The Satire in GTA


It's like fine wine. The longer you take to understand it, the better the taste of “it” gets. Who would have thought that a childhood game could have so many layers to it? Who would have thought that what you’re experiencing is barely the surface?


Grand Theft Auto (GTA) on one side is a game so widely popular that it generates $6 billion annually worldwide. On the other side, it is a self-aware narrative, critiquing every facet of the United States.

No, this is not one of those "violent games that are aggressive for kids" type articles. Rather we intend to look at the unnoticed. We are going to discover how a game of the 2010s talked about politics and corporate advertising in such a subtle yet satirical and cynical manner, that even the smartest in the room would have missed it. The entire gaming series published by Rockstar Games involves various fictional chapters based in different cities of the United States. Liberty City, based on New York City, is one of the three original cities introduced in the GTA series. Consequently, San Andreas is based on the state of California and Nevada. The map exclusively features the cities of Los Santos and San Fierro parodies of Los Angeles and San Francisco. 


Out of the entire series, GTA Vice based in the Vice city, a knock off Miami is considered to be one of the most controversial and satirical. 


The creators of GTA Vice have created a hyperreal world to portray the functional environment styled like the 1980s Florida. It deeply focuses on all the stereotypes created around various ethnicities and communities to create the Vice world that acts as a parody to the Florida lifestyle. 


VCPR: Pressing Issues 

The game features a radio channel called VCPR which includes a show “Pressing Issues” hosted by Maurice Chavez. The host has been very cleverly given a Cuban background and an irritated persona whose name is often mispronounced, highlighting the ignorance of the Whites. The radio channel throughout the entire game has satirized the American culture and its hypocrisy. The featured radio shows talk-hosts openly throw around racial and ethnic slurs, depicting how easy it is to get away with it, if you are a White with a rich background.


Another clever depiction of the American justice system is done with an ad being programmed with the radio channel. Listeners are asked to pay 10% of their income halfway through the fictional Public Safety Interview. 

The channel has other shows talking about Morality, Perception and Positive Thinking which end up with one of the guests either shooting the other one in the genitals or the interviewer breaking the interviewee’s nose on-air with a paperweight.


The game also introduces us to a character named Alex Shrub, a congressman who believes that the “rich should be more accepted and the poor forgotten about”. The makers of the game have greatly written and programmed the dialogues into the gameplay. We can witness the usage of terms like ‘idiot liberals’ and ‘Canadian propaganda’ at various points of time.


Parallelism to the 1980s Miami

The gameplay is surrounded by a fictional Mendez drug cartel from Colombia. The makers have drawn stark parallelism with the Miami drug war of the 1970s and 1980s headed by the Medellín cartel founded and controlled by drug lord Pablo Escobar. 

The third version of GTA Vice has also portrayed the Haitians and Cubans as street gang members mocking the American perspective of viewing the immigrants from these nations as criminals. This was based on real-life events of immigration that rose from the island of Haiti to escape the rule of Duvalier, an autocratic family and their political persecution of the opposition and suspected activists in the late 20th century Miami. The boatlift crisis of the 1980s under American President Jimmy Carter was covered as the “allowing of criminals into the country”. The creators of the game have thus ridiculed the historical American viewpoint in the game by playing along with the stereotypes. 

Mockery of the American Democracy

Send me a letter of your concern and I will send you an automated copy from my office’s email. That’s what we call Democracy. That’s where we put our money” We see Alex Shrub (knock off of George Walker Bush, America’s 41st President) muttering these words on public radio. The game’s mockery extends to various other aspects of the American government as well. The beliefs that regulating guns creates an “unsafe society”, ‘‘turning the crime-rate graph upside-down lowers down crime”, “liberals are insane to allow women to vote” and “unemployment is caused by people who do not wish to work”, the creators have further added a capitalistic touch to the narrative- logic. The gameplay begins with the protagonist doing menial jobs and making money which is later converted into capital and assets. We get the maker’s comical outlook on the working class and the ills of socialism while the rich brag about supporting low minimum wage and eliminating the poor on the news. 


The Hollowness of the American Dream

Even though Rockstar Games has left titbits of American hypocrisy all over the gameplay, the ending of the game is most ironic of all. Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti’s journey and the joy associated with the character’s win is what hits the conscious. We discover the hollowness of the American dream and its capitalistic nature. We realise that people who hold corrupt morals can only rise to power. The entire quest of winning blatantly calls out how fake things in society are. The world of GTA simply strips down the pretentiousness and allows free conversations wherein the thoughts are not controlled.The game mocks everyone, from liberals to conservatives, from religious to irreligious and from capitalists to socialists. The parodic ideologies and satirical parallelism calls out every player for what they perceive of the world.