Reddit user CitizenWolfie has come up with a mind-bending fan theory that will change the way you look at the entire Grand Theft Auto franchise! Although the theory is quite 'out there,' it definitely makes sense and has made me think that the developers at Rockstar were being a whole lot more clever than it seemed when they designed the pinnacle of their series, GTA V.
The keys that link the games together are in fact the three playable protagonists from GTA V - Trevor, Franklin and Michael. CitizenWolfie convincingly argues that each character represents a different thematic phase of the series, reflecting the changing play-styles, focus, and tone of each game. Pretty remarkable, huh?
Let's look at that claim in some more depth...
Trevor - Grand Theft Auto 1 / 2 / London
The sociopathic maniac, Trevor, has more than a little crazy in him, with his penchant for wanton destruction reflecting the reckless gameplay of the early GTA games. As CitizenWolfie writes:
He represents the original, top-down games from GTA1 to GTA2. Those games were all about the thrill of running wild in an open city. He's angry, brutal and butt-ugly, much like those first few games.
Of course, the first GTA did have a loose story, but the focus was always on causing mayhem in an open world playground, which is Trevor's singular ambition. In GTA V Trevor is the most directionless character, with his missions often involving insane and largely aimless killing sprees. He's also the only character able to engage in 'Rampage' tasks, which are essentially the same as the 'Kill Frenzy' challenges found in the first few games.
So Trevor represents GTA 1, 2 and London. How about the other characters?
Franklin - Grand Theft Auto 3 / Vice City / San Andreas
When the series moved to the Playstation 2, Rockstar dropped the top down view in favor of a three dimensional virtual world. But the graphics weren't the only thing that got more complicated - the games' narratives also stepped it up a notch.
The three protagonists from this era were Claude, Tommy and CJ. All had a dark history and throughout each game embarked on a journey to make a fresh start and become successful - the classic rags to riches tale. As CitizenWolfie puts it:
We see a good natured guy who wants to rise above his position in life and move beyond his deadbeat friends who are holding him back. And when he is introduced to a successful career criminal, it's his key to making a better life for himself at the risk of pulling off bigger and badder crimes.
In GTA III Claude first meets Luigi, who helps him climb the ranks of the criminal underworld. In San Andreas CJ meets Cesar, who essentially performs the same role. Similarly, Franklin leaves behind his deadbeat friend Lamar, siding with the more successful Michael. Like Claude, Tommy, and CJ, Franklin starts with next to nothing and ends up with a mansion-like pad to his name. The trend seems to fit.
Michael - Grand Theft Auto IV
If Franklin conforms to the pattern of the relatively identical storylines found in the PS2 games, Michael is representative of the comparatively sophisticated characters Rockstar became interested in exploring as the series went on. Things became more morally ambiguous, with multi-faceted characters struggling to balance a life of crime with real-world aspirations.
Michael is almost a postmodern GTA character - the aftermath of the 'GTA lifestyle'; a man who has risen from the bottom and done it all in the criminal world, done some terrible things in the past and is trying really hard to change his ways only to find that things aren't always so easy.
That sounds a lot like GTA IV's protagonist, Niko Bellic, who escapes a life of tragedy in Serbia to pursue the American Dream in Liberty City. CitizenWolfie also makes the case that:
Michael's shooting skill mirrors the more gun-based gameplay of IV and V.
So What Do You Think?
It's certainly a very interesting theory and even if the links weren't intentional, the three GTA V leads can still be seen as little ode's to the games that came before them - playable tributes to GTA's long and varied history.
What do you think? Has this changed the way you think of GTA V?
Do you buy CitizenWolfie's theory?