This is about the culture of the future – here today. I’m speaking Playstationian, with a Grand Theft Auto dialect. Tell me if that last sentence did not make much sense to you? Ok, sorry. Let me start from the beginning.
First there was light, then there was electricity… and then video games. I climbed aboard on the bottom floor when Sony released a box of magic called Playstation. If you wanted to talk to me in 1997, you could find me in a flatmate’s room at St Georges Circus, London, playing the original Gran Turismo when I should have written sharp essays on blurry stages of European history.
[Pete, the Playstation owner and flat neighbour, was hospitable to the extreme, and never showed me the door, even though I beat the snot out of him on Turismo every single time. Pete was Birmingham-Indian, and had an Indian name none of us could pronounce – which is why we all called him “Pete”. He also had the worst Brummie accent you’ve ever heard… but his curries were great!
Anyway, university students from Pakistan to Portugal tried to take me at that racing game, Gran Turismo, but no one could. You have no idea the respect I bore at the Student Union bar… and the amount of free pints it got me…]
With such a splendid start to the new coming of video games, it is no wonder I have stayed with Playstation throughout the years. Here I still am, at 32, eagerly awaiting the Playstation 3 console. While waiting, though, there is always the good old Playstation 2, and Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories – which is the latest edition of absolute entertainment; the Grand Theft Auto series. Excuse my lengthy prelude…
… but when your grandkids ask you what changed the world, you will have to mention Grand Theft Auto III.
Starting from GTA III, it was never the same, and all the better for it. Suddenly you could do everything; free roam, baby. Here was a game that had it all: endless ways of killing people brutally, superbly crafted plots of underworld stories, wonderfully entertaining handling of vehicles ranging from bicycle to jetpack, acidly funny radio stations complete with DJs, and culturally astute era-music, terrific sub-plots, celebrity voice-overs, smashing casting of all imaginable characters, hookers, hustlers, why, it was a movie that starred YOU… no, it was another dimension of LIFE – with little law and order, and absolutely no consequence… and you could reach it from the couch in your living room!
We have yet to see the sociological ramifications of GTA III… but it would be ill-adviced to underestimate them.
GTA III was followed by GTA:Vice City, which still remains my favorite – a Scarface/Miami Vice pastiche that completely nails the atmosphere of the 1980s; perfection seldom comes closer. After GTA:Vice City came GTA:San Andreas – bigger than ever before, a marvel of game programmer verve. It has to be played to be believed.
As a stopgap for Playstation 3, and to keep guys like me happy, the good people at Rockstar Games recently released GTA:Liberty City Stories on PS2.
Of course I bought it, a couple of weeks ago. More than thirty hours of late evening hardcore gaming later, and I have a 100% completion – as I have in EVERY other GTA, starting with GTA III. That takes a lot of obsessive determination, and a serious case of “playstation thumb“, I tell you.
[Now, before you think I’m a slacker and a nerd to boot, I have to say that I rarely play – it’s usually only the latest of Gran Turismo, or Grand Theft Auto. That’s hardly one console game a year; add to that, perhaps one PC game per year. But as far as wasting time goes, few ways are better. And none is better than Grand Theft Auto.]
The future of culture. Mm-hm. Protest all you like, but it is.
[Frames from GTA:Liberty City Stories – ign.com]