The Degenatron is a fictional video game console first mentioned in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and again in its sequel Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. It is encountered again in The Ballad of Gay Tony with a machine owned by property developer Yusuf Amir.
The Degenatron is mentioned often on GTA Vice City's radio stations. Several facts can be gathered from the numerous advertisements heard on the radio.
- The graphics seem to be limited to green dots and red squares. However, the emulated "Defender of the Faith" (see below) in a Degenatron "fansite" also display blue squares.
- It is praised for bringing arcade realism to the living room, notably by taking quarters and having "a strange, sweaty man come by to empty the machine on Fridays." (a reference to the infamous Polybius)
- It plays three "amazing" games:
|Defender of the Faith, where "you save the green dots with your fantastic flying red square!" It is suggested to be a parody of Defender.|
|Monkey's Paradise, where "you swing from green dot to green dot with your red square monkey!" The game has a Pitfall!-like gameplay.|
|Penetrator, where "you smash the green dots deep inside the mysterious red square!" A game in the style of Tempest.|
It is implied that the Degenatron was considered a low-end gaming console, and as a result struggled with much better competition from the home computer market. A "GEN 2" was launched in 1991 by the same company which produced the Degenatron, but the company vanished a year later. It is worth noting that an unnamed game console can be found in (and stolen from) most houses of GTA San Andreas during burglary side missions.
In GTA V, there is a scene in The Loneliest Robot in Great Britain that contains a Degenatron. Unlike its previous appearances as an arcade cabinet, this one bears more of a resemblance to an Atari 2600 console. It's also a cartridge-based unit instead of having three built-in games and has more advanced graphics.
GTA Vice City is set in the 1980s, loosely around the time of the golden age of video arcade games. The Degenatron is a parody of early 1980s games consoles such as the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision, and the games it plays are inspired by real games of that era. The Degenatron is also used to mock people who accuse video games of "corrupting children". The advertisements target disaffected children who resent their parents' suggestions to take up wholesome activities like reading or playing outside, and at the end of the commercial kids shout proudly "I'll never go to school again!"
The name "Degenatron" itself parodies those who believe that video games are damaging to children's physical fitness, social skills, and morality. Jan Brown, a guest on GTA Vice City's VCPR, lashes out at the console for being a bad influence on her children – she was oblivious to her own lack of parenting skills, which included rewarding one of her kids for killing a mailman and getting them to beat up their father when he cheats on her.
It should be noted however that the Degenatron clearly parodies second generation video game consoles prior to the video game crash of 1983 - while in real life, the video game industry had entered the third generation of consoles by 1986, with the video game industry being saved by the launch of the Nintendo Entertainment System - and having much different technology as well as the public attitude in contrast to the portrayal of the Degenatron in the radio ads.
In GTA San Andreas, Marvin Trill, a conspiracy theorist on WCTR, accuses the console of implanting subliminal messages in the minds of people as part of a communist plot. It's no coincidence that the Grand Theft Auto series has been a particular target for these kinds of accusations. Critics accuse it of glorifying violence , of encouraging the murder of police officers , and even of teaching kids to use a sniper rifle , which parodies critical analysis of the Grand Theft Auto series.
Degenatron advert script
Man: Are ya tired of dad?
Kid: Dad, no one wants to hear your stupid Vietnam stories!!!
Man: Are ya tired of mom?
Mother: Hi angel, do you wanna read a book or go outside?
Man: The arcade comes to your living room, only without the creepy guys offering to show you puppies!
Man: The Degenatron, you can play video games just like you are in the arcade!
Man: The Degenatron gaming system plays three exciting games, including Defender of the Faith, where you save the green dots with your fantastic flying red square.
Man: Monkey's Paradise, where you swing from green dot to green dot with your red square monkey.
Kids: THAT'S RAD!
Man: And Penetrator, where you smash the green dots deep inside the mysterious red square!
Man: The Degenatron brings arcade realism to your living room! It can even take quarters and a strange sweaty man comes right after the machine on Fridays!
Man: Degenatron! Fighting the evil of boredom!
Kids: I'LL NEVER GO TO SCHOOL AGAIN!
- eXsorbeo, a handheld gaming console in GTA San Andreas.
- Degenatron.com at Rockstargames.com (masquerading as an unofficial fansite), complete with Degenatron "emulators".