Grand Theft Auto Online

By James Cook on October 7th, 2013

The launch of Grand Theft Auto Online was a disaster. While Grand Theft Auto V immediately soared to the top of the games charts and bagged glowing review, the ominous updates from the game’s developer Rockstar warned us of server problems and connectivity issues for the online counterpart.

When Grand Theft Auto Online finally went live on the first of October, the servers buckled. And the game stayed broken for days: glitching, crashing, erasing save data, not loading at all. For four days, Rockstar’s brand new “revolutionary” online experience was a loading screen that never loaded. By all accounts, the launch was a disaster. But on the fourth of October, an update was published that promised to fix all of the issues.

Grand Theft Auto Online, available for free with Grand Theft Auto V

Grand Theft Auto Online, now that it works, is all that gamers wanted. The living world of California, on the internet, with houses to buy and cars to steal. Rockstar has included elements of games such as Second Life and Playstation Home. They want their online experience to be immersive and expansive, drawing players in through the promise of a life of crime on the internet.

With all the addictiveness of Candy Crush, Rockstar has filled Grand Theft Auto Online with progress bars, different types of points, money to collect and spend, and mission after goal after race. These aren’t single-player chores.

My first time playing the game online resulted in me driving a crew of Spanish players around in a truck as we intercepted a drug deal. I parked outside the house and my three passengers got out, shooting at the enemy gang. As they progressed through the house, I saw the drug dealer carrying the drugs run out into the street. Hitting him with my car, I now had a decision to make: do I share the money with my impromptu gang, or do I keep it for myself? I chose to split it, keeping a little back for myself.

While it’s decent fun to play with strangers, Grand Theft Auto Online really shines when you play with friends.

Another player takes a selfie as one of the game's strippers introduces herself.

Another player takes a selfie as one of the game’s strippers introduces herself.

The selfie problem

What happens when you create an in-game internet accessible through a virtual smartphone that every player in Grand Theft Auto Online can access at any time? Selfies. Players are constantly taking photos of themselves. The game’s Instagram parody “Snapmatic” is an actual website. As soon as a photo is taken in game, it’s available to view online.

It’s incredibly amusing to see strangers on the internet taking selfies in the middle of a violent video game. Shooting your way through a crack den? There’s a player taking a selfie with the pile of cocaine. Robbing a grocery store for cash? There’s a player taking a selfie with the store owner as he piles the cash into a carrier bag.

Grand Theft Auto Online’s strip club is filled with players taking selfies with strippers, along with photos of each other. It’s this absurdity that summarises Grand Theft Auto Online. There is so much to do, almost too much. The myriad of races, shootouts, stores to rob, sights to see and clothes to buy can be exhausting. At the end of the day, the great leveller is selfies.