One of the flourishes of Grand Theft Auto III was that URLs mentioned in advertisements on the in-game radio led to live Web sites. For instance, petsovernight.com offered to ship you live animals in crates; pogothemonkey.com hyped a goofy, nonexistent platformer; and lovemedia.tv showcased the media empire of Donald Love--respectable entrepreneur by day, ruthless crime lord by night.
Now, Rockstar has quietly launched four sites--all registered to the publisher's New York offices and linked to from the Rockstar.com site--for in-game content from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The first is for Cluckin' Bell Happy Chicken, one of the fast-food chains that protagonist Carl Johnson must eat at to maintain his strength. Although Rockstar North took its name from a classic line in the BBC series Black Adder III, Cluckin' Bell Happy Chicken is an all-American parody of KFC, cheerfully proclaiming that it has provided "billions of chickens with a very happy resting place--your stomach!" Also included are an upbeat jingle, menu, and legal disclaimer, which says the franchise "bears no responsibility" for side effects, like "mammary gland swelling, erectile dysfunction, hair loss, heart disease, brain shrinkage, obesity, stomach ulcers, blindness, or teenage acne."
The second GTA spin-off site is fearitdoit.com, which hypes the latest book by fictional self-help guru Darius Fontaine. Sending up motivational speakers of the Tony Robbins ilk, the site offers an "online diagnosis system" to help visitors conquer their fears. How? By doing the very things that make them afraid. One satisfied customer even gives the following testimonial: "For years I was petrified of nudity now I'm a happy stripper!" The site offers no indication of whether Fontaine will appear in the game, although it's a safe bet you'll hear him on one of the in-game radio's talk stations.
Next up is the Web home of "a unique American religion" called The Epsilon Program. An amalgam of New Age sects with a dash of Christian Scientology, the site promises a "religion without homework" that will put "all your mortal fears at ease." All potential converts have to do is send a check to sect founder Cris Fromage or deposit it into his account in the Grand Cayman Islands. "If you believe this and turn your hands and wallet over to Epsilonism, youll live a happy life," promises the site. "Otherwise, you are doomed."
Last but not least is a home page for a "recording artist, hedonist, pleasure seeker" named Maccer. Confirming rumors that a character in San Andreas would be a hard-partying Brit from Manchester, Maccer's site says "there isn't a drug he hasn't tried, a form of self-abuse he has not practiced and a musical taboo he has not broken." Apparently Maccer's heyday was with his group, the Gurning Chimps, whose music is now unavailable due to a "protracted 7 year legal battle." While his musings invoke UK films like 24 Hour Party People and Human Traffic, it appears Maccer has found a new drug--religion. "On me own, I was lost," reads Maccer's personal message, "but thanks to Cris Formage and the fine folks at The Epsilon Program, I've found a better way to live. No more cocaine, no more heroin, no more ceaseless, boundless self-pleasure."
For more details on Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, check out GameSpot's series of previews.