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Can you play through Grand Theft Auto as a pacifist?
Can this guy play through Grand Theft Auto Online without committing a single act of violence?
Short answer: No. Not really. Trying to avoid robbing, stealing from, or killing anyone pretty much makes Grand Theft Auto Online unplayable. And that’s the point.
In his Grand Theft Auto: Pacifist video series, YouTuber goldvision attempts to subvert the design of GTA Online, the multiplayer, persistent-world component of Grand Theft Auto V. There’s no epic, satirical narrative involving barely redeemable protagonists in the online portion of the game. It’s just the player and a virtual crime spree they’re encouraged to commit. But what happens when they don’t?
“I wish to engage in this world in a manner independent of pain and suffering, that is, to create and receive no negativity, to survive and engage peacefully with all other sentient beings,” says goldvision in his narration to the intro episode of his series.
The line is delivered so flatly it’s difficult to tell whether goldvision is serious or if the video is a joke. Of course you can’t play GTA Online without hurting anyone. This is a game where emergent gameplay-fueled trolling is just as prevalent as in Day Z.
Goldvision’s attempt to exchange insurance information with a person whose car he runs into belies either a lack of understanding as to how the game works, or a deliberate attempt at dry wit. The latter becomes the clear answer as you proceed through all four episodes of Grand Theft Auto: Pacifist.
These videos are both a joke and serious, because it is simply impossible to play GTA Online without hurting people or breaking laws. If not for goldvision’s voiceover work, these might be the most boring gameplay videos you have ever seen, because he’s not playing the game correctly. The fact that “correctly” means “killing people,” is what goldvision is challenging us to make sense of.
In an interview with Vice, goldvision, real name Jeremy Mattheis, talks about his motivation to making these videos and how to place his cultural criticism in the larger context of video game culture.
“I like the idea of a video game as an opportunity to explore and experience something from a different perspective. If you define art as self-expression through a medium, then video games are my medium, and the path I take through that virtual world is my art,” Mattheis tells Vice.
“I think non-gamers have a bad view of the gaming community. Grand Theft Auto depicts violence, and therefore people make the assumption that it promotes and causes violence. I don’t think this is true and wanted to show that, even in Grand Theft Auto, it’s possible to inflict and receive no negativity, to survive and engage peacefully with all other sentient beings.”
Depending on your point of view, it actually isn’t possible for Mattheis to accomplish any of those things within Grand Theft Auto Online.
Goldvision has also applied his dry, virtual philosophizing to Destiny, in this video where he talks about the best way to achieve maximum level.
Just makes you want to run out and pick up a copy of the game, doesn’t it?
Dennis Scimeca was the Daily Dot's gaming reporter until 2016. He loves first-person shooters, role-playing games, and massively multiplayer online games. His work has appeared in Salon, NPR, Ars Technica, Kotaku, Polygon, Gamasutra, GamesBeat, Paste, and Mic.