GTA RPG: the joy of roleplaying as a normal person

What’s in an RPG?

Grand Theft Auto is a series best known for its controversial content and game mechanics typically focused on causing mischief and mayhem within a realistic game world. However, players are not limited to this behavior it is just one way to play the game. The same button that will cause a character to steal a car if tapped near the back seat of a cab will cause them to enter it and ask for a ride.  There even exists a button input solely used when on foot to speak to nearby NPCs, when behaving normally it will offer a friendly greeting, whereas if an NPC is aggressive the dialogue will become hostile. The outcome of events is dictated by the behavior of the player, and many can play out in surprisingly normal ways which we may expect to observe in the real world.

Roleplaying as characters within games is often defined by the major decisions the player is presented with, and the alignment of the choices the player makes with the motivations of the characters they control.  This has often been focused more on narrative points rather than playstyle.  Yet, players are now taking roleplaying further than before and committing not only to their character in narrative moments but also in their day to day behavior.

Grand Theft Auto V_20161018204556

(Going for a nice walk along the pier as Michael)

One of my favorite exercises within the Grand Theft Auto franchise is to play non-disruptively, and observe the world and how it behaves.  In my articles Nightcrawling: a reason to call the police in GTA, and Nightcrawler: challenge, I explored the fun of being an observer of AI interactions in GTA and witnessing how the AI behaves.  Below I have included some footage of roleplaying as Michael going for a drive around Los Santos and going to the pier to ride a rollercoaster.

Have you ever spent time in a game trying to sink into the background and role-play as a typical NPC, just to see the world a little differently? If you liked this article or have your own stories to share, please leave a comment below or write in to


Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on FacebookInstagramand Youtube.


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