Why Is Grand Theft Auto So Successful?

Why is Grand Theft Auto So Successful?

GTA V Cover Art

“Los Santos: a sprawling sun-soaked metropolis full of self-help gurus, starlets and fading celebrities, once the envy of the Western world, now struggling to stay afloat in an era of economic uncertainty and cheap reality TV”.

GTA Box Art History

Grand Theft History: The franchise collection of British video games publisher Rockstar Games catalogue spanning back to 2001 with Grand Theft Auto III, truly re-defining the way we play in the world of 3D platform gaming, and through to present day, 2013, with the studios latest instalment, GTA V, which holds up as the “most expensive” video game production in history, costing a record £170 million to produce, rivalling budgets of major Hollywood blockbusters including Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World’s End’s £300m budget

The History of Grand Theft Auto (credits go to user GamerSpawn)

Inside the creative process with Dan Houser of Rockstar Games(The Guardian Games Blog,
September 13th 2013)

Keith Stuart:

Well, it seems to me that because of
digital culture and the way we live our lives now, games are the natural storytelling medium of this century. Because they are
interactive and the way we live our lives is very fast and hyper social, they better reflect our lives than linear media. How about you?

Rockstar Logo

Dan Houser (Co-Founder of Rockstar Games):

I think that’s a very interesting idea
and I hadn’t really thought about it in those terms. I wouldn’t necessarily have the confidence to think in those terms…

It’s up to us to make the best stuff

WE can make

– it’s not necessarily up to us to shout from the rooftops about how clever we are, how progressive we are, or how sophisticated we are. It’s our place to make stuff that’s as good as it can be. I suppose for us, we’re not really seeing the limitations in games…

Video Gamer Guru:

Nick Simmons

Nick - August 2013

Character development, heists and role play all drive as major elements and “game-changers” for the latest Grand Theft Auto in the series.

Credits go to user RockstarGames:

Three men. Three would be heroes. Michael. Franklin. Trevor.

A corrupt bank robber.

An ex-gang hustler.

A country red neck hill billy.

Michael Franklin and Trevor

All inter-woven in one world.

Credits go to user RockstarGames:

Michael – addictive personality, chaotic, riddled with conflicts, family relationship issues, impatient, a consumerist, idealistic views of life are distorted

Michael’s profile – comparative “real life” example:

Analyse This (1999) – Therapist scene – Credits go to user pmw8000:

Franklin – the modern day Carl Johnson  (San Andreas protagonist), Grove Street ex-hustler, thief, car stealer,
a troublesome past with ambitions to lead a more normal life Franklin’s profile – comparative “real life” example:

Credits go to user movieclips:

Freedom Writers (2007) – When Will I Be Free?


Freedom Writers (2007) – You Are Not Failing Scene –

Trevor – An extreme fanatical Western countryside citizen, Jim Carrey Dumb And Dumber profile, erratic, daredevil, adrenaline junkie, drug addict, culturally backwards

This is the best I could find 😛

Trevor’s profile – “real life” comparative example – Credits go to user popeJN:

Credits go to user OutsideXbox:

“Rockstar Inspiration”.

GTA V Los Santos Beach Artwork

Sex appeal and the “I-Fruit” Smartphone:
One of the many incarnations Rockstar Games were inspired to incorporate
from our real-life cultural fads and consumptions

(Apple really can’t complain about promotion like this!)

Role play – Drive (2011):

Credits go to user Fábio Rafael Coutada Cunha:


(Including – Heat, 1995, The Thomas Crown Affair, 1999, The Dark Knight, 2008, Inception, 2010):

Credits go to user WatchMojo.com

Credits go to user Coolhands7:

Credits go to user RockstarGames:

But, what amazes me?


The hype in the latest Grand Theft Auto instalment isn’t just all that. It’s the sheer level of development in the landscape and scope this project has entailed for Rockstar on the aging current-gen hardware over the last five years. The game itself requires an 8gb install on both versions available on Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 platforms.

Credits go to user IGN:

Now that’s pretty hefty. However, it’s more the Xbox 360 users who take the worst fall on this little installation encounter. If you, like me, have the standard 20gb Xbox 360 model which came out back at launch in November 2005, your bound to be in for some major space cleaning. Demo’s often take up a few gig, and now, increasingly, the operating system, which to my shock, takes up 7gb?! Not to mention, if you have any games on demand, DLC (downloadable content online) or any extra add-ons to games, like Halo for instance, consider backing them up. Alternatively, Rockstar have suggested on their FAQ pages you can grab yourself a USB or suitable flash drive to keep the hard drive space issues at bay.

But you know what, for all that hard work and five long years in the making, I think we can forgive Rockstar for it. The size of the map is vast. And when I say vast, I mean VAST. Picture San Andreas (2004),
Red Dead Redemption (2009) and GTA IV combined. In fact, the map of the game leaked on to the internet on Thursday 12th September, taken from the print version of the official Brady games strategy guide, as shown below.



San Andreas – The Second Coming: How five years in development can bring out the best possibilities
“at the end of a console’s lifecycle”
 (Leslie Benzies, Rockstar North Games President)

(countryside, forestry and urban locations – inspired by previous developments in between GTA IV –

Credits go to user WatchMojo.com:

Credits go to user thefeemeboy:


The leaky ‘Turtle Ninja” map:
On Thursday 12th September, the map of GTA V spread across social media sites a
s a result of a scanned copy of the Brady Official Strategy Guide coinciding with the games release

Franklin and Chop

Franklin and “Chop”: Prepare for some serious barking action,
a first in any Grand Theft Auto release.

It’s also incredible to consider this has been compared in map scale to real life locations, including London, Toronto and Manhattan. This is just a video game. Time and technology have advanced SO much since GTA III’s launch back in 2001. That was modest! But back then, it really was revolutionary. Now, this has transformed sandbox games once again, and opens up the possibilities so much more. It’s almost like San Andreas: The Sequel. Customisation is back. Larger open ended exploring is back. Leisure activities are back in full flow. Remember the Guns ‘n’ Roses ‘Welcome To The Jungle’ trailer being played during TV adverts back in 2004 before San Andreas released in October? It was beautiful.

According to HMV UK’s senior category director:


San Andreas on PS2 is still one of the best examples of how hardware can be pushed once developers understand the capabilities of a console and Rockstar have done it again with GTA V.”

San Andreas Cover Art

Adding, “This is probably the best thing that could have happened to the current gen with the next-gen around the corner.”

Credits go to user Roger Devine:

And even more, there’s a huge online mode just waiting to be delved in to, let alone the single player story itself. I’ve always believed that the best potential “killer apps” of a console comes out at or near the end of it’s cycle, as in the case of 2004, being San Andreas and Halo 2. (PS2/Xbox),  Developers trial and error with games in-between their flagships and tend to be able to pick up and fix what was wrong or dissatisfying to users previously. Rockstar have used their “filler” games as a place to explore different ways of making their game engines run smoother and more efficient, as we have seen with the maps on Red Dead Redemption (2009) and the utilisation of facial data recognition in LA Noire (2011). If something works well, they will more than likely try to implement it for the next Grand Theft Auto project. However, what the Rockstar team really put their hearts in to on this project was in fact the research the studio’s conducted in to real life demographics living in LA to base their characters on. This included Mafia gangs, undercover FBI agents, prisoners and real life gangsters over 100 days of field research. The R & D on this game was off the scale.

And before I explore the history of Grand Theft Auto, let me leave you with a little teaser (if you can’t see it, Rockstar have more than likely removed it)!

Credits go to user Syed Hussaini:

Credits go to user Saints Row (ironic!):

The History of Grand Theft Auto

Grand Theft Auto. It doesn’t take much thinking about the content when
spelling out those three delightful words.

Whether your still hitting up the green territory of Grove Street as CJ in San Andreas or flying down the streets past Diaz’s “Scarface” mansion in a Banshee or Infernus, you know what your in for.

GTA Trilogy Collection (2001-2004)

A mastermind videogame trilogy:
Arguably some of the finest offerings 3D plat former video games
have seen at the start of the 21st Century.  

Hit. Run. Steal. Fly. Swim. Parachute. The possibilities have, over each instalment, become more and more endless, so it seems. And as Grand Theft Auto has graced our living rooms and bedrooms, it is now, in it’s own right, now become a cultural worldwide phenomenon over the last decade or so, and without it, where would we be?  Reflecting discourses as diverse as criminal corruption and social cultural issues through what has often been recognised through character driven film and cultural references, Rockstar Games has revolutionised the way we play video games and consume the medium. With enough critical acclaim and controversy to put a critic to sleep, here are just a few juicy facts and bits of trivia Grand Theft Auto brings to Rockstar’s table:


  •  Earned the Guinness World Records for: the Highest Grossing Video Game in 24 Hours and the
    Highest Revenue Generated by an Entertainment Product in 24 Hours. These records established GTA IV as the most profitable entertainment release of all-time, far surpassing other video games (Source: IGN)
  • As of August 2008, the strikingly violent video game Grand Theft Auto IV was no longer sold in Thailand, after a teenager murdered a taxi driver while trying to bring the virtual violence into reality. Video retailers have pulled the game off the shelves, and replaced it with other games. To understand the motivations of such an act of obscene violence, I delved deeper in my search over the influence GTA has been rife in criticism over the years for (most notably – Manhunt – Playstation 2, 2003) ; to impose serious psychological danger and compulsive behaviours upon young consumers.

As cited in Tanner Higgen’s academic book “Play-Fighting: Understanding Violence In Grand Theft Auto III”,
Stuart Hall explains:

“Popular Culture, commodified and stereotyped as it often is, is not at all, as we sometimes think of it, the arena where we find WHO we really are, the truth of our experience. It is an arena that is profoundly mythic. It is a theatre of popular desires, a theatre of popular fantasies. It is where we discover and play with the identifications of ourselves, where we are imagined, where we are represented, not only to the audiences out there who do not get the message,
but to ourselves for the first time”  

Source: http://www.academia.edu/387015/Play-Fighting_Understanding_Violence_in_the_Grand_Theft_Auto_Series

So Grand Theft Auto facilitates as a tool for our human desires? Does it fulfil our real needs in a virtual space which are often off limits in the real world? It’s all about escapism. But what makes it different to a film is that, we are the main input – commanding the actions through buttons on the controller. Whilst we are still watching, we are both interacting and executing what is happening on screen. And this, in my view, is perhaps why video games are now having a much more profound and entertaining impact on people than movies. We gain more enjoyment out of interaction and immersion than just one on it’s own, and with films, its only immersion in the storyline.

Credits go to user Arjun Singh:

Just take a look at these
box office and video game figures:


IGN; boxofficemojo.com

You get my point? This is because in video games we as audiences not only witness what is going on, but feel a part of what is going on – and most importantly – YOU are in control of your destiny on screen – be it whether you have police chasing you on a six star wanted level or you play a game of tennis/poker/darts/bowling – the choice is yours in what is known as the “virtual reality”.

To support my argument further, taken from Forbes, an entrepreneur by the name of Per Batton explains the “meta-physics of video games” (in it’s simplest meaning – the reasons behind playing games) in that:

“Since films are not interactive, it can’t play a role in that medium”. “There is no signal or reward, it’s just sit-and-watch. This is the reason that games are better tools and a more effective form of psychological learning. The individual modifies the occurrence and form of his own behaviour due to the association of that behaviour with a stimulus.”

And now with the new introduction of Grand Theft Auto online launching on October 1st, 2013 in
Grand Theft Auto V, players are now given the breadth of the new world in a freedom of choice like never before, on a much grander scale than the previously limited online modes provided on Grand Theft Auto IV (2008).
The mechanics of this larger more open free sprawling network provides a greater sense of reality for players this time around, in that their actions develop consequences far beyond the limits of the computerised game engine as interaction is transferred across the world (both in GTA and real time).

Credits go to user RockstarGames:

Grand Theft Auto V is released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 platforms Tuesday,
17th September 2013 in UK and US retail stores, including Game, who are opening at midnight!

GTA V Game Promotion

First hands on with GTA V – IGN!


And don’t forget, pre-order the special edition to drive the atomic blimp and get extra character and driving features!

Game Special Edition Offer GTA V

What To Expect In Grand Theft Auto V? 

Photo Credits:










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