Gameplay Journal 4: Brent Watanabe’s San Andreas Community Cam
In Grand Theft Auto 5 players are treated to a narrative focused on a triumvirate of protagonists, and how their actions affect each other. Little does the game ask how we the player affect the lives of the people who live in this world outside the lens of the narratives camera, they’re little more than fodder for our sandbox rampages. San Andreas Community Cam by Brent Watanabe addresses this by removing control from the player, thus removing the primary impediment to NPCs AI routines, creating a voyeuristic experience in this world. The mod is presented not as something with mechanics to be played but as a twitch stream in which people can watch the games citizens go about their lives. While, “A common outcome of having no game-play is having no explicit narrative.”, is somewhat true in the context of this mod by removing the other aesthetics of challenge and discovery we are left only with narrative that we have to derive from we view from the NPCs. (Galloway 118)
The subversion of the game’s structure comes not from just removing the player from the equation but also how we now have to piece together and create narratives on our own and the tonal change. When we view the mod we watch the NPCs walking, sobbing strangely, driving, and walking into buildings and it makes us have to wonder who this person is, where are they going, and why are they crying? This also serves to shift narrative focus from an intense crime drama to a very low stakes slice of life/reality narrative. What this does to critique normal gameplay is to strip down the gameplay and asks what does this world look like without input. It poses that the player and their inputs are the primary agents of unpleasure and strife to those who exist in this world when they don’t have to be. Although even without player intervention there’s still conflict in the world, like the NPC crashing into other people, but on a scale much smaller than from normal gameplay caused by the players.
Galloway, Alexander R. Gaming Essays On Algorithmic Culture (Electronic Mediations). University of Minnesota Press, 2006.