Jacking the Dial: Radio, Race, and Place in Grand Theft Auto
Miller’s piece discusses the role of music in a popular video game, Grand Theft Auto, and how music effects the player’s experience. Music plays a much larger role in the game than one might consciously notice, as theme songs go along will all different aspects of the game such as radio stations in the cars, and driving in different areas of the city. He notes that the scene is meant to mimic Compton in LA, and producers attempt to give players the experience that they are fully emerged in the video game environment through stereotypical aspects of black and thug culture, such as playing popular R&B, hip-hop, and Latina music.
He also discusses the nostalgic aspect of music, and how it brings players back to a different time era, specifically the 80s. Players seem to enjoy being in a world outside of their own, navigating a world that is completely unfamiliar to them. In this way, video games seem like an escape from the life they are living. But the specific 80s music presented in the game only represents a very small sliver of 80s music on the whole, and produces are selective in choosing which music to play.
Even though many of the aspects of the game seem to go overboard and utilize stereotypes to a maximum, players responded to Miller saying that it makes the game more fun because it brings game life further away from serious issues revolving around racism and black culture and thug life. Players do not want to be thinking about political and social issues while playing the game – they want to be exploring a new world and having fun while doing so.
Miller also discusses other aspects of the game beyond music that contribute towards the stereotypes of black culture, such as graffiti that ties in with hip hop, choosing specific types of clothes to wear, and women walking around in bikinis. While I appreciate that video games are meant to be fun and allow players to immerse themselves in a new life, I don’t believe that argument that the game is so over stereotyped that people don’t take some aspects of it seriously. I’m sure only a fraction of game consumers are aware of what stereotypes the game portrays, and consciously realize that it is not an accurate representation of LA’s Compton, or black culture. I think it romanticizes what thug life actually entails, since you get to design your own character and go around killing people and stealing cars with no real consequence or application. Miller talks about European consumers who have only a small idea of what this type of American culture entails, so it seems pretty accurate to them.
I also think that music plays a particularly influential role in the perpetuation of stereotypes because players may not necessarily be aware of what is playing and the associations they make between certain types of music and the scenarios they are in. Outside of video games, where else does this occur? How often do we hear music and make unconscious associations? I believe it happens all the time, but not necessarily to perpetuate stereotypes. When/where is music tied to these preconceived notions versus representing a specific event or time in your life? Is there a connection between the two?