What could be a more appropriate award for the makers of GTA V to scoop than to win the Golden Joysticks? This industry accolade is set to be the first of many gongs the game picks up, following on from its already runaway success since launching. Grand Theft Auto 5 was the clear winner at the Golden Joysticks glittering ceremony, which took place in central London. The game has already been attributed with single-handedly reviving the flagging fortunes of the UK games market. The adult theme of the game is not without its critics, as it allows players to commit fictional crimes in the fictional city of Los Santos, but the more than 10 million people who voted for it in a public vote for this category for Best Game could not disagree more strongly.
The Golden Joystick awards were first presented way back in 1983 when Jet Pac was the winner on the ZX spectrum. It is fair to say that the video games industry has come on in leaps and bounds since then, developing to what would then have been unimagined levels of sophistication. Taking home the Lifetime Achievement Award from the event, industry veteran Ken Levine, founder of Thief: The Dark Project, talked of the excitement of his craft. “The great thing about the still-maturing nature of video games is that you get to be inspired by the work of novices and veterans alike.” Mr Levine is the man who is credited with intorducing the concept of stealth into playing. Andy Robinson, who edits the magazine, Computer and Videogames, said that the Gold Joysticks Awards still represented “the voice of gamers worldwide” and that Mr Levine was a worthy winner of the inaugural Lifetime Achievement for his massive contributions.
BAFTA, the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, the UK’s equivalent of the Oscars, have also introduced an awards section for the gaming industry and it will be no surprise to see GTA V win there too when those awards are announced next spring. BAFTA recognise the components that go into producing a highly successful game such as GTA V, and that these include traditional filmmaking skills like story telling, and needles to say, design. With GTA V amassing an incredible billion dollars in sales in its first 3 days it is clear that it has got it right in both of those departments, and then some.
In fact, Grand Theft Auto is now so revered, that it is tantamount to becoming a twenty first century icon, and in that capacity, an invaluable asset to the British export economy. Some cultural commentators see the global impact of the violent game as a symbol of excellence, equivalent in its own way to the importance of renowned figures like Shakespeare and The Beatles. It this sounds a little far-fetched, to put it into perspective, Grand Theft Auto had already sold more games than The Who ever sold records, and that was before the launch of GTA V.
Rockstar, the people who make GTA V, are not only thrilled to win the Golden Joysticks, they are counting their blessings in what has been a remarkable rise to eminence. Staring out in a tiny office in Dundee, Scotland, one of their first hits was a game called Lemmings. When GTA was first proposed, no one in the company was keen to work on it. Rockstar’s designer, Paul Farley, certifies this : “No-one really wanted to work on GTA” he recalls. It was then called Race n’Chase and by the time it came out in 1997, it began to cause controversy straight away.
The game crossed the line that had existed previously where games were targeted at either children or nerdy geeks. This was quite clearly a game for adults, with very adult content. Interestingly, the initial furore, and the outrage at what this game would do to damage its players by appearing to condone violence, was a massive publicity stunt. Rockstar, then called DMA, had hired celebrity publicist, Max Clifford, to spread scare stories in the press, a strategy that was a notable triumph. Rockstar certainly do not need the services of a publicist to promote their brand anymore. It is known, played and recognised throughout the world. Whilst there is no denying that GTA V remains outstandingly violent the protests about the content have diminished over the years. Some have likened its acceptance as a sign of the times, after all, when Elvis first appeared on television, he could only be shown from the waist up. Games, like all cultural institutions, have grown into general acceptance
So, GTA V goes on from strength to strength. It has won the Golden Joysticks, and it is certain it will go on to garner armloads of additional awards. Will it ultimately become a symbol of British creativity, a digital cultural emblem and export as significant as Shakespeare? Only time will tell. GTA V’s many millions of fans would say it already is.
Written by: Kate Henderson