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Consider this: 'Grand Theft Auto' felonious fun that's not just for gamers

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“Grand Theft Auto” is for everyone. No, not in the rated ‘E for Everyone’ sense (ha, silly you even thinking that), but in that it is basically a choose your own adventure story, and a series that is quite singularly capable of being a unique experience for each individual player, albeit with an admitted tendency toward hyper-violence and sarcastic humor.

Whether you are a lifelong fanatical gamer or someone who hasn’t picked up a controller since, well, ever, chances are “Grand Theft Auto” will appeal to you in one way or another. Face it, we’re talking about the kind of universal enjoyment of a video game that hasn’t existed since the dawn of (video game) time when “Pong”, “Super Mario Brothers” and “Pac Man” ruled the day.

Gamers themselves are a notoriously segmented population, one side rallies around FPS, another around MMO's, other sects focus on more traditional platformers, and still others flock toward motion gaming (certainly at least a few people must like it). And yet, when a new installment of “GTA” is on the horizon, hardcore and casual gamers alike unite under a single banner of excitement and anticipation, before retreating back into their separate corners. This begs the question then, how is it that a series of games capable of universal appeal in the world of devout button mashers translates to the world of people who will have lives after Sept. 17?

The answer is simple, really, and it’s that selfsame right that inspired Patrick Henry’s famed line, “Give me liberty, or give me death!” That’s right: freedom, baby!

“Grand Theft Auto” offers players the ultimate form of escapism, allowing them to engage in activities that are at turns illicit, reckless, leisurely and even relaxing (no, really, you can make your virtual characters master the art of zen in the upcoming ‘GTA V”).

So whether your favorite pastime is stealing a plane and parachuting onto random vantage points, shopping for new threads, driving on the sidewalk, speculating on the stock market, inciting riots, schmoozing at the local country club, brawling with snarky standersby, taking scenic country drives or attempting insane stunts in stolen wheels, the wide world of Los Santos has the goods for you.

Plenty of games out there promise an experience that is both ambitious and engrossing, however few of them live up to that promise in such fine style as “GTA”. This series has been enabling gamers to spend countless hours customizing, cruising and committing crimes for years, and in so doing has truly earned their hard won respect and reverence.

Critics and dissenters will always dismiss “GTA” as nothing more than violent escapism, and that’s really an effortless jab, because it is violent and escapist, and therein lies the point. “GTA”, like all great video games, allows players to do the impossible, and moreover do things they would never dream of in real life. As the not-so-old adage goes, “haters gonna hate”, but that’s only because they’ve never given “Grand Theft Auto” the old college try.

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