The Gamer Chronicles: Growing Up With Grand Theft Auto

When Ed hit me up to talk about my memories of Grand Theft Auto with respect to its release in the coming months, I had to ask him to be more specific. Being an avid gamer for almost 20 years and having spent hundreds of hours playing almost every version of GTA, this post could span pages upon pages of material. He told me to have at it, so I figured I’d take a very organic approach. I’m just going to write about all the wonderful things I’ve done in GTA, which makes me sick with anticipation for the next opus.

In GTA III, I never completed the game. Really, there was no way to complete the game. I spent so much time running the streets of Liberty City, fighting and blowing sh*t up, that I never had an interest in seeing the story to its end. I drove cars into crowds of people, I found rooftops to snipe heads off from however many hundreds of yards away, and I slept with hookers (those same hookers I’d end up beating up with a baseball bat to retrieve the money I’d spent on sleeping with them). I’m not going to tell you how many times I spent watching various cars rock back and forth on seedy streets behind buildings. But it was a lot of damn time.

I’d spent the previous years playing GTA 1 and 2. If you would’ve told me back then that Rockstar would’ve been able to accurately recreate that same game in a 3D world, I’d have said you were crazy. Somewhere around hour 75 in GTA III, I thought it was the greatest game I’d ever played in the history of my life.

Then GTA San Andreas dropped.

I can count on one hand the number of games which feature the player using a black protagonist as the main character. Of games featuring black characters, there’s always a stereotype associated with said character. CJ from San Andreas, even if he started off as a gangbanger, was a far cry from what his peers were at the time. He was a kid. Home from jail. Caught up in some crazy ish. It astonishes me to this day that Rockstar was able to accurately depict 90s “hood cinema” in the way they did with San Andreas. A black character who was neither a caricature nor one-dimensional stereotype, living and breathing as a person, has always stuck with me. As I type this, I just clicked on PSN to look for San Andreas, so I can jump back into the world and finish the story.

GTA IV didn’t thrill me the same way the previous iterations did. Granted, the engine was amazing and the graphics were killer. I just didn’t buy into Niko’s story. But one of my favorite missions was the mission with the bank heist. Rockstar ripped that mission straight out of the movie “Heat” and man ... what an adrenaline rush. Video games are always designed around immersion and trying to get the players to buy into the character they’re playing. I left my controller slick with sweat navigating that mission. Shooting into random crowds of people never got old as the weapons were bigger, better and stronger. Running them over with the RAGE physics engine was delightful as well. Oh, can’t forget the drunk driving or going to see Katt Williams on stage. Very nice personal touches on their part.

GTA Chinatown Wars saw the series go back to its top-down, GTA-and-a-half days with cleaner graphics and all the upgrades technology has afforded them. One of the BEST, AWESOMEST, SUPERBLY DONE features of the game was the drug dealing portion they included. When I tell you that you could feasibly play the entire game just driving around the city trading drugs with other dealers, I’m not kidding. That portion of the game is so addicting, I’m going to write Rockstar a profanity-laden letter if it’s been excluded out of GTA V. It needs to be in there. It has to be in there. They need to put it in there.

As I watch the trailers for GTA V, I’m already planning to take that particular day off of work. Or ... days off work. The game will already be paid off in full for me by the time it releases. Nothing short of the death of a family member is going to interfere with my playtime, as I’ll likely choose to order in or have my lady on standby for sandwich breaks. Yes. It’s that serious. GTA III revolutionized gaming as we knew it when it dropped 12 years ago, and I have a sneaking suspicion GTA V is setting up to do the same. GTA V might just be a game to some people, but for me? As a gamer? I truly believe it’s going to be the holy grail of everything I love about gaming.

And. I. Can’t. Wait.


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