What devs think of Grand Theft Auto III

We ask notable game designers about their experiences in Rockstar's watershed game, and how it has shaped the industry

Whether or not you were a fan of the game’s content, Grand Theft Auto did change the way people perceived games, and influenced how developers approached game design. With the game now approaching its 10th anniversary this Saturday, we asked some of the brightest minds in the industry to share their experiences with the game, as well as their thoughts on how GTA III has influenced gaming.

--Cliff Bleszinski, Design Director, Epic Games

I remember seeing the earlier 2D iterations of the franchise and thinking, “Hey, that’s kinda cool… Not my cup of tea, exactly, but interesting.” Seeing the third entry in the series, in glorious 3D, left me dumbstruck. Here was a game so open-ended it put the rest of us “sandbox,” player-driven designer types to shame. Yet at the same time, here was a game that told a modern, relevant story. GTAIII really did allow players to “make their own fun,” something many games aspire to, but few achieve while making them feel they were inside a movie. From a design standpoint, GTAIII was state of the art and then some. From a content standpoint? Well, um, yes, er, you see, sigh…

I’ve never been wild about the content of the GTA games – the thuggishness, the brutality, the tongue-in-cheek treatment of issues I probably take too seriously… that all leaves me cold. But you can’t deny the attention-grabbing quality that content gave the game – and, by extension, by grabbing all that attention, GTA III got the mainstream thinking about games, talking about games for the first time. That, in my mind, may have been the game’s most important contribution – it paves the way for our surprising and ongoing march toward mainstream acceptance. It’s not at all clear to me that without GTAIII, with safer, tamer games leading the charge, we’d be the cultural force we are today.

So, GTA III was a design revelation that influenced many, maybe most games that came after. It proved to be a cultural pivot point. Plus it made a TON of money! No game developer could ask for more, and no game could have delivered more to the medium. My hat’s off to everyone involved in its creation.

--Warren Spector, Creative Director, Junction Point Studios

Regarding GTA III, it's an interesting game. I loved the game a lot, and played it a lot because it's the first open world game that gave me such a strong sense ofimmersionand empowerment. But the reason this game isparticularlyspecial to me is thecontroversyit generated from the mainstream media. In an attempt to create the opposite of what GTA III to show the society that games can be about good and beautiful things, we accidentally created the student game Cloud, which is the game that gave me a vision and the calling for what I do up till today.

--Jenova Chen, co-founder, Thatgamecompany

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Sophia is a transplanted Canadian who loves video games, dogs, poutine, snowboarding, photography, food, and naps.
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