It has been a month since Grand Theft Auto V released on consoles. Millions of copies were sold in a matter of days, making this game the biggest entertainment property to date. As I watch friends and internet communities rant and rave about all of the things Los Santos has to offer, my desire to play the game ever increases. I haven’t purchased GTAV. I haven’t played it at all, actually. Criminal? Surprising? If you spoke to some people they’d say either-or, or both of those things.
I’m just sitting here waiting for the headline “Rockstar Announces GTAV PC…”. I’ve previously written why I’ve opted to favor PC gaming over consoles this gen, so this post won’t focus on why I’m waiting for the PC version of GTAV (those reasons are fairly obvious anyway). Instead, I just wanted to remember and reflect on my experience with the series.
My first Grand Theft Auto game was GTA3. I remember hearing great things about it from friends. I was in elementary school at the time it released (let’s avoid the children playing M rated games debate for now). I don’t recall much about convincing my mom to get this game for me despite news reports at the time – after all, she bought me BloodRayne despite the boxart being so suggestive. What I do recall is picking it up a few months after release from a game store in Harlem called GamePlaza. Gameplaza would shut down and reopen a lot due to what I assumed at the time was breaking so many streedates. Maybe they were just poorly managed. Who knows? Anyway, I went to this store a lot over the years to buy and inquire about new games. My mother and I were both known by the clerk that worked there throughout the week. He had no issue with selling me mature games after a while. What did he care? A kid got to shoot and run over people in a video game. Why deny a child happiness, right?
GTA3 was a delight to my wee-little senses. I never actually beat it due to an extremely difficult mission near the end, but I did play it numerous times and spend countless hours free roaming. There was nothing about Liberty City that looked like New York, but that age I pretended I saw familiar locations anyway. At that time GTA3 was so impressive that it was hard for anyone not to look at it in awe.
Fast forward to October 27, 2002: the day of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City’s release. By then I had become much better informed on things happening in the game industry. I anticipated that day feverishly. I remember being antsy in class, itching to leave school and run to the store with my mom. If I recall correctly, a friend of mine got his copy when his mom picked him up from school with the game already in her possession. When I got to the store the familiar clerk had my copy prepped, bagged and waiting to be traded for a cool $49.99 plus tax. He was a nice guy from what I remember. Although, I think it was just because he had the hots for my mom.
Fast forward again to the release of San Andreas and the cycle restarted. I got the game on release and played it to my heart’s content. I remember my friend Jeremy not being allowed to because his mom disapproved of its mature content – I’m sure the Hot Coffee debacle didn’t do the situation any favors, either. We used to play the game when he would come over to my dad’s place or when I was at his’ and his mom wasn’t. My dad didn’t care one bit. Hell, he probably encouraged it; some “boys will be boys” reaction to the media’s “protect the prostitutes and children” shtick.
I really enjoyed San Andreas. From the main character sharing my name (so that I could get the full effect from my success or failings at missions) to the feature rich gameplay and large world, I had an all around good time. My fondest memories from that game have to be the randomized pedestrian aircrafts falling from the skies and landing in the streets. Those were always a fun surprise that gave my imagination a little kick, making me wonder what fictional turn of events led to that NPC crashing his or her plane. Depression? Engine failure? An accident? It’s better not to think of it as an AI shortcoming.
GTA4 released when I was in high school – not exactly at a point worth reminiscing. I wasn’t too impressed by GTA4’s campaign, but its online free mode gave me many hours of fun with friends. While I was a bit homesick and dorming for my first year at college, running around a fictional New York City made me feel a lot better. Playing GTA4 for hours on end and munching on “free” (with tuition) cookies and brownies were definitely the building blocks behind my freshman fifteen (more like thirty).
And this brings us to GTAV. As much as I’m aching to play it, I’ve gotten much better at resisting video game spending. Well, I wouldn’t count those Steam sales because they save me so much money (I think)! It’s so weird seeing all of these people enjoying this massive game and I haven’t even touched it yet. I think I’ve changed as a consumer, as a gamer, and as a person. I used to feel compelled to get games at launch. Now I hardly do it. The last two times were Kingdom Hearts HD (still not finished) and BioShock Infinite (which I regret). Now I just sit back and play a bunch of games that I’ve accumulated on Steam. Finishing them one by one and procrastinating on completing my more colorful games. But you can rest assured that once GTAV hits PC, I will be picking that up on day-one at retail so I can rub my face on the cover and say “it’s been a while”. Maybe the wait will be worth it? I hear GTA Online, a mode I may end up playing more than the campaign, still needs some work – from the server issues, lost characters, and angry players. I don’t mind hopping in once that’s all been settled.