Time contributor Lev Grossman explores how Grand Theft Auto IV brings storytelling in video games to new heights.
"It's one of the enduring paradoxes of the Grand Theft Auto games - or maybe the paradox lies in the culture around them? - that people who don't play them think of them as the epitome of mindless virtual violence, whereas in fact they are, with each installment, more and more radical and sophisticated experiments in storytelling. Depending on whether or not you're a gamer, this statement is either preposterous or so staggeringly obvious that it's almost not worth making."
"Freedom isn't a problem for Houser. As a storyteller, he feels as though he's lucked into the lawless, Wild West period of video games. "It's not academicized," he says. "There's no orthodoxy on how things are done, so we can do whatever we want. We make it up as we go along!" As for the ongoing debate about whether games are art, he couldn't care less. That's what critics get paid for. "As soon as we get told, 'Yes, games are high art. They're almost as high as painting and slightly less than dance,' it's over. Freedom is dead at that point. Then the argument just becomes about people's egos. And my ego doesn't need to be told I'm an artist. I hate myself already!""