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GTA 5 Character Breakdown: Shifting the Narrative

/ Dec 14th, 2012 No Comments



Rockstar Games’ highly-anticipated GTA 5 will feature a refreshing new take on the company’s crime-spree-simulator franchise: three fully-controllable protagonists whose stories and gameplay are deeply intertwined in a story of big dreams and hard knocks.

The game’s three protagonists are Michael, Trevor, and Franklin–a former career criminal, another still deep into the life, and the last just beginning to expand from small-time crimes. By assuming control over these connected characters players will explore being a criminal from three unique perspectives that each perceive the other characters in different ways.  Counterintuitive as it may seem, this petty-criminal-triumvirate storytelling approach may help strengthen immersion. By witnessing the characters through each other’s eyes, players will be drawn deeper into the story through the dramatic tension.

Open-World Characterization

[adsense250itp]A defining element of sandbox games such as GTA 5 is the freedom they offer players to roam within the game’s setting, pursuing clusters of side missions, or simply racing around on a stolen motorcycle, spraying random gunfire into passing cars and watching the ensuing mayhem. Rockstar’s interesting decision to feature three protagonists who can be switched to on-the-fly during open gameplay, and at more controlled opportunities during missions, may represent a big step forward in the evolution of player-created narrative.

By letting the player follow the protagonist of their choice for as long or as little as they wish, the game experience will vary for every player. More time spent with a favored protagonist may bring changes to the game’s scripted narrative; the act of choosing the point-of-view to engage in at any moment will shape the player’s connection to the characters. Some gamers may seek a balance between the three protagonists, while others opt to remain with one as much as possible. It’s largely up to the player to decide how to experience their stories.

This ever-changing nature of the active protagonist reflects one of the stronger dramatic techniques Rockstar has applied with GTA 5, which allows for scenarios where the current protagonist may not be aware of information learned by the player while controlling a different character. This technique, known as the audience-superior position and a source of dramatic irony, fosters tension in the player if the current protagonist would be threatened or hurt on learning what the player already knows. This tension then reinforces player immersion. It seems Rockstar has been studying drama with a serious focus on elevating story.

Screw Story, Give Me Guns!

Of course, not everyone plays the Grand Theft Auto series for its bold storytelling. Many pick it up for the chance to drop chaos from on high. Lucky for them, Rockstar’s on it. Explosive is a great way to describe what has been revealed about the game so far, and footage suggests excellent optimization efforts for a long-in-the-tooth home console generation.  The exciting gameplay and great San Andreas vibe so many have longed for again makes the wait even harder. If players want to skydive with grenades or crash a biplane into rush hour traffic, they’ll be able do so–all while experiencing Rockstar’s vision and simultaneously creating their own–when GTA 5 releases in the Spring of 2013.

Matthew Allen
Matthew is a contributor to Gaming Illustrated and likes games that are full of kinetic gameplay, great layered storytelling and innovation in the exploration of the medium and the genre represented.
Matthew Allen

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