Thursday, July 28, 2011

Travel, through video games.

I take it as a personal challenge to try any game labeled as a GTA Clone. It is true that I love the GTA series, and that may be a large portion of why I try these games. I also feel as though there is a deeper connection within myself that these games expose and utilize to make themselves more fun. I am a complete sucker for an open, expansive environment in a video game, because it taps into my desire to travel and explore different places.

Outside of gaming I love to travel, and nothing compares to a good road trip. There is nothing like getting in a vehicle and hitting the open road, listening to music, slurping down a cheap gas station soda and just watching the miles pass. And maybe I'm the only one, but I think video games offer forms of travel not too much unlike real travel. Obviously games have new lands, whether or not they're inspired by real life locations, to explorer and many different things to interact with.

I can remember as far back as the Sony Playstation there were a handful of games that got me started. While normal gamers might play through the missions and explore the game's landscape later, I would spend all my time literally following traffic laws, stopping at stop lights or stop signs and doing the speed limit. I loved pulling into random drive ways and just pretending I was getting out of my car and going into my house. Sound crazy? Yeah, I know!

With the leap from games like Driver, The Italian Job, Auto Destruct and naturally the original GTA games (all PS), the first 3 of which only offered car exploration and GTA was merely top down exploration, to the era of being able to get out on foot to explore seemingly endless scenery. I've spent countless hours walking around in games like Driver 2, GTA 3 (VC and SA), Scarface, Total Overdose, Driver: Parallel Lines and even The Great Escape and Prisoner of War! These games just open a door to places I've never seen before. It just seems that no matter how many times I've been somewhere within the game, if I push back the boundaries just a little more I always find something new.

Some games such as Total Overdose and Scarface have terrible handling cars, so sometimes its just more fun to get out and explorer places on foot. While games like Driver 2 and Driver 3 have terrible walking abilities, so I try to keep walking to a minimum and take more advantage of the bounty of cars these games offer. GTA San Andreas is one game that even after years of playing that game, I'm still finding new places.

Even when GTA uses the same name for a city but changes the landscape (Liberty City/LC Stories and Vice City/VC Stories) they do it in such a way that it stays fresh and even though I've seen 90% of that city before, I still enjoy exploring it all over again, just a few years before my last visit (or was it first visit..?). As I said before some cities are modeled after real places and others are fictional and this really adds to the overall excitement of exploration.

From time to time I get the urge to pop in these games and travel through the worlds they offer as if I were going back to visit an old friend. Sure its fun to play bumper cars with the vehicles and see if pedestrians can outrun you before they become roadkill, but each game gives off an enveloping feeling to suck you into the environment and bring you into it's world. The sandbox style of game has a deeply rooted place in my heart and I will always try them out, because no matter how bad the game play may truly be, I am a sucker for a city waiting to be explored!

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