Friday, May 23, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

As a rule, I keep my posting to this blog limited to comic-book related subjects only but today I'm going to make an exception.

What I enjoy most from my comic books, and from any other media that I consume, is quality storytelling. Ideally when I crack a book (whether it's got paragraphs or panels) I'm looking to be taken away to another place... whether it's Gotham City, Azeroth or the decks of the Galactica, I'm looking for a writer (sometimes assisted by artists or actors) to immerse me in the lives of other people and their own personal struggles.

Today, I completed Grand Theft Auto 4.

It's no big surprise that I love video games, but it was a surprise to me that I really enjoyed this one. I'd played a couple of the earlier GTA games, but they'd largely wound up as stress relievers for me. Had a bad day? Open up with a shotgun in a crowded street, and see how long it takes for the cops to bring you down. The story was simplistic at best, as you went from one mafia cliche to another, pulling off more difficult crimes until I lost interest. That's usually something that happeed fairly quickly. That's NOT what happened in GTA4.

I bonded with the main character, Nico Bellic pretty quickly. For the three people who might read this without being aware of the specifics, in GTA4 you play as Nico, an illegal immigrant from an unnamed country in Eastern Europe. He arrives in a fictionalized version of New York called Liberty City, to find that his cousin's promises of wealth and opportunity are unrealized dreams. Most of the activities that Nico takes a part in are no different than those in the previous games... but he's given an interesting past, as the survivor of a civil war in his homeland. He also has a personal mission in Liberty City as he searches for the man who betrayed his unit in the war, leading to the death of men he'd known from childhood. It's a story of vengeance that, for me at least, had a real impact. I cared about Nico, and about the new friends he made in his new home.

I came to the climax of the story today, and while the events of the climax are sad, I can honestly say I'm satisfied. The game's makers, Rockstar North, didn't skimp on the story. There was a theme that ran through the entire game (and it took me over 40 hours to reach the end.) In an art form where the pacing, and to some degree even the content are not decided by the creators, I'm truly impressed that the story told in this medium was as mature and developed as it was. This game deserves to get some press... for the right reasons.

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