Grand Theft Auto V: Making Good People since 2013

Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) is an action-adventure video game released for various platforms (PC, Xbox, and PlayStation) in 2013, 2014, and 2015. It is set in the fictional state of San Andreas, based in Southern California, and has an open world design that allows the player to roam the open countryside and the city of Los Santos, which is based on Los Angeles. In it, the player plays three characters as they embark on an epic crime spree to repay a Mexican drug lord, including theft, prostitution, and even murder. But this game isn’t all bad choices and violence, and it isn’t necessarily a bad game to play. Grand Theft Auto V should be allowed to be sold and played without criticism, because the game provides players with an opportunity to develop cognitive skills such as memory, perception, reasoning, and spatial navigation.
It wasn’t until the early 2000s that video games based on fighting and violence became very popular. Games such as Call of Duty, God of War, Saint’s Row, and of course Grand Theft Auto V are extremely popular among the gaming community and society as a whole. GTA V, specifically, was met with criticism over its introduction of prostitutes in its game, and the introduction of a system that actually seems to encourage players to use, abuse, and even kill these female prostitutes in order to regain health and keep the money they would have normally just paid to have sex with them.
However, it must be noted that this is a very small part of the game as a whole. Grand Theft Auto V, while being commonly perceived as nothing more than a game where you just run around and steal cars, is actually a complex game with a strong plot. It has three main characters, which can all be played interchangeably at any given moment, each player has different skills and perks depending on your play style, missions all have important strategic points that have to be recognized and used or the player risks failing the mission.

The game world itself is massive, complex and contains many context-specific activities including scuba diving, BASE jumping, and the purchasing of homes and businesses. The plot drives gameplay, and ultimately leads the player to make choices that affect the fate of their characters, and the end of the game as a whole. All of this complex plot and nuanced gameplay has very real benefits for the people that play Grand Theft Auto V. According to the American Psychological Association (APA,) “video games improved a player’s capacity to think about objects in three dimensions” (Granic). This spatial capacity, which is includes depth perception, object-oriented problem solving, and the ability to visualize something in one’s mind’s eye, is important for navigation, the visualization of different angles, facial recognition, and noticing fine details in scenes and one’s surrounding environment. The APA also found that the more adolescents and young adults play games, “the more they improved in problem solving and school grades the following year, according to a long-term study published in 2013.” (Granic) These games are creating noticeable and measurable differences in subjects’ test scores, school work, and problem solving skills.
Another common misconception is that the people who play this game fit the stereotype of the socially awkward and isolated gamer. This is simply not the case. Grand Theft Auto creates a community through its own online platform. Grand Theft Auto Online, which is played with a GTA V disk, was released just two weeks after the initial game release, and allows players to play online with their friends or other players. Up to 16 players can play in one open world together at a time, and they can go through specific missions, known simply as jobs, that follow a more traditional multiplayer experience. They can also do co-op missions that connect with the Grand Theft Auto V plot line, giving players a common medium through which to work and play together. This way to play with others in an online space creates “virtual social communities, where decisions need to be made quickly about whom to trust or reject and how to lead a group” (Granic). According to the American Psychological Association, “[p]eople who play video games, even if they are violent, that encourage cooperation are more likely to be helpful to others while gaming than those who play the same games competitively.” This co-op gaming, even with violence, can create better students, better co-workers, and better people by encouraging people to work together, to communicate, and to learn how to be a good team member when working towards collective goals.
The benefits of playing violent video games, both as individuals and with others, are innumerable and endless. In addition to the above mentioned perks, violent video games, including Grand Theft Auto V, can increase your brain volume, slow the aging process, help people with dyslexia process information better, increase hand eye coordination, improve your eyesight, and reduce pain in those that deal with chronic health issues. It can improve players’ moods, promote relaxation, and help reduce and eliminate anxiety. It can help encourage
emotional resilience and teach players how to deal with failures within the game. It teaches them how to work towards goals, and how to plan ahead.
These benefits, along with many, many more, mean that gamers, and really all adolescents and young adults should be playing more Grand Theft Auto V, instead of less. While many will critique it for its use, abuse, and killing of prostitutes, this very small part of the game is shadowed overwhelmingly by the massive benefits to playing this game. As we move away from the stereotype of the aggressive, socially awkward gamer, who is merely isolated and weird, we as a society can more welcome these violent games as a medium through which people can grow as individuals mentally and physically, and improve themselves as members of teams and as members of our societies. This game can become a tool to build better people, instead of a target for criticism and disapproval.
Works Cited:

Granic, Isabela. “Video Games Play May Provide Learning, Health, Social Benefits, Review Finds.” News & Events. American Psychological Association, 25 Nov. 2013. Web. 04

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