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GTA 5's New Missions Hit A Little Close To Home

Grand Theft Auto Online just received an update with some new missions from an old friend. Gerald is one of the players' main criminal associates from way back in GTA Online's first few missions, so it's only fitting that he'd be the one to provide an update on the state of crime in Los Santos. That's exactly what goes down in GTA Online's brand new "Gerald's Last Play" missions. However, these missions feel like they mirror current events in an unexpected way.

According to Rockstar Games' official description for these new missions, "Word on the street is that a serious downturn is about to hit the black markets of Los Santos. Gerald and The Families have encountered some unwelcome resistance from rival gangs, and like any enterprising entrepreneur, Gerald's been planning his escape strategy."

In other words, Los Santos' crime families are facing the organized crime equivalent of a recession. A lot of the games hard-working criminals are about to find it difficult to make ends meet, which is where you come in. While this bit of story background is just an excuse to launch the player into these missions, it's hard not to feel like they're a little bit close to reality right now.

During the current coronavirus outbreak, countless people have found themselves out of a job. Seeing the folks in Los Santos facing down the same thing is kind of bizarre and upsetting, even if many of them do make their money selling drugs and weapons on the black market. Much like Animal Crossing's Isabelle asking us how our month is going during quarantine, it sure feels like Gerald is forcing us to confront some ugly realities, whether he means to or not. 

Of course, there are no direct mentions of COVID-19 or any kind of fictional counterpart to the virus. Much of the conflict in the new "Gerald's Last Play" missions comes from the pushback that Gerald and his cohorts are receiving from the other gangs, which is hurting business. The missions themselves follow your efforts to help Gerald move as much product as possible within a short amount of time. This will necessitate your character blasting their way through rival gang members as you steal cars and run drugs to a potential buyer, all in the hopes of one last big score. 

In other words, it's not exactly what most people are doing to make ends meet during this period of time (at least, we hope not). Also, it's highly likely that Rockstar Games began work on these missions months ago. Any similarities between our current economic issues and the events of the game are probably purely coincidental. 

Still, this wouldn't be the first time that GTA has mirrored real life in an uncomfortable way. The series is infamous for making players do some truly awful things. Back in 2013, for example, GTA 5 came under heavy fire for a scene in which players took control of the character of Trevor and participated in a horrific torture. This sequence was meant to be a critique on how torture never really accomplishes anything. 

This scene was heavily criticized for its graphic violence and for making the player complicit in this awful act. It has been argued that GTA purposefully includes moments that deal with harsher aspects of reality as a way of satirizing them. This can be seen in the way that even realistic issues are handled in over the top sequences.

As Forbes' Erik Kain once wrote, "Grand Theft Auto V is a blend of power fantasy and social commentary. It's actually a very odd mix."

However, it's exactly that odd mix that appeals to fans who want a bit of dark humor injected into their game. This keeps GTA from simply feeling like a series of barely connected action sequences. Even GTA Online manages to walk that thin line between absurd wish fulfillment and deadly consequences, so it wouldn't be out of the ordinary for the game to base a mission off of real life issues. Maybe we'll get a side mission inspired by the pandemic in the upcoming Grand Theft Auto 6?

While the game doesn't explicitly reference anything going on in the real world right now, it's worth noting that purchases made in the game during this particular time will go towards a good cause. Earlier this month, Rockstar Games announced that 5% of all revenue generated by its games will be donated toward coronavirus relief efforts through the end of May.