Yar mateys, ye be readin' a story 'bout th' days I sailed th' seven seas of the World Wide Web in search o' animated treasures without spendin' a sin'le piece o' coin. Okay I think we can establish I'm very fluent in pirate gibberish and that I should never speak like that again.
Recently I posted a blog about my days of gaming as well as my current lack of days gaming. I spoke about how Rockstar games also changed things for me, both my attitude towards gaming and slightly towards life. So I thought I'd expand a bit on that, sort of as a thank you to Rockstar Games.
Often you will see stories about how an athlete, a writer, book or movie has inspired someone and made them have an epiphany that would change the entire course of their life. For me it was a little similar (no really life changing but at the least; influencing) and it all started with the day I had my first taste of a GTA title. It was the original GTA and I would have been about 9 years old at the time. When I first played GTA it wasn't anything important to me and all I can remember is that I loved coming across a game as violent as that. There was nothing more amusing than running around, burping and farting and punching random people in the face to see them fall over and to hear the (now atrocious) sound effects follow. On top of that running people over and hearing their humorous screams and getting chased by the cops was also great fun, until you died. I unfortunately never owned the first title (until it was made free on the Rockstar website) but was able to play it on a friends PC every now and then.
Back then I only had my PS1, the demo disc that came with it and crash bandicoot; the first game I ever owned, since the PS1 was the first console I ever owned as well. I sadly missed the Nintendo and Gameboy train. For my 9th birthday my mum had literally gone and bought me a copy of Doom (1 of my favourite games I used to play at my godfathers house when we visited him) for PS1, a legit copy, and her and my dad decided to also get me a copy of Duke Nukem Time to Kill, a pirated copy, my first pirated game. My folks didn't know the repercussions of video game piracy as they generally didn't and still don't know much about technology at all. They probably found it really cheap and thought they were saving money and it would make me happy if they bought it for me, either way they were right about both those things. They weren't really wealthy so I can't really blame them for trying to provide me with gifts that they could afford. Being at such a young age though, I didn't understand what piracy was or how it could affect an industry let alone an individual, and having seen my parents get pirated games I didn't think it was a bad thing at the time.
So as I mentioned in my last blog my brother had gone to Malaysia and had given me all his games. He had given me a shoe box filled with them which my parents surprised me with 1 day after coming home from school. I was thrilled and this pretty much meant they wouldn't have to buy me any games ever again but they still did every now and then. Now my brother got all the games for around $1 each and to this day Im pretty sure they were all pirated, although I can't say for sure as they were bought overseas and things could have been different back then, they could very well have been legitimate in that country. I cant remember how many there were but there were enough to keep me occupied for a few years. My most memorable game from that pile was metal gear solid, a game that would aid my change in attitude towards the gaming industry. I wouldn't end up finishing MGS until I was around 13 or 14, all because I didn't listen to Colonel Campbell and push the X button.
A few years later my parents had again got me another pirated game to add to my already large collection; GTA 2. Of course I played it for hours and hours, murdering person after person, farting and burping as I jumped over the bonnets of cars to insult the drivers. I loved the game just for the sheer menace you could cause. Didn't pay attention to the story or anything else, not that a lot of games back then had much else to offer apart from interaction, or so I thought at the time. Around the same time my brother gave me the rest of his games which, when I did count, I ended up with a little over 100 PS1 titles. My parents would on occasion buy me games I asked for, but only ever if it was from the Caribbean gardens market.
Around the time I started high school Rockstar took the GTA franchise to a new level and released GTA III. They had strayed from the top down or birds eye view and made it from the third person perspective. I never got to own this title during the time of release but I got to play it a bit. This took the violence and amusement to a whole new level for me. But still then I didn't pay much attention to the story or other elements the game had to offer. I do remember being devastated that they removed the farting and burping. Maybe 1 day this feature will return.
It wasn't until I tried Vice City that my passion slowly start to shape and grow into something more. I first tried it at a friends house and being based off of Miami City was a nice change from the New York City-ish like environments. I remember running around with a chainsaw and cutting up people and cars, doing nothing but small menacing tasks to avoid any police attention; to a point it annoyed my friends that I wasn't doing missions. I didn't understand why it annoyed them at the time but I eventually would. This is 1 of the main reasons I got a PS2. I had practically begged my parents for 1 and they got me 1 for Christmas. But when I got the PS2 it didn't come with any games and at the time it wasn't chipped which meant I couldn't play pirated games, or any games but the demo disc, which was quite boring. I had to save up my pocket money to buy GTA Vice City and it took a very long time to do as well. I barely had any games to play at all and I was still learning the value that games could have in a persons life.
I couldn't afford to buy a lot of other games and this is where I learned how to pirate them because my parents wouldn't buy any games unless it was a special occasion like a birthday or Christmas. I had to save up pocket money and birthday money to buy the games I wanted if they had just come out, but on occasion Id ask my mum for some money to add to what I had if I was low on money. She was never happy about it but would always give me as much as she could, as long as she didn't have to pay more then half she didn't really mind. I noticed other kids weren't buying some of their games and heard some talking about how they could get them for free. The moment I heard that word "free" I got curious and had to ask how and they told me that you could duplicate games that you owned or your friends owned using a burner. I couldn't afford a burner so I remember asking my dad to get me 1 as a birthday gift. Back then they were around $200 just for a basic 4-8x DVD writer that could do dual layer. Even though it was odd, it was still an expensive gift. I then started burning games before I even had my PS2 chipped. Id borrow off friends or from the local blockbuster store. Game after game after game, building a small collection until I had enough money to chip my PS2. Being 14 at the time I didn't know any better and started making copies to sell as well. At some point around this time I actually sat down and finished Vice City, without cheats, I played the story, watched and listened and realised that it was actually a pretty good game. Years later I would realise it was a work of art. The year after that came San Andreas. I borrowed money off a close friend to buy it. The reason I bought it is because I wanted the map poster they give you with the game. I thought the map would actually help, I was sort of wrong. But this is where the turning point slowly started for me. I was 15 at the time, I had gradually stopped selling copied games and I still played through San Andreas the first time with cheats, again just to finish the game and enjoy it for all its violent and destructive glory, forgetting and not realising there was a story behind the game and its character. I never finished it with cheats though. I stopped at some point and decided to play through it with no cheats and finish the story while paying attention to it. I was able to do so in 3 school days. It was the best feeling being able to finish a game that fast. The story was amazing and the satisfaction of doing it without cheats was even greater, which was a big thing then since cheats were always found on the web or in magazines you bought and nearly everyone used them nearly all the time. But after San Andreas, that's where I told myself from now on, I will make sure I always buy a GTA title and never pirate it. But this epiphany and new life rule would change over time towards Rockstar and even the entire industry. I continued to burn games here and there until I accumulated around 150 PS2 titles. I had stopped selling copies by the time I got San Andreas and had slowly reduced the amount of titles I would copy.
Around the age of 16; I realised I wasn't as outgoing as the other kids or as I used to be growing up. I realised that I actually enjoyed staying home playing games and doing nothing else. My parents were very strict towards my education though so I would never be able to take sick days or wag school, and they would always discourage my time spent playing games, but that was 1 thing they couldn't stop me from doing at all. I realised there and then that I had a passion for gaming. I could actually say I was a gamer. Playing whatever caught my eye. But it didn't just end there for me. I would occasionally hop on a computer during lunch breaks to read up on some games here and there. I would still on occasion get a magazine or 2 that was gaming related and read through them to learn about new game releases. I eventually got 1 dedicated to GTA San Andreas which had a guide to help find all the maps collectables and hidden stuff. I loved going through the entire game, again and again. I generally don't look at guides as cheating while some people do. I find collectables to sort of ruin a game if you're forced to explore as opposed to being intrigued into exploring an open world environment, unless they provide an in game map of where everything is. San Andreas would offer me hours, days, weeks, months, even years of fun, even up until the release of GTA IV. The more games I played the more I grew attached to gaming. Liberty City Stories came a long; not as great as their previous titles but it still had a great story. I remember borrowing friends PSPs overnight just to play some of the game. I eventually bought my own copy when it was released on PS2. Then Vice City stories came out, even better than Liberty City stories and Vice City and even close to on par with San Andreas but only because the game was different. By that time, I was loving Rockstar for creating these violent works of art.
I eventually burned a copy of GTA 3 for myself just to try it out. The reason I didn't purchase this particular title, even though it was against my rule, was because it wasn't as good as the following games but I decided I should play it for the story. What triggered this was seeing the mute protagonist in the San Andreas game. But I realised something after finishing GTA III. Everything, all the events that occurred in Vice City, San Andreas, and Vice City stories, Liberty City stories, they all lead to the events that occur in GTA III. All I could think at this stage was that Rockstar Games were geniuses. The way they could write something that intertwined like that is just amazing. And it makes you wonder if they planned it all out from the beginning. How did I not realise any of it while playing GTA III baffles me. Maybe I was enjoying it too much or maybe Im just slow. This is where I knew, any game that Rockstar Games developed would definitely be worth every dollar I put into it. $100, $150, $200 I didn't care, if Rockstar made it, Id buy it. Years later Id eventually purchase GTA III as a sign of respect and support to the company on both android and PC. The android version never worked for me but I was nowhere near annoyed. As for the PC version, still haven't bothered to play through it again.
Eventually a new era of gaming would come along with the release of the PS3, better graphics and blu ray technology. All thanks to Rockstar before the release of the PS3, I told myself that from now on, if a developer deserves the money, Ill buy the game. But in order to do this I had to come up with a try before I buy policy. This involved me getting a pirated copy and if I liked it, Id buy the original. This didn't work out overly too well with PS3 as Sony had worked extremely hard to prevent piracy on it, and I respect them for having a console that took almost 5 years to crack, or so it seemed. I still had my PC that I was playing some pirated games on which I acquired from friends, but back then, PC wasn't really something I wanted to game on and to this day I still prefer to have a console and a PC in 1 household. I know there are demos out there but I always found them too restricted at times. A year later I eventually got the internet (another story altogether), and would download games here and there. I would only purchase games that I knew would be great titles to play unless it was made by Rockstar.
I had started memorising studio names from the really memorable games I played over the years. I started researching games and starting spending a lot of time on GameSpot until I eventually made an account to allow me to track all the games I was interested in. Id spend hours watching game reviews, gameplay videos, reading up on all the cool stuff you could do in certain games. But I told myself I could never write reviews or blogs; that's just not me and something Im not capable of. If I ever did though it would probably be 1 or 2 lines and no one would ever read it. As you can see, Ive grown into a different person over the last 5 years.
GTA IV. My most favoured GTA title to date. This is where my respect for Rockstar grew even more. A company that kept progressing. The violence factor had increased to a point that deaths in the game looked fairly realistic. They had removed some great elements from San Andreas but the attention to detail made up for it, at least it did for me. I realised I had made the right choice to continue to support Rockstar and other worthy development studios. This would later be confirmed by the release of Red Dead Redemption, which is actually my most favoured game by Rockstar at the moment. I went and bought the most expensive version I could, wanting all the souvenirs I could get but all I got was a nice looking game cover and some DLC codes. But the game was a masterpiece, so Im not even mad.
I wouldn't really have a long term or lifelong goal now if it weren't for Rockstar Games and if I did it would probably be to become some hit man crime lord who would probably be killed or arrested within a week of work. The reason is that Vice City, San Andreas and Vice City stories all had something in common for me. You could purchase and invest in businesses and properties. Not legitimate most of the time I know, but it made me think to myself that I could 1 day be a business owner and an entrepreneur, if I save my money and spend it wisely I could 1 day achieve something and make something out of myself. But all the games combined showed me that 1 man can take on all his problems and even the problems of others, 1 problem will lead to another but you have to challenge it the same way it challenges you. 1 man can change an entire city or even more. 1 man can rise through the ranks and achieve the goals he has set for himself and even crush anyone that stands in their way. Ever since playing San Andreas, seeing the way CJ can work to being a healthier person makes me want to be a healthy person. Although that goal is taking a god awful amount of time. Its a slow goal but still may not have been a goal in my life had it not been for Rockstar games.
Rockstar games created something more than just entertainment and art, they created something that can influence and inspire people. People will say that video games influence violence but its not the case. Its the people who choose how a video game influences them. Because of Rockstar Ive taken more notice of other studios as well, trying to find the 1s that are willing to release something that's worth calling a work of art or even a masterpiece and worth paying for. They have opened my eyes and showed me that games can be more than entertainment. I look back at all the games I played and realise that they were a major part of my life growing up. For example, Prince of Persia; never bought a single game, but played next to all of them, and a few months ago I decided to buy the collection because Ubisoft and the developers deserved their money for it. For not doing so earlier I apologise. Tomb Raider, another great series I grew up playing, never bought 1 until a week or 2 ago I bought the collection as well as the new 2013 version. For not doing so earlier I apologise. And by far 1 of my most favoured series, a game that provides a story that is like no other, a story that tugs at you and wows you with every twist and turn; Metal Gear Solid. I only ever bought MGS 4 but definitely plan on buying the up and coming collection pack because Kojima deserves the money. Again for not doing so earlier I apologise. Not all companies are great to me personally but I can say in order of preference my favoured companies are Rockstar, Kojima, Ubisoft and Naughty Dog. There are other great companies out there as well, a lot of studios that make games worth buying. Now days, I cringe when I hear someone saying they played a game like GTA IV or Far Cry 3 or any title worth buying and they haven't purchased it; I downloaded it. Every single game I have in my current collection is a legitimate purchase. I had thrown out all my old PS1 titles and sold my PS2 with all the old games to a friend to get money to buy the PS3. Now days I am also open to indie developers.
I used to have many ambitions that I got bored of, or lost interest in until Rockstar came along. I may not be a business owner now, but at least I have my mind set on something that interests me. I may not have achieved anything yet but at least Im on a single path without any doubts about what I want to do. Rockstar may be just another game studio to some people, a studio that is good for nothing but taking money off people and not caring about anything else. To me they have changed the way I think towards games completely, for the better. They have even changed the way I think about life to some extent. So for this I say thank you Rockstar Games.