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Brett Watanabe

Artist programs invincible deer to stroll around Grand Theft Auto V’s San Andreas

Oh, deer.


Jay Hathaway

Internet Culture

Posted on Mar 21, 2016   Updated on May 27, 2021, 1:42 am CDT

Back before “livestreaming” became the basic human condition, there were the animal cams. Viewers could look in on faraway giant pandas or litters of Shiba Inu puppies, keep tabs on an eagle’s nest, and generally commune with nature–at least the part that had cameras pointed at it. 

But artist Brent Watanabe’s San Andreas Deer Cam is something else. San Andreas is a fictional state in Grand Theft Auto V, and the deer in question is an invincible entity roaming the game.

San Andreas Deer Cam

Watanabe specializes in computer-controlled installations and has been using video games as canvases for years (even mapping one game to an actual painting).

In his latest work, a deer strolls across the beaches, bridges and boulevards of San Andreas, surrounded by ambient yelling and ubiquitous car horns. The deer overhears a cell phone conversation. Someone calls the deer a loser. Another person tries to punch the deer. 

“You fuckerrrrr,” the assailant whines. 

San Andreas Deer Cam

But his flailing fists come to naught, for the deer cannot be hurt or killed. After absorbing 10 minutes of futile pounding, during which day turns to night, it remains peaceful and still. 

The deer is merely an avatar through which we view the fictional city, a commentary on how absurd we must look to animals, with our dumb baseball caps, our impotent shouts of “Cocksucker! Just get fucked!” and our cell phones—to which we remain glued even as we’re walking past a man engaged in a furious, one-sided fistfight with a large forest animal.

“The deer has been programmed to control itself and make its own decisions, with no one actually playing the video game. The deer is ‘playing itself,’ with all activity unscripted… and unexpected,” Watanabe explained

In a sense, we’re all just playing ourselves, right? 

H/T Andy Baio | Screengrab via Brent Watanabe 

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*First Published: Mar 21, 2016, 2:15 pm CDT