Ever played Grand Theft Auto? Specifically, the fifth major installment, released in late 2013. It was the best-selling video game of the year, and suffice to say, people weren't flocking because it was light on violence. Which is precisely why this news is so weird and fun — in spite of all the killing, Grand Theft Auto pacifism actually exists. It's detailed entertainingly by VICE's Charlie Lyne, who interviewed the man in question, a YouTuber named "goldvision," who's embarking on an ambitious project — to try to move through the world of Grand Theft Auto 5 as a peaceful soul, rebuffing violence and criminality.
To actually achieve such a low-impact, peaceful existence within GTA 5 is no easy feat. If there's any single, infamously objectionable example that sums up just how grotesquely violent and exploitively sexist it is, it's this: the game lets you hire a sex worker, then shoot them to death and take your money back after you're done. Add in the existence of abysmal things like online rape mods, and the situation looks about as grim as could be.
Basically, the game's Southern California-inspired setting of Los Santos simply isn't built for pacifism. In fact, it's designed explicitly for the opposite purpose.
Said pacifist lays out his noble intentions in the brisk, fun introduction to his Grand Theft Auto Pacifist YouTube series. (There's something bizarrely relaxing about his voice too, which doesn't hurt.)
Truthfully, I have but one desire. I wish to live in this world and engage in a manner independent of pain and suffering. That is, to create and receive no negativity, to survive and engage peacefully with all other sentient beings.
In his awesome interview with Lyne (who helpfully reveals goldvision's real name, Jeremy Mattheis), the Grand Theft Auto Pacifist opens up about his behind-the-scenes motives, as well — to demonstrate how even a game chock-full of violence could be the background for a peaceful, benign experience.
I think non-gamers have a bad view of the gaming community. Grand Theft Auto depicts violence, and therefore people make the assumption that it promotes and causes violence. I don't think this is true and wanted to show that, even in Grand Theft Auto, it's possible to inflict and receive no negativity, to survive and engage peacefully with all other sentient beings. Also, irony.
The irony is not in short supply — while contesting whether the game causes violence is fair enough, whether it's actually playable to the full pacifist ideal is another matter entirely, and less easily done.
Mattheis' soft-narrated project is very charming, highlighting his struggle to advance through GTA 5's online mode without leaving a heinous footprint on the landscape of the city. Unfortunately, he was forced to take at least one life, as the intro mission forces you to kill a fleeing drug dealer to rob his stash.
There's no way around this aspect of the game, and indeed, the YouTube pacifist claims he followed the guy around for hours in the hopes his reckless driving would cost him his life — so he could walk away, hands clean. Sadly, it seems that in GTA Online, everyone must be complicit in an act of murder before the game really begins. No matter what he tried, there was no other way to remove the game's haunting, rigid order: "Get the drugs."
Once you get past the intro and start living the life, however, you're afforded a lot more freedom to avoid conflict. Of course, getting around is a little difficult — without a life of crime, money is tight, so long cab rides are a problem, and you can't just take a vehicle like you normally might. But if you're willing to walk, there are tons of picturesque vistas in GTA 5 that will help justify your peace-loving existence. Een as the world is burning around you.
There are four installments of Mattheis' series out so far, detailing his toned-down GTA life, so if you've got a few minutes, you should give them a look — they're nothing if not entertaining.