Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto

Academic journal article American Journal of Play

Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto

Article excerpt

Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto David Kushner Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2012. Acknowledgments, notes, and index. 298 pp. $25.95 cloth. ISBN: 9780470936375

In the first few weeks of September 2013, sales of the latest entry in the Grand Theft Auto series, Grand Theft Auto V, topped one billion dollars. The game continued to press the controversial themes which accounted for so much frisson in the press throughout the last decade. David Kushner's book Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto shows how high sales and lurid controversy fueled each other throughout the history of Grand Theft Auto and the career of its publisher Rock- star Games.

What Jacked lacks is attention to the game itself. We don't learn about Grand Theft Auto the game here. In fact, there is no real game history or criticism, just a sometimes compelling story of how a few British game designers came to America to make games and to make their games pop- ular by making the news. The book focuses on business-on the story of a company, its founders, and its critics. Such a focus is in many ways valuable. We learn what it felt like to work at Rockstar Games, to "crunch" while making Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (2002), to wear jumpsuits with company logos, and to feel taken advan- tage of and proud in equal measure. We do come away knowing a bit more of how it felt to play the very first Grand Theft Auto, what it looked like and how it worked, but not much about any of the later fully actu- alized versions that a reader would recog- nize today.

Play or game studies specialists will benefit from some compelling backstage anecdotes but will be frustrated by the dated material and the focus on an over- played legal and public relations contest between Rockstar and the antivideo game zealot Jack Thompson. …

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