There has always been a link between video games and friendships. It seems like a simple enough idea. Friends and Mario Kart on N64 always equals a good night. Loading up Diablo 2 with the guys seems like a better idea than actually seeing my friends. Having a lengthy, all night NHL tournament, only to lose in the finals to the guy who got stuck with the Phoenix Coyotes is as a story for the ages. However, it is rare when a friendship is based on a video game as it would always seem that video games are more of an accessory to a friendship.
There’s only one game that has ever caused me to befriend someone. I’ve had the same group of friends for most of my life but my friendship with one close friend had its foundation built off of one game, Grand Theft Auto III. I was unlucky to have parents who did not think having a PlayStation 2 was a necessity. I was a pretty good 10 year old kid and I was sure I deserved one. I had good grades and rarely got in trouble, but I still was not deemed worthy. One guy in my class had bad marks and was a troublemaker, but he got the benefit of a PlayStation 2 and amazing games. One day, he asked me over and we spent the whole day playing GTA3. I could not get enough of it. I began calling him and asking him to hang out just so I could get another crack at it. I would go over and he would go to tutorials and there I’d be sitting, in someone else’s house, playing video games for hours. I had never seen anything like it and I felt, no I knew, that this was the pinnacle of gaming.
In terms of the game itself, it still has magnificent replay value. The characters are rich and give incredible depth to the game. Even though your character is a mute, it never takes away from anything as the characters around him are colorful enough to fill the void. As amazing as the open world is, the story keeps you invested as well. You want to see how everything ends for Claude and what happens to those around him. You want to take part in this epic until the very end.
The soundtrack was a marvel within itself and I still find myself singing songs from this game. An original soundtrack made to play like a radio is more impressive than it sounds and whenever I go back to this game that amazement remains. From talk shows to genre related radio stations, the soundtrack truly had everything. Whether you’re listening to Laslow argue with insane listeners on Chatterbox or the thumping beats on Game Radio, it always felt fresh.
The idea of an open world though, was by far the best part. I would immerse myself in this fake world for hours on end by driving around aimlessly, doing taxi missions, finishing the car lists, killing pedestrians or finding hidden packages. The game seemed endless to me and I found myself lost in it. Nowadays, I find myself rushing through games just to see the ending and then moving on to the next one. This game was different. This game had the power to control me for hours and hours. It gave me the freedom I craved as a gamer and I rewarded it with hours of gameplay.
I’m still friends with that guy today and I must thank him for showing me the light. The idea of choosing my weapon, choosing my route to the destination, choosing my car, choosing my radio station, choosing the way to do a mission seemed surreal to me. This game was just different. It created new expectations for me in gaming. It was better, it was smarter, and it was everything I ever wanted. This game tailored itself to the imagination of its users and allowed them the freedom to choose how to go about playing the game. No longer did I have to go in a linear path. This game allowed me to take a detour to drive through a living and breathing city. I suppose most importantly, this game garnered me a friendship that lasts until today.
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