A secret second life – a cautionary tale of GTA addiction and the merits of group therapy

gta

I spent Christmas away with relatives this year and honestly… it was a bittersweet thing.

Not in the sense that anything bad happened. It was great. You know… quality time with loved ones, more food and drink than you can shake a stick at, novelty knitwear etc. But it was also meant I had to spend seven days away from the ps3…arghhhhhhhhhh!

Seven days away from the ps3. Seven days away from GTA. Seven days away from Blondie (my avatar, not the band). It was as I sat breaking in to feverish, cold sweats bought on by GTA withdrawal, that I realised how obsessed I’d become with it and spending time with my glamorous but hapless alter ego.

In fairness, the signs were already beginning to show in my personal life. Logging in before I went to work just to see what she was up to (invariably taking a shower or sitting quietly on her sofa life some hygiene obsessed couch potato). Logging in to solo sessions, so I could build up her fitness and stamina stats on long runs and bike rides (you know… the sort of things I should have been doing in the real world instead of playing games). I became so obsessed with boosting her stats that during one particular free roam session, some of my crew mates came across me stealthing up and down the pier like some sort of bikini clad ninja. Embarrassing it was.

Anywho, while I was away, I tried to satisfy my addiction by logging on to Rockstar Social, posting and chatting away to the others. In fact, I realised at the end of my Christmas break that I had literally been spending more time on that than Facebook! It did get me thinking though. How had I come to care so much for my in game avatar in GTA? What is it that keeps bringing me back to GTA?

I’m gonna be honest. I’ve been incredibly lucky in GTA. I’ve never lost any money. I’ve never lost a personal vehicle. I think I’ve been timed out of a session twice at most. But most importantly… I’ve never lost a character.

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When the game first came out, I kept reading horror stories about players experiencing all of the above. Mike Laidlaw of Bioware even tweeted his frustration at losing his! It actually put me off going online for while, until I plucked up the courage to jump on in. I can’t imagine how frustrating these events must have been, given the attachment I’ve developed to my own things in GTA. I would be heartbroken if I logged in one day and everything was gone. I don’t think I’d be able to bring myself to create a new character. I would literally mourn her passing and give my GTA disc a Viking burial in the bath ; ).

I think that I keep coming back to the game for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’m pretty laid back in how I play. I don’t have any burning desire to be the best at racing, the most badass in death matches or even the richest bitch in LS. I just like to play for fun.

There was one job that sticks in my mind that sort of sums up how I play. I think it was me, The Boss and Catfacecat and the job involved us racing to intercept a prison van, freeing the prisoner inside and get him back to a safe house. The others set off in the first car and I followed along behind in another. Now me being me, things didn’t run quite as smoothly as I would have liked. En route to the convoy, I ended up driving too fast, crashing horribly on corner and flying off a cliff. Smoooooth!

By the time I’d bumbled back up to the road to get another car, the others were miles away and had already sprung the guy from the prison van. Now, this was bad news for me, because suddenly the cops were everywhere and I’ve got no transport. We’re up to like 3 or 4 wanted stars and Squad cars and helicopters are swarming toward me over the horizon. I was left with literally no other choice than to stumble back down the slope I’d just climbed and hide away from the helicopters under a tree! I then spent the rest of the game fending off wave after wave of cops as my health and ammo slowly whittled away.

Thankfully for me, the Boss made it back to the safe house and the game ended. The post job stat screen pops up and she’s killed 3 or 4 guys to liberate the prisoner and complete the job. I’d hidden under my tree for ten minutes, re-enacting the siege of the Alamo and amassed a staggering 20 odd kills.  Obviously bemused by my stats, she messages me after the game and asks “What the hell happened to you?” ; ).

This brings me to my second reason. I was lucky that not long after I joined GTA online, the crew found me. I’m still not sure to this day what I did to impress them, but I got an invite after playing through some jobs with a group of random folk.  I guess somebody in that group of players was from the crew and thought I did okay but that was where it began and I’ve never really looked back since. I cannot convey just how much my enjoyment of the online mode changed the day I joined.

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Photos by TheBlueLynx(top) & Emoney(above)

On my first night in the crew I met up with Rozy and hung out with her and some of her motorcycle riding friends. I don’t think we did anything crazy, maybe smashed through a few gang attacks together but for the first time I felt part of something while playing online. Since that day, I’ve had a blast each time I’ve been on. I feel like I’ve really found my place among some really cool people. Rozy, Backof, Randy, Cat, and Hurri are all now on my psn friend list and I like to think they’ve all had a good time playing with me, even if it was from watching me do horribly in races or dying in comedic ways in death matches ; )!

Lastly, I think it’s because I have a blast hanging around with Blondie. No matter how shit my day has been, or how stressed I am from events in real life, I can log on and just forget about them for a few hours. My worries shrink to choosing which car to drive out of the garage, which combo of clothes to throw on and which weapon I’m gonna use to accidentally rifle butt a crew mate, ha-ha.

GTA online can at times resemble the devil’s playground, awash with blood and the wreckage of thousand burning vehicles. But it can also be a place where new friends are made, where the stresses of the day can be blow away with a grenade launcher and we can all feel a little bit cooler than we actually are. That is why I love it. I’d argue that is why we all love it and long may we all continue to come back to it.

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3 thoughts on “A secret second life – a cautionary tale of GTA addiction and the merits of group therapy

  1. How we are in a similar mood, Blondie. I do not care how powerful and brilliant i am where i’m playing online, i just want to have fun with my friends, in the fantastic Pussi Riot crew or not… And last christmas holidays, i brought my PS3 with me to be sure to spend some time online, because i wanted so, and that’s all 😉 Now, i founded my cousin Samantha Vercetti, we are a family which is now in a bigger family ! Thanks you all Rioters !

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