The Grand Theft Auto video game series has been a very popular game, hailed for its open world and player freedom unmatched by many games. However GTA has also repeatedly received criticism for the lack of an option that would offer its players the opportunity to create their own player and identity in the GTA world. The game, which is story based, usually focuses around one particular character (in the newest installment it’s three different characters) that you assume control over. This character is a predetermined age, gender, and ethnicity that cannot be changed. No customization or ability to create an identity for oneself in the game has led to displeasure with this aspect of the game. Once GTA offered an online version of the popular game in the GTA IV installment the same generated character automatically appeared in the online version.
The lack of customization was such an issue because every player regardless of race, class, ethnicity, or age had to all assume the same role of generally a middle aged lower middle class thug type white male. A role the majority of the GTA gaming community did not fit. This created an identity disconnect with the game because players could not represent themselves in the game. Would the addition of customizable avatars enhance gameplay? The only answer could be yes. GTA gamers have long sought for the ability to do represent themselves in the game. Record sales of the game as well as record online players since the game has debuted (resulting in an online network overload in the first weekend) speaks for itself. In the newest installment of the GTA series the online version of GTA V allows online users the ability to create an avatar as close to their likeness as possible and then places that created player in an extremely free online world where the player can express themselves as whomever they see themselves. For the first time an Asian male can create an avatar in their likeness to play in GTA V. Female characters can be created which allowed this demographic to interact with the game like never before. The customization of the online characters in this game is astounding. It allows a player the chance to create an avatar as close to themselves as they would like starting with the likeness of grandparents and moving down to parents and ultimately the player themselves. After creating your online avatar, you enter a world where you can have your character live essentially any lifestyle of your choosing. Online customization gets rid of identity disconnect and offers the player maximum identity expression in the online world. Players now can be as close to themselves or as far away from themselves as they want in this world. Players can express themselves however they see themselves and want to be identified as in this online world. GTA gamers are finding it more enjoyable to play as themselves in this world, however gameplay poses an interesting question. Are playing styles changing because players are now representing themselves in this world, will players be inclined to be more or less violent as themselves in the GTA world?