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How do you play Grand Theft Auto?


And the “Silliest Post Title of the Year” Award goes to…
In all honesty, I can’t think of a more appropriate title for a post.  I consider myself a gamer of some degree of -- for lack of a better term -- “hardcore-itude”, but I’ll be the first to admit that there are gaps in my skill and knowledge.  That said, I do have Grand Theft Auto V in my possession (as I should, because I exist), and while I haven’t gotten around to playing it yet, my brother has.  And from what I’ve seen, it looks like a pretty cool game.  Playing as this fabled creature the Elders call “Trevor” looks like it will quite literally be a blast.
But that puts me in a bit of a bind. 

To date -- and excluding GTA5, if only temporarily -- I’ve played three other installments in the franchise: GTA3, San Andreas, and GTA4.  And to date, neither I nor my brother (the completionist between the two of us) ever managed to see the end credits.  He’s tried remarkably hard, though, to the point where he repeatedly deleted and reinstalled GTA4 while simultaneously swearing to finish it…though as fate would have it, he always got stuck on the same mission and lost interest shortly after.  Conversely, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten past the first hour’s worth of story in any of the games.  In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that across three games I’ve only seen an hour’s worth of narrative.  That’s not to say I’ve never played the games; on the contrary, I’ve played my fair share of them (with San Andreas probably holding me captive the longest).
You can probably guess what that means I did.

Here’s how pretty much every session with San Andreas started for me.  First, I’d find a motorcycle and steal it.  Next, I’d drive over to the downtown area and find a certain building -- one of a very few you could enter, but one that you could enter while riding atop a motorcycle.  Then, when I appeared on the rooftop of the building (or skyscraper, if you prefer), I drove off at top speed and did some sweet flips while the world blurred around me.  If I got lucky, I survived, and even landed safely wheels-first on the street below.  If I didn’t, then the only thing I lost were a few precious moments of easily-restored life.  (Side note: more often than not I found myself flinging Carl Johnson off that same building -- with or without parachute -- just to hear him shout lovable lines like “I hate gravity!”  Bonus points for CJ if he actually survived the fall.) 
And after that?  It was just an hour or two of me goofing off.  Career highlights: 1) finding a plane and taking off so I could skydive face-first into a pool…unsuccessfully.  2) Inexplicably driving into a river -- and the same river, no less -- while trying to go anywhere to do anything.  3) Punching out the Ballas, AKA the scum of the earth.  4) Punching out other people, because as you know punching = manliness.  5) Flying around on a jetpack.  6) Singing along with Faith No More’s “Midlife Crisis” while engaging in the occasional strut about town.  7) Trying to steal a tank.  8) Trying to raise my wanted level high enough to steal a tank.  9) Using the tank’s blasts to propel myself down a road several times faster than the average car.  10) Dying spectacularly.

I’m…not wholly convinced that I’ve been playing GTA right.
I’m not wholly convinced, but I’m not wholly dissatisfied.  I know I’ve taken shots at plenty of other games in the past, but strangely enough, GTA has never been one of them.  I’ve never gotten the full story in any of the games, but from what I’ve seen, there’s a reason why people like it beyond just being the prophesized prostitute slayer of our age.  It IS likely called a sandbox game for a reason, so maybe the fact that I can ditch the story and play for dozens of hours without getting my progress halted is entirely the point AND the draw of the franchise.  Or to put it another way, maybe the fact that I’d rather eat the sand than play with the Tonka bulldozer in the corner is one of the franchise’s strong suits.

That all said, I’m more than a little apprehensive about starting up GTA5.  I’m more than ready to play it like I did Skyrim (or more appropriately, the other GTA games), forgoing everything and everyone for my own cockamamie adventures.  But then again, if I do that, I feel like I’ll be missing out on something truly special -- cool characters, a cool story, and more.  The alternate title for the game might as well be Terrible People Doing Terrible Things, but while lesser games have tried and failed to win me over, there’s an unmistakable sense of energy, spirit, and dare I say it charisma that makes me think GTA is a cut above the rest.  There’s much that remains to be seen and proven, obviously, but at a glance it seems more than a little intriguing.  It’d just require a level of effort that frankly, I’m not sure I have in me.  I still need to clear Dragon’s Crown-- and poor Ni no Kuni is still waiting to be played for more than a few hours…
Besides, would it really be so bad if I set aside the story?  I can YouTube anything that I want to watch, but those moment-to-moment freak accidents are ones that only I can create (and indeed, my brother constantly egged me on to play GTA JUST to watch me find new ways to blow myself up).  So I guess I’m at an impasse.  Should I pursue the story and barrel-roll my way through whatever crazy missions the game will put me through?  Or should I go down the pure gameplay route, and create scenarios far more insane than anything the game could offer?  It feels like the ultimate battle between good and evil is raging in my soul.

So I guess the most I can do right now is refer back to the title of this post -- and its double meaning, in retrospect.  How do YOU play Grand Theft Auto?  And by extension, how DO you play Grand Theft Auto?  In theory, it should be all about unleashing your inner deviant, but in practice, could it mean something more?  Does it mean something more to you?  Is it the ultimate fantasy, or perhaps the ultimate stress reliever?  What is Grand Theft Auto, and why the hell is it so popular?
Let me know what you think in the comments.  Hopefully it’ll give me a fresh perspective on what these games mean to others, and how I can use that for my own purposes.  In the meantime, I’ll start laying plans for my own GTA adventures…starting with finding a way to ride a motorcycle atop a speeding train.

…I saw it in a movie once.  And by movie I mean I might have made it up right just now.

- Thanks for reading! And remember -- if you want to see more content from me, anytime, anywhere, be sure to check out my blog. Give it a read, so we can all become heroes!

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About Voltechone of us since 10:40 PM on 02.06.2012

Long-time gamer, aspiring writer, and frequent bearer of an afro. As an eternal optimist, I like to both look on the bright side of things and see the better parts of games; as a result, I love a game with a good story and awesome characters...and anything that lets me punch the heresy out of my enemies.

I'm a big fan of Atlus' games, and I've enjoyed my fair share of fighters and RPGs. Just...please, keep Final Fantasy XIII out of my sight. It never ends well for anyone involved.

You can check out some of my game musinga/stories/random stuff at my other blog, Cross-Up. I've also got a TV Tropes thingamajig, and a web serial novel, too. Maybe my stuff here and there will be the start of things to come. Hopefully good things, but things all the same.

Be a hero. Check 'em out.

Cross-Up -- head here for posts on games, movies, and more
My Troper profile
My Facebook page
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I Hraet You -- the over-the-top web serial novel...of love, maybe