Grand Theft Autois less a videogame franchise, more an interactive cultural barometer. Set in the US but born in Britain, its evolution over the past two decades from a scrappy, pixelated love letter to crime cinema into a fully explorable, high-definition, living, breathing, society-satirising personal playground has created a medium all of its own. The term “open world” has become shorthand for “GTA-like”; the game’s control schemes, mission structures and re-branded products (iFruit smartphones, Jugular cars) are gaming tropes in themselves, while the slickly choreographed action has inspired as many films as have influenced it. Crime fiction will eat itself.
GTA’s vast and action-packed virtual world is frequently more appealing to players than the real one, with 14% of British men admitting they are likely to throw a sickie on the launch day of a new game. Thanks to its gameplay innovations, and helped along by just a hint of controversy, the series has shifted 125 million units since its inception, becoming the fifth biggest-selling videogame franchise of all time.