Slingshot Cartel Vice City was the gateway drug that converted millions of Tony Hawk and Gran Turismo- playing ‘casuals’ into harder-core gamers. But GTA: San
Andreas crept up, slit their throats and bled them out as fully fledged mega nerds, and they didn’t even know it. If you said 20 million-plus people would wander around an open world for months of their lives, nobody would believe you. But we did. The setting. The story. The insane engine that throttled the PS2 to its limits was a feat of engineering wizardry.
Arguably it created emergent gameplay – at the very least it showed it to a mass, non-nerd core audience. It also had the best soundtrack in a game. Ever. And the way it was delivered just layered on the immersion in a game. You no longer dropped out all in-game music and stuck your own soundtrack on your tape deck.
But more than anything, it allowed so many people to have common ground. Whether you were a white, pot-smoking hip-hop head or a businessman who “just has a PS2 for
FIFA”, if you played it, you could talk. The only people I know who didn’t play it are people who didn’t play games at all.