It's in her name, but Ash Skyqueen really is royalty in the skies of Los Santos. With well over 10,000 hours logged in GTA Online across Xbox and PC over the last decade, Ash has dedicated the majority of that time performing jaw-dropping, mind-bending, gravity-defying stunts among the clouds, before then building stunning montage collections that showcase her phenomenal skills.
I've followed Ash's work for several years, and have spoken to her on multiple occasions – not least about her one-time plans to replicate her most death-defying stunt in the GTA Trilogy – and yet, no matter how many times I see her spectacular stunts in motion, I'm always, always, blown away. From the Port of Los Santos to the Paleto Bay peninsula and everything in between, Ash's forte is scouring a game world otherwise rooted in virtual crime and digital hedonism, and turning it into a platform to stage her adrenaline-fueled performances.
Packed with nothing but a parachute and an iron stomach, Ash's latest exhibition is the result of 11 months and 1,500 hours of work, celebrating 10 years of GTA 5 (September 23) and its online multiplayer component, GTA Online (October 1). And she's loved every second of it. "There's always something else to try on my stunt list," Ash says. "Which is always expanding the more time I spend playing."
Check it out:
Just, wow. Breathtaking, isn't it? And while the above compilation makes it all look so easy, it doesn't take a mathematician to realize that 1,500 hours of work for five minutes minutes of actual footage (albeit lovely, edited and polished) doesn't quite marry up. The reality is, despite Ash's unrivaled cloud-kissing competence, the margin for trial and error when pulling off these stunts is so slim, that behind each successful run are hundreds, sometimes thousands, of failed attempts. Which, of course, speaks directly to Ash's passion for Grand Theft Auto stunting, her determination to succeed, and her desire to seek challenges within a playground enjoyed by so many today.
"Yeah, I've logged well over 10,000 hours of playtime at this point, with the majority of that time spent on stunts," Ash affirms. "I've maybe got a few hundred of those hours spent playing the base game's story mode, and online missions and stuff too, but the meat of it is definitely in stunting."
"Skydiving appeals because of the difficulty of pulling them off. I'm a sucker for a challenge and I'm looking for that in every game I play. I love the struggle, that's part of the process, part of the fun, and part of the satisfaction when you finally get it right."
Ash explains that while she was once a dedicated Xbox GTA aficionado, she made the switch to PC in August of last year, and started recording on desktop from the outset. For those unfamiliar, one of Ash's most impressive feats is her Chiliad Pylon Challenge, but I must admit some of the above footage gives even that a run for its money. Ash says that even though she hit the ground running on PC last summer, she'd planned most of the above clips months, sometimes even years, in advance.
"The opening clip, for example, has been on my mind for years," she says. "I've done many Liquor Hole stunts before [where she parachutes through the 'O' of the Liquor Hole's sign, squeezing through by a hair's breadth], but I never managed to get the one from a bike 180 before. There are lots of potential variations on every location and I just work my way through them."
Even in conversation, Ash is almost nonchalant about endeavors that only the most patient, strong-willed, and, most importantly, skilled players are built for – which, for me, only makes her work all the more impressive. Now, with GTA 5 having hit its 10-year milestone two weeks ago, and with GTA Online celebrating the same anniversary this weekend, Ash can't quite believe the game she's spent literally tens of thousands of hours in is celebrating a decade in the sun.
With GTA 6 perched on the horizon, Rockstar's long-awaited and much-anticipated next main series entry now marks the next frontier, and Ash cannot wait to be set loose within the bounds of a new open-world playground. She adds: "I'm beyond excited for the next game, and I always have been for every GTA release. I've played all of them religiously since I was a kid, and the next game will be no different. Rockstar never disappoints when it comes to mechanics, environment and detail and I'm itching to explore it all."
"And, yeah, it really does blow my mind that GTA 5 and GTA Online are now ten years old. I was in my 20s when it was released. I'm praying we'll get GTA 6 before I hit 40!"
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