Love in the Time of Grand Theft Auto V

It’s been over a day and she hasn’t responded to my text. I asked a question – a simple question! – about what she’s doing tonight. I asked yesterday afternoon, assuming she would get back to me yesterday evening, assuming we would then plan something for tonight, something for three hours from now. Do I text again? Double down on the question? Change the topic? Forget about her forever? Or is she ignoring me? Is this a sign? A coincidence? WHAT’S GOING ON AND WHAT SHOULD I DO

I’m a little stressed.

So I boot up Grand Theft Auto V and drive fast cars over pedestrians for a while.

There’s an art to it, honestly. It’s not all “accelerate recklessly down a crowded beach boardwalk.” For instance, I just reversed into a man seated on a park bench and in the process accidentally backed my car up on the bench where it got it stuck with the poor dead man trapped underneath the revving rear tires. If the game could animate a body being torn apart by racing slicks…I probably wouldn’t enjoy it very much, so maybe that’s a good thing here.

But the situation absolutely made me laugh out loud. It’s sick, yeah, I’m laughing because I killed an innocent bystander. I didn’t necessarily mean to kill him, my car just happened to spin out in a park. But I’m not upset that it happened. I’m pretty pleased, actually. I couldn’t have asked for a more amusing situation or a more soothing tonic for an anxious love life.

The girl texts. It’s now pretty late in the evening, too late to really plan anything, but I try. Why not? I think. Might as well see where this goes rather than needlessly playing the coy, semi-uninterested male that a wide range of romantic comedies have taught me is an acceptable role for the attractive, confident male. It’s been a while since my heart truly sang – maybe being forward is a good option for me tonight.

Of course, no amount of forwardness can automatically elicit a prompt response. So I pick up the controller again. Nerves jangled from having to text a girl, I find solace in firing rockets into a crowded airport plaza. Soon, the army arrives and so I fire rockets into tanks for while. Eventually I die. But the miracle of the game is that resurrection is instantaneous – another chance at life, an opportunity to make a difference for once, to stop cutting down everyone and everything in my path. Maybe this time I’ll simply drive around! Or ride the in-game rollercoaster! Practice yoga! Purchase the cab company and start a career as a cabbie! The options are almost limitless.

But as soon as my character exits the in-game hospital, miraculously alive after being detonated by a tank shell, I punch the nearest pedestrian. Hold down B and my character hauls off on the poor bystander with a hurtling roundhouse. BOOM. The bystander is dead. I automatically collect $14 from the corpse. Probably just some hospital worker on her smoke break. I couldn’t even last 10 seconds without murdering someone.

And yet…I’m satisfied. I laugh again! Murder is satisfying and hilarious! Perhaps I’m not amused at the killing itself, but at the notion that some developer in a dark cubicle spent two weeks perfecting the animation of the character knocking out a random stranger. Fine tuned and focus grouped the swinging fist, the slight leap to build momentum. You can really tell that a developer put his heart and soul into the powerful punch of this character. And I’m using it to demolish hospital workers on their smoke breaks. Is that irony? I don’t care, I hit another person. And another. And another. The cops are after me now, but I keep punching.

She texts again! No 24 hour wait this time. Maybe we can meet up later, she says, after she finishes dinner with her friends. I’m ecstatic. This is an unexpected turn of events. I pour a gin and tonic to celebrate, take a healthy sip of the heady juniper drink.

Glance at my phone.

Glance at the Xbox controller.

I’ve got a little time until we meet up, I think.

Turns out that virtual psychopathy is satisfying no matter the condition of your love life.

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