Grand Theft Auto III: Candidate for Canonization


One of the most note worthy games of all time, Grand Theft Auto III was developed by DMA Design, now Rockstar North, and published by Rockstar games. GTA III was one of the most successful and influential games of the early 21st century. This game was the first modern 3d sandbox-style action adventure. GTA III was the most influential game to combine third person shooter with a racing game, add an open world sandbox-style of gameplay, and then give the gamer total freedom to either pursue the plotline or just have fun in liberty city.

This game was first released exclusively for the Playstation 2 on October 21, 2001. The following year the game was ported to Windows; now PC gamers could also enjoy the game. Two years later GTA III made its way to the classic Xbox and finally to the Mac on November 22, 2010. The constant porting and releasing of this game only further emphasizes its high demand; almost ten years after its original PS2 release it is still being played.

The game follows the story of a nameless anti-hero who we later learn to be Claude Speed. Claude and his girlfriend Catalina come to Liberty City in an effort to make money through crime. Claude is betrayed by Catalina and left for dead. In GTA III the player must climb the crime ranks, gaining respect, trust, street credibility, and money, in order to get close to Catalina and exact his revenge.

The story of GTA III has little importance to its overall impact on the gaming world. The revolutionary gameplay of GTA III is what makes this game worthy of canonization. GTA III was preceded by other open world games like Body Harvest and Shenmue GTA III started the long line of aptly named GTA clones. GTA was the first to seamlessly combine so many genres and provide original and popular gameplay that hooked the audience. This isn’t the hub style of free roaming like Super Mario 64, where you can walk around an area and use it to access different levels. GTA III had a fully functioning and realistic world that allowed the player to interact in any way he or she chose. Body Harvest and Shenmue provided an open world for the gamer to explore. GTA III was the first to fill that open world with captivating content that held the gamers’ interest, captivating enough people to place the Grand Theft Auto name into the history books. All casual to hardcore gamers as well as many no-gamers have heard the name Grand Theft Auto. Whether or not this game has scarred or blessed the gaming world, its revolutionary gameplay alone deserves canonization.

Body Harvest, and open world shooter for the Nintendo 64, has been touted as being much more revolutionary and influential to the history of Gaming than GTA III; however, Body Harvest fans have often left out that there are only a few gamers aware of the game itself. A game should not only be canonized for its revolutionary content but for its social impact on the world and on gaming. While body harvest employed an open world filled with monsters to kill and vehicles to drive, it did not combine the elements enough to grip and captivate the world of gamers. It did not have enough of a compelling story or contain the right amount of each element to make the game go down in history for revolutionizing open world gameplay.

Although there is an objective to the game, GTA III doesn’t require the gamer to progress the plot. The gamer has absolute control over what his character does. If games wanted to aimlessly drive around and shoot people, the game did not stop them, except for GTA III’s police officers, the built in punishment system for committing crimes. This level of freedom was unprecedented. The ability to do a drive by with the Uzi and the ability to kill cops and civilians in gruesome ways were all elements that made GTA even more of a complete package to gamers.

GTA employed revolutionary yet controversial gameplay mechanics. The pre-production of the game, containing much more graphic content, was never released. In the wake of 9/11, many elements were removed from the still in production GTA III. The flying missions as well as the anarchist missions were removed from the final production copy and the police cars and officers were reskinned to look less like the NYPD. Furthermore, many other elements of the game, including school children, elderly people with walkers, and a school bus, were removed before the publish date. Also, the developers removed the dismemberment effect on NPCs when shot. While some of the more extreme elements were removed, a substantial amount of controversial content remained. Enough controversial content remained to enrage most parents and many politicians and social activists.

Many anti-violent-video game advocates have said that in GTA III the player can “pick up a prostitute, pay her for sex, kill her, and steal her money”. It was often accused of being a “murder simulator”.This is all true. The game can be played with varying levels of morality, however: this only adds to the case for GTA III’s needed presence in the realm of canonized games. The controversial elements of GTA III not only made for an enjoyable and original game experience. It broke down some previously established doors and instituted a lot of regulations that are still in place today.

It was because of GTA III that the Wal*Mart chain imposed their policy about M rated games. From the release of GTA III on, Wal*Mart employs were required to check identification prior to the purchase of mature rated games. It paved the way for games to make more graphic and gruesome content; more sexual and adult content. Which, for better or worse, changed video games forever. IGN reporter Rus Mclaughlin said, “If GTA pushed the envelope by design, gamers figured out fast how to burn that envelope and spit the ashes in the Pope's face.” Furthermore, there was a $246 Million lawsuit involving the shooting of two young people by teens. Investigators believed GTA III inspired the shooting but the case was thrown out due to the defendants’ lack of knowledge of firearms.

Not only did GTA Impact the world with pushing limits, it impacted Rockstar enough to continue the franchise. Rockstar continues to push the limits with each installment of the GTA world. Most recently, GTA IV, the third major console installment after GTA III, was released for the PS3 and XBOX 360. It impacted the gaming industry enough to create many GTA-clones. GTA III set the bar high for this new style of 3D open world game. Game like Saints Row and True Crime are exact clones of the GTA formula while other games contain only certain aspects of it. When GTA III was released, most developers realized the potential of open world action-adventure games. Crackdown and Mafia were also created in GTA III’s image. GTA III undeniably changed sandbox gaming.

GTA III was received extremely well by gamers and critics alike. It won many “Game of the Year” awards and received an overall rating of 95/100. There were minor complaints about graphics and controls. It was added to GameSpot’s Greatest “Games of All Time” list, as well as being proclaimed most important video game of all-time by GamePro. It was stated that the "game's open-ended gameplay elements have revolutionized the way all video games are made". The worst review given to GTA III was by Christ Centered Games to the surprise of no one. This review board gave GTA III a 68 out of 100. Game Informer rated it as one of the top 25 most influential games of all time. All of these review state that the game has revolutionized gaming. Sandbox style, open ended, and free roaming gameplay.

The positive reviews go on and on about GTA III. But how do these relate to it being an important and influential game? Does being a good game make a game worthy of being on the Canon? No. A game needs to have a specific impact or influence on society or gaming. This game not only revolutionized the 3d open world genre, but it forever changed the world of gaming.

Works Cited: 

“Brett’s Footnotes¹: Comparative Media: Prostitution.” 31 Mar 2011.
“Grand Theft Auto III for PlayStation 2 - GameSpot.” 31 Mar 2011.
“Grand Theft Auto III for PlayStation 2 (2001) - MobyGames.” 31 Mar 2011.
“IGN Presents: The History of Grand Theft Auto - Retro Feature at IGN.” 31 Mar 2011.
“The 52 Most Important Video Games of All Time (page 8 of 8), page 8, Feature Story from GamePro.” 31 Mar 2011.

Image Credits: 

All Images Creative Commons Approved for Reuse
from the GTA III Wikipedia Page

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