San Andreas Remains Relevant Today
In order to throughly examine this work and provide fair criticism, this article contains spoilers.
You have been warned.
Many moments in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas are not as dated as its polygonal graphics. The setting is the 1990s, but despite 20 years separating us from that era, a large portion of the culture has remained the same. The United States’ obsession with gun ownership, hatred for politicians, racism, and sexism are on display in San Andreas’ many missions and radio stations and could very easily be transplanted into a 2018 game and still be sadly relevant.
A satirical commercial for men’s cologne flat out states that the fragrance will make women want to have sex with you which is something modern cologne commercials only hint at with longing gazes from blonde women at well dressed men. The sentiment behind this radical radio commercial isn’t far off from commercials shown during NFL games even now, as well as car commercials that play up the non-existent sex appeal of owning a sports car.
Police violence and corruption was played up in San Andreas as a response to the Rodney King beating, with Officer Tenpenny exploiting our protagonist Carl Johnson to do dirty deeds in and around Los Santos. Again, the sentiment behind the blatant corruption and untouchable status of Tenpenny and his cohorts continues today as countless men and women of color are unjustifiably killed by police even now. Tenpenny’s abhorrence for those among the justice system attempting to shed light on his actions also reflects a lack of accountability among police forces under the guise of solidarity. Tenpenny escapes conviction due to a lack of evidence, mirroring the failure of grand juries to indict officers of any wrongdoing during the deaths of numerous POC not deserving death.
Your one stop shop for all lethal weapons in San Andreas is Ammu-Nation who pride themselves on offering a wide variety of guns and explosives. Their advertisements have a monster truck rally energy to them, offering discounts for machine guns and the prospect of heat seeking missiles all under the guise of protecting your family in an increasingly liberal society. “If you love your family, prove it! With a gun.” Ammu-Nation is essentially what would happen if the NRA was allowed to franchise its own branded gun shops to really stick it to those liberals. Perhaps even more depressing than police brutality is that America’s obsession with gun ownership and the prevalence of mass shootings has never gone away and each new death begins the circular conversations again and again. Ammu-Nation feeds into the pride of gun ownership as something that makes you feel powerful, at the expense of the safety of everyone else.
Smaller moments in San Andreas show us how little our culture has improved. Transgender and homosexual discrimination, fast food chains and their disinterest in fighting obesity, predatory banks taking advantage of impoverished citizens, parents' neglect of unwanted children, and more are satirized and captured as a point in time in San Andreas. Unfortunately the cartoon reflection of the culture as it was nearly 30 years ago now still looks worryingly familiar.