The Average Gamer

Why I Love GTA V’s Trevor Philips [Spoilers]

GTA V Trevor Philips Explosion
I am 49 missions through the 69-mission campaign of GTA V and Trevor Phillips is by far my favourite character. I wouldn’t want him to be my friend, HELL NO, but his lens on the world is always entertaining. He’s a complete narcissist, the psychopathic CEO of Trevor Phillips Inc. (Industries), someone who lets nothing and nobody stand in his way. In that sense, he sounds a lot like many other CEOs. Most CEOs however, on learning that a rival company has secured a contract they were expecting, don’t drive up to said company’s HQ with an assault rifle and start spraying bullets. At least, not in person. Trevor is fucking terrifying.

He tries, though. Over the course of the game (and this is going to get more spoilery now), I realised that Trevor is far from being the one-note psychopath who uses violence purely for its own sake, though I won’t deny that he does this too. As so many videogame protagonists are, he’s still a terrible person. That’s far from the whole story.

It seems to me that Trevor just has trouble seeing other people as people. They’re merely other things to him. Throw in a little sadism, a whole bunch of killing skills from his training with the military and his behaviour starts to makes sense.

He can’t stand Los Santos because it’s all about how other people perceive you. That means nothing to him. He kills because he’s good at it. Whether he enjoys it for the pain or the power, I still don’t know but whatever the reason, it’s the easiest, more successful option for him. Trevor’s a bright guy in many respects. He’s a skilled pilot. He can plan and execute huge heists. He just don’t understand people.

Somewhere along the way, Trevor has picked up a few rules on how to treat his fellow human beings. “Mi casa, su casa” is a common phrase of hospitality that he repeats to his guests with complete sincerity: my home is your home. He honestly doesn’t realise that a meth lab – especially one in which he pisses in the corner and vomits on the floor – isn’t a home that any normal person would want.

He generously provides Michael with food, so Michael doesn’t get hungry and grumpy and make bad decisions for the upcoming heist. Yes, the food may have eyelid in it, but Trevor lives close to the REAL world, close to the land. He probably hunts his own game. There’s a chance that the eyelid could be human. Why would that be a problem? Meat is meat.

When people visit his place, the first thing he does is offer them a drink. In return, he expects that when he visits someone else’s house, they should offer him a drink. In his mind, this reasonably translates into thinking it’s okay to loudly demand a drink the instant he walks through a door. Why shouldn’t he? He’s a guest. They’re supposed to provide a drink.

Barging through a door uninvited doesn’t make you a guest, of course, but Trevor’s understanding of courtesy doesn’t extend that far. He’s with a friend, visiting a relative. Isn’t that how things work?

Trevor is a rage-fuelled psychopath because that what you’d have to be, to do the things that we do in GTA. Outside the story missions, when you run over a cougar at high speed, sometimes Trevor gleefully shouts “Squish!” I did too. Seeing my reaction mirrored by this man brought home the reality that yes, he is exactly the sort of person who would do that in real life. I saw that cougar by the side of the road. I could have slowed down. I chose not to.

Similarly, Trevor – my version of Trevor – looks after the people in his neck of the woods. A drunk couple asks him to drive them home. He obliges and during the journey, they start to get openly frisky in the back seat. Trevor doesn’t ask them to knock it off. He asks if he can join in. You probably wondered that too. I tried to take a photo.

Rockstar brought back the rampage mode. Through him, they never let us forget that in GTA V’s reality, when we choose a rampage mission, we chose to gun down these people for exactly the same level of provocation as they showed Trevor – none at all. It’s laughable and horrifying at all once.

The Torture Thing

I’m going to explain this scene in detail now because the articles I’ve read about it seem to take a very different interpretation from me. At one point, Trevor tortures a man and he does so with obvious enjoyment. People didn’t like it.

GTA V Trevor Philips Wrench

Dave Cook of VG247 found it a cheap attempt at shock tactics:

“Some of us will view the torture scene as some sort of statement on how readily American security firms such the FBI and the CIA persecute those of Middle Eastern descent as potential terrorists without proper grounds to do so…

…I – personally – feel that the scene wasn’t a statement about anything to do with press scape-goating or profiling. To me it was mean-spirited and another in a long-line of Rockstar ‘shock-tactics’ “

Carolyn Petit on Gamespot said that the scene was politically muddled:

“Trevor states that torture doesn’t work, and the person ordering the torture is an arrogant and corrupt government official, suggesting that the scene is meant to be a critical commentary on the United States’ use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation” methods. But the fact that Trevor (and you, if you want to progress through the story) tortures the man regardless, and that he does end up spilling more information as a result, sends a very different message.”

No. It’s not politically muddled at all. It’s just not addressing the political issues that Cook and Petit were expecting.

This particular plotline takes place over two missions. In the first, you’ve been asked to extract a man who is vital to the FIB because of reasons. Michael asks who this guy is and what these reasons are. He doesn’t get an answer. In the second, the FIB has you (through Trevor) torturing the man for information.

Trevor isn’t condoning anything except hurting a man because he’s been asked to do so. He likes to hurt people. He doesn’t know what information he wants the guy to give up and, beyond asking at the start for his own curiosity, he doesn’t really care. He revels in it.

You know who else revelled in torturing prisoners simply because they were asked to? The guards of Abu Ghraib.

GTA V Trevor Philips Lake BodyThe scene is brutal and graphic and interactive. And if you were paying attention, you’d realise that the FIB agent doesn’t ask a single specific from the guy about to be tortured. It’s all “Tell us about the Azerbaijani” and “Are you ready to talk?” It’s only after the pain is inflicted that you and the prisoner learn what information the FIB actually want to know.

You know who else takes prisoners, hurts them for intelligence but won’t actually tell them why? The people in charge of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

People don’t like this scene. And yet, we know what kind of guy Trevor is. We know what kind of game GTA is. This is the game series that has always been about telling the brutal gangster story that Rockstar want to tell. For the past decade, this series has been known as the one where players discovered that you can murder a prostitute to reclaim your fee. Trevor Philips hurts people because he’s asked to do so, and he enjoys it. We bought this game and it asks us to hurt people and when it dwells on the human impact of our actions, now we’re not enjoying it?

At the end of it all, Trevor even explains what just happened as he drives the confused, crippled man away. The prisoner was ready to talk before the torture even started but the FIB man wouldn’t let him. “Torture is for the torturer,” Trevor says. Petit seems to think that the message sent is that torture works. It’s saying that torture isn’t even necessary but they do it anyway. This isn’t satire parody. This isn’t gratuitous shock. This is the part where Rockstar stop making dick jokes and are saying something serious about the world we’re living in.

Trevor knows that FIB will never leave the man alone after this and gives him his best chance of survival – sending him out of the country without even a phone call to his wife. This poor home theatre technician took a job for the wrong criminal and the American government snatched away his teeth, his family and his entire way of life.

Trevor does what he can to make it right.


  1. Jim

    23rd Sep, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Petit is a idiot, and without doubt one of the worst games reviewers on Gamespot, and considering the (lack of) quality of some of the ‘journalism’ on that site, that is saying something.

    • Debbie Timmins (Weefz)

      23rd Sep, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      Now, now. There’s no need to be throwing insults at other games writers when they’re not even around to read them.

    • Bruno2532

      29th Dec, 2013 at 8:48 pm

      True, this journal is pure crap, he didn’t say the most important things about Trevor like him being a damaged human being who is seeking to be accepted by his closest but is constantly rejected.

  2. Peryite, Daedric Prince of Decay

    25th Sep, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Calling Trevor a “narcissist” is meaningless. Every character in GTA V is a narcissist by that standard.

    It would be more meaningful to explore why he is so hot-tempered and why he uses violence so often. It’s not simply “because he’s good at it.” People who have personalities like Trevor’s are almost always victims of horrible abuse as children.

    The state of California is the USA’s most narcissistic state. Simply by virtue of being in that highly narcissistic culture, Californians tend toward high narcissism relative to other Americans. Yet you observe accurately that Trevor hates Los Santos because there it’s all about how others perceive you. In other words, highly narcissistic. So are you saying Trevor is a narcissist who hates narcissists, or are you wrong about Trevor being a narcissist relative to other Californians? (San Andreans)

    The most interesting aspect of this installment of GTA is how it compares empty, talentless, misanthropic “success stories” (Mark Zuckerberg/facebook) against the “bad criminals” like Trevor, Michael and Franklin. Zuckerberg is a bigger criminal than any person operating at the level of Franklin, Michael or Trevor, yet in American society Zuckerberg is praised while people like Trevor, Michael & Franklin are demonized and hated.

    I would suggest that what appeals to you in Trevor’s character is that he’s simple, direct, and despite his violence and aggression, honest about what he does, who he is, what he stands for.

    • Peryite, Daedric Prince of Decay

      25th Sep, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Also, I would suggest that on some level, since Trevor is a Canadian who hails from the GTA analog of British Columbia, and since BC people have a reputation for being overly nice and excessively polite, the character Trevor is a satire or ironic reversal of the stereotypical super-polite, extra-nice Canadian.

      Every installment of the GTA series has satirized American culture’s idolization of white collar people and demonization of blue collar people. But near as I can tell this is the only installment to take swipes at Canadians.

      • Debbie Timmins (Weefz)

        25th Sep, 2013 at 7:02 pm

        I’ll take your word on British Columbia. Living in the UK, I’m not exposed tot he American stereotypes as much as, well, Americans.

        I thought narcissist was important, not just because he thinks he’s great but he’s excessively so, even more than Michael and Franklin. Those guys both want to be rich, and yeah, San Andreas has that Valley thing but no one else goes painting Trevor Philips Enterprise all over their stolen army helicopter. Trevor wants people to know when he’s done something and his extreme narcissism gives him the confidence that he won’t be caught.

        As for the anger – yeah, I was playing more of the game yesterday and I probably could have addressed his rage issues as well. As you say, it’s not a reason why he appeals to me though ;)

        And yeah, it is that directness and honesty that I like in his character. I do also respect Rockstar for creating him to reflect our actions and choices back at us, and using his violence to make a bigger statement about our world.

        Assuming, of course, that that’s what they were doing.

      • Bubs

        9th Oct, 2013 at 7:45 pm

        I wouldn’t say they’re taking swipes at Canada. It’s parody. Also, every person in the game so far who’s made a crack at Trevor about being Canadian, has ended up dead. I’d say they are doing a good thing. Everyone around the world views us as being the most polite country on the face of the planet. I know from being from Ontario (Toronto specifically), this is not true. We are just as American as our friends south of the border, We just don’t like to admit it. Lets not forget how much money Canada has brought in for Rockstar. Rockstar Vancouver (now merged with R* Toronto) Is responsible for both Bully and the Max Payne series. Trevor is the easiest character to care for out of the three. He’s got a sensitive side, Is off his damn rocker and is really, The only character in GTA history who actually makes complete sense as to, where he lives, where he’s from and why he’s doing what he’s doing. I’m proud he’s Canadian and i don’t find anything negative towards Canada in the game, just that he had a terrible upbringing but would a GTA character with a GOOD upbringing make sense?

  3. ChaseS

    30th Sep, 2013 at 2:24 am

    “Calling Trevor a “narcissist” is meaningless. Every character in GTA V is a narcissist by that standard.
    It would be more meaningful to explore why he is so hot-tempered and why he uses violence so often. It’s not simply “because he’s good at it.” People who have personalities like Trevor’s are almost always victims of horrible abuse as children. ” – Peryite, Daedric Prince of Decay

    After you beat the last mission, go back to Trevor’s trailer in Sandy Shores. There’s a cut scene after you first walk in that could really explain a lot about why Trevor is the way he is.

  4. Pingback: Why I Love GTA V’s Trevor Philips [Spoilers] – The Average Gamer – The Average Gamer - SplitCoreGaming

  5. Luis Castilleja

    3rd Oct, 2013 at 3:36 am

    I love him because its someone so over the top but as the game progresses you realize he has some good in him, I cant remmeber a better videogame moment than when….spoiler alert…. trevor saves Michael, its so good because you never know if he is actually going to save him, and because of his character you dont expect him to show up. but he does …whit a sniper rifle.

  6. John Peyton

    11th Dec, 2013 at 4:30 am

    I for one totally agree with Trevors way of thinking.
    Nice guy ;)

  7. Vic 2.0

    25th Dec, 2013 at 1:41 am

    Trevor’s both the worst protagonist and the worst idea in general in the GTA series.

    And I don’t just say that because I view him as a pathetic, amoral loser with no self-control (so he cannot possibly qualify as a badass, in my book), nor is it just because he’s fugly! I can’t stand him because I hate the idea that the protagonist’s personally in cutscenes must match the typical GTA gamer’s sporadically violent behavior (mowing down pedestrians on the sidewalk, shooting them down just for kicks, etc.) for the game to “make sense”. There is a bit of that mindset going on with the other characters too, but the argument is primarily made to explain Trevor.

    Not only is this an entirely made up out of the blue ideal in this genre and in the GTA series, but it seems as though Rockstar couldn’t just make Trevor’s personality adhere to this in-sandbox behavior on the part of the player; they also had to make it so the player’s in-sandbox behavior adhered to the protagonists’ personalities. Two examples of that being the fact that what radio stations you can listen to depend in part on whether you’re playing as Trevor, and the fact that (according to gameinformer), they chose not to put dating in GTA 5 specifically because of “the nature of the characters”.

    F*** “the nature of the characters”! I am the character when we’re in the open world in between missions! If I wanna listen to the rap station while playing as Trevor, I should be able to! If I wanna date, I should be able to do that also. Nothing is worth taking away the player’s freedom while just roaming about. Nothing. If a particular character seems to demand that the player isn’t allowed to do x, that character needs to be changed or removed. Rockstar owes a lot to the concept of freedom in the open world (namely the success of the entire GTA series). For them to turn their back on it now is truly despicable.


    • Debbie Timmins (Weefz)

      30th Dec, 2013 at 2:24 pm

      GTA has never been a role-playing game. I always disagreed with media calling it a “sandbox” game because it’s always been focused on your very small set of predefined actions – shoot stuff, steal cars, play a minigame. This isn’t Skyrim or Oblivion and it’s never pretended to be.

      Sure, GTA IV added a few things like checking your email and taking a girl out on a date (what? You can’t role-play as gay or bisexual? How DARE they) but since Vice City, Rockstar’s games have always been about the man THEY created – Tommy Vercetti, Jimmy Hopkins, John Marsden, Niko Bellic,

      You want to create your own character? Buy a role-playing game.