While GTA IV’s sales predictably are going through the roof and the game is garnering some of the consistently highest reviews across the board (an incredible 99 per cent on metacritic) there is one slightly more critical response – from the
Guardian’s art and architecture blog
, of all places.
It’s mainly of interest because the writer of the blog, Peter Lyle was, for years, a videogame writer and reviewer for a number of high profile magazines including The Face and Edge.
Lyle’s main point of contention is with Greg Wood on Radio 4’s Today, who claimed this week that GTA IV "established videogames as a serious artform, worthy to be ranked alongside cinema".
While Lyle agrees with BBC technology editor Darren Waters' claim that GTA IV felt "more like a cultural event than a marketing event", he thinks the claim to being "art" is taking things too far.
But is it art?
"Art?" questions Lyle. "Other games might be - I always thought of Sega legend Yu Suzuki as an artist, because of his design philosophy and aesthetic - but GTA never was.
"It's art in the same way the first cave paintings were: a crude, unmediated celebration of the urges to fight, have sex, and make fire."
"On Today, a trade magazine editor said that the game's inclusion of 'adult themes' proved it was artistically mature. This is, of course, tripe: 'adult themes' is just like stamping 'Mature Content' on a shlocky comic, or 'Parental Advisory' on a rap record, to ensure teenage boys buy it. It is the opposite of the way mature art works."
Instead Lyle likens the GTA phenomenon to what Tom Wolfe called "Pornoviolence" which Wolfe defined as:
"The new pornography depicts people acting out another, murkier drive: people staving teeth in, ripping guts open, blowing brains out, and getting even with all those bastards... the old pornography was the fantasy of easy sexual delights in a world where sex was kept unavailable. The new pornography is the fantasy of easy triumph in a world where status competition has become so complicated."
Since GTA went 3D with GTA III, Lyle feels that it can be summed up as "a technological marvel, a cultural juggernaut, an entertainment phenomenon, a detail-packed pop-culture pastiche that brilliantly repackaged outlaw tropes for a videogame world previously hung up on, and ghettoised by its allegiance to, the geeky realms of sci-fi and fantasy."