Words by Tony Grands
The closest I’ve gotten to going to a midnight release of anything (be it game, shoe, Black Friday sale) was the birth of my youngest son. He was born at 11:40 -something & that doesn’t even really count because I HAD to be there.Aside from that, I’d virtually vowed to never be one of those people who needed something so badly that I’d auction off my sleepy time for whatever price they were charging.
All that changed when I reluctantly became enamored with the impending touchdown of Grand Theft Auto V.
Only a fool was able to ignore the racy commercials & juicy Internet tidbits we’ve been bombarded with over the last year or so. & if you’re anything like me (old enough to have owned every single Grand Theft Auto that ever existed — even the PSP games), it was imperative that you get your mitts on this game ASAP. For whatever reason (perhaps sheer animal instinct), I decided that I wanted to be a part of this modern-day gold rush & purchased the game in advance, before physical copies were even shipped out.
Part of me did that just to be cool. I posted pictures of the receipt online so the ‘Net could see that I was one step ahead of those folks
smart enough to not blow 65 bucks on a toy had chose not to. Another part of me was genuinely excited to play the game, seeing as though it’s ventured light years away from the original, 8-bit, bird’s-eye-view game that was actually banned upon it’s release in 1997. Parents had to be there when we bought that game because of its sick connotation & graphic depictions of heartless crime & violence. The ban didn’t last long, though, & for what it’s worth, that was the introduction to über-violent simulation console gaming. Before that, Mortal Kombat respectfully wore that crown, but monsters snatching spines out of one another’s bodies & uppercutting them into spike-filled pits greatly failed in comparison to a game that was teaching impressionable, naïve children how to commit crimes.
GTA revolutionized the word “fun,” at least on a digital level, & video gaming has never recovered from that dastardly recoil. As much as the original changed the way we enjoyed death & mayhem, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas took it even a step further, bringing the tumultuous survival of Urban American life to kids who had only witnessed it on TV or heard about it in rap music. Now, kids that were previously too privileged to have friends who toted pistols, sold crack, & lived in rundown communities could live that life, at least until their mothers told them to turn off the games & go to bed. San Andreas will go down in history as the world’s first gangbanging video game, one the likes of the gaming world had never seen. Many games attempted to mimic the formula — most notably is GTA’s redheaded stepbrother Saint’s Row — but it’s hard to duplicate accidental perfection. The GTA franchise is untouchable, & it further proved its prowess in superhuman feats with its latest release, Grand Theft Auto 5.
Since I’d never been to a midnight release of anything, my half-witted expectations were fueled by the mythology of what I’d heard/seen in the media. A bunch of kids standing around robbing their contemporaries & exchanging gunshots for the noble title of being the one to have “it” first. Be it iPhones, Jordans, or video games, the news is constantly running stories about how savages descend upon the weak — & each other — whenever something new is sold after working people’s hours. This caused me to be a bit apprehensive, especially since I was venturing back to my old semi-seedy neighborhood to pick up my game, but it wasn’t enough to deter me from my ultimate goal. That goal? To have GTAV in my hand by 1AM.
I arrived expecting all the elements that GTA glorifies: drug usage, criminal activity, shady characters, mild violence, strong language, thugs & hooligans scattered fervently throughout the crowd, etc. Instead, I was greeted by about 100 fast-talking teenaged nerds, a fistful of mothers (who obviously loved their kids enough to be out there when nothings open but prostitute legs & fast food joints), a pocket of huddled homeless dudes, & a small number of ruffians with their ratchet companions. Here I was basically expecting to see hijackers & gangbangers prowling the premises, but that wasn’t the case at all. In fact, the most exciting aspect of the wait was some dude who passed out in line. Instead of the police sirens I forecasted, the only sirens present were those of the ambulance & fire trucks who arrived to revive our fallen comrade. They eventually carted him off & I can only imagine his frustration when he woke up in an ambulance with no game to play. Bummer.
As the time drew nearer for the numbered groups to step forward & covet their much anticipated bounties, the number of ruffians increased slightly, but all they did was stand behind the paying customers, balking & barking about snatching bags from people who were clearly in no mood for their awkward humor. I did smell weed, though, which made me feel a little better about my misplaced paranoia, but even that was a disappointment because it smelled like dirt weed, the type of herb that people stopped sparking when all the marijuana dispensaries popped up on every corner, between the neighborhood churches & liquor stores. God bless Los Angeles.
After devoting a measly few hours to the game itself, I can already see that it’s a masterpiece of electronic craftsmanship. All I did was deliver a few cars & get killed by the cops, so sufficed to say I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface. If I had to complain about something, though, it would be the fact that I haven’t seen any boobs yet. Nevertheless, see you guys in cyberspace.
Words by Tony Grands