Built as an ironic and crass simulation of the modern life of crime, Grand Theft Auto 5 is replete with downtown bank robberies, cold-blooded assassinations, and expensive therapy on the shore of Laguna Beach. Like its duplicitous characters, the video game leads a double life. For many, Grand Theft Auto 5 is a straightforward shooter; for some, it's an experimental art prompt.
Take, for example, the San Andreas Streaming Deer Cam, a live video stream of an artificially intelligent deer wandering the 100 square miles of San Andreas, the game's parody of Los Angeles and Northern California. Created by artist Brent Watanabe, the modification to Grand Theft Auto 5 emphasizes the craftsmanship that went into the designing the original game.
"In the past 48 hours," reads the official site's video description, "the deer has wandered along a moonlit beach, caused a traffic jam on a major freeway, been caught in a gangland gun battle, and been chased by the police."
We've seen other game designers tweak and modify San Andreas to feature cartoon characters, non-Newtonian physics, and biblical floods. Real world photographers have used the virtual world as a place to ply their trade. What's fascinating about the Deer Cam is that it's meant to be watched, rather than played. A stream of a computer-controlled deer removes the game's two defining features (freedom and violence) and emphasizes what player can't control (the art and the AI).
A video game publisher spent millions of dollars and recruited industry-leading artists and designers to produce the most authentic city in the history of video games, then used the city for a story of crime and midlife anxiety. Now artists without budgets are mining that city for the other, sometimes more interesting stories it has to tell.
The deer cam is, sadly, frozen at the time of publish. It is expected to return today at 6:00PM ET. In the meantime, you can watch a recap of footage recorded in late February.