Living with “The Other Woman” (A Reflection on Grand Theft Auto IV)
It isn’t easy living with your boyfriend’s mistress.
Imagine a world where the guy you love brings home a new woman, announces that she will be living with him for at least a week or two, and proceeds to spend every waking, non-work moment with her. He kindly indicates that it’s cool if you hang out, too. However, he would prefer it if you didn’t get in the way too much. Now, if you’re like me, you would have dumped this guy’s ass within five minutes of hearing such a presumptuous proposition. Any self-respecting woman would. We don’t share our men with others of our kind.
Unfortunately, the rules change, even if the situation essentially doesn’t, when the “other woman” is, in fact, a new videogame. I’m allowed to throw a fit if it wears a skirt, but if it comes packaged in shrink wrap, well, I’m expected to sit on the sidelines for a while. At least until he finishes Story Mode.
This has happened a few times over the course of my relationship with my boyfriend, since he tends to go through “obsessive phases” when he gets hot new games. Anyone who read last month’s column might have gotten a hint of this tendency when I described his particular attachment to Super Smash Bros. Brawl. This month, the seductive hussy in question was Grand Theft Auto IV, hereafter referred to as “GTA 4.”
Before I begin the whole “hell hath no fury” bit, I will mention that I can appreciate the intrinsic merits of GTA 4. I’ve played/watched enough of these games to understand the value of beautiful graphics and exceptional (hell, I’d even take decent) writing. Moreover, GTA 4 is not entirely the moral vacuum that it appears to be. True, it does contain plenty of drunkenness, sleaziness, cruelty, and shockingly casual violence. However, your character does have the ability to make important choices, and those choices do have serious repercussions.
That said, appreciating a game doesn’t mean I have to like it. After a couple hours of watching my boyfriend play GTA 4, I was bored out of my mind. This particular genre of game just isn’t my thing, and so whenever he played, I had to find other things to do. Unfortunately, he lives in a small apartment, so “doing my own thing” meant either competing with the noisy soundtrack/dialogue, or else retreating to the bedroom. I did the best I could, but it was hard to find a good balance. Also, the more he ignored me, the more I wanted him to spend time with me, and the more annoyed he got that I was being “clingy.” This led to a couple of meltdowns that I won’t go into, but suffice to say things were getting fairly tense.
Oddly enough, though, the thing that finally pushed me over the edge wasn’t the limited space or attention issues; it was the stories. In spite of all the time I spent pointedly ignoring the game itself, I learned a hell of a lot about Niko, his revenge mission, his various seedy “jobs,” and his half-dozen ditzy girlfriends. Whether my boyfriend and I were eating dinner together, driving in the car, or just hanging out in between gaming sessions, it was a constant barrage of “GTA 4 this” and “GTA 4 that” and “This really funny thing happened in GTA 4 that I’m sure you’re dying to hear about.…”
Finally, after two weeks of this hell, I decided that it was time to confront him. The anger kind of boiled over all at once, because it actually hadn’t occurred to me until that point how pissed off I really was. I fumed all day and had my rant totally prepared, complete with my list of grievances, arguments, and precise punctuations of profanity. That night, he called me at home for one of our regular nightly chats. I prepared myself for my tantrum, ready to sound off themoment he began a sentence with, “So this cool thing happened in GTA 4.…” Any minute now, I told myself, my time would come.
“Baby?” he inquired. I froze. Something was wrong. Something was different in his voice. He didn’t have his usual eagerness. Instead, he sounded hesitant, despondent even. Protective instincts taking over, I quickly asked him, “Are you OK?”
“Yes,” he sighed. I waited for him to continue. “It’s just…it’s just…I just finished playing GTA 4….” (Here we go, I thought.) “And…the ending was so…so sad.”
Oh no. No, no, no. No. This was bad. Even as he spoke, I could feel the anger dissipating, evaporating into the air. I tried to find it again, but it was gone. The game was finished, my battle was already over without ever having been fought, and now, on top of everything, I had a depressed boyfriend to handle. The last remnants of my hissy fit disappearing into the ether, I quietly asked, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Thus ended my battle with GTA 4. No victory, just a stalemate. I didn’t kick the hussy out the door; she got up and left while I wasn’t looking. I suppose I should take my victories where they come, but I can’t help feeling slightly cheated out of my righteous fury. It’s OK, though. Knowing my boyfriend, a new rival is likely to come walking through the door at some point. And when she does, I will be waiting, with a vengeful smile and a frying pan in my hand.