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Bizarre things gamers did in GTA

Grand Theft Auto is known as a sandbox game for a reason: it's a place where you make your own fun. Yes, the developers over at Rockstar Games have filled Liberty City, Vice City, and Los Santos with quests, side missions, collectibles, and mysteries, but diehard GTA players know that those only last so long. The reason why Grand Theft Auto 5 remains at the top of the sales charts years after release isn't the content that ships with the game. It's all the trouble that players get up to once the main storyline has wrapped.

Competing in races, sticking up convenience stores, and hunting for UFOs only held players' attentions for so long. Grand Theft Auto 5 (and its multiplayer component, Grand Theft Auto Online) celebrated its fifth birthday in 2018. That's plenty of time for the GTA faithful to find new, utterly bizarre ways to play their favorite game. Look, fans are a creative bunch. It should come as no surprise that, given enough time and left to their own devices, things started to get weird. Go ahead and take a look.

The dam thing won't break

Grand Theft Auto sells a specific fantasy: it gives you a big, open, digital world where you can do whatever you want, whenever you want. It's a good sales pitch. It's also not true. There are limits to the amount of chaos that you can cause. Just ask the players who spent countless hours trying to blow up Los Santos' Land Act Dam in an effort to flood the city below.

As Kotaku reports, players have been fixated on blowing up the dam since before the game came out. They've tried everything. One player stacked 10,000 missiles on the Land Act Dam, hoping to blow it into smithereens. They've rammed it with blimps. They've shot it with guns, and rockets, and nuclear bombs. Despite all of that, the dam remains standing.

There is a method to this madness, sort of. Grand Theft Auto 5's code has a "destructible object" called an aqueduct, which some people think refers to the dam. There's a piece of coral on a nearby hillside, which seems to hint at a previous flood — or could just be a bug. A photo in an in-game building shows Los Santos falling victim to a tsunami-sized wave. You can flood GTA's ersatz Los Angeles with mods, but that's not exactly the same thing. For now, the city is safe — but the would-be dambusters will keep trying until Los Santos is underwater.

Do no harm

Plenty of people try to play Grand Theft Auto without breaking any traffic laws. Given the way that GTA is designed, which presumes anarchy as the default state, playing the role of a defensive driver can actually be an interesting challenge for people who have done everything else the game has to offer.

Few players go as far as Jeremy Mattheis, aka GoldVision, aka the self-proclaimed GTA Pacifist. When Mattheis plays Grand Theft Auto Online, he tries to do it without hurting anyone. Ever. Anywhere. If the game makes Mattheis commit a crime, he'll find some way to repay his karmic debt. If his life depends on violence, he'll reluctantly relent. Otherwise, Mattheis tries to play things safe. In the first episode, GTA Online forces Mattheis to hold up a gas station. He makes up for that by buying hundreds sodas from the store clerk in order to "give back" the money he stole, plus a little extra to pay for the therapy that the clerk probably needs.

But that leads to another problem: when your character drinks a soda, he throws the can on the ground. That's littering. It's bad for the environment. So, Mattheis decides that he can only drink sodas in a walk-in dumpster, keeping the garbage off the streets. Mattheis tells Vice that his goal is to show that "it's possible … to survive and engage peacefully with all other sentient beings. Also, irony." While it may not be the most fun way to play, it's absolutely fascinating to watch.

Attack of the clones

If you've spent any time at all playing Grand Theft Auto Online, you know that, for all of the game's many strengths, it's got one big problem: it's a hacker's paradise. Some hacks cause players to suffer sudden, unexplained deaths. Others shower players with money in misguided efforts to get them banned. Grand Theft Auto is a game about breaking the rules. It's no surprise that some players apply that attitude to the game itself.

If there's an upside to Grand Theft Auto Online's hacking community, though, it's that unauthorized cheats can make things go absolutely bonkers. Just look at what happened to Idle Thumbs host and game designer Nick Breckon. While playing Grand Theft Auto Online, Breckon ran afoul of a hacker, but the digital ne'er-do-well didn't just use their virtual superpowers to steal cash or kill Breckon's character. Instead, they used a GTA hack to force Breckon to give a green-haired copy of his character a piggy-back ride. And that's just the beginning.

While Breckon tried to get rid of his unwanted passenger with some vehicular-assisted suicide, green-haired clone started popping up all over the street. Breckon fought them off with a semi truck. It didn't work. He killed himself, but death's sweet embrace only provided a temporary reprieve. Eventually, the hacker came back. The creepy ones always do.

A different kind of ride

Despite what you might've heard on the news, Grand Theft Auto is not a game about killing prostitutes for points, but it's also not great when it comes to female representation. There are too many issues to really get into here, but suffice it to say that Grand Theft Auto has a well-documented misogynistic streak, and it seems content to portray most of its female characters as bimbos, psychopaths, and sex objects — or, occasionally, all three at once.

That's the game, though, not the players. You don't have to hire hookers or visit strip clubs in your GTA5 playthrough (well, not unless you're gunning for that 100% completion title), and you don't have to treat its sex workers like garbage. Look at how Reddit user jason_stanfield plays Grand Theft Auto. He doesn't pick up prostitutes in the game for a quickie. He just wants a friend. "Sometimes I get lonely so I'll pick up a prostitute," Jason writes. "I don't want sex or anything; I just want some company while I drive around."

The women aren't great conversationalists, Jason admits, and they tend to flee as soon as he stops the car. Still, it's kind of sweet. Ignore the part about Jason harassing shop clerks, though. It seems that good intentions only go so far.

Bullseye!

If Rockstar isn't giving you enough to do in Grand Theft Auto Online, don't worry. You can always create your own fun. In addition to all of the missions that Rockstar's added to GTAO over the years, the game also lets players make their own jobs. Most are simple races, competitive gunfights, or capture-the-flag variants. A few are straight-up bonkers.

"Bloody Darts," created by the succinctly named DpLoMaTiKiMuNeT, is the latter. In Bloody Darts, you have a circular dartboard-like set up on the ground, and a number of tall structures around it. Your goal? "Play darts, but instead leap from a building and use your body as the dart." As you hurtle through the air and smash your body against the concrete, you'll score points for where inside the circle you land. Five points for hitting the "board" at all. A hundred for a bullseye. If you knock over a stack of tires, double your score. First player to reach 500 points wins.

It's not entirely automated — if you play "Bloody Darts," you and your friends will need to keep score yourselves — but DpLoMaTiKiMuNeT did provide sniper rifles to observe the action from afar (and punish cheaters, we'd imagine). On one hand, it's suicide as a parlor game. On the other, it beats GTA's regular darts minigame by a long, bloody mile.

Pip pip, cheerio, you're under arrest

Many Grand Theft Auto players role-play as police officers. With the "Los Santos Police Department: First Response" mod, you can see how the other side of GTA's perpetual cops-and-robbers conflict lives. Modder Albo1125 and his ilk don't just play as good guys, however. They're not just cops. They're British cops, who patrol the streets of the east London suburb Leytonstone.

Sound boring? Oh, it is — by design. Albo and his fellow modders haven't just recreated British police uniforms and emergency vehicles: they strictly adhere to UK law, too. That means carrying around nightsticks when they're on duty — and maybe a tazer — but no guns. It means following the GOWISELY protocol when conducting searches. It means that, if a case exceeds the local police's authority, the virtual cops will hand the crime off to other agencies rather than solving it themselves.

Albo's YouTube channel is full of videos of police conducting child services investigations, pulling over drivers for texting while on the road, and directing traffic. It sounds silly, but Albo and his friends take it very seriously. Many of them want to have careers in law enforcement in real life, too — and if that doesn't work out, Albo always has his 5.1 million YouTube views to fall back on.

Getting off track on purpose

In real life, it's easy to derail a train. Take out a couple of bolts or put some leaves on the tracks, and your job is more or less done. Ironically, in Grand Theft Auto 5 — a game that's all about breaking things — it's a lot harder, which means people have tried everything they can think of to bring destruction to Los Santos' railways.

And we do mean everything. As Kotaku reports, players have discovered that crowds of civilians won't so much as slow Grand Theft Auto 5's trains down. Neither will Superman, the dude who's famous for being more powerful than a locomotive. Trains will plow straight through buildings and push UFOs and pods of whales aside with ease. Another train won't get the job done. Not even nature itself can halt Los Santos' unstoppable choo-choos. Hitting a train with a tsunami might cause a few glitches, but that little engine keeps on chugging away.

If you delve into the single-player campaign, there's one train in one mission that can be stopped, but that feels like more than a consolation prize than a real solution. Oh, and by the way: early in Grand Theft Auto Online's lifespan you could stop the train via sticky bombs, but Rockstar patched that right out. For shame, Rockstar. For shame.

On pins and Nissans

In Grand Theft Auto, cars are more than a way of getting from place to place. They're weapons. They're prizes to be won. They're your partners in (literal) crime, they're the tools you need to pull off death-defying stunts, and they're crucial parts of Los Santos' burgeoning sports scene, too. Naturally, auto races are a big part of the Grand Theft Auto landscape, but you can also use your automobile for everything from Rocket League-style soccer to bowling.

Yes, bowling — but not just any type of bowling. This is bowling Grand Theft Auto Online-style. In "Racing Alley," a custom job made by Rockstar's staff, the Sandy Shores airfield becomes a circular bowling lane, complete with 30-foot bowling pins and one giant bowling ball.

Racing Alley is still a race, so if you want to win you'll probably want to avoid hitting the pins. If you simply want to see what happens when a fragile sports car collides with a bowling pin the size of a two-story house, go ahead and hit all of 'em. If this was the kind of bowling that Roman had been talking about, we would've actually answered his calls instead of banishing him to an underwater hatch. If only.

The case of two lifetimes

Chris Cone, a junior detective with the Los Santos Police Department, was answering a routine call with his fiancee Renee Loire when things took a nasty turn. When Cone and Loire arrived at the scene of the crime, they were both gunned down by mystery assailants — mysterious to Chris and Renee's in-game characters, that is. As Polygon reports, Cone and Loire are just two of the many, many Grand Theft Auto role-players out there, and while they saw that the motorcycle gang The Condemned was behind the double homicide, their digital avatars were dead before they caught a glimpse of the attackers.

When Cone respawned, he had a new, very personal case: he had to solve his own murder. That proved challenging for a number of reasons. Cone the player had to obey strictly enforced rules and pretend that he didn't know his attacker's identity, even though he saw the attack with his own eyes. In the game, the trail quickly went cold, leaving detective Cone without any leads to pursue (Grand Theft Auto Online's lack of any real crime-solving tools didn't help, either).

Eventually, a member of The Condemned — Renee's virtual sibling, who wasn't happy that his gang had killed his sister — flipped, giving the LSPD enough evidence to mount a RICO investigation. It didn't stick, and Cone became a walking dead man. Members of The Condemned, as well as a few other up-and-coming gangs, blamed the detective for their legal troubles, and he was assassinated — again — a month later. This time, it was permanent.

When a game is not just a game

It's been 30 years, and we still can't agree whether or not video games are art, but there's no question that video games can be used to create art. If you need proof, look at what Scottish professor Joseph DeLappe is doing. In 2003, DeLappe re-enacted an episode of Friends in Quake 3. In 2006, he used the US Army's recruiting game, America's Army, to honor soldiers who died in the Iraq War. In 2008, he recreated Gandhi's Salt March in Second Life, and in 2018, he launched Elegy: GTA USA Gun Homicides, a digital art project that uses Grand Theft Auto — one of the most intentionally violent games ever — to protest gun violence.

Every night at midnight, Elegy gathers data from the Gun Violence Archive, and then spends the next 24 hours re-creating each and every gun-related homicide in the USA since January 1, 2018 in Grand Theft Auto 5. DeLappe doesn't play directly; the mod technically plays itself, slowly panning across Los Santos' corpse-littered streets and broadcasting the results to Twitch. Every day, the bodies pile up, all while a jaunty old-time rendition of "God Bless America" loops in the background.

It is haunting and bizarre and not fun at all. Then again, it's not supposed to be. Elegy serves as a surprisingly powerful statement on both American gun culture and Grand Theft Auto's off-handed glorification of violence. It's art. It's allowed to be a little weird.

Today's episode of GTA has been brought to you by the letters W, T, and F

If your parents ever told you that you could never make a living playing video games, they were wrong. In addition to all of the standard ways that people pay the bills via gaming — esports competitions, streaming, and so on — there's also an entire cottage industry out there where people use Grand Theft Auto to make kids' shows for YouTube.

These aren't regular kids' videos, though. They're little more than pop-culture fever dreams. Using a combination of mods and Grand Theft Auto 5's director mode, anonymous filmmakers have created bizarre unlicensed mashups starring Marvel superheroes, Cars characters, the cast of Frozen, SpongeBob, and others. Sometimes, they go on adventures. Other times, they ride bikes and drive forklifts. Nursery rhymes like "The Muffin Man" and "The Finger Family" play on repeat in the background. The titles are always crammed full of search-friendly keywords and rarely make any sense. There are thousands of these videos, and many of them have millions of views.

It's not clear who's producing these things, although it's pretty easy to guess why: GTA5 makes these kinds of videos easy to mass produce, and with so many views, the ad money is probably rolling in. Unsettling, vaguely unsavory kids videos aren't a GTA exclusive — YouTube is chock full of different spins on the same formula  — but entertaining children is certainly an, ahem, unique use for Rockstar's M-rated shooter, and one we're pretty sure the company didn't see coming. We sure didn't.

Admiral, there be whales here!

Sometimes, players don't want to find new ways to play Grand Theft Auto, or push the limits of the game's simulation, or use GTA to live out a lifelong fantasy or make some kind of big statement. Sometimes, making things really damn weird is motivation enough. Why did BJ, the man behind the GTAmissions YouTube channel, team up with a bunch of other streamers to create a pod of parachuting whales? It doesn't matter. The real question is, why not?

So, BJ and his friends took a fleet of Ruiner 2000s, Grand Theft Auto Online's jumping, parachute-enabled cars, combined them with a pod of whales, and took them to a custom-made ramp high above Los Santos. Then, they launched their whales into the air, deployed the chutes, made some, well, seal noises (look, we're already well beyond the bounds of traditional marine biology here), and watched what happened.

There's not really much more to say. When you hear the phrase "parachuting whales," you know exactly what you're going to get, and the GTAmissions video lives up to every expectation. Whether you're stealing cars or taking aquatic mammals skydiving, Grand Theft Auto is odd, chaotic, unpredictable, dark, and above all else, lots of fun — and that's why we love it.