TO LIVE AND DIE IN LOS SANTOS

Grand Theft Auto is a hugely successful video game franchise. The games usually take place in a fictional version of an American city. The latest game, Grand Theft Auto V, takes place in Los Santos, a version of Los Angeles. Players are allowed to explore a massive open world map and do whatever they please. This includes committing crimes; the title of the game is a crime. The game has actually made it pretty fun to commit crimes. And the game has made the consequences for committing crimes very lax as well.

There are a variety of ways to get the attention of the police while playing Grand Theft Auto. After you start committing crimes the game keeps track of your wanted level by giving you stars in the corner of the screen. The more stars you have, the more the police will come after you. When you have five stars the National Office of Security Enforcement and Federal Investigation Bureau will try to bring you to justice as well. Minor crimes in the game, like stealing a car, running people over, or standing next to a police officer long enough, will get you one star. If you do not run you will be arrested by the police. If you run your wanted level increases to two stars. If you start killing people and keep running from the police your wanted level will slowly increase until it finally gets to five stars. If you trespass in parts of the police station you will automatically start your crime spree with three stars. If you go to the military base or other areas of the map that normal citizens are not allowed in you will start your crime spree with four stars.

When you are on the run from the law the police have been given permission to use deadly force right away. There is no regard given for citizens that might be caught in the cross-fire. The police do not care about crashing into other vehicles or protecting people from you or themselves. Once a police chase starts the only thing they care about is taking you down. If there is a high enough wanted level it is very difficult to get arrested. The police will just keep shooting you until you are “wasted.” After being “wasted” you wake up outside of the hospital with, at most, five thousand dollars taken from you wallet. That is all that is taken from you. You weapons are still in your inventory. Your clothes are washed and given back to you. There is no law on the books in Los Santos, or the United States of America that Los Santos exists in, which says if you are almost fatally injured in a fight with the authorities your weapons will be taken from you. The weapons are not taken to be used as evidence against you in a pending legal investigation. No matter how many cars you blow up, or people you kill, your weapons will not be taken from you.

Some of the weapons available to you
Some of the weapons available to you

The legal system is a bit stricter if you find a way to get yourself arrested. If you end a crime spree by being arrested you will be sent to jail, and then promptly released. You are charged three hundred dollars for bail and you are put back on the street. All of the ammunition for your weapons will be taken, but all of the weapons, including melee weapons like knives, will remain in your inventory. The police believe all they have to do to prevent you committing more crimes is taking away your bullets. If you don’t have enough money to pay the full three hundred dollars for your bail the police will just take whatever you have in your wallet. If you don’t have any money when you are arrested the police will just put you back on the street for free. The bail system is baffling. There is no court date set for you. You are charged the same amount for bail no matter what crime you commit. There is no promise of you having to pay for any damages you caused in your rampage. The consequences are so low for committing crimes that it probably makes sense financially to go around robbing people.

The gun purchasing laws are also very lax. In real life when you want to purchase a weapon there is a federal law that makes you wait either three days, or however long it takes the FBI to do a background check, whichever is shorter. Individual states can increase the amount of time you have to wait. In Los Santos the waiting period is even shorter than in real life. You just look at what you would like to buy and then you can have it placed in your inventory. There is no background check necessary. So even if you just got out of jail you can drive to the closes Ammu-Nation and pick up an array of weapons and bullets. The Second Amendment might be the strongest law on the books in the United States of America that Los Santos exists in. There is no limit on what kinds of guns you can buy. There is no limit on how much ammunition you can buy at a time. There must be an open carry law on the books, because in my last playthrough of the game I walked into a police station with an RPG out in the open and no one got mad at me until I went into a room I wasn’t supposed to be in.

Normal everyday driving
Normal everyday driving

Traffic laws are also a complete mystery in Los Santos. Non-Playable Characters will drive around and obey the commands of traffic lights. They will stay in their lanes and they will pull over when a police car or ambulance has its siren blaring. The player, on the other hand, can do whatever he wants while driving and the police will not care. You can drive on the opposite side of the road, blow through red lights, and speed (though I cannot remember ever seeing a speed limit sign in the game) and the police will not be attracted to you. This all changes if you so much as clip a police cruiser. Once you touch a police vehicle your wanted level will shoot up to two stars and the police will start shooting you and chasing after you. There also seems to be no parking rules in Los Santos. I have never seen a parking officer, and it is impossible to get a parking ticket in the game. You can park across two lanes of traffic on the highway and the worst thing that happens is that people will honk at you.

Months pass by when you play Grand Theft Auto V. You never see anything more than minimal consequences for your disruptive actions. No one sues you for damages for what you do. The judicial system charges you a pittance to start interacting with society again. The miraculous medical system that constantly brings you back from the jaws of death only charges you five thousand dollars for each visit, which seems like a steal. Guns and ammunition are cheap and easily available over the counter to anyone that wants them. But most people in the universe are responsible even though they know these things. You don’t see a bunch of Non-Playable Characters going on rampages, committing crimes, or driving erratically. No it just seems like you, the player, are wise enough to take advantage of this extremely relaxed judicial system to do whatever you want. I think there is something to say about that, but I don’t want to also try to understand higher truths about humanity by looking at video games. That would be crazy. Trying to rationalize video games would be a foolish pursuit.

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