Grand Theft Auto: Why I’ve buried my grudge just in time

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‘What? Say that again I dare you’ Is the kind of response from friends and gaming fanatics that was all too familiar, to which I’d mockingly raise both hands and repeat,  ‘I am not, never been nor ever will be a Grand Theft Auto fan’.  A decade later I’ve had to routinely clean egg off my face, confessing to both my misguided judgments and my reasonings behind them.  So if you don’t know me personally, here they are, again:

ICO’s abandonment issues: When Grand Theft Auto 3 was released to a monster fan base and critical acclaim in the early 2000’s it was instantly hailed as the game to beat of the 6th gaming generation.  I stood bitterly in the corner, my ICO booklet in hand and just couldn’t help but feel that a true masterpiece had been seriously overlooked.  Thankfully ICO gained recognition and a cult fanbase over the years, yet I still think back to those days where praises for the game fell upon the deaf ears of Grand Theft fanatics, who seemed to be everywhere at the time.

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Grand Theft Auto Fans: Sad but true, if you to tend to be overly cynical and judgmental, annoying fans can be a key factor in whether you choose to give a game a go.  The games have always been pegi rated 18, of course meaning it’s core audience was gonna be 10-16 year olds.  So what happens when you get the wrong groups of people delving into the world of a very adult game?  This isn’t a generalisation, I recall moronic outbursts from specific people in high school:  ‘can’t wait for more Grand Theft, I can’t wait to just fuck more shit up!’ ‘I took a chainsaw to a stranger’s head, I love this game!’  To me the game represented a shallow, juvenile outlet for teen angst.   Clearly becoming these swashbuckling anti-heroes in any context gives you ‘gangsta’ points in reality right?

Then the final straw: So San Andreas comes out in ’04.  I’m 14 at this point, my adorable 8 year old nephew decides he needs to show me why it’s awesome and re-assures me that his mum purchased him a copy.  I know his story’s bull, probably got some random to hook him up but I think why not?  He won’t even know what he’s doing…  Then almost as soon as he starts playing from a saved point he turns to me and says, ‘oh crap I’m low on life, I just need to sleep with this prostitute and run her over to get my money back’.  My mind, was utterly blown.  I mean at least let her keep the money, Jesus!  Just to intercept what you may be thinking, I am no vanilla gamer but at the time witnessing what I did, in the accurate simulation of a Grand Theft Auto game completely messed me up.  My nephew, who was of course oblivious to his actions and in his mind just healing his character, stole my last grains of innocence, an 8 year old! I reviled this series for this and in fact anything of it’s genre as I was certain it had laid the blueprint for sandbox games.

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My turning point was almost a decade later in the form of Sleeping Dogs.  I had heard of the game causing waves as the successful love child of Grand Theft Auto and Sega’s Yakuza, so was not at all interested.  Yet a friend encouraged me to try it, stating that it’s comprehensive battle and upgrade system would help ease an avid rpg/beat em up fan such as myself, back into sandbox gaming.  I loved the game instantly from it’s thrilling initial chase scene to its explosive ending and couldn’t believe that I had deprived myself of a genre that was clearly at the forefront of modern gaming.  Everything about it from it’s complex characters, detailed realisation of Hong Kong and exhilarating gameplay made me completely change my way of thinking about these games.  I learnt a couple of things about why my past misconceptions where so wrong and I’ll share them:

1. Being a realistic gaming experience doesn’t necessarily mean you gain a lower level of escapism than you would in a fantasy game, in fact the escapism in itself is more believable and can potentially leave you feeling more immersed in the storyline.

2.  Sandbox games do have storylines, and they tend to be quite good.

3.  A Sandbox game leaves you just as open to play through it’s missions as it does to run around aimlessly hacking people to death like an arse hole.  You can choose your experience.

I’m now currently on San Andreas in my major backtrack mission to play through every Grand Theft Auto game since 3 and loving every minute of it.  I’m also super excited for the latest instalment.  If the trailers are anything to go by, we have the perfect groundbreaker to nod the Playstation into it’s next gen console and I’m glad I converted just in time to experience this.

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3 responses to “Grand Theft Auto: Why I’ve buried my grudge just in time”

  1. M4RI0K4R7 says :

    I’ve been thinking of playing a game from this franchise, but the controversial elements were holding me back from playing this. But those are some good points and being able to do anything and everything is really tempting, so I might get a used copy of GTA 3 or 4, or Sleeping Dogs to find out what I’ve been missing. Thanks for the good read.

    • pushstart89 says :

      😀 I’m glad I’ve got you tempted. The freedom of a good Sandbox game is so refreshing because although you have missions to do, you can go completely at your own place and explore a really detailed world at the same time. I’d say at this point Sleeping dogs would be my main recommendation, Hong Kong is stunning in that game.

      • M4RI0K4R7 says :

        Thanks for the recommendation. I remember all of a sudden playing the demo on Steam, but the game ran at 5 or 10 FPS on my PC so I didn’t finish it. 😛 I’m definitely going to look more into that game though.

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