Off The Shelf: Grand Theft Auto

I’ve been reorganising my house lately, which has meant making decisions about what books, DVDs and CDs to keep and which to bin. This is because I’m out of space, but also because I’ve been lugging the same collection from rented accommodation to rented accommodation for years and most of it doesn’t get touched in the months or years between moves.

This also of course means I’m making decisions about a lot of PC games. For example, the first Grand Theft Auto. Should it stay or should it go?

There’s a crack on the outside of the jewel case, because what jewel case doesn’t have a crack. I like the cover, though. It’s a fish-eye photo of New York, police car and yellow cabs driving along the bottom, and the game’s logo is reminscent of ’60s car chase movies I haven’t seen.

The back introduces the game. I find these sorts of things interesting in retrospect:

Experience for yourself every classic car chase ever seen. Race at breakneck speed through an immense, living city out-running and out-witting rival gang members, mercenaries, hired killers and an entire police force. Drive dozens of varied vehicles around three of America’s toughest cities. Only the best will be able to tame the fastest cars. Only the smartest will know all the short-cuts and the whereabouts of the hottest wheels. Only the toughest will be able to take on the world and finish the job like a professional…

  • A unique, zooming, top-down view.
  • Over 6,000 km of freeways, back streets, roads, alleyways and dead ends.
  • Complete freedom of movement: no fixed track – you choose where you want to go.
  • Outrageous Hollywood style car handling.
  • 16.7 million colours.
  • A 60 minute soundtrack featuring all new music by some of today’s hottest new acts.
  • Hidden missions, secret areas and insane power ups ensure that something new is never far away.
  • Compete head-to-head in four player network games.
  • NO limitations: 100% open driving, 100% open vehicles, 100% action.

16.7 million colours! That explains the system requirements, which put the minimum at a 486 100MHz processor with 16MB of RAM.

Otherwise: how little things have changed. GTA started off promising both an open-world with total freedom and an experience reminiscent of Hollywood and “every classic car chase ever seen.”

Inside, the little teeth that hold the CD in place are broken, because what jewel case doesn’t have broken teeth. The back of the manual has the legal definition of ‘Grand Theft Auto’, which is nice. Otherwise the manual is basic, explaining how to play and what the controls are. I did like the revelation that the overhead camera is actually the “DMA News chopper flying high above the city” to bring “your nefarious behaviour” to the screen.

The disc has surprisingly few scratches on it:

When I bought it, it would have come in a much larger cardboard box, as games once did. Who knows how long ago I threw that out but I remember it had the same image on the cover as the case inside.

So: should I keep it or throw it? I haven’t read the books, but I’ve read a lot of articles like this one in the New Yorker about the current popularity of Marie Kondo’s books on tidying up. Her argument seems to be that you should keep only what “sparks joy” and throw everything else away.

This case sparks some memories, certainly. I remember either hearing or reading about GTA before release and not believing it was possible to fit a city inside a computer game. I remember that the small town in Lanarkshire that I grew up in wasn’t large enough to fit a game shop, but that for the six months that one I existed I visited it regularly, and it was there I convinced my mum to buy me this game even though it was an 18 and I was not.

I remember as well that I played GTA a lot but never advanced far with the missions. Instead I did as I think most people did and focused on creating chaos, driving fast and enjoying fleeing from the police. I liked it, but I never loved it. I’m unlikely to play it today and if I was, I’d probably just download it, since Rockstar made it available for free years ago.

So, yeah.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    Oakreef says:

    I had the map for liberty city basically memorised. Because we didn’t have any bloody physical map for the game (I assumed it came with one at some point but it was lost? Did the game come with maps for the three cities?) and I was blissfully unaware of the World Wide Web.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      The Playstation version at least came with maps for all three. I think I still have at least one of them because it came with a cool poster on the back.
      (I’m guessing they can all be found online easily now)

      • Premium User Badge

        Arnvidr says:

        I’ve tried to play that one lately, but…wired controllers. I have it on Steam as well though, might try reliving the memories of me and my cousin playing the timed demo over and over.

    • Kefren says:

      Yes, the PC version came with a paper map of all three cities. Vital! Torn!

  2. Premium User Badge

    Fitzmogwai says:

    I have kept mine simply because I am reminded of GOURANGA whenever I happen to see it, and that makes me smile. Also the soundtrack is ace.

  3. Premium User Badge

    Vandelay says:

    I have done a clear up of my old games too, along with DVDs/Blu-rays. Bought a couple of big CD wallets and stuffed all of them in there. The only cases I have kept are a couple of nicer ones and TV series, due to the huge number of discs.

    It really does save a huge amount of space, particularly if you still have some big boxes lying around.

  4. seroto9 says:

    I played the first one for a few hours, found it depressing (I’m a fragile soul), promptly sold it and never played another one since. I imagine that’s unusual since it’s such a big seller.

    Am I missing out I wonder..?

    • Lexx87 says:

      I think meeting Trevor in GTAV won’t change your mind about that. The only way I could play GTAV and get involved in the story was to roleplay each character and never be myself. Being despicable with Trevor then became okay as it was always ‘him’ and never me.

      • Blastaz says:

        Who was it being despicable every time you created a bit of chaos just for fun?

        God the number of poor fib agents “CJ” murdered above the garage in San Fiero just to get the army after him so he could steal and save a tank was super despicable.

  5. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    As someone who’s chucked out pretty much all boxes several years ago (I kept the DVD collection, which I still dip into) I can verify that you won’t feel any different.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Risingson says:

    Before moving to London I did the same thing: getting all the cds, put them on a spindle, and trash away (or recycle) all that amount of cardboard, plastic and unneeded things that gather layers of dust and are not useful for anything else.

  7. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    Aww :( I wouldn’t chuck that, I have an original Dungeon Keeper cardbox box – I have a bunch of recent games I wouldn’t mind chuking the DVD box away (Dragon Age Inquisition?) but I wonder whether I should destroy the key code first, not that anyone would be able to do anything with it since it’s tied to Origin but just in case…

  8. khamul says:

    In my hallway by the window, I have two picture frames: one with the original disk and manual for Deus Ex, one with the original disk and manual for System Shock.

    Somewhere, I have the disks and manuals for Civ and Ultima Underworld 2, and one day they’re getting framed as well. But that’s harder, ‘cos they’re floppies.

    Brings me joy every time I walk past. I figure it’s a bit like having a stamped ticket for the Beatles at the London Palladium in a frame, you know? I was there, when it happened. It mattered.

  9. Eight Rooks says:

    Yup, this no longer appalls me as it once would have. I haven’t completely abandoned physical media or anything – I’ve kept a large number of DVDs/BluRays, and have even begun adding to them again recently, because reasons (largely that iTunes in the UK is manifestly terrible for world cinema). But videogames, nope. Particularly since moving over to PC. There’s just no real, pressing reason for me not to go all-in on digital there. Dead tree books too, for the most part. The “things” themselves just aren’t that important to me any more – it’s the data they contain, and if there’s another, far more convenient way to do that which no longer requires a ton of physical space and a bunch of items to dust/take care of, then I’m all for it.

  10. iainl says:

    If you’ve already slung the massive cardboard box the Jewel case and maps came in, then you’re not really getting far with thr whole keepsake angle. And if memory serves, it’s a right bugger to play the disc version now, so you’re better off with the free download for getting it running.

    Keep the maps and Designers Republic poster, though.

  11. Kefren says:

    I loved that game. Even after I’d completed it a few times and stopped playing it, I ripped the CD to MP3s and listened to the music until quite recently.

    “keep only what “sparks joy” and throw everything else away.”
    Nice. I wrote somethign similar last night! link to

  12. Napalm Sushi says:

    I’ve said it before, and it remains vanishingly unlikely, but a modern revisit to the second game’s batshit retro-cyber-noir setting might actually pull me back into this series.

  13. Sin Vega says:

    Played it again recently, it’s still good for mucking about but playing it ‘properly’ is as tedious as it always was. Aged better than a lot of games, to be fair. I was surprised to (re)discover that you could play as multiple characters, half of whom were women. Not that it made any difference to anything other than the picture by your name on the high scores, but still.

  14. kwyjibo says:

    How DARE you throw away an CD with adorned with Donald Trump’s humble abode.

    You’ll sure to be waterboarded when Trump Towers becomes the new White House.

  15. Aquarion says:

    There’s one reason to keep it that the download doesn’t get you: From memory the CD is actually also an audio CD with the game’s soundtrack on it.

  16. tomimt says:

    There’s reason to keep it, as in the end both GTA and GTA2 are bad games. GTA3 is the first good game in the series.

  17. vahnn says:

    I had no idea this game was free. In going to revisit it. Quite sure I will enjoy this and 2 more than GTA V.

  18. Spacewalk says:

    I’m surprised that your manual isn’t dog-eared with frayed edges because what manual in a jewel case isn’t.

  19. syllopsium says:

    Noooo! Sacrilege! Yes, the game came with a paper map (at least in the Sold Out! version).

    However, GTA 1 is not the best game. GTA London 1969 is – bloody brilliant.

    Slightly more recently, GTA Chinatown on the DS is also awesome. I’ve never really got into the 3D first person GTA games.

  20. Beanbee says:

    0/10 CD did not explode on impact

  21. Jackablade says:

    I tried playing it recently but found it had some nauseating frame rate issues on modern PCs. It’s probably not worth holding on to, but I’ll support the call to rip the wonderfully cheesy mid-ninties soundtrack.

  22. dorobo says:

    best GTA game

  23. Press X to Gary Busey says:

    Don’t just throw away old games, one’s thrash is another’s treasure. (and junk-into-beer money!) :(

    I did some PC and console collecting during the 00’s when I had a lot of disposable time and income before moving out.

    I lost interest when everything started to get digital re-releases and the collection just started to eat space, and the realization that 95% didn’t actually matter much to me (like the Steam Backlogs of Doom today), most I had never played and would never get time to enjoy anyway.

    I kept the few with sentimental value and those I was sure to actually play and sold the rest off in chunks.
    I’m sure it was a net loss in the end but I probably made a few fellow collectors happy and it’s nice to not be burdened with so much junk.
    If you’re careful and do some research you can make quite a bit of beer money compared to the 0 from just throwing stuff away.

    • beardedkeet says:

      Absolutely, there are plenty of collectors who’d dig GTA out of a charity shop bin for a couple of quid and feel pretty pleased at getting it working and having the original. If you’re dumping a load of old games the shop can sell them as a job lot or ebay them.

    • Cederic says:

      When I cleared out my gaming archive four large boxes went to a nearby retro-gaming store. A Commodore 64, an Atari ST, a range of games and peripherals for each, and a large number of PC games including Tie Fighter on CDROM.

      They offered a paltry amount, and I said ‘yes’. Better that they find homes than it goes in the bin.

      The one game that they didn’t get was Blade Runner. That game came on four picture CDs, which are now hanging, framed, with the box cover, in the house of the friend that helped me buy it all that time ago.

      Forget retro-gaming, that’s proper gaming history, that’s art, and that’s why you should never throw away an old game.

  24. wodin says:

    Over the years I’ve thrown loads of games away..and now I regret it to be honest.

  25. Zekiel says:

    I have this disc at home still. Can’t bring myself to throw it out, even though I can’t imagine I’ll ever play it again. Loved it at the time though.

  26. chris1479 says:

    The best part was the map that came with it, so your friend could do the driving while you did the map reading. I had horrible friends.

  27. WJonathan says:

    I would have kept it. If only because it’s the first in the series that helped define video games from 2000 onward. It may not be rare or collectible at this point in time, but it is an important piece of gaming history, particularly interesting if you’re still in games journalism years from now. Then again, if you’re just out of space, it’s trash.