even going so far as to prod the players in the loathsome slob, Michael's son Jimmy.
So, it's safe to say that nobody is safe. As is traditional at this point, no matter the political affiliation, every kind of person to inhabit the USA is likely to get prodded by Grand Theft Auto VI, whether that be as a point that the franchise actually has no political affiliations, or to simply allow the game to remain accessible, despite any potential controversies to show up. The games are practically made to rustle feathers, so it's only worth being prepared.
Though everyone is in the firing line, and we can predict the way exactly Grand Theft Auto will go - there are a few things it needs to be careful about.
GTA VI Doesn't Have To Take Aim At Offence Itself
The games rely on over-simplification to send their satirical messages, whether they're poking fun at the left or right of the political spectrum, reducing their subjects to stereotypes. Though offence often seems like the very point of Grand Theft Auto, we live in a very different world from the one we inhabited at the release of GTA V - we've since seen the rise of #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, Free Palestine, and a swathe of other movements fighting for justice across the globe for all people.
There's very little chance that Rockstar Games are willing to address these movements with any nuance, so frankly, addressing them at all would probably be a mistake. It's likely either way that Rockstar is going to take up the lazy and trite "offended Gen Z" archetype to poke fun, but there's a worrying chance that genuine worldwide issues are going to be lumped into this in favour of throwaway gags. You can't get away with that anymore, and with GTA V poking fun at vegans, hipsters and CrossFit bros alike, they need something new to stick out - and sadly, actual problems are probably going to be swept up in that.
The game's judgement of the left-wing is likely to be entry-level, but even so, there's a lot to be addressed elsewhere - This is the first Grand Theft Auto game since the Trump Administration, a pandemic, the Capitol Riots, and even if we want to get silly about it, "Pokemon GO to the polls" and covfefe - there's a lot more on America's plate than vegans. And with the last ten years bolstering the alt-right more than ever, it's even more of an opportunity for Rockstar to take aim, without falling into lazy and contrived archetypes that already feel punishingly dated.
GTA VI Needs To Wise Up Its Politics
Politics has changed a lot in the time between Grand Theft Auto V and now, and over the course of the franchise's history, Grand Theft Auto has changed slower. Though it has steered into its political commentary with each new instalment, it all amounts to an ultimately immature world-view that creates a 'they're-just-as-bad-as-each-other' narrative exemplified in absurdity. The world has changed, and requires a lot more nuance to present faithfully - though it's hard to imagine that Rockstar has the mettle to pull it off.
Of course, let's keep it silly - Grand Theft Auto is at its best when it gives the player the keys to the city (and a few jetpacks along the way) and lets them go bonkers. But narratively, Rockstar has the opportunity to earn its ribbons as the team behind the biggest game in the world, and tell a story that doesn't cast important talking points aside for gags. We're not hoping for Trevor Philips to post a black square on his LifeInvader account - just a little consideration. Wishful thinking? We hope not.