The Politics of Carjacking

The chief thrill of Grand Theft Auto V is its massive, open virtual world. The game allows players to careen through a lifelike recreation of modern-day Los Angeles, stealing cars, pulling heists, and generally making mayhem.

But the game is more than a simple four-wheel free-for-all. Players also encounter a host of left-coast cultural and political caricatures: thuggish private defense contractors, snarky radio ads poking fun at the gun lobby, organic-food-eating yuppies, and, in a series of particularly memorable moments, psychedelic encounters with pot legalization activists working a booth in a downtown park.

Publisher Rockstar Games has occasionally been accused of harboring a not-so-secret libertarian bent, but GTA V sells something more like gleeful, equal-opportunity nihilism. The game mercilessly skewers all of its targets yet somehow remains zanily upbeat. The attitude might be dubbed joyful cynicism: The game seems to hate everything, and it loves that it does.

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