Sunday, November 4, 2012

Global Gaming Spotlight: Grand Theft Auto (United Kingdom)

With each post in this mini-feature, I highlight a game from a different country around the world. Keep in mind these aren't necessarily the best or most popular games from each nation, but simply a fitting representative. After tackling the two cardinal nations of gaming, the United States and Japan, tonight we visit another corner of the game design globe: the United Kingdom.

Grand Theft Auto - DMA Design (now Rockstar Games), 1997

While Europe lagged behind a little when it came to establishing a games industry, Britain was the trailblazer of the continent. Early games from the UK had a penchant for surreal, like Jeff Minter's 1983 classic Attack of the Mutant Camels and Mel Croucher's 1984 not-quite-game Deus Ex Machina.

I could've also gone with one of the other gaming icons of Britain: Tomb Raider. But in the past decade, no UK developer or publisher has made as much of an impact as Rockstar and their Grand Theft Auto series. With humble beginnings in Edinburgh, Scotland--and a résumé that also includes the classic series Lemmings--the company has gone on to become one of the pioneers of gaming today.

The series' move to 3D with Grand Theft Auto III was the first huge success of the post-September 11th era, and sparked controversy with its recklessness and violent fun. GTA: San Andreas took the game to the next level with its gigantic open world. And Grand Theft Auto IV took the franchise into the next generation of gaming.

But I had to pick the original 1997 Grand Theft Auto, when the company was still a tiny studio. It was a hint of what was to come with British gaming, and its two London expansion packs are still the franchise's only visit to the series' home country. It bummed me out to discover the upcoming Grand Theft Auto V will take place in faux-Los Angeles. This is well-traveled territory for GTA; when will they give up the American obsession and explore Britain again?

The Global Gaming Spotlight map so far:

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