We’ve all heard of Grand Theft Auto IV. Despite it being forgotten about all too soon after release, it still shines as an example of how to create a living, breathing city in a game world. It is also remembered for the vast amount of crimes you can commit in the game, from punching someone on the street, to robbing a bank, to shooting a rocket propelled grenade at a police car. This is a kind of experiment on my part, to see if the player can survive in Grand Theft Auto IV without breaking the law. This means getting a job, stopping at red lights and, most difficult of all, not shooting anyone in the face. What follows is my first day as a perfectly legal Liberty City taxi driver.
Liberty City. The city of broken bones, bullet-ridden cars, fat policemen and fatter wallets. It was the city I’d used as my playground for quite some time. See a cop? Shoot him in the knee. It doesn’t matter, I can easily lose the police in the maze of back alleys and buildings. I never considered the fate of the policeman – with a shattered knee, there’s no way he could be kept on the police force. What then happens to his family? Do they go hungry? Does his wife have to get a second job, just to feed their kids each day? This, and so many similar encounters, plagues my memory, to the extent that I just can’t take it any more. I’ve got to go clean. I’ve got to see how it is to live on the right side of the tracks. To have a job, to have a car which is legally mine. To be ordinary.
Now, as anyone who has played GTA IV will know, this task will be more difficult than it might at first seem. GTA IV is built from the ground up to be a fun place to commit crimes. Even when you’re not intending to commit a crime, the game is fairly adept and annoying you into committing a crime. It is, in fact, a brilliant way of showing exactly why some people choose a life of crime. Coming from my previous playthroughs of ramming civilians off the road so that I can get past quicker, it’s extremely aggravating to have the car next to me cut me up and leave me waiting at a red light when by rights I should have been able to go. If I had run the red light, the chances are nobody would mind, and nobody would have chased me. However, the idea of this is to abide by the law, and so I wait, staring at the red light overhead. Swearing silently in my head, and waiting for green to appear. However, I’m getting ahead of myself. First, I must tell you of my rebirth.
I woke up at 4am. An ungodly hour, but then until today I had been an ungodly person. My lifestyle had be grabbing some sleep whenever I could, and sometimes that meant going days without so much as a sit down. I remind myself, those days are behind me. Now, I am just another upstanding citizen looking to make an honest buck in this crime-infested city. I had been sleepwalking again. At least, I assumed I had, as I woke to find myself standing by the door to my apartment, fully clothed. I guess no one can commit the deeds I have and expect a restful nights sleep. I put it out of my mind. Today, I have to find myself a job.
I check my phone, there have been no messages. Not surprising, seeing as I know next to nobody who isn’t a criminal, and those I did know have grown apart from me, or been killed by my own foolish deeds. There was one person I could count on though – someone who could offer me a job, and a car to do it in. They say blood is thicker than water, and it was never more evident than now. My cousin Roman was the only person to stick with me throughout, and he was still willing to offer me a job. I dialled his number, but to no avail. Then I remembered. 4am. Nobody would be up this early. I decided to take a short walk around the block before trying again.
I got through on my second attempt. Roman was more than happy to offer me some work, and I got a free taxi to his office to pick up a cab of my own. Once in the cab, I was asked to drive across town to pick up a fellow and drop him elsewhere. Such is the cabbie’s life. Now I faced what would turn out to be the most tricky part of this experiment – driving legally. I’d become so used to mounting curbs and running red lights that when I actually did what road law decrees I should, I found it agonisingly slow. It was like actually driving round a city, and I knew the feeling of hitting every red light for the first time (I currently can’t drive in real life), and the blazing anger of someone cheating me out of the rare green light I came across.
On the flip side, I did see far more of the city than I would have had I been driving at any kind of speed. At each junction and red light there was something for me to look at, be it just a small group of people talking about the weather, or an overweight policeman chasing after a much fitter, but no faster, suspect. This was barely enough to momentarily distract me from the building road rage, however, and soon I was blaring on my horn at anyone who tried to overtake unnecessarily, or who stopped too suddenly.
By the end of the day, I had built up so much rage that I was seriously contemplating mounting the curb to leaven the mundanity of my day. The weather had worsened to a downpour, and I’d hit every single red light on the way to my final destination of the day. Just then, I pulled up along side another car, and my rage just dissipated. As I was bemoaning the weather from inside my car, beside me a man was desperately looking under his car hood at a smoking engine, getting soaked to the bone. Clearly some people have it worse than me.
I drove calmly home after that, and rang up Roman to go out for a drink once the weather cleared up. Civilian life isn’t all bad.
[Happy 100 Posts, The Thoughtshake!]