Why Grand Theft Auto III Made Me The Gamer I Am Today
Written Saturday, October 22, 2011 By Dan WebbView author's profile
Everyone has that one game that hooks them for life and if they haven’t yet, they eventually will. For many individuals out there it was a game that harks all the way back to their childhood, but for me, although I have fond memories of playing Duck Hunt with the NES Zapper and whiling away the hours on Super Mario Bros with my brother many a Christmas time in the early 90s, the one game that made me the type of gamer I am today is none other than Grand Theft Auto III. Today marks the 10 year anniversary of the release of the game - a game that effectively changed my life – and so I thought I’d take the time to write a bit of a retrospective on how and why Grand Theft Auto III will always hold a special place in my heart.
"GTA III… it even had garages! Mind = blown!"
The early noughties was a particularly dark period for me in my personal life. I was the ripe age of 19, living away from home for the first time in a city that never really captured my imagination. I was struggling with the harsh realities of life and giving me a credit card at that time was possibly one of the most dangerous things anyone could have done, let alone giving me 5 or 6 of them – a lesson I learnt the hard way. I’ll always remember that time though, not for the good reasons, but as a life lesson. Sure, it had its highs, but they were overshadowed by the lows. But the fact that it put me on the road to the path I’m on now, working in the video games industry, made it all worthwhile in the end.
We all have that period in our gaming “career” where we lose interest and fall out with something we’d never thought we could fall out with. A period where we sit back and wonder why we plough countless hours into something that really has no impact on anything important. I was young and the whole entertainment factor had quiet clearly gone over my head. Quite when this period of non-gaming commenced for me is a hazy memory, but I’m guessing – considering I was 19 at the time – that period began about 3 or 4 years earlier. Life took over, whether social or academic, and something I had once turned to for solace slipped away into the shadows.
I’ll always remember when all that changed though, and when I came charging back... It was a midweek afternoon. I’d overslept – I was a student, that’s what we did back then – so I decided to sack off university for the day... as you do. After my sluggish rise from comatose to barely awake I made the way into the lounge and logged onto the communal PC. I’ll always remember this moment rather vividly: curtains drawn, pitch black, a friend asleep on the couch from the previous heavy night and me with the sleaziest – but warmest! – dressing gown on ever, just moseying over to the PC in the corner. It was a momentous point in my life for me, as funny as it sounds, as it was essentially this moment in time where I contracted the gaming bug for the second and most important time in my life. As I logged onto the computer and stumbled across a video advertisement on Yahoo or somewhere like that, I managed to see a trailer for the new Grand Theft Auto game... in a 3D world! 3D!? My mind was blown. Well and truly. From there I was straight on to Amazon, game ordered and the next few weeks and months dragged. It didn’t help that it essentially cost me an arm and a leg through overdraft fees either because in order to buy it, I had to break further into the red than had been previously been agreed with my bank.
"Epic about sums up Easter eggs of this magnitude."
We did have a PlayStation 2 in the house at the time, although it wasn’t mine, but there was a policy of everyone and anyone can use it, so when Grand Theft Auto III turned up, I went to town on it. There is a potential that had Grand Theft Auto III not lived up to my expectations, then I could have turned my back on gaming possibly forever, but thankfully it exceeded all of my expectations. Considering I had been out of it for 3-4 years, things had advanced a long way. An open-world, one that was actually the first 3D sandbox world I had possibly ever stepped into, I became almost obsessed with it all. I didn’t rest until I had every secret package littered around the city. I couldn’t sleep until I’d successfully got to level 12 in the ambulance missions, which may I add, thanks to some shaky pedestrian AI, was one hell of a frustrating experience. However, the sense of elation I got from getting that infinite sprint by completing it was akin to scoring the winning goal in a football match, but without the sweat and muddy knees. From there I spring-boarded from task to task, completing as much of the game as humanly possible, chasing after that elusive 100%... I guess you could say that GTA III planted the seed for my love of achievements as well.
The depth and attention to detail of the world astonished me at that time and every bone in my body said to me, “That’s it... I’m a gamer, again.” The fact that I could sit there in awe of the pedestrians, the day/night cycle – all things that we take for granted now – was a testament to what Rockstar had achieved. From there I got involved in GTA forums, just to see what other secrets and tidbits of info I could find. I scoured message boards, comments, watched videos, looking for every little bit of juice I could squeeze out of Liberty City. I’d like to think I saw every Easter egg that the game had to offer, whether you’re talking about the “You weren’t supposed to be able to get here, you know” sign by Donald Love’s place or the invisible town in the middle of nowhere – which was obviously old game code they decided not to use – but back then I was oblivious... and this fascinated me. Hell, something as simple as sniping the moon to make it change size grabbed my attention for more than a few minutes.
"If you screw up the ambulance missions late on, this usually happens!"
It was the start of something that has been a big part of my life for the last 10 years. From there I went to attempt to 100% Gran Turismo 2 – I failed at about 85% if you’re interested – fell in love with Red Dead Revolver, I went back to play both Diablo titles on the PC, discovered the joys of Tomb Raider and so on. I was back in the land of gaming... and I couldn’t have been happier.
Obviously, it didn’t just set me off on a path that I had – and still don’t have – no idea where it would end, but it changed the industry as a whole. It made gaming more mature again; it showed developers that if they applied themselves that effectively anything was possible. It was, and still is, one of the most influential games ever made.
There are other games that have had just as much an impact on me and how I got here today, but those are different stories for different days. Today though, let us raise a glass to GTA III’s 10th birthday and celebrate what has been an epic leap for the games industry in the space of the last decade.