Why don’t the cops fight each other?

There are several examples of great desktop documentaries on this site, but this is the only one so far that takes a video game as its subject, as opposed to films or online phenomena. It proves to be a natural match. Machinima artist Grayson Earle dives into a peculiarity he discovered while modding the video game Grand Theft Auto V. Earle was experimenting with modifications under the hood of the game, trying to get different characters to fight with each other. Apparently that’s easy enough when you know your way around the code of a game, as he obviously does. But when he tried to pit police officers against each other, that proved impossible. The virtual law enforcement officers ran off in different directions, refusing to engage.


This video essay chronicles Earle’s attempts to find an explanation for this strange behavior. (Strange because the virtual policemen don’t have qualms about beating up innocent civilians or businessmen in expensive suits, they just won’t lay a finger on each other). In typical desktop documentary fashion, his meandering research takes him from online forums of modders to news items (on the concept of the “Blue Wall of silence”, the police’s own version of the omertà) and finally to Rockstar Games, the game studio behind the popular GTA series.


Earl’s desktop quest has a wonderfully absurd quality to it, as if he were a digital Don Quixote on a mission to fight virtual lawmen. He plays up that aspect by demonstrating several other modifications that result in huge pile-ups of police vehicles and even in a gun that shoots cars instead of bullets. Such silly and nonsensical mods were not explicitly made impossible by the game’s developers. But policemen fighting each other… now that’s too absurd to allow, apparently.