The SeedsVideo

Mean Streets

The brazen, hilarious Grand Theft Auto III gave players a new and intoxicating freedom.

By John Teti • October 8, 2012

In every era of video game history, there are a few seminal games that shift the bounds of the art form. They might be huge hits, or not. They might be big-budget blockbusters, or not. What distinguishes these pivotal works is simply that, through innovation and craft, they plant the seeds of new ideas.

In our new video series, The Seeds—you see where I was going there—we’re taking a look back at those games. Each episode features interviews with critics from the Gameological stable and a few of our favorite game-playing stand-up comics, assembled in a pithy oral history of games that changed the culture.

First up, Grand Theft Auto III. Now, GTA3 was hardly the first game that let the player roam in an open world. (Most obviously, it’s preceded by the first two Grand Theft Auto games.) Yet its combination of grand scale, cynical humor, and brazen violence brought it to the forefront of cultural consciousness, and we’re still feeling its impact—sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

This month, in upcoming installments of The Seeds’ first season, we’ll be looking back at Metroid, Dragon Warrior (a.k.a. Dragon Quest), and GoldenEye 007. For now, we’d love to hear your thoughts on Grand Theft Auto III in the comments!

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  • George_Liquor

    Awesome video! I have never come close to finishing a GTA for all the reasons you guys mentioned in it: The moment I got one or two stars, I’d abandon whatever drive-by or taxi or drug-running job I was supposed to fulfill, and go tearing ass through town or hold up inside a gun store & see how long I last.

    • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

      I came thisclose to completing San Andreas. Then I failed the final mission, which is about half an hour long, right before the end, and I gave up.

      • The_Quirk

         Same story for me on GTAIV.  DAMN, that last mission is haaaaarrrrd.

    • http://www.facebook.com/deejaytaufiq Mohamad Taufiq Morshidi

      I managed to finish GTAs Vice City and San Andreas because of their more engaging stories and fun factors.

    • TaumpyTearrs

      I beat the main stories in all of them, but alot of the side jobs and the hidden packages were too frustrating. Get to level ten on Vigilante missions? Awesome, I’ll keep trying that because its fun. Level ten firetruck missions not so much.

      One of my favoritelittle touches in Saints Row 3 was that once you got enough cash and XP you could by a map that would show you the area that each hidden package was in. I could never put forth the effort in GTA cuz you had to go online and look at maps of the packages or print them out and even then they could be a pain to find.

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph

         Oh God, I know what that’s like. That completionist feeling of needing to collect all the packages, so you download a map, print it out, keep it next to you, and you still can’t find the package. Is it underground? On top of a building? In a secret space? Does it only appear at midnight on October 11th if there’s a full moon?

        • Enkidum

          Every now and then I half-heartedly shoot a pigeon in GTA IV, but now I’ve taken out like 15 or so, and I’m not sure which ones, so if I ever wanted to get the 100% I’d have to get one of those maps and even when I went to the right locations, I couldn’t be sure of a payoff.

        • dreadguacamole

          I’ve got a completionist streak a mile wide, but fortunately it’s only an inch deep; when I see something as dull and pointless as GTA’s collectibles, it usually (and correctly) asks said collectibles to kindly fuck off.

    • Marquis Moon

      I didn’t finish III or Vice City, but for a different reason — I started with San Andreas, and then found it too hard to enjoy the previous games. Aesthetically and technically it wasn’t a huge leap from VC to SA, but it was enough to get under my skin.

      • Monkeylint

        Yup, tried to play Vice City after SA and it drove me crazy. Had to quit.

        Also, how ridiculously hard was the RC plane mission where you had to kill the couriers. It literally took me days due to the shitty flying controls on the PC. I kept rage quitting after a couple hours of trying.

        • Marquis Moon

          Curse you Berkley, CURSE YOOOOUUUU!

      • http://www.facebook.com/sax.cucvara Sax Cucvara

        San Andreas was my first computer game in a decade or so …  I absolutely loved it (and finished it).  Tried Vice City a year or so later and whilst the story and visuals were fantastic I found the slightly different controls that much harder to deal with (I drowned far too many times) … me and a mate did a 5 hour session but I never went back.  I’ve got GTA III on my phone now but find that very hard to get into.  

    • Mercenary_Security_number_4

       only one I finished was Vice City.  I maintain that still remains the best incarnation of GTA (including current generation), due to superior period atmosphere, comedy that was _less_ focused on just kicking minorities, and best soundtrack.  But I’ve probably actually played more hours of San Andreas, just because the world is so massive, there are so many things to do, and the cheat codes are the most robust.

    • SisterMaryFrancis

      I beat the storylines for GTA IV and its dlc stories. With the other ones I played (III and Vice City), it never felt like there was a real plot, just a bunch of inane shit I had to do to unlock new areas and save points in between setting off a few city-wide manhunts. With GTA IV, it seemed (at least to me) that Rockstar was getting kind of miffed about the fact that people were ignoring parts of the game they had spent time and money on, and starting making their games more “serious”.

      Don’t get me wrong, that’s not a terrible move on their part (it got us Red Dead Redemption), but it does seem like Rockstar has for some reason lost a bit of playfulness lately, Undead Nightmare being more of an exception than a rule.

      • AHyperkineticLagomorph

        A lot of people seem to attack GTAIV for losing some of its sense of humor and going for the dark and gloomy “realistic” vibe that games are shifting towards. I can’t help but disagree.

        Well, it is true that GTAIV is somewhat more realistic. The cars don’t turn as easily (which I actually like. Giving the cars some more weight really improved my driving.) and the story was less ridiculous. San Andreas forced you to fly a jet pack and a harrier jet, for crying out loud. But I think these changes worked for it.

        Niko, in my opinion, is a great protagonist for a GTA game. He’s a big enough sociopath to make sense for the genre, but he was also very sympathetic. He didn’t commit crimes because he liked to (at least in story cutscenes) but because it was all he knew how to do and he had lost so much of his faith in humanity in horrible wars. And in the end, it doesn’t pay off. *SPOILERS* The game ends with him losing a loved one, a good number of his friends and allies either dead, in jail, or on the run, and he doesn’t really have all that much to show for it.

        • Effigy_Power

          A lot of people compare GTAIV and its predecessors, which I think can only lead to being disappointed in either. When IV came out, Saints Row was already upping the crazy and GTA would have had to share the market. Instead it went the way of the much less prolific “Mafia” franchise, which also has the bonus that it plays in a completely different time-frame of course.
          But GTAIV and pre-IV can stand on their own I think, and while I have to agree that there is clearly less to do on the amazing Liberty City map, the game itself is in all aspects a totally different animal. Better? I don’t know. Just different.

        • SisterMaryFrancis

          I had serious in quotes because I couldn’t think of a better word at 3 in the morning, but now that I’ve had some rest I think I can clarify what I meant.

          GTA IV seemed to me to be more cynical than the others.  In the previous entries (III, Vice City, and San Andreas) the characters that you met seemed more cartoony had outlandish missions that were often times goofier than the characters. The characters Niko and the two characters in the DLC met in IV had some quirks, but the game made it obvious that there was something wrong or off with them, and it wasn’t always funny (i.e. In the Lost and The Damned, shortly after Klebitz gets the old biker president out of jail, he realizes that the old president is power hungry and psychotic and soon starts srguing with him).

          And I agree that Niko is a god protagonist for GTA IV. I particularly like when, in the dlc, you could see how other characters viewed Niko and his actions. In particular the main mission that ties everything together, the diamond heist, which ends up with all parties screwed in some way or another, and a wealthy homeless man.

        • Professor_Cuntburglar

          The story in GTA4 felt like a middle schooler was trying to write a gangster movie.

        • Enkidum

          My sole exposure to Rockstar is GTA IV and RDR (finished RDR, I think about 75% through GTA IV, with many many hours of mindless mayhem distracting me from the central story). And I’ve never really played a Rockstar-derived game like Mafia or whatever.

          I find I have a different take on GTA than most people who’ve played the previous iterations. To me, everything that’s said in the video about GTA III applies perfectly well to my experience of IV, and pretty much everything in the comments as well. Maybe the city isn’t quite as huge as San Andreas or whatever, but it’s fucking enormous anyways, and maybe not all the missions are crazy, but there’s plenty of very satisfying ones. You can still change the radio station (and most of the stations are excellent), you can still kill hookers, you can still do… well just about everything that anyone’s ever said about any iteration of GTA. It’s all there, with generally astoundingly good voice acting and pretty good scripts. I just can’t complain – it was a revelation to me, in much the same way III seems to have been a revelation for everyone else.

          I still remember the feeling after I unlocked… whatever Manhattan is called… and drove over the bridge in the rain, looking at the expanse of city before me and just experiencing genuine pleasure at the beautiful view. This feeling was magnified many times over when I played RDR – it’s like a postcard you fight through. Dunno exactly what that all means, but suffice it to say I’m happy to give Rockstar my money.

    • The_Misanthrope

      I’ve not finished III, VC, and SA (haven’t played IV for whatever reason), but the reason isn’t distraction.  The distractions–trying to see how far I could get to the closed areas of the map, using remotely-detonated explosives to set traps for pursuing cops, etc.–were what I turned to when I got stuck on a mission.  For all the talk about the open world experience, many missions in the series–especially as it progressed– were frustratingly narrow in how you could finish them.  If you screwed one small thing up, you might as well just start over.   The worst had to be any missions that relied on precision driving, which was not one of the series’ strengths.  Mind you, it was a fine driving control scheme for what it was intended:  quick chases.  It was perfect for making hairpin turns, J-turns, and bootleggers.

      • The_Quirk

         YES! — I quit most of the games, except IV, because the missions were controller-throwing hard, and the games actively discouraged you from using cheat codes.

      • The Guilty Party

        Yep. I never finished any of the games because the missions are very tightly scripted, but they didn’t let you, the star, know. So you trial-and-error your way through someone else’s idea of what a movie scene should look like. It got old after one mission.

        I like picking the games up on super discount and just tooling around and listening to the music and going on minor crime sprees.

      • Heffenfeffer

        I agree whole-heartedly with this. The weak point in almost any open-world game is the main plot, because it just hangs over your head the whole time while you’d rather be doing something else. Missions in the main plot are glorified cutscenes with how you have to do them more often than not. Worse still is when you can’t do things or go places until you’ve progressed enough in the plot to open them up, even though there’s no logical reason why you shouldn’t. (In GTA 3′s case, the island bridges being closed until you get to a certain mission.)
        My two favorite open-world games get around this hurdle in almost exact opposite fashions. Dead Rising and its sequels solve this by forcing you to follow the plot for as long as you can while juggling whatever sidequests you want, and making it clear that you probably won’t get through the main plot unless you bulk up some with side missions. Throwing the whole thing into a Groundhog Day Loop also lets you perfect the strategy for somehow saving 50+ survivors and saving the world simultaneously.

        Crackdown solves this by providing next to no plot at all – just 21 targets. It notes that you probably should take out these targets in a certain order, but beyond that, have at ‘em! Drive a car straight through their compound gates, throw a cement truck at ‘em, jump up twenty stories and snipe them from a nearby rooftop…the only real concern from HQ’s end is “Did they get deaded?”, as it should be. It doesn’t hurt that everything is accessible from the get-go (though the heights of the third island make it advisable – not required – to save it for last.)

        • The_Misanthrope

          Yeah, exactly that! The ideal way to design an open-world game is to let the plot unfold by player action. The designer should make the world, give the player tools to accomplish the goals and then get out of the way. One of the many things that bothered me in TES: Oblivion was the damn quest arrow. It gave me the impression that was hustling from one point to another. Hell, I remember a murder-mystery styled quest that had all the suspects and their current whereabouts neatly shown on the map, so I didn’t have to go to all that trouble of thinking for myself, maybe even deducing something. “Nope, those are the only possible suspects,so what are you waiting for?”, the game tells me, “Oh, and if you haven’t figured out after studying and talking to all the suspects who the culprit is, I’ll helpfully point him out for you!”

          By contrast, one of the early missions in the main questline of Morrowind was for me to go to a certain Dwemer ruin and pick up some artifact. I had directions to the ruin, but they were pretty poor so it took me some time (and a friend’s help) to actually find it (and some time after that to actually find the artifact in the ruin). However, while I was lost trying to find it, I discovered many other interesting places and people. I also had the satisfaction of meeting a challenge and beating it on my own rather than the game outright telling me what to do and where to go.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         I just started playing III for the first time, and it’s amazing how it shares every single one of the problems with the missions of IV.

        -The targeting for weapons sucks. Never ever targets the guy you want to.
        -Controlling your character walking around sucks.
        -Health is few and far between, but you still have to run through a hundred dudes all firing machine guns at you at once.
        -No Checkpoints. Once you fail the mission (usually because of one of the issues above) you have to start all the way at the beginning.

        Like 50% of my GTA rampages are caused by shitty-mission-failure-induced rage.

    • Bad Horse

      The game just pushes you that way. So much of the world is designed to convince you that all the Liberty Citizens are just cattle to be slaughtered – their comments, the newspapers that all read “Win Shit”, the radio and especially the commercials – all of it meant to push you toward mass murder. 

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       I’ll get far enough in the story to open up all the areas, then that’s it.

  • TaumpyTearrs

    Ahhh, memories. I remember going to school every day and talking with my friend about the crazy shit we had done in the game the previous night. The funniest part was when other people would over hear our conversations and look at us like we were crazy.

    “So after I killed all the people in the subway with my shotgun I went to a second floor building and sniped like twenty cops, then I waited for an ambulance to come, beat the paramedic to death, stole the ambulance and drove it into oncoming traffic and cop cars til it caught fire and exploded.”

    I played hundreds of hours of this game. My friends and I would get high and play GTA all Saturday long, taking turns going on rampages and seeing who could last the longest or kill the most people.

  • HobbesMkii

    I think the radio and the signs and the commentary by passers-by in GTA III and its successors (and its pretenders) are sort of forced to make up for a glaring deficiency in its world, which is that those buildings are all essentially cardboard cutouts, except for the rare mission building that has maybe actual floors. I mean, I know that it’s really a tech limitation (and a labor limitation), but if there really were 8 million people in Liberty City, inhabiting and working in each borough, it would definitely have defined that place more. You can see the attempt to make a world where you can go into most buildings in Red Dead Redemption (minus Blackwater, which has a bunch of unenterable buildings again). The trade-off is a sparsity that defines that world as much as the minutiae of Liberty City does it.

    • Effigy_Power

      It begs the question how much the game would benefit from having thousands of enterable buildings. Unless at least 50% of these interior locations hide a weapon, a secret pickup or some sort of easter egg, it would essentially be a pointless feature. GTA is a game that has always revolved along its roadways and I think, while it would add realism, opening that world up to interior spaces would divert that focus. IV had a lot more buildings that could be entered, mostly apartment blocks with roof access, and outside of missions you’ll probably rarely find yourself in them unless you crashed your helicopter on the roof.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         Honestly, all I need in every building is an elevator and maybe a lobby. It would be so much less frustrating than trying to land a helicopter every time you wanted to get to the top of something.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       It also really hampers the supposed “freedom” in those games. As mentioned in the video, you don’t really have a choice to “do the right thing,” or any “thing,” really besides drive around or shoot stuff within different narrative frames.

      In college, some of the bros in a house where some friends lived got an XBox and would play a lot of Vice City. I never played it, but sometimes we’d watch them play it. My then-girlfriend wanted to give it a shot – she’s even less into traditional bro-gaming than me, and is more of an outdoorsy, wandered/hiker/camper type person. So her entire time playing it consisted of wandering around town looking for something to do, trying and failing to go into buildings, and eventually trying to walk into some water and immediately drowning.

      The whole time, the guys who own the game with getting impatient and irked: “You’re not DOING anything!” To which her response was “I CAN’T do anything!” This game, which seemed so huge and liberating to folks who played by its rules actually seemed really impoverished and lame to folks who didn’t feel like doing that.

      Much later (like, last year) I played a GTA game (IV) for the first time, and similarly got bored fast. Driving and shooting are both things I don’t at all enjoy in real life, and doing them virtually likewise gives me no joy. I saw some interest/challenge in “trying to do the right thing,” but soon realized this wasn’t some CRPG, and the game pretty much necessitated stealing cars and killing people, which necessitated more (boring) driving and shooting.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/ghaleonq,4597/ GhaleonQ

        That’s so interesting.  I’m a rural person, if I had to choose, and I felt like the “stuff” to do (especially as the series expanded, even though San Andreas, as I understand it, incorporated suburban/rural environments) didn’t interest me for that reason rather than for any reasons of violence or impulsiveness.  Maybe she’s the same?

        The My Summer Vacation/Boku no Natsuyasumi series, Animal Forest/Crossing series, and Afterschool Boy/Hokago Shonen appear to have more potential for action than the urban places not because they do, necessarily, but because urban environments necessarily have fewer types of objects.  Nature isn’t planned, so designers draw on a variety of actions and objects.  Civilization is planned, so there are “just” buildings, streets, and transportation.  “Rural”/variety sparks my imagination more.

        There’s a game design lesson in there somewhere.

        I’m surprised that a Dundee/Edinburgh-based studio hasn’t tried that sort of rural thing out yet.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           Yeah, she came from Aspen, so driving around a city was far less compelling than her experience hiking through insanely beautiful mountain ranges.
          As a counterpoint, she really enjoyed emulation of Ecco the Dolphin – mainly just swimming around the levels and checking stuff out. If it had been out at the time, I could imagine her really getting into something like Endless Ocean.

      • Enkidum

        She would probably have done better with RDR, where it is actually worthwhile just to ride around looking at the scenery and gathering plants.

      • Professor_Cuntburglar

         I’m not a fan of the shooting, but I love the driving. I have a soft-spot for open world driving games, for reasons I can’t fully explain.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           I can imagine the smile that spreads across your face every time you fail a mission in GTA IV. “Oh, BOY! Now I get to drive for 20 minutes back to this very spot!”

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    The Pete Strackmeier stealth voice over at the start of this video is possibly the greatest thing ever.

  • So_It_Goes

    My buddies and I used to play “Busted/Wasted” (wherein you’d play until you were busted or wasted), and strangely, that “She’s on fire fire fire fire fiiiirrrrrre!” song would always come on as our car was on fire or about to explode.  Every time.  Led to many hilarious moments and panicked laughs any time that song came on.  Great memories.

  • SisterMaryFrancis

    John Teti’s Gamelogical Society Presents
    A John Teti Production
    John Teti’s The Seeds: Grand Theft Auto III
    Featuring commentary by John Teti Award-winning editor: John Teti

    Also, Drew Toal.

    • Staggering Stew Bum

      …with a very special appearance of Anthony John Agnello doing his Arj Barker impression.

    • Effigy_Power

      Featuring: Drew Toal’s Mustache in IMAX and 3D.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Aw, c’mon. I also catered.

      • George_Liquor

         Craft services by John Teti.

      • Effigy_Power

        Introducing: John Teti in the groundbreaking role of beloved character John Teti.
        (John Teti based on a real life story. For more information, read “I, John Teti” by Walther Rickenbaker (John Teti))

    • Electric Dragon

      Rostrum Camera: Ken Morse.

  • Captain Internet

    Er… the video is causing my browser to crash after the advert. Chrome just fails silently, but the dev version of Flash in Firefox I have is giving me a null reference error:

    TypeError: Error#1009: Cannot access a property or method of a null object reference
    at pre_fla:MainTimeline/handleRollOver()

    • Heffenfeffer

      I remember other people remembering stuff too! 

      (Heffenfeffer, Forum Contributor)

      I remember remembering when I first saw the GTA 3 remembrance about ten minutes ago. It feels like only yesterday…

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Hey there Captain, I’m going to pass this along to the AV Club tech team (since we just use their player) and they’ll look into it. Thanks for the detailed report, plus the humorous bonus commentary. (Truly a bang-up commenting effort for someone who couldn’t even watch the video!) I do apologize for the trouble; hopefully we can figure out the problem.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      From the AVC web team: “Thanks to Captain Internet for the very thorough bug report. The Chrome version of the player shouldn’t be using Flash at all… Firefox still does use Flash until it gets its act together. We’ll test for this tomorrow & hopefully there’s a fix/workaround we can implement in a short order.”

      • Captain Internet

        That’s what I’m here for, Mam.

        *flies off*

  • http://www.facebook.com/justin.leeper.106 Justin Leeper

    I got to review (well, Second Opinion) GTA III for what has become the biggest video game magazine in the world. At the time, we were just blown away by the tech. I remember the pop-in was nasty, especially on the debris, but we were assured it would be fixed. Sure as shit, it wasn’t in the release version.
    Phenomenal game, though I really love Vice City more for its better narrative/music/voice acting/gunplay.

    Aside: I did not appreciate how the volume reset after the DOOM commercial. Neither did my wife, asleep as it’s 2am on a workday.

  • Andrew ferguson

    After wringing every last bit of content out of the game, what I came to love most about GTA 3 and its sequels was Blue Hell—finding the places where the game broke down, however briefly, and reveal whole other universes with the game where even GTA’s ludicrous physics didn’t apply. 
    Not that GTA is by any means the first game to reward glitching so richly (see Metroid’s secret worlds), but it was one of the first to reward it so casually, so that almost any gamer could stumble on things the programmers never intended. It’s like walking down the street and suddenly finding yourself in one of those rolled-up dimensions string theorists are always on about. Surreal.

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       Simpsons Hit and Run was kind of a crap game, but it was great for this.

  • STOP_RIGHT_THERE_CRIMINAL_SCUM

    I can’t view the video

    anyway Grand Theft Auto 3….what a legendary game this is, I first played it when I was 12 years old, I know that’s a shocking age, but the thing is, I HAD to play it, my life depended on me playing GTA3

    in an odd bit of happenstance I started reading Official US Playstation Magazine (which died in 2006) around the time of GTA3′s release and their review of the game hyped it to high heaven, they basically called it the best game ever made (perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but still) and between the lines stated that it doesn’t matter if you’re under 17, you have to play this game no matter what

    so I talked my uncle, who was living with my family at the time, into taking me to rent the game at Blockbuster (no easy task since that fucker stayed checked out) and let me tell you, I literally felt like I was committing a crime, I literally hid somewhere in the store while my uncle was renting the game so the clerks wouldn’t see me, I was also literally sweating the whole time, my stomach full of butterflies…

    so finally we got out with the game and I’ll never forget playing the game for the first time, I felt so naughty and so bad, but it felt so GOOD, I knew I shouldn’t be playing it, but I couldn’t help myself, not only was I committing virtual crimes, but I felt like I committing a real one

    obviously I didn’t finish the game in time before the rental was due and I knew I’d never see it on the shelves again for ages, so a few weeks later I manned up and talked my parents into buying it for me, I don’t think they really understood what it was (thank God) so it went smoothly

    and man, GTA3 was probably one of the defining experiences of my life, I had NO idea a video game could be like that, not only in the violence but just the gameplay, the whole idea of exploring a whole city was like absolutely nothing I had seen in games before

    I still have almost the entire dialogue of the Chatterbox radio show burned into my memory, I still remember discovering the cheat codes which allowed me to be able to get past the tougher missions and I still remember how hard I laughed when I heard the fat pedestrian in the Hawaiian shirt say “I like barbecue” 

    the fall of 2001 was what made me the man I am today, there were 3 games (Silent Hill 2, Metal Gear Solid 2 and Grand Theft Auto 3) that shattered my perception of what a video game could be and made me realize what I wanted to do with my life, that video games were all that mattered

    flash forward to today and I may be a jobless virgin with a failed education career, but I have my video games and I am happy, I am content…

  • Raging Bear

    Lovely video.

    My roommates and I pretty much divided our time between Timesplitters and GTA for years. I got them to start reading “wasted” as “was Ted, as in “I managed to get it up to five stars before I was Ted!” or “Seriously, you was totally Ted.” It doesn’t really work with “bus Ted.”

  • apathymonger

    I never really got in to GTA3 (I don’t think I owned a console at the time), but Vice City might be my favourite game of all time. Just so much fun.

  • Crimboween

    GTA3: Such a glorious game. 
    After a long childhood with no access to computer-games or even a computer, I went out in 2001 and bought a PS2 specifically to play this game. Actually, I recall buying this game first, a couple of weeks before I had even saved up the cash to buy the platform I’d need to play it. Ha, I even remember looking at that included map and the instruction booklet, a little apprehensive about the seemingly sh*t-load of buttons on the PS2 controller… 

    Anyhow, the very first time I started up GTA3, I was just blown completely away. The graphics seemed space-age to me, the islands seemed huge and the complexity incredible. I spent the next couple of hours playing the game, in a complete bubble of giddy excitement. I’ll tell you: when I HAD to stop and walk to the shops to get dinner, the world outside seemed very mundane… 

    GTA3 still holds a very dear place in my heart. Some of the side missions were so tough (hitting those timed markers! Massacres! Ambulance missions! Being in Chinatown after the fire!) that I haven’t 100%’ed the game to this day. After that GTA:VC upped the plot, the comedy and the focus of the game (and it became slightly easier), and I actually 100%’ed that game twice. GTA: SA was pretty enjoyable, and I made 100% within a month of getting the game. But it seemed to me to choose quantity over quality. GTAIV: I own it… and it’s a beautiful game. But it just lacks something, probably the zany humor of GTA3 and VC. I haven’t even unlocked the third island on GTAIV.

    • apathymonger

      Yeah, one of my problems with San Andreas is that the world is so big, it’s impossible to get to know it in the way you could with Vice City. I knew how to get around VC far better than I know how to drive around my home city IRL.

  • dingus_bingus

    I was 10 when GTA 3 came out. I received a PS2 that Christmas, but when I asked for GTA 3, my mom refused to buy it for me. I ended up getting ICO as my game that Christmas (a game whose artistic merit I appreciate much more now, but back then, I just saw as Not GTA). So a few months passed and I ended up convincing a friend at school to let me borrow the game from him. That afternoon when my mother came home and found me playing GTA 3, realizing she had been beaten, she simply said, “I think we’ll get pizza tonight.”

    She finally bought the game for me for my 11th birthday.

  • dingus_bingus

    My mother hates me because of Grand Theft Auto 3.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=50300736 Shawn Hudson

    Grand Theft Auto III hit that sweet spot. Before it, I’d already been driving through Crazy Taxi and Super Runabout on the Dreamcast with groups of friends, simply trying to cause as much havoc as possible – we recorded the better ones.

    GTA, of course, added a great story, walking around, etc., but one of the most important things it did for us was to lift that barrier of time limits or fares like in those previous games and simply allowed you to drive around endlessly to fully explore the most insane car stunts possible. 

    And with a Game Genie, it got even crazier … giving cars almost no weight, for example, so that they floated away into the atmosphere if they’d gotten the slightest little ding. Hours were spent just trying to launch each car into the atmosphere and then looking up at the city skyline, watching various automobiles exploding against the sides of buildings. Havoc + less boundaries = classic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

    I’m not sure if this video really explained fully how it changed the gaming landscape. Yes you mention that it was the first of its kind, and it gave us questions about video game violence, but Mortal Kombat and Doom were asking those questions ten years earlier. I liked the video, but it didn’t bring anything new to the conversation, nor did it fully explore the influence that GTA3 had on the gaming world. I hope your next installments are a bit more in depth and not so reliant on the opinions of comedians.

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      I’m pretty happy with the video, and the approach in future installments is going to be much the same (although there will be additional “deleted scenes” segments that cover topics that had to be cut for time). Just like a movie has a mix of shots, I like to have a mix of close-up analysis and big-picture, wide-angle commentary on the site, and for me, this project falls in the latter category.

      The series is intended to do two things, primarily. For people who are unfamiliar with the games, I want to offer a taste of what made these games cultural “moments.” For people who are familiar with the games, I wanted to provide an entertaining variety of perspectives that could refresh memories, light up the synapses, and get some conversation going.

      I understand what you’re looking for, and frankly I expected a comment or two like yours. Your preferences are entirely fair and reasonable; I’ve just made a conscious choice not to make that kind of video.

      I will say that the “not so reliant on the opinions of comedians” remark is disappointing, though. (Even if, having worked in the games press for a few years, the underlying sentiment is not unfamiliar.) Insight can come from unexpected places. If you accept games as part of the culture, then why can’t comedians — people with a talent for expressing deeper truths — have something interesting to say about them?

      • Fluka

        I liked this a lot.  I’ve never really had any interest in the Grand Theft Auto games, but this video gave me a feel for why people love them and why this particular one was so groundbreaking.  And I’m very much a fan of the including non-game-critics thing.  Much as with the Friday What are You Playing interviews, it’s good to think about how people outside Gaming Culture interact with any number of games, and it moves the discussion away from the usual discussions which happen on gaming websites.  

        Looking forward to the rest!

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=50300736 Shawn Hudson

        While I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, I’m mostly looking forward to it improving, as well. I agree with the sentiment that for really well-known games, there should be a more in-depth look at their effect on gaming in the present-tense.  

        One of the main points of the series (listed in the intro, at least) is to look at the seminal effect of these games as they changed the art form. Those are strong words for a series that, as you’re seeming to put in this rebuttal, is basically just a hodge-podge, half-assed look into what a handful of friends remember being cool about Grand Theft Auto. I’m sorry if that’s offensive, but I feel like your rebuttal was sort of a lazy defense of a project that should be better. I’d expect this kind of video from a private YouTube channel, not from a dedicated website.

        That in mind, there should be some commentary from game developers who were influenced heavily by them – how did it influence them and, specifically, where do they see further influences at today?  It will undoubtedly require more actual reporting, but the series will be better overall, especially since the future games listed are, indeed, landmarks for various genres. 

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=50300736 Shawn Hudson

          I should add that I enjoyed both the production value and the comedian’s opinions, though. I just think there should be a balance. More industry opinions and concrete correlations would be really interesting and worthwhile.

        • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

          You know what, Shawn, you are free to disagree with the direction of the series. You are free to hate it, in fact, and to be bewildered that I didn’t put it together a different way. But don’t you dare sit there and use your commenting soapbox to tell me that I was half-assing it. After the work I’ve put into this, don’t you fucking dare.

          What you read as a “rebuttal” or a “defense” was in fact an explanation of my thinking behind the videos. I understood where Andy was coming from, and I didn’t expect to change his mind, but I figured I would engage with him and let him in on my point of view a little. I don’t feel the series needs a defense, because I’m proud of it and I think it’s cool.

          I thought it would be neat to make a series that doesn’t emphasize the usual genre and intra-gaming concerns and talks about games as shared, seminal cultural moments. Your idea for a series that incorporates developers’ views and talks more about the impact within the game-development industry sounds cool, too. I’d definitely watch that. As it stands today, I have made this different thing, and I have used my entire ass.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=50300736 Shawn Hudson

        Alright. I overstepped when I said the series was half-assed. You worked a lot on it, and I’m dumb for suggesting that. And you’re also right that this series has the right to diverge from the average intra-gaming perspective; it’s not my creation or any other commenter’s to alter. 

        I feel confused about one thing, though. That introduction. I read it, and it says there’s going to be something in this video that discusses not just the culture, but how GTA influenced the art of videogames. After I watched the video, I was entertained and nostalgic, but I missed the education section. As I said before, Dragon Warrior’s coming up, soon … and RPGs are my bag. I don’t claim to know anything besides how awesome it was to play Phantasy Star, Miracle Warriors, Dragon Warrior, FF, etc., but I’m hoping to have a light shined on how these games, or how just the one with the wee blue slimes actually altered the landscape after it hit. 

      • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

        Having comedians in the video just reminded me too much of a VH1 special on the 80′s or one of those things they do. The talking head format is wearing thin on me, but I understand the reasons for using it. I really enjoyed the video, but I hope future installments have a stronger focal point. Bone for tuna ;)

    • Professor_Cuntburglar

       It basically invented the modern “sandbox game” as we know it. So there’s that.

      • http://www.facebook.com/andy.tuttle.79 Andy Tuttle

         Yes, there is that, but there is no mention of how that sandbox style of gaming has changed the landscape of gaming, who uses it wisely and who just rips it off. If the staff at Gameological just wants to make a broad statement about these important games then they are free to do so. My hope is that they will find a way to make them just a bit tighter and more focused.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jj-Clifford/1330608392 J.j. Clifford

    I had actually played one of the earlier top-down GTAs before 3 came out. BUT after three my whole concept of what video games changed. Plus the hours spent riding on the hood of a car shooting people until the cops came…

  • dmikester

    GTA 3 completely changed what I thought was possible in a game, much like Super Mario 64 did.  I had also played GTA 1 and 2 but never beat either of them due to the top down view being so annoying.  So GTA 3 was amazing both as an incredible game and as the ultimate progression of the series at that point.  And while each GTA game after GTA 3 has been better than the last or at least featured some kind of expansion or improvement on 3, 3 still stands as a moment when what was considered possible in games changed forever.  Kind of like the iPhone, where the focus is on iteration that produces a more polished and better version of something rather than a total game changer every time, but that game changer is still remembered with great reverence.

    I guess you could call me a GTA die-hard; I’ve actually completed every single GTA game after 3 to 100% except for Vice City Stories for some reason.  GTA is the game that introduced me to the concept of actually getting 100% in a game’s stats, and I’ve been obsessed with the concept ever since.  GTA 3 featured a likely accidental feature that spawned many a game guide that helps you get 100% in a game; if you attempted to complete the ambulance missions after going through most of the game, it was impossible to do because all of the rival gangs would hate you and would destroy your ambulance almost immediately, so you had to plan ahead and do them at the beginning of the game. 

    For my money, Vice City is the most fun of all of them (and the celebrity voiceovers in that game are wonderful), but San Andreas is the most extraordinary.  The world in San Andreas is so massive and detailed and a joy to explore, and I actually kind of love the story in San Andreas the most.  Also, the gameplay is ridiculously varied in San Andreas, and it just felt like the ultimate GTA game.  Well, except for Red Dead Redemption.

  • Krokamo

    This game is the reason why I got a PS2. I know its not very popular, but I really prefer the old GTA games to GTA 4.

  • http://www.johnfosullivan.com John F. O’Sullivan

    Hey guys, there seems to be glitch — I’m only getting the Metroid video on this article. Can you repost the GTA3 one?

    • http://gameological.com/author/johnteti/ John Teti

      Oh man, video-player madness today. This, at least, should be fixed. Sorry about that.

      • 90s heart throb

        Hey John, sorry to drag this up 7 months later but the video seems to be missing again

  • http://www.elliotthermanwallace.com/blog Elliott Wallace

    You can drive the plane….you can’t fly it. (Or at least barely) Only recently did it make sense that it was an unflyable plane called the “Dodo.”