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Tommy Vercetti's an innocent man!


Games are increasingly becoming an art form, and art by definition is powerful. There are video games that stay with you, moments that impact on you, feelings they create that simply don't fade the moment the power's switched off.

Grand Theft Auto is the industry's scapegoat. Believe the tabloids and you'll learn how more people have been killed as a result of Rockstar's greatest franchise than in all the recent wars. Mere ownership of the game enables a gun to teleport into your hands, and a rudimentary knowledge of the D-Pad is all you need to learn how to handle it properly. Rockstar Games have done a great service to humanity. By GTA 10 we'll have our overpopulation problems sorted. Win win, as far as I'm concerned.

Only it's silly, really, isn't it? Arguing that violent video games are somehow perpetuating violence is so unfounded that you might as well argue the same of Tom and Jerry, or The Simpsons. After all, a child unable to differentiate between reality and fiction is no more likely to believe GTA than the strangulation of Bart Simpson. Sure, GTA is more realistic, but we're talking somebody apparently unable to fathom the difference between reality and a video game. If they're going to use that excuse, then throw the book at everything even remotely advocating of violence. It doesn't matter how cartoony or silly it is, if these people cannot tell the difference between polygons on a screen and real life, there is no grey area. I'll go lock up my Warner Bros. cartoons right away, lest a child find them and begin thinking Dark Thoughts involving TNT and fake tunnel cutouts.

This is all clichéd, dull and utterly predictable coming from a gamer like myself, however. What I really came here to talk about was how games can stay with you long after they've been completed and tossed aside. GTA: Vice City probably wasn't my first 'life changing' game (that award goes to Sonic the Hedgehog, in a long winded way), but it remains one of the most important. Had TF2 not devoured my life, Vice City would probably be still up there, the most awesome and important game in my life. It took over my life. My passion for the 1980s was utterly inflamed  thanks to this game, and when I wasn't playing it, I was living it. I devoured 1980s music, media, pop culture. A child of the 80s myself, it was always something I remembered fondly, and Vice City gave me that chance to embrace it. It wasn't about killing people, mowing down hookers and stealing their money (though I'd be lying if I said I didn't do that. Often.) It was about the world. It was about Vice City.

Heh, my mum came in as I was typing this, looked at the screenshot above, and said "oh man, that was one of your big games, wasn't it?"

And here's a little secret. I never completed it. Never came close. I never even tried to. I'd dick about with the storyline missions, play some little sidequests, but my hours and hours of game time were spent in the most inane way possible (until Minecraft with its hours of dirt collecting became a testimony to our dedication as timewasters.)

I drove around. I drove along the beach, just waiting for sunrise or sunset, and I listened to the in-game radio stations. Sometimes I'd park the car, crank my television volume up, and turn my PS2 into the world's most convoluted radio. Sometimes I'd do that at night when I was in bed, instead of listening to whatever dull rubbish was playing on the real radio at the time, and fall asleep to the sounds of Lazlow or Fernando Martinez. A child of the 1980s I may well have been, but I cannot hear 'Broken Wings', '(I Just) Died In Your Arms' or 'I Ran' without being teleported back, not to my childhood, but to the streets of Vice City.

Funnily enough, it wasn't the sunny Florida beach setting I loved so much, though there was something absolutely breathtaking about the flare on the screen as the sun set or rose each day. It was the stormy moody weather I loved. Little droplets of rain would trickle down the screen - no other GTA game has captured it so perfectly (and GTA San Andreas' 'rain' effect was in my mind little more than a noise filter). The mist would come off the sea, the thundering clouds would roll across the sky, the rain somehow felt warm and tropical, and there, beside you, were the neon pinks and turquoise blues of an 1980s Miami in all its garish glory. I'm getting teary eyed just thinking about it. People sing the praises of the Final Fantasies and the Zeldas and the Shadows of the Colossi for the beauty of their worlds. To me, nothing was more beautiful in gaming history that that moment. Christ, nearly ten years on and nothing's even come close.

Years later, my friends and I were on a road trip to the world's worst picnic site, and on the way home it started to rain a thick, heavy, Summer rain. We turned down a random lane, and threw on a CD recording of VCPR, one of Vice City's two 'talk' stations. Driving home was one of those moments in life that, like driving those digital streets of Vice City, tend to stick with you through the years. I imagine that, come 2022 which, frighteningly, isn't very far away, I'll still feel that pang of nostalgia and contentment when I turn on the radio and hear '(I Just) Died in Your Arms' belting from the speakers. If I'm really lucky, it'll be late at night, with a sky thick with rain, when I do.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 7th, 2011 04:11 pm (UTC)
This entry! I don't even have anything to say, it's just so good.
Apr. 7th, 2011 04:28 pm (UTC)

Edited at 2013-07-19 08:00 pm (UTC)
Jul. 20th, 2013 12:32 pm (UTC)
I now have a really strong urge to replay GTA:VC, if only for the music... The radio stations in the GTA games really add quite a bit to the experience.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )