GTA 3 was the game that killed my PS2. Well, probably not, but it was the game that I was playing the moment that the optical drive gave up the ghost. I was cruising the streets of Liberty City, enthralled as I had been over the last year or so that I’d been deeply engrossed in the game, when suddenly the streets disappeared. A lot of weird stuff happens in the GTA games, but I had never had the bottom drop out on me. It was actually okay for a few minutes, I was skydriving through this crazy city abruptly made even crazier. It only lasted a few moments before the whole thing froze up and couldn’t be revived.
By that time, I had gleaned just about everything I could from the game and maybe it was a cosmic way to snap me into doing something else with my life for while. As it happened I stepped away from gaming for a bit directly following the death of my PS2. But GTA3 was a revelation at the time in a way I think is special only to gamers of a certain age. An open world. This is the kind of thing I had been dreaming about since wondering what goes on at street level in SimCity. Or spending summer night after summer night aimlessly flying around crude polygonal “buildings” vaguely in the formation of downtown Chicago and New York in Flight Simulator.
There were moments that were tantalizingly close. A neighbor came over to show me Driver on the Playstation. It was incredible. Fun. But not…there. Not yet. I guess the thing I wanted was a sandbox experience before I had a concept of what that would be. GTA3 showed up and essentially forced my hand on the PS2. You can walk or drive anywhere, and basically do anything. Or nothing. Maybe that was more significant. How many hours were whiled away ratcheting up your wanted level and seeing how long you could last. Epic chases through the streets that always ended in a slightly missed turn or coming off of a ramp in a goofy way. Add to that the cheat codes and it became the best supervillain game ever. At the time, it was basically Video Game: The Video Game. And now it’s on my phone. For $5. Cool.