Mark Marino’s “Grand Thieves Audio” is a series of monologues inspired by the video game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. Marino’s so-called “modologues” modify the game-play experience by inserting four new characters into the game’s narrative: the Army Recruiter, the protagonist’s mother, the Driver’s Ed instructor, and an Arnold Schwarzenegger sound-a-like. To modify or “mod” the original game, the player downloads the sound files of the modolgues into an MP3 folder of the PC version of Grand Theft Auto and tunes the in-game radio to the MP3 Player Station. By having the player activate these characters, Marino and his collaborators infiltrate the world of the game to seize control of the game’s narrative and shift the context of play from the virtual world of the game consol to the “real world” of the game player. Through their monologues, Marino’s characters join the player in the passenger seat as they hijack cars in Vice City.
Video games are an immersive medium and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City requires the player to sublimate his or her own identity and take the role of the game’s protagonist, Tommy Vercetti. However, the game also allows the player to ignore the main narrative and do whatever she chooses to do in the virtual world without consequence to the plot. Marino problematizes this “freedom” by introducing characters with sophisticated emotional responses that range from excitement (the Army Recruiter) to nonchalance (the Driver’s Ed Instructor). The modologues are also a means of satirizing American popular culture: for example, the Army Recruiter identifies seemingly “innocent” video games from the nineteen-eighties like Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and Pac-Man as training tools, when critics of the “Grand Theft Auto” series in the real world claim that the game trains children to kill. This is particularly effective when “Grand Thieves Audio” reverses the structure of video gaming where the player, rather than immerse herself in a game, immerses the game in her world. “Grand Thieves Audio” and other works by Mark Marino are available for download at Bunk Magazine.
Patrick Mains was a student of Dr. Kiki Benzon for a course in Contemporary Fiction taught at the University of Lethbridge, Canada during the Winter term of 2011.