Co-Founder Sees A Bright Future Ahead
While they didn't patent the open-world genre, Rockstar certainly popularized it and made the anarchic crime-simulator one of the medium's most beloved genres. Grand Theft Auto III kickstarted the revolution, and on the eve of that particular title's tenth birthday, co-founder Dan House - who very rarely gives interviews, I might add - sat down with IGN to discuss their breakout hit, its influence and what the future holds for open-world games going forward.
"Our expectations were not that it had to sell 15 million copies, it was that it had to do well," reveals Houser, in regards GTA 3's release back in 2001. "Our expectations were that we would make something that was really cool." The game exceeded even Rockstar's loftiest expectations, shattering sales records, establishing the studio as a powerhouse and drawing the ire of the media who flocked to its violent subject matter like seagulls to a tossed sandwich.
"It was a very strange time, but we were very close to 9/11, far closer than the vast majority of people," explains Houser. GTA 3 is often cited as the progenitor of the open-world genre that encourages rampant crime and violence, prompting many tabloids and so-called scientists to declare its ill effects on the mental state on children and teenagers. "I believe we were capable of making sensitive judgments about what was appropriate and what wasn't appropriate," he added.
In retrospect, IGN asked if Houser and his team regretted making GTA so violent? A scene in particular aggravated the media into a frenzy, where you stumble on a homeless community in an abandoned tunnel and can burn them to death with a nearby crate of Molotov cocktails. "Did we think it was too violent?" House repeated. "No. We put it out and we were proud of it."
House argues that the violence in GTA is no different to what you'd see on TV or in a film, although he does admit the studio didn't anticipate how strong the reaction would be. "Ten years on, society may be in a bit of a mess right now but it definitely isn't video games' fault," claims Houser. "The one thing you cannot argue empirically now is: In the last ten years there hasn't been a massive societal collapse based on these games. You know -- you spend tons of time not doing anything violent. There's far less violence in the game than in an average first-person shooter."
Taking a step away from the media controversy, House turned his attention to the open-world genre Rockstar has found so much success in. In recent years, they've delighted fans and critics alike with GTA 4, Red Dead Redemption and LA Noire, but Houser still thinks the team has only "scratched the surface". "I think there's something really interesting in the open world experience. Obviously we've made like ten of them now and they still don't feel boring to me. It still feels that we're only scratching the surface of that potential. But who knows what we'll be doing?" [IGN]