In its early days, Rockstar North developed a few titles that were not as successful as its newer titles are but were instrumental in the development of the Grand Theft Auto series which launched the developer into success. For example, Body Harvest - a game featuring a soldier on a mission to save humanity from giant insects - would lay the foundation for the mechanics that allowed players to jump in to a vehicle and drive around crushing people (McLaughlin & Thomas, 2013). The major titles in the GTA series include: the original Grand Theft Auto released in 1997; Grand Theft Auto II released in 1999; Grand Theft Auto III released in 2001; and Grand Theft Auto IV released in 2008. Rockstar North built on all of these previous games and reused many elements and game mechanics to create Grand Theft Auto V (GTA 5).
GTA 5 combines elements from both the action and adventure game genres. According to Simon Egenfeldt-Nielsen, Jonas Heide Smith, and Susana Pajares Tosca, action games require “motor skill and hand-eye coordination” for success, can be intense, and may involve some type of drama such as fighting. GTA 5 is an action game from the very beginning. When you start the game, you are immediately involved in a bank heist where things quickly go out of control. After rounding up the employees of the bank and locking them in a closet, your next task is to blow the bank’s vault. However, after accomplishing this, your character is grabbed from the back by a security guard and now has the barrel of a gun pointed at his head. Suddenly, you take control of another character and now you find yourself aiming an assault rifle at the guard while he holds your partner. Intuitively, you know what you have to do next: shoot the guard on the head while avoiding hitting your partner in the process. After saving your partners life, you are required to drive the get-away car at tremendous speeds in order to lose the cops. This does not happen of course, and you end up crashing the car and are forced to continue on foot. Soon the cops catch up to you and your associates and a shootout unfolds. This is only the beginning of the game and there is already enough action to get your adrenaline going. Likewise, adventure games require “deep thinking and patience” and for the player to “exhibit skills of logic and deduction” state Egenfeldt-Nielsen et al. That is, story plots in action games include “mystery and exploration” and require the player to solve different kinds of puzzles. There are definitely many adventures, mystery, and much exploration within the plot of GTA 5. Each character has his own adventures and when their adventures combine things get really exciting. Although, there are not many puzzles to solve here, GTA 5 is an action-adventure game.
GTA 5 is a controversial game with its stereotyping, violence, and degrading depiction of women. It is also an entertainment game, but it does provide some educational content. Players are given the opportunity to make simple life choices which can teach younger players a little bit about adult life. For example, a player can take care of his or her character’s appearance by getting it haircuts or buying it new clothes. The player can also make it play sports such as tennis or do yoga to relieve stress. Players can also have the character invest in real state or in the stock market. All of these things can teach younger players how adult life can be.
Aesthetics play an important role in the success of GTA 5. The game has realistic sound effects, interesting commentary, and popular songs that players can tune to while driving a vehicle in the game. The graphics of the game are not the best but really push the hardware on whatever console the player is using. Another important element of the aesthetics of a game are its rules. Rules are “an imperative governing the interaction of game objects and the possible outcome of [these interactions],” according to Egenfeldt-Nielsen et al. GTA 5 has plenty of rules that affect the outcome of the game and, at the same time, try to emulate real life. For example, the player can do several things that affect the character he or she is playing such as taking care of its appearance as previously stated. This affects the characters overall health, stamina, and the commentary of other characters towards the player’s character. Another set of rules that affect the outcome of the game are the decisions that the player must make such as when planning a jewelry heist – from picking the right people for the job to planning out the execution. Should it be done quietly by sneaking onto the roof top and deploying sleeping gas in the AC unit so everyone in the store passes out before entering and taking all the jewelry; or should they go in guns blazing and shoot up the place?
The aesthetics in GTA 5 make players feel like they are actually in the game - as if players were really the character themselves. For the most part, this causes pleasure but, in some cases, it might be somewhat disturbing. For example, there is a mission in the game where the player is playing as Trevor and has to torture a guy to get some information out of him. The player has several options to accomplish this mission. There are pliers to extract a tooth from him, a ratchet to crush one of his knees, a battery and cables to shock him, and a water container and towel to waterboard him. A lot of thought went into the details of the scenes in this mission from the graphics, motions, and the commentary of each character involved. Trevor always with his witty dark sense of humor while the guy being tortured pleas for mercy and cries that he is “ready to cooperate” and that there is no need to torture him; nevertheless, the player has to use every tool available until the mission is over and the guy finally gives up the information the player wants.
The designers of GTA 5 used cinematic scenes to provide the player with information and different types of characters to push the narrative of the game. Some of these characters include: functional characters who roam the streets and can interact with the main characters such as people walking or driving by which the player can stop and interact with by assaulting them up or by stealing their car and gang members walking around the streets of Los Santos which can start shooting at the player if he or she is in the wrong side of town. Moreover, the designers used cast characters such as Michael’s hacker friend who helps him plan his heists, Franklin’s friend Lamar who gets in into all sorts of problems, and Trever’s CEO of his meth dealing corporation. And of course, the designers also included the three player characters Michael, Franklin, and Trevor. Overall, GTA 5 uses the Braided Plot for the narrative of the game which allows it to have three main protagonists and gives the player three different points of view of the plot of the game (Egenfeldt-Nielsen et al.).
The marketing for the Grand Theft Auto series is consistent in being for a mature audience. As a result, GTA 5 continues to be most popular among adults. The single player campaign with its engaging storyline, intense missions, and its freedom to explore the massive and detailed world is what first attracted players to GTA5; however, much of its continued success is due to its online multiplayer mode: GTA Online. In 2014, Rockstar Games published its “GTA Online Census” which revealed that almost 34 million players logged on to play GTA Online in 224 countries. According to a Forbes article, GTA 5 has sold over 90 million copies worldwide making it one of the most successful video games ever produced and the most profitable up to date.