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“Grand Theft Auto” hates America

Gamers collectively paid 800 million dollars and waited through hours-long queues this Tuesday, all to buy a video game that calls them assholes.

Not directly, of course. The "Grand Theft Auto" series is the video game equivalent of a smartass in the back of the room making wisecracks at everyone’s expense. Just like we might scowl at the smartass without trying to understand what vulnerability he might be covering up with his hostility, we focus on the crimes depicted in "GTA" without looking carefully enough at what lies just underneath the surface.

Players have been stealing cars, slaughtering police officers, moving narcotics, beating hookers and taking on organized crime syndicates in detailed, open, virtual worlds since the release of "Grand Theft Auto III" in 2001, and to the uninitiated "Grand Theft Auto V" is merely the pinnacle of murder, theft, prostitution and drug empire simulation.

That’s where the mainstream audience and press usually leave off, and where Fox News and other conservative pundits weigh in. Even members of the enthusiast video game press feel free to write reviews of "Grand Theft Auto V" based on breezy playthroughs of one of the most content-dense games in years, or to levy criticism at the game without even having played it. Everyone assumes they have a handle on what’s going on in a "Grand Theft Auto" game. But I’d argue that mayhem and criminals are the least important part of "GTA V."

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