In GTA V there’s torture, and I mean the good stuff, we’ve got waterboarding, electroshock, pulling teeth, you know… torture. This isn’t a cut scene, this is gameplay. You rotate the right analogue stick to extract teeth, hold the back bumpers to attach each of the jumper cables, its gruesome stuff and hard to watch, which is good! Torture is a horrible, horrible thing that shouldn’t be romanticised, that’s not what I have a problem with. What I have a problem with is that it works.
You’re torturing a man to get a description of another man, there’s no ticking bomb, no kidnapped child to rescue no urgentness to the scene. It’s pretty heavily implied that the guy you’re torturing is just an innocent guy, he merely fitted an audio system for the man you’re trying to get a description of, and that he would very calmly answer your questions if you asked them before you extracted one of his teeth. But answer your questions he does, and you take out the guy he described (for whatever reason) so, hooray, tortured worked! We got the bad guy! You’re then told to dispose of the guy you’ve tortured, but your character, pleasant soul that he is, decides to drop him at the airport instead (broken, bleeding and shirtless) so he can get a new life. On the way your character treats you to a diatribe on how “Torture is for the torturer” and that “Torture doesn’t work” just after the game has shown us torture working.
GTA says nothing about torture, but it shows you it working, and that’s enough to be harmful. I’m not advocating that torture shouldn’t be depicted in video games, in fact, I’m asking for more questions to be asked about these kinds of aspects of society. But we have to accept that anything we show carries with it a message, and we have to be careful what that message is. Maybe the people who wrote this scene are pro-torture, that’s fine, they have every right to be. But then I have the right to say that I disagree with them and hold the game in lower esteem, even if what I find disagreeable in the game has nothing to do with gameplay or is only a small aspect of a larger whole. That’s where games should be right now, accountable for what they show.