Few games have had a greater social impact than the Grand Theft Auto series. David Kushner presents the history and decisions that made this franchise come to a very fruitful life. Jacked is a result of many hours of interviewing all the parties that had an impact on this pop culture phenomenon.
From the highly productive teach team in Edinburgh, lead by Dave Jones, to the Def Jam admiring Sam Houser, to the highly conservative lawyer-shark Jack Thompson, Jacked covers the major details. The narrative style is a good combination of factual non-fiction and well built storylines.
As in many success stories, ups and downs are present. The biggest decline was close to destroy Rockstar, mostly because of conservative points of view imposed by various politicians. A hidden sex mini-game made its way into the public version of the game, which was considered unacceptable, regardless of the fact that the game needed to be hacked to enable it. There goes logical thinking out the window!
“Video game development is a highly collaborative work in progress, with constant feedback along the way.”
The above quote is true for every game. Add to that an inspiring and ambitious co-founder (Sam Houser), a generation that considered video games as suited only for children, overprotective lawyers, an America which has a volatile definition of freedom and some sparks are bound to happen. Luckily these sparks ended up in breaking sales records and solidifying video games as an art.
GTA was always about game play and Sam Houser’s crew took every detail very seriously: professional actors for voice-overs, sun-shy programmers sent on the streets of New York and Los Angeles for inspiration, endless hours of playing, gaming conventions, carefully hand picked soundtracks, clever PR.
Even though GTA deserves full respect, it seems like this is only an effect, while the root cause being the company culture nurtured by Rockstar. Even though “work hard, party harder” might sound like a cliché, David Kushner’s Jacked exposes some of the details in which this goal can become real.
The book achieves a secondary goal: it urges the reader to download GTA and enjoy the virtual freedom. On top of that I’d like to add that the soundtrack is worth listening to and here is a GTA playlist I discovered on Spotify: spoti.fi/NovDL1
The only negative aspect I saw in this book is that it was too short. The book could have had double the number of pages and it would still be too short. That could be mostly because of hunger for details on how Rockstar achieved success and empathy with the main characters.