The main character of GTA 6 is not Lucia or Jason, it is Vice City. This is how it has always been for Grand Theft Auto. It is a satire of America from the perspective of an outsider who does not like America. The setting, and what it says about the America that exists in GTA’s world, is a crucial part of any game in the series. It’s why the cities it has explored through the years are the likes of Miami, New York, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas, not Nacogdoches and Seattle. Because people outside the USA don’t know about Nacogdoches and don’t care about Seattle. Pitching new cities for GTA misunderstands the point.
Then again, maybe misunderstanding the point of GTA is a core part of being a GTA fan. While its satire rides a little close to the wind at times and loses sight of what it’s trying to say, GTA is mainly an exercise in mockery. Those decrying the game as ‘woke’ now are missing the forest for their overly thick skulls. The evidence presented for this new woke GTA is that it has Black people in it, even though most clips of the trailer are based on real viral videos of Florida, while Miami has a diverse population. But then, these people aren’t wrong to call GTA woke, they’re just wrong about how.
GTA has an open disdain for American values and mocks classic conservative talking points regularly, from its buffoonish police force to the cartoonishly racist songs on the radio, hosted by shock jocks who discuss everything from gun violence to incompetent politicians. The satire is so extreme that, like The Boys and the affection Homelander gets from audiences, it comes full circle and is supported most by the people it parodies. It’s messy, of course, from its violence against sex workers to its stereotypical depiction of gay characters, but GTA is set in America for one core reason – to laugh at America.
The first GTA had an expansion set in London – Grand Theft Auto: London 1969, but one early expansion is merely an exception that proves the rule.
It’s for this reason that you can’t say ‘imagine if GTA was set in my country’. Look, I’m sure your country sucks too. Mine does! There’s probably plenty of reasons to laugh at it. But GTA specifically exists to punch America in the jaw. That’s its whole deal. It’s not necessarily a deep-seated hatred of America that poisons the heart of Rockstar itself; Red Dead Redemption has a far more romantic view of America, even as it offers up the KKK for mockery, it paints a picture of reverence for the American wilderness and its impressive natural vistas in a world that is slowly moving into a more cynical view of the modern world we come to know in Grand Theft Auto.
GTA lacks this reverence. It might mimic a cool building or two, but there are no rose-tinted lenses in front of its view of each city. It lampoons America’s excess and violence, and transporting those ideas to another setting wouldn’t land the same way. Sure, the game allows you to play it your way, and with so much time spent in free roam, you can ignore the satire and celebrate America’s penchant for destruction and gluttony, mowing down citizens then blasting RPGs at the advancing police force. GTA is a satire that never puts a punchline above gameplay, which is why the point it makes is often missed.
But whether you see it or not, that point is there. And it couldn’t make that point in Paris or Seoul or Buenos Aires – not because there’s nothing to laugh at in those cities, but because GTA’s whole gag is on the USA. Though many people have the fondest of memories playing GTA and doing an explosive lot of nothing by just driving around and causing carnage, the narrative developments are why the series has been so special for so long. Taking away the satire of American politics and society robs GTA of its greatness, and makes it just another GTA clone. You can set Saints Row in Sydney if you want, but GTA is like Born in the USA: undeniably American, and frequently misunderstood.
Lucia Is Not GTA’s First Female Protagonist, But She’s The First One Who Matters
Though the original GTA had playable female characters, we’ve never seen a female character given a core narrative in a world like Grand Theft Auto’s