Have you ever been gnawed on your private parts by a hungry police dog while you are lying on your back, oozing blood, on the tiled floor of a jewelry vault? I have. Several times. And after a thrilling streak of murder, cheating, robbery, and, uh, vampirism and undead death in the Grand Theft Auto 5 RPG, I have to admit: I’m a wreck.
For a long time, I’ve flirted with the idea of truly committing to a server’s RP rules without listening to the tiny devil on my shoulder. When you’re not chasing missions in Story mode or GTA Online, I bet you’ve had a great experience playing by the book in Grand Theft Auto. I bet you drove the speed limit and stopped at a red light. I bet you had fun, for a bit, before strolling down the sidewalk and poking your head at an innocent passerby just because, well, you can.
However, more than the basic GTA 5 modes allow, the RPG scene lets you sign up for a 9-5 lifestyle wholeheartedly. In doing so, I discovered a completely new game. And I love it.
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With this, combined with end-of-the-year reflection, New Years resolutions, and the spirit of giving during the holiday season in mind, my latest role-play endeavor saw me launch into a messaging job with GoPostal. I religiously adhered to an in-game schedule as I commuted to work on my BMX bike, bought my lunch at the local gas station, worked a shift, finished registration at the end of the day, and headed home.
Just like Andy enjoys simulator games, I was completely captivated by the systematic monotony of my self-imposed rules and, vain as it may seem, I discovered a degree of serenity that I never thought possible in a game that would otherwise be associated with the murder. drug deals and bank robbery.
Playing as a delivery boy at Christmas, with the Free Roam snow filter in full swing, I quickly assumed the mantle of the makeshift Santa Claus of Los Santos. I boosted the Christmas vibe by playing a Christmas playlist in real life, which, in essence, meant playing Chris Rea’s ‘Driving Home For Christmas’ on repeat, because, let’s be clear, it’s the best Christmas song in the history of Christmas songs.
I drive home for Christmas. Oh I can’t wait to see those faces.
What a tune, I think to myself, as I set up camp at the Clinton Residence, Aunt D’s house in Strawberry, also known as the Forum Drive safe house, and, for the purpose of this role-play effort, ‘house ‘.
Monday December 16
6 a. M.
In Grand Theft Auto HD Universe (from GTA 4 onwards), an hour in the game is wrong to two minutes in real life. A day in the game, then, lasts 48 minutes in real life. My day starts at 6 a.m. and work starts at 8, which means I’ve allowed myself four minutes to have lunch in the garage 24/7 around the corner, before cycling to the GoPostal depot at the Downtown Vinewood, across town. Do not bother yourself.
“Welcome to 24/7, America’s most convenient store,” says the clerk as I walk through the door. I nod, smile, and order a handful of Meteor Bars, Ps & Qs, and Ego Chasers. I grab a couple of cans of ECola, get back on my BMX, and head to work. Los Santos never sleeps, they say, but my eyes are a little cloudy at this hour as I cross the city singing all the way.
I drive home for Christmas, yeah. Well, I am moving along that line.
I walk up the hill to the office, glance over my shoulder, and admire the morning sun covering the buildings behind me. I change into my uniform and receive my delivery route. My first descent is at the Paleto Bay Sheriff’s Office, which is quite a drive away. I leave HQ, turn off the game radio, turn up the real-life speaker, and hit the road.
And it’s been so long. But I’ll be there. I sing this song Pass the time.
Driving in my car. Driving home for Christmas.
Honestly, man, what a tune. After Paleto Bay, they send me to Vespucci Beach, then to a property near Legion Square, north to Grapeseed, west to North Chumash, then south to La Puerta. I pull over to the side of the road in Little Seoul and pop into my convenience store lunch, before being sent to another handful of stops up and down the map before closing time at five bells.
Back at headquarters, I ditch the work truck, jump back into my two-wheeler, and briefly consider stopping for a cold one at Gefängnis to celebrate my first shift, but decide not to. I have a busy week ahead of me and these gifts are not going to deliver themselves.
It will take some time. But I’ll get there. From top to bottom in tailbaaaaaaccckkkkssss.
Friday December 20
The next days unfold in the same way until Friday. Oh my days, Friday. After a typically innocuous start to my route, my truck breaks down because, being a fool, I forget that the cars on this server require recharging at gas stations and I am completely off. I push my car to the side of the road and despite being on the outskirts of the city, I struggle to hitchhike.
On foot, I head north towards the Tongva Valley, which I think is as good as any other place for catching the attention of other drivers. Before long, I do exactly that, but it seems like at the same time I anger a role player who quickly calls the police. A little harsh, I tell him, while I refuse to “wait here for the authorities,” instead I put it back on the street in the opposite direction.
Depending on the destination, a charming Royal Mail worker offers me a ride, curious given that Los Santos is a fake version of Los Angeles, located about 5,160 miles from where the five-century-old British courier service usually operates. I don’t ask questions and I assume it’s a Christmas miracle.
Royal Mail operator Becky and I spent the next five minutes chatting about Christmas, our families, the San Andreas messaging community, and our favorite holiday songs. It turns out that Becky prefers Mariah Carey, but admits that Chris Rea is in second place. I do not react. She is doing me a favor, after all.
As we made our way over the Tongva Valley Bridge, we chatted some more before, BANG, some idiot slams the side of our truck and takes us off the road. We tumble down the embankment and hit the river below. In a panic, I get out of the truck and swim to shore. I yell at Becky to see if she’s okay, but she’s nowhere to be seen. I look back and see a shadow floating just below the surface. She didn’t make it.
I head to the forest and keep walking. I don’t really know where I’m going, but I keep walking. And walk and walk.
Oh, I have red lights on the run. But soon there will be a highway, yes. Put my feet on holy ground.
Saturday December 21
At this point everything has gone a bit Planes, Trains and Automobiles, since I am hungry, exhausted and without any means of transport. After half a day of wandering around, I go back to Aunt D’s house and go to bed.
In the morning, I arrive at work and explain my day from hell to my boss, who takes the news surprisingly well. They assign me a new van, a new route and tell me to go about my day as usual.
And so I’m back on the road, navigating snowy San Andreas, delivering presents and a half considering changing my Christmas playlist in memory of my fallen messenger comrade. I mean, I won’t. That would be ridiculous. But I will sing in his honor.
So I sing for you. You can’t hear me though. When I finish. And I feel you close to me …
Driving in my car. I drive home for Christmas.
Driving home for Christmas. With a thousand memories.
I have spent hundreds of hours exploring San Andreas from top to bottom in search of wacky RP adventures, and gradually I have learned to appreciate the beauty of the environment. For me, despite being over six years old now, there is no modern open-world setting that comes close to California’s beautifully incongruous fake sprawl: a dysfunctional mix of urban, suburban, and rural regions, all with their own charm. and seduce.
Sure, breaking the rules produces entertaining stories, but there is something to be said only living in Los Santos, and appreciating their world without their distractions in the face.
Now I am stuck in a stalemate and the city is abuzz around me. I take it all in. The bright lights. The constant hum of traffic. Revelers were pouring out of nightclubs onto sidewalks. Police helicopters organize the sky like mechanical angels. I love this city.
I look at the driver next to me. Is the same.
In the same way.