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Thousands Are Watching A Virtual Deer Run Amok In 'Grand Theft Auto V'

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 30/03/2016 Damon Beres

Well, this is different: Thousands of people are tuning in to a live broadcast of a virtual deer walking around the world of "Grand Theft Auto V." It scales mountains, visits ATMs, gets shot by police -- you know, the usual deer stuff.

The video stream is hosted on Twitch, the game-broadcasting website Amazon acquired in 2014 for nearly $1 billion. It began last year as an art project and is still going strong.

Twitch user Brent Watanabe is behind the broadcast, which uses a modified version of GTA V on PC. The deer is programmed to move itself according to the artificial intelligence motivating pedestrians in the game -- the computer-controlled people that populate GTA's sprawling open-world -- and it makes its own decisions.

"What grabbed my attention early in the development of the project was how the GTA V in-game world reacted to the deer and its random actions. The AI in the game is just so dense and nuanced," Watanabe told New York Magazine in a recent interview.

"One of the early clips I recorded while testing exemplifies this, where the deer runs by a man on the street and he says, 'What in the f*****g world is that?'" he added.

While the stream will seem silly to most -- and of course, it is to an extent -- it actually reveals some interesting things about the artificial game world constructed by the developers of GTA V. 

Chris Priestman, a writer for online game magazine Kill Screen, described why in an article published Monday:

[W]e are encouraged, when we see the deer causing these kinds of reactions in GTA V‘s virtual world, to make assumptions about the constituent pieces of the simulation. We can say that the city is made to be dangerous, a place of gangland violence, where nature is unwelcomed by the aggression of the populace and the physical barriers they erect around their structures. Further, given that San Andreas is itself based on California, we can extend the analysis to what GTA creator Rockstar means to say about the very real U.S. state that it pins under its virtual satire.

The Grand Theft Auto series has featured compelling AI since at least 2001, when "Grand Theft Auto III" came out. As IGN wrote at the time, characters in that game were programmed "to perform several acts that simulate Good Samaritan behavior, but [they're also programmed] with personalities, which means quirks, oddball behavior, and therefore even some surprises."

Of course, this is built into a game series that's been called "definitely misogynistic ... [and] misanthropic," so you'd be forgiven for rolling your eyes a bit at all of it. 

Still, you might be compelled by the exploits of a virtual deer running amok in GTA V's lifelike city. Watch the video above or here.

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