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Grand Theft Abstinence


With the launch of, arguably, one of the year’s most anticipated titles mere hours away at the point of this article’s writing, I can’t help but ponder my own personal history with the Grand Theft Auto franchise. It has helped me form a viewpoint of the franchise few will likely take, and that’s just fine.

I’ve been an avid gamer my entire life. When Rockstar‘s franchise really exploded on the scene in 2001 with Grand Theft Auto III, I was naturally curious. It generated so much buzz in the media and amongst my friends, I was genuinely curious to check it out. The problem I faced was that I was 16 years old at the time and I knew that the game had some very mature content in it.

I fought off playing the game for as long as I could and, against my better judgment, I coaxed my parents into renting it for me. What I found when I actually sat down and played the game, though, genuinely held absolutely no appeal to me at all. Don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed getting all of the different cars and trying to take them off crazy ramps, but the rest of the game left me completely uninterested. I cared nothing for joining the crime family, running down old ladies, or soliciting hookers to regain my health. It also didn’t help that the game’s shooting mechanics felt completely horrendous to me. I returned the game and never picked it back up.


Fast forward another year with the release of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City. The buzz again picked back up. This time around, you could drive motorcycles and the game was supposed to have a fantastic soundtrack. I decided to rent the game and give the franchise another shot. The soundtrack, based completely on tunes from the 1980s, really was incredible. It was a lot of fun cruising down the road, jamming out to Billy Jean. The motorcycle was also a neat element. It went crazy fast and you could take some sick jumps with it. Ultimately, though, I hit the same wall with Vice City that I hit with GTAIII. I just couldn’t get into the criminal storyline or any of the other side missions. I cruised around the city a few more hours and ultimately returned the game back to the rental store before I went back to playing Prince of Persia: Sands of Time or whatever game I was into at the time.

I decided that was enough of the franchise for a while. I bypassed San Andreas without ever blinking. When Grand Theft Auto IV came out for a newer generation of hardware, though, I decided to give the franchise yet another go, hoping my tastes had changed over the last few years. I wanted to get drawn into the story of Niko Bellic and his cousin, Roman. While the world was considerably more well realized, I once quickly grew tired of the story, ultimately setting the game aside without seeing it to its end.

Now here we are. A numbered Grand Theft Auto game hasn’t been released in over half a decade, and we’re teetering on the brink of what is being touted as an intense crime drama that is sure to be well-loved by the masses. I want to be part of the throng – to enjoy the franchise like everyone else seems to. I’ve come to realized a couple of things about myself, though.


The GTA series draws heavily on crime drama films that touch on some of the same core concepts. In college, my friends coaxed me into watching Scarface and the Godfather trilogy. Unfortunately, those films left me feeling the same way the stories of GTA games do – complete bewilderment. I just don’t see the draw in that sort of material. From where I’m sitting, Al Pacino’s rise to drug lord and Coppola’s The Godfather movies feel completely dissonant with my core being. When given the choice, I play the “good guy” in every single game I play. I just can’t bring myself to delve into the seedy side of human nature.

I don’t want this to come off as a “holier than thou” sort of feeling. I want to express that I want to be able to enjoy what so much of the populace sees entertainment value in. I just can’t seem to let the franchise get its hooks into me. I’m sure I will want to give Grand Theft Auto V a go once again at some point to see if my tastes have changed at all, but for right now, I believe I’ll have to practice abstinence and wait through the launch of one of the biggest games of 2013.

What do you think? Are you excited for the new game? Are you like me, struggling to find a way to enjoy it, but unable? Am I just completely blinded? Let me know what you think.

Be sure to check back for our upcoming review of the game for our full opinion.

Joe Morgan
Joe Morgan
Christian, gamer, software developer, crossfitter, jogger, and dog lover