Grand Theft Auto is one of the five highest selling games of all time. How does Rockstar manage to do this, with the massive amount of negative attention the game has brought, from complaints about flagrant violence, gregarious sexual situations involving prostitutes, and a general disregard of life, in a world that seems very preoccupied with being politically correct?
Some of the reasons it retains immense popularity are probably the same reasons it draws so much criticism, according to the Guardian. Since the inception of GTA III in 2001, people have been shocked at awed at the realism and racy themes that are deeply rooted in pop culture and appeal to the rebel in us.
Although many are not aware, Rockstar founder Sam Houser has an extensive background in the music industry, being involved in video making for BMG records. That’s why GTA seems to have some type of a pop culture appeal but also a retro pop demeanor, seeming to pay homage to older iconic shows like Miami Vice and including popular themes such as reality TV, cosmetic surgery, social unrest, celebrity gossip, and violence, which is generally unacceptable in the real world but comes inexplicably to life in the video game with no true social ramifications.
Remember the “Choose your own adventure” books? GTA very much plays on that gamer autonomy by allowing the game to become a narrative, with many hidden areas to explore and places to see. The game has virtually captured the art of escapism, be it by land, sea, urban decay, or rural nightmare. In this way, the gamer feels as though they have control of a world that is fraught with danger, excitement, with no need to worry about being politically correct (Hey, I just ran over a prostitute!) and yet still get to see some parts of the world through unjaded eyes.
Finally, Rockstar has managed to combine realism with the unquenchable thirst of anticipation. Although GTA is incredibly violent in a way most people that aren’t gang members don’t live out daily, it still keeps a realistic expression of this violence through believable scenarios, credible weaponry, understandable setbacks, and side-experience options, like taking a break to get a license or the other humdrum of real life.
However, we’re never quite sure what’s going to happen next, or what new version is coming out next, which is a classic way to hook an audience: the adrenaline rush of anticipation. Enough rumors about the next version are leaked to pique interest and cause debate, making everyone — or 45 million people, anyway — want to immediately find out what the truth really is.
[photo via Mirror]