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For some of you, that gif above may have brought back some memories. I hope so, because today I’m going to talk a little about gaming…but not in a boring way…hopefully!

I love reading. I love seeing how an author shapes the environment around their characters. When done right, it can be spellbinding to immerse yourself into. Take the work of JK Rowling and the wizarding world of Harry Potter. She gives you enough information in those books for you to flesh out a world just enough to make you imagine more. To ask questions. 

As a writer, I love thinking about how my characters would behave in the world in which they inhabit. While it’s close enough to the world in which we currently live, ‘Songbird‘ is an alternate reality of my creation, and operates broadly on my rules. Yet I’ve tried to give the reader just enough information to give them a flavor, and to encourage them to ask questions about the place I’ve created. 

So, bearing in mind that you now know the way I think, you can now follow the logic to video games. 

Sometimes I’ll play a video game that takes place in a created universe and ask myself questions. And I don’t mean the weird magical places like the places Mario or Sonic come from. No, I’m talking about those games that are set closer to real life. To how we are now.

I starting thinking…

What if YOU were an NPC in a computer game?
Specifically, what if you lived in Los Santos?

For those of you wondering what I’m talking about, let me explain…

Los Santos is the fictional island/city from the game Grand Theft Auto 5. Specifically for this blog post, we’re talking about the online version of the game.  It’s an amalgamation of places from real life. The city itself is based on Los Angeles, while the outlying Blaine County area is more rural with forests and deserts.

Welcome to Los Santos

The graphics are pretty spectacular in the game, and if you’re familiar with Los Angeles, especially then you’ll recognize some of the landmarks. For instance…  Del Perro Pier is a dead ringer for Santa Monica Pier…

So, given that it’s a pretty place to wander around, I wanted to ask…

Los Santos is a nice place to visit…but would YOU want to live there?

Considering how close this game bears to reality, what would it be like to live in Los Santos?

I do enjoy a romp around the world of GTA…but sometimes I’m struck by the absurdity of life in that city if it were real. Think about the movie ‘Wreck It Ralph‘, where every game character is a real person in a digital world that we just view. It makes you think about what it would be like to live in this digital world as an NPC. Hence, I thought it might make for a funny blog-post.  

So, bear with me…you don’t need to be a gamer to enjoy this one. 🙂

I promise!

I’ve played A LOT of games in my *cough* years.

Now, when it comes to gaming, there are certain games which I’ve always played in some capacity. I tend to find most hardcore gamers are loyal to a particular series.

There’s your Final Fantasy crowd, your Animal Crossing fans, World of Warcraft massive, Lara Croft devotees… 

For me, one of the games I ALWAYS gravitated towards was Grand Theft Auto

It had somewhat humble beginnings in 1997 as a little top down crime spree game on the Playstation.

These days it is FAR more sophisticated.

Okay, so maybe at it’s base level, not so much… But there’s your set up.  Now let’s dive into the world itself and the difficulties you’d have as an NPC.

Disclaimer: I KNOW that this is a video game, so the concept of dying in weird ways and coming back to life is a given. I’m not talking game logic here…I’m talking real world stuff!

I thought I’d do these as a little series of blog posts as a change from the normal book related stuff. So, for this first humorous look into the life of an NPC, I’m going to look at…

Owning a Car in Los Santos

Crime is rampant in Los Santos. If you live in Los Santos, you have to expect to have your car either stolen, wrecked, or completely destroyed at any given time. The threats to your car ownership aspirations are many. A passing player at any moment could:

  • Crash into it with their car
  • Run over it with a truck (exploding it!)
  • Shoot it up with a machine gun
  • Shoot it up with a grenade launcher (exploding it!) 
  • Steal it and drive it into the sea
  • Steal it and drive it up a mountain and crash it (probably exploding it!)
  • Crash a plane/helicopter into it
  • Steal it to trade it in for cash
  • Steal it to escape the police, and then the police destroy it (likely by exploding it!)

And that’s just a few!

Let’s do a little experiment, to see what your likely bill in the case of destroying a car would be…

So, I bought a cheap mode of transport. The one I chose for the experiment is called a Karin Intruder. It’s the GTA equivalent of an early 2000s Toyota Camry. A mere $16,000. Probably not to dissimilar to the cost of the car in real life.

I gave it a quick respray to a lovely red, and then I was off on an adventure!
I drove my little car to the top of the tallest mountain in the game. Mount Chiliad. It was really pretty up there…

And then I threw my self down it…

When I reached the bottom and drove myself to the local garage, my new-car smelling pride and joy looked like this…

Now, most real life insurance companies would probably have written the car off at this point, despite the fact it was till drive-able. I mean, look at it. There’s no glass, no doors, no trunk lid, no hood, no front wings, the chassis is buckled, the front wheels are bent inward and the paintwork is scratched to buggery.

Take this to a real world auto shop and they would laugh in your face. Your insurance company would kindly write the car off (if they accepted that you throwing yourself off a mountain was an unavoidable accident that wasn’t your fault!) and pay out a proportion of the cost of the car. 

Not in Los Santos. 

No, siree!  In Los Santos, the car mechanics are… wizards!!!!

They really CAN repair ANYTHING!

So, I drove it into the auto shop to get a quote on the repairs from my friendly ‘Beeker’s Garage Parts’ mechanic. He, shook his head, sucked in his breath through his teeth and whistled…

Then charged me $690 for the lot.

SIX HUNDRED AND NINETY DOLLARS!

With a bish and a bosh and a lickety split, my car was perfect once more…

Now, things do get a little trickier if your car is completely exploded, and this happens more times that you’d probably be happy with in real life. (Especially when you often play with a friend who has a penchant for using sticky-bombs all the time – looking at you Cyrosphere!)

Los Santos has only one insurance company. It’s called ‘Mors Mutual‘. All the insurance claims for all the accidents on all the cars (and planes and boats and helicopters and tanks and… you get the gist!) go through here. They have an absolute monopoly on the industry, so as a car owner there is no shopping around to get the lowest quotes for your renewal!

On a more positive note, when you do have to claim for your inevitably destroyed car, typically your ‘excess‘ is 1% of the vehicle cost from new. Very often they even give you your new car for free!  

Better yet, if your vehicle IS destroyed by another player, then THEY get to pay the cost of your new vehicle. Which amuses me no end when a griefer (the term for an annoying player who just enjoys killing people who are generally minding their own business!) decides to blow my car up. It invariably ends up with them running away giggling, while I just shake my head and laugh that their actions just cost THEM $10,000 of game money.

Final point. If you do have your car exploded by a player, how much will it cost you to replace it? Well, the good news is that no matter how rare or expensive the car you own (or indeed how extensively you have customized it!), Mors Mutual can source an INSTANT identical replacement for just 1% of the cost of the original car!  

So, let’s say you lose your $3M Truffade Nero (the equivalent of a Bugatti Veyron) in a proximity mine incident (trust me, it happens more often than you’d think!), then you’ll only pay around $30,000 for the replacement!

Which is good news for the fabulously rich and famous of Los Santos!

So…where does all this leave us?

The ‘would YOU want to live here’ Verdict – CARS

So, where does that leave us on the original question for this aspect of life in this virtual world?

Well, let’s sum it up…

  • Cost of buying a car – Reasonable
  • Cost of insuring a car – Cheap
  • Chances of having car stolen – Higher than average
  • Recovering a stolen car – Instant and free!
  • Chance of having your car exploded – Very High
  • Chance of having your car exploded if Cyrosphere is in-game – Certainty
  • Recovering an exploded car – 1% of purchase price
  • Respraying and customizing a car at Los Santos Customs – Expensive
  • Respraying and customizing a car Benny’s- Expensive as fuck!
  • Sturdiness of car – Built like tanks!
  • Repair bill – Crazy cheap!

So, on reflection, there’s more green there than orange or red. So I’m giving Los Santos a big…

Well done, Los Santos.

You’ve passed the first test.  Next up (coming soon!)… running a business in Los Santos!

Love and Books

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12 Comments

  1. Mitch

    Reply

    I also play Grand Theft Auto. I never really dissected it the way you just did. I just played it!
    I do agree though that books that make you ask questions or try to put yourself there (location, event) are my favorite to read. Life is stressful so reading and playing games are great if they take you away from the things that stress you out.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I love thinking about games in kind of abstract yet ordinary terms.
      Back in the day, when I was playing City of Heroes, I would often wonder what on earth the crime statistics were like in a city that had to be patrolled by tens of thousands of heroes just to keep the peace.
      And who on earth would choose to live there? And why?
      GTA is another example of the way games play with real world stuff, but skew it in crazy ways for the sake of playability. One of my earliest amusing questions that occurred to me was… disproportionate cost of care repairs.
      In my next GTA blog I’ll be musing on how pretty much everyone in the city of Los Santos MUST have a substance abuse problem! LOL

      • Mitch

        Reply

        Ha, it sure looks like they have a substance abuse problem. When I play the next time, I’m going to pay more attention to detail instead of just building my sweet vehicle and out running the police. Then again I love to smash my car!

        • Jon Ford

          Reply

          I spend FAR too much ingame cash on cars! I have quite the collection! LOL

  2. Clemmie

    Reply

    I love your hilarious take on this one. I’ve never played the game because I’d read that the violence against women is particularly brutal and often glorifies sexual assault. That’s more than I can handle. What’s interesting is that just about every game has their own version of a “griefer”. Even Minecraft. I’ll never understand it!

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      You’re right, it’s a game that can be quite brutal in many aspects. But it’s also a pretty rich playground to romp around in. I personally enjoy the car collecting mentality and the races (and special events).
      I also VERY MUCH enjoy teaming up with my wife and friends and playing what we like to call “The Top Gear Challenges”. These consist of us stealing a very basic car (all identical) and then taking in turns nominating ,challenges to do with those vehicles.
      (The worst one EVER was trying to get to the top of the mountain on a moped! Took us hours!)
      The whole thing usually devolves into a huge game of car based tag around the airport! LOL

      • Clemmie

        Reply

        It sounds like you guys are a creative lot. I hope you’ll keep this series going as a regular feature. I enjoyed reading about your adventures with another video game, City of Heroes. I used to play that one and was a massive fan, but I hadn’t realized how very cool and innovative it was until I stumbled across your blog post.

      • Mitch

        Reply

        That is what we do too. Play together and smash cars trying to outdo each other. We don’t beat women. It sounds like you guys have some excellent challenges! I’ve got to up my game to come up with some new challenges.

  3. Demelza

    Reply

    I have just noticed the gif you used in this topic. Is that from a Sinclair ZX81 download?
    I’m showing my age now! But as a child ( I must have only been 11 years old at the time ) I was programming one of those when most girls were playing rounders or something. I should have got out more!

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      I think it’s a Sinclair Spectrum loading screen. LOL
      My very first computer was a Spectrum 48k with the rubber keys on the keyboard. My first game was ‘Jet Set Willy’.
      Ah, those were the days…
      Maybe I’ll do a blog post based on my computer history one day.

  4. Jack Davies

    Reply

    It’s a great game, but I’ve not had time to play in a while. The pandemic has meant working from home, which takes up more time. Would you mind telling me which set of headphones you use? My current headphones make my ears too hot.

    • Jon Ford

      Reply

      LOL I wish I had a profound recommendation for you, but honestly I just bought a cheapish headset off eBay. Not even a named brand.
      I do prefer them to be full headphones, cushioned. I can’t bear those sort of call centre headset type headphones.

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