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GTA IV’s Brucie Kibbutz, the Man Behind the Curtain

If you haven’t had time to pop in your fresh copy of GTA IV and don’t want a single blood-spattered moment ruined for you, don’t read further. Though this article won’t go deep into the plot or contain any major spoilers, I will be talking almost exclusively about a character encountered a good two hours into the game. You’ve been warned.

At first, I had trouble connecting with GTA IV’s narrative. A few months ago, I saw Ken Levine speak about Bioshock, and he stated that designers must consider that the majority of buyers are meatheads who want to fire first and get story later. He may be right, because I couldn’t help it, but feel that the guns and guts weren’t coming soon enough. After a half-hour, I Googled “GTA IV cheats” to find the weapons, health, and spawn codes.

Then, for another half an hour or so, I went on a massacre across greater Liberty City—helicopter duels at the statue of liberty, grenade tosses on the highway, and, a new favorite, rocket-jumps off the Empire State Building.

With that out of my system, I returned to the campaign’s narrative, and have since been able to enjoy the game at a leisurely pace, even undertaking the wide variety of side-missions with my dealer, Little Jacob, my cousin, Roman, and my girlfriend, Michelle. Yeah, we’re so dating.

When I drunkenly drove Michelle to her house after drinks at Steinway Beer Garden, she announced we were an item. She then flew out the passenger window as the vehicle careened into the tale of an ice cream truck.

A similar event happened, again out of the blue, when I met a peculiar, wealthy man roaming the streets. I walked up to him, and the game entered a cinematic where he criticized my European heritage, then flattered himself by forking over a fresh one hundred dollar bill. Strapped on cash and in desperate need of health, I gladly took it. Then, as a symbol of true good fortune, I spotted a hotdog stand across the street—two steps forward and a garbage truck blindsided me.

What I’m getting at is GTA IV’s narratives, intentional or unintentional, are dark and brutal.

That’s why Brucie Kibbutz is both a breath of fresh air, and, for me, the cherry-on-top of a carefully crafted story sundae. Brucie’s a steroid-popping, car-thieving maniac. As a cliché, a stock version of the same character would play a lot like Biff. Instead, he’s highly likable and surprisingly wise, all because of one well chosen character trait: Brucie’s impenetrable confidence both in his existence and his role in Liberty City. He’s a dude. He’s a ‘roider. He’s a racer. And he’s definitely “alpha.”

But best of all, those labels are never a problem for Brucie, because he’s always the first to identify himself. He’s resolute and so is his image.

How Brucie Kibbutz pulls back the curtain of GTA IV’s mechanical world after the jump…

GTA IV’s remaining core characters struggle to identify themselves. Immediately, you’re introduced exclusively to people fueled by their inability either internally or externally to meet labels they’ve assigned themselves. Rather than recognize their true identity, they aggressively set out to change it. It’s this pursuit that makes Niko both a hero and tragic (and possibly a tragic hero). Niko craves the American Dream, but Liberty City’s hard external reality interferes. But he will not be satisfied as a mob driver, and lusts for success. Even the supporting casts’ pursuits to re-label themselves makes them feel both pathetic and yet earnest. Mikhail Faustin believes he’s the city’s great gang boss, but his paranoia inhibits success time and time again. Still, he truly wants to do right—often less-worried about the mob’s business, than keeping hushed for his wife to watch TV.

But Brucie does not openly pursue a new image nor a new role in society. That’s not to say Brucie avoids advancement, rather Brucie recognizes the cause and effect his personality has to his success. He’s aware he’s a naturally successful person, and surrounds himself with similar people, like Niko. This is perfectly encapsulated in this small bit of dialogue.

Niko: Hey Brucie, what’s up?

Brucie: H-hey, Niko B! Come here. Show me the love man-hug style!

Niko: Woa, enough all right.

Brucie: Woa, woa, what are we about here, you and me?

Niko: I don’t know.

Brucie: What are we about, boy?

Niko:
I’m an immigrant and a hired gun. And you’re a steroid junkey, but we get along.

Brucie: No, not that stuff. That’s superficial. I’m talking about the real shit.

Niko: What?

Brucie: We’re winners, man. Fucking winners. That’s how we roll.

Niko can only see the first-level of his reality, but Brucie pulls back the curtain and reveals the truth not only of the scene, but the truth of the entire game. Niko, the protagonist, is the hero of a videogame, and he will always win (just as heroes do in films, and just as, some of us may hope, heroes do in real life.) Brucie, too, is naturally a winner, but what make Brucie unique, truly special, is his ability to see the world’s mechanism. He sees how the clock works, and it’s so evident, so clear to him, that to everyone else he’s a moron. A fool.

At the end of the video, Niko completes a death-defying high-speed race and Brucie hollers with excitement. For Brucie, he saw the finish ling coming all along. While Niko, the player, will complete this race–you have to if you want to progress—both the player and Niko are under the illusion that success may never come. The game pressure’s you to succeed in this narrative, but the truth is there’s no real failure in GTA IV. Even if you never complete the narrative, you can always get the codes. You could spawn the helicopters, the weapons, the health and enjoy the city, but you’ve chosen to become the bigger character, the victor. It’s the path of Niko.

The curtain can be pulled back; success can be had at any time. And when I met Brucie, it was suddenly evident: the city’s already mine.

-Chris
Image: Source

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Filed under: Commentary, Story Analysis, The Save Files, , , ,

11 Responses

  1. What you have here is a very interesting piece of work on a game that’s only three days old. I suppose on a larger scale, it would be good to look at other big-name ‘hero games’, such as God of War or the Legend of Zelda, and see how they do the same job of teaching you that, no matter what, you are the winner. You may have to complete tasks, and in GTA4’s case there are cheat codes to override this, but overall the sense of teaching you that you are, in a sense, the hero or the winner is still there.

    And so in that case, it’s extremely interesting to notice how GTA4 takes us behind the visage of Liberty City into what really matters with a character like Brucie Kibbutz. These straight up moments of (nearly) breaking the fourth wall are refreshing and a big part of what makes the game special. Also, now I have to learn about rocket-jumping. So thanks for that.

  2. (I meant that first line as a compliment by the way — as to say it’s impressive. Just wanna be clear!)

  3. ctplante says:

    Thanks!

    I think you’re right about making a broader argument about games that make it evident you’re the hero. So much so, I’m writing an extended piece about it for my “Why We Play” column this week. Thanks for the idea!

  4. Mark says:

    Huh? What are you talking about? It’s obvious that Brucie is just caricature with no real identity other than the “fact” that he’s “genetically different”. His entire being is about having superficial signs of superiority (fancy cars, muscles, overconfident attitude) but real signs of weakness (inability to control his temper, injuring himself punching walls. getting his ass kicked by Niko, narcissism). Let’s not forget his juicing, speaking in bizarre buzzwords and catchphrases, taking advantage of his friends, taking credit for favors people do for him. Brucie is there for comic relief. The real hero is Niko, who does whatever he feels he needs to do and is honest with himself about his identity crisis rather than hiding it under a smelly coat of bullshit like Brucie and Roman.

  5. ctplante says:

    @ Mark:

    I don’t disagree that Brucie plays a certain frat-boy caricature, nor am I saying he’s the story’s hero. By my definition he can’t become the hero, because the hero must learn the big lesson, and Brucie has no lesson to learn. Instead, I think behind Brucie’s cracked-out exterior, the writers put an existential character that helps other characters realize their ultimate goals.

    I’m not saying Brucie as a digital person does this, I’m saying the creators use him as a tool.

    But I agree, Brucie’s a crazy-roider and definitely comic relief. Dude’s so alpha.

  6. PM, SN says:

    That’s some fantastic writing!

    I do enjoy stories that employ that ol’ avante garde device of having a character able to break the fourth wall, albeit subtly in this case. Rockstar games are no stranger to self-referenciality, but it still tickles me whenever I see it nonetheless. I haven’t gotten a chance to play GTAIV yet, but I’m lookin’ forward to it!

  7. Brucie Kibbutz says:

    Thanks for that great article, I really enjoyed your writing and totally agree with it!!

  8. […] the hell is that?” But then I played a bit more and realized same things as Chris in hardcasual.net. At first, Brucie is a completely annoying meathead who things too much about himself. But if you […]

  9. radtke says:

    brilliant. Brucie IS No. 1. A modern day Biff Tannen.

  10. one luv says:

    man…
    brucie is tha king…
    would be nice to meet someone like that in reaal life..

  11. CD says:

    “would be nice to meet someone like that in reaal life..”

    Really? I think I’d shoot myself in the stomach before hanging out with a guy like that…

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this is a blog about video games by chris plante, sam ryan and chris littler.


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