Abertay University professor and artist Joseph DeLappe is using Grand Theft Auto V in his latest digital art piece about gun violence in America. Elegy: GTA USA Gun Homicides was created by the Scottish professor and launched on 4th July 2018.
The piece is designed to show the victims of gun violence in the United States in a “literal, graphic way.” For the next year, every night at midnight the automated game will restart on Twitch, using in-game dead bodies to show how many Americans have died due to gun violence since 1 January 2018. It isn’t controlled by a player; instead it is updated automatically every night using data scraped from the Gun Violence Archive.
DeLappe describes the way he is using GTA V as “essentially a game as a data visualiser.” In the background, DeLappe has added “God Bless America” on loop. As for why he has decided to use a video game like GTA V for this project about gun violence, it seems to be based on the often said National Rifle Association (NRA) and conservative media quote that “Guns don’t kill people, video games do.”
This isn’t the first time DeLappe has used videos games to create art. In 2003 he and some friends used text chat in Quake III Arena to act out an episode of Friends. In 2006 he started a project, dead-in-iraq, that used the popular shooter America’s Army. He used the text chat in the game to manually list every American casualty from the war.
Elegy: GTA USA Gun Homicides was created using a PC copy of GTA V that has been slightly modified using custom code created by Albert Elwin. The project is currently planned to continue streaming daily on Twitch until 4 July 2019.
Zack Zwiezen is a a writer living in Kansas City, Missouri. He has written for Gamecritics, Killscreen and Entertainment Fuse.