"Reason" magazine, a monthly libertarian publication "covering politics, culture, and ideas through a provocative mix of news, analysis, commentary, and reviews," has released its June 2014 issue about gaming.
The issue promises to be "devoted to exploring, analyzing, and discussing the political, cultural, and economic dimensions of the multi-billion video game industry." The cover chosen for this issue shows a cleaned-up version of the "Grand Theft Auto V" poster featuring Jimmy De Santa, the lazy, whining son of game protagonist Michael:
In addition to drug paraphernalia, a 3-D printed gun and a can of Four Loko, the cover depicts a flag pin-wearing, well-to-do political type pointing a pretty stern finger at a nagging, scantily clad, Ugg boots-wearing woman in the background.
According to "Reason" Editor-in-Chief Matt Welch, the cover was chosen to reflect an image style that would be familiar and recognizable, and would reflect the idea that gamers are becoming "more mainstream." Welch said the magazine "cleaned up" the original image, removing the bikini-clad poster girl in the background and changing the man's middle finger to an index finger in a "hold on, wait one second" gesture.
The character of Jimmy was cleaned up to appear as a successful businessman, who "Reason" sees as the modern gamer, rather than the stereotypical image Welch describes as "some guy in his mother's basement."
For an issue that lists the cultural dimensions of the video game industry as one of its primary focuses, this cover choice is odd, as one could argue that "GTA V" puts a dark spot on video game culture. "GTA V," while undeniably popular, is consistently criticized for its extreme violence as well as its "profoundly misogynistic" treatment of women, who we now know make up 48 percent of the gaming population.
While some, like the Telegraph's Tom Hoggins, would say that the misogyny in "GTA V" is meant to make a player uncomfortable because it holds a mirror up to society, this cover doesn't have the benefit of putting the player directly in the character's shoes so he (or she) can see the error of his (or her) ways.
Welch seemed to agree: "You can't recreate the 3D experience of playing a game in a 2D print magazine," he tells The Huffington Post, but he added that "GTA V" as a "cultural phenomenon is huge -- we're paying respect to that culture."
While this issue of the magazine deals with video games as a form of artistic expression and touches on the politics of gaming culture, it also closely examines what Welch calls the "modern gamer," highlighting in one article gaming enthusiast Rep. Jared Polis.
Welch goes on to say, "Magazine covers are best when you get some sort of emotional reaction." While that is certainly true, one can wonder if gamers -- especially female gamers -- will have a favorable reaction to being depicted as Four Loko-drinking, pot-smoking, sexist males. This is especially true, considering the male character the magazine's cover image is based on: one who purposefully gives his father (also no angel, but still) a PCP-laced drink and throws him onto the street after stealing his car and some of his money. It may take gamers out of their mothers' basements, but it's not still not doing much to rehabilitate their image.
How do you feel about the magazine cover? Let us know in the comments below.