Grand Theft Auto V focuses on criminal role-playing and the experience of violence without out the obvious negative sides: significant legal consequences, years of crippling regret, spiritual turmoil and so on. However, the online, open-world game is also being used as a digital medium by some players who are less interested in standing off with the police or killing everyone in sight.
One of these players is photographer, Casey Brooks (who has previously edited the film Obvious Child), who has been using the platform to create a photo essay called You Only Live Forever. Made up of snapshots taken within the game, the essay shows a less-dramatic side of GTA V‘s digital world, Los Santos (based on Los Angeles). In looking at the more commonplace elements of the GTA V experience, Brooks manages to capture a realer sense of the unreal.
In an interview with The Creators Project, Brooks explained the process of building a visual narrative, “That’s the challenge when I’m working in the GTA universe. I’m trying to wash away the virtual look, not by manipulating the image to look more real, but by evoking a idea of history, humour, and emotion in the story. Having this young woman [Brooks’ character] more interested in tiny observations than big ideas. For me, that’s what makes it relatable.”
These seemingly meaningless and random moments outside the primary mission- or combat-based gameplay appear to indicate something eerie about the GTA V world itself – being that, like the “real” world, it is alive and unpredictable, albeit in a kind of empty, undead way.