In Why I Love, PC Gamer writers pick an aspect of PC gaming that they love and write about why it's brilliant. This week, Joe admires the stunt performers that befall the streets of Los Santos.
Beyond its faux Los Angeles murder playground, swiping satirical humour, and supercharged bank heists, Grand Theft Auto 5 and its Online counterpart play host to a thriving performance culture. Courtesy of the Rockstar Editor—introduced in concert with last year’s PC release—players in their droves have since crafted reams of dilettante television shows, documentaries and films—some which have been watched by hundreds, thousands and, on occasion, millions of viewers.
One particular community which has evolved alongside the series is the GTA stunt scene. Reaching back as far as 2001’s first three dimensional instalment, Grand Theft Auto III, this group of adventuring thrill-seekers came into its own in the following year’s GTA: Vice City. In the days pre-social media, forums and file sharing sites served as the easiest means to swap notes on the best stunting locations, and to distribute footage of the most prolific daredevils. By the time San Andreas arrived in 2004, the scene had established itself as a flourishing subculture, which has reached fever pitch via the latest instalment in the advent of social media, not least YouTube.
I discovered the GTA stunt myself around this time last year. While aware of its existence beforehand, I hadn’t realised just how big it was in Grand Theft Auto 5, not to mention how seriously some of those involved are about it. Naturally, there are skilled individuals who do it for fun, who scour the Los Santos cityscape scoping out ramps and hills and grinds as a means of challenge and/or entertainment; however there are those who perform exclusively with recording and, crucially, video hits in the forefront of their minds.
The latter tends to befall crews—online communities who perform exclusively under the same banner, such as Evolve Stunting, Nomad Union and Cryptic Squad, to name but a few—who often tend towards self-promotion as perpetuated by the Let’s Play culture of the modern age.
No matter the prerogative or level of commitment, though, I find it fascinating that a game built around very defined central tenets can be used in such a creative way. Grand Theft Auto is, and has always been, about committing crime. It’s about blagging cars, shooting bad guys, robbing banks and ostensibly promotes all-round unscrupulous behaviour at will. Yet, by way of its sprawling sandbox do-as-you-please ethos and design, a performance culture has grown, where the players involved care little for the way the game is ‘supposed’ to be played.
One of my favourite stunt performers is Ash Sky Queen who tends to eschews cars, motorbikes and BMXs in favour of skydiving. Some of her stunts are jaw-dropping and demand a level of skill that most could only dream of.
“The thing that appeals to me most in GTA 5 is the game physics. The level of control the player has over movement on the ground, in the air and in vehicles is unmatched in any other game,” Ash tells me. “After almost three years playing GTA 5 I'm still often surprised at the things I can achieve. For me the game offers the perfect balance between reality and fantasy in terms of world physics and mechanics.
"The land vehicles for example, have a very realistic feel to them but a simple action such as turning your bike upside down in the air allows for more airtime than could ever be achieved in real life.”
That’s not to say real life levels of skill-mastering perseverance aren’t required to succeed. Failed attempts in Ash’s impressive Liquor Hole and Mount Chiliad (embedded above) stunts both ran into the thousands, which serves to highlight just how much commitment is required to reach the top of this hobbyist community. Ash’s career began by chance when she first got into GTA stunting in the aftermath of a nasty leg break, however her hard work and dedication has since seen her become one of the best in the modern scene. So what’s that scene like today?
“The stunt scene is still active with a lot of people making videos. Honestly, I've avoided the social side of stunting for a while as there are a lot of new teams appearing, lots of new stunters and rivalries are a little tense," explains Ash. "I’ve just focused on my own stuff this year. There are still lots of videos being made, but we don't see the view counts like we used to. I think this is more down to the game popularity easing off. It's just not a searched for thing unless there’s new DLC.”
Nonetheless, to see Grand Theft Auto 5 being used in such a diverse way is wonderful and the level of commitment offered by its stunters is nothing short of awe inspiring. I hope the community continues to flourish and that it carries over into future instalments. Stunt performers are still finding new death-defying ways to test the landscape today, so I’m pretty confident it will.