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Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto [Hardcover]

David Kushner

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Book Description

18 April 2012
Inside the making of a videogame that defined a generation: Grand Theft Auto Grand Theft Auto is one of the biggest and most controversial videogame franchises of all time. Since its first release in 1997, GTA has pioneered the use of everything from 3D graphics to the voices of top Hollywood actors and repeatedly transformed the world of gaming. Despite its incredible innovations in the $75 billion game industry, it has also been a lightning rod of debate, spawning accusations of ethnic and sexual discrimination, glamorizing violence, and inciting real–life crimes. Jacked tells the turbulent and mostly unknown story of GTA ′s wildly ambitious creators, Rockstar Games, the invention and evolution of the franchise, and the cultural and political backlash it has provoked. Explains how British prep school brothers Sam and Dan Houser took their dream of fame, fortune, and the glamor of American pop culture and transformed it into a worldwide videogame blockbuster Written by David Kushner, author of Masters of Doom and a top journalist on gaming, and drawn from over ten years of interviews and research, including firsthand knowledge of Grand Theft Auto ′s creators and detractors Offers inside details on key episodes in the development of the series, including the financial turmoil of Rockstar games, the infamous "Hot Coffee" sex mini–game incident, and more Whether you love Grand Theft Auto or hate it, or just want to understand the defining entertainment product of a generation, you′ll want to read Jacked and get the real story behind this boundary–pushing game.

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From the Inside Flap

How does a group of young underdogs with big dreams but little experience transform a culture and industry? In the case of the $75 billion video game business, it helps if the outfit is run by a brash iconoclast with the vision of an outlaw and the work ethic of a Puritan—and grew up madly in love with gangster movies, video games, and rap music. It also helps if the company makes the most revolutionary, controversial, and successful video game franchise ever—Grand Theft Auto. In Jacked, acclaimed author and journalist David Kushner takes you on an unauthorized joyride through the high–risk, high–profit, and fast–moving world of the biggest players in the game industry—and the haters out to get them. He reveals the untold story behind the people who created the product that defined one generation and infuriated another. Drawing on more than a decade of his own reporting, game playing, and interviewing, Kushner goes deep inside the making of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), long veiled in secrecy, rumor, and myth. He also examines the cultural and political backlash that sent sales soaring, even as it threatened the game′s continued existence. This is a pop culture story for the ages. It begins in the back alleys of Dundee, Scotland, where the geeky geniuses at DMA Design invented GTA. Fledgling marketer and rebellious gamer Sam Houser saw GTA′s enormous potential and pushed DMA to make it bolder, wilder, and funnier, and let players freely explore the game′s gritty cities, wreaking havoc whenever they pleased. With its groundbreaking innovations and cinematic flair, GTA quickly became the centerpiece of Houser′s new company, Rockstar Games, and the hottest title on the planet. But one of America′s most notorious culture warriors, Jack Thompson, had his own mission—to ensure that GTA was banned from store shelves for corrupting youth and to bring Rockstar to their knees—even as the gamers of the world rallied against him. With its incredible artistry, arch satire, and massive press coverage, GTA earned critical and commercial acclaim around the world, breaking the Guinness record for most successful entertainment product launch of all time. But deep within its urban wasteland lurked a nasty little secret—the now–famous sex mini–game, "Hot Coffee." It would mean big trouble for Rockstar Games and bring Houser and his rival, Thompson, to the brink. Whichever side you′re on, Jacked gives you a new understanding of this breakout industry, and the game that defined it.

From the Back Cover

Praise for Masters of Doom "A fascinating portrait of visionary coders transforming a previously marginal hobby into a kind of twenty–first–century art form—and enraging an entire generation of parents along the way. Kushner tells the story with intelligence and a great sense of pacing. Masters of Doom is as riveting as the games themselves." — Steven Johnson , author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and Where Good Ideas Come From " Masters of Doom is an excellent archetypal tale of hard work and genius being corrupted by fame too young and fortune too fast. I rooted for these guys, was inspired by them, and then was disturbed by them—and was fascinated from beginning to end." — Po Bronson , coauthor of NurtureShock "Kushner′s mesmerizing tale of the Two Johns moves at a rapid clip . . . describing the twists and turns of fate that led them to team up in creating the most powerful video games of their generation . . . An exciting combination of biography and technology." — USA Today "Meticulously researched . . . as a ticktock of the creative process and as insight into a powerful medium too often dismissed as kids′ stuff, Masters of Doom blasts its way to a high score." — Entertainment Weekly "Kushner′s portrait of Carmack is lustrous and gripping . . . An impressive and adroit social history." — The New York Times Book Review "Terrifically told . . . The storytelling is so fluid, so addictive, that your twitching thumbs keep working the pages." — The Washington Post Book World

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Doesn't quite gel 10 May 2012
By Charles D. Herold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I recall enjoying Kushner's Masters of Doom, which gave you two interesting characters and some insights into game design and game design personalities. Jacked is not as good a book. It focuses primarily on two people. One is Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser, but while the book tries to portray him as he apparently sees himself - rebel rock star of the gaming world - he comes across more as a pretentious jerk. The other is anti-video-game crusader Jack Thompson, who is given a surprisingly sympathetic portrayal.

Unfortunately this fails to give enough shape and tension to the book, perhaps because these two characters don't know, and don't generally even acknowledge one another. The book probably would have been more interesting if Kushner had detailed more of the bizarre actions that got Thompson disbarred and had focused more on Sam's megalomania. The book also might have been more interesting if it gave you more of a sense of how GTA was developed in the way Masters of Doom gave you a strong sense for what game development was like.

Jacked is also poorly copy edited - I saw an unusual number of typos - and Kushner's prose is sometimes clumsy. It's a perfectly readable book, but ultimately doesn't bring much to the table.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars jacked is terrific 31 Mar 2012
By howie black - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have been an avid reader of David Kushner books and articles for a long time. I just bought and read Jacked overnight. It is one of those page turners where one chapter leads into the next and you want to see what happens.

Kushner writes clearly and cogently about Grand Theft Auto. I did not now HOW successful a venture that game was. WOW!He makes it evident, but more, he gives you a terrific insight into the whacky life of the creators and how Grand Theft Auto came into being and the extraordinary impact it had on the whole gaming industry from players to Congress.

I would like to see this book as an HBO special or a movie. It will have a huge audience.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fun Read 14 May 2013
By spraypaintsensei - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a fun read about Rockstar Games and GTA. The prose is occasionally difficult to follow and the narrative is not particularly strong, but for anyone interested in Rockstar or video game development in general, it is a very good read. It's full of interesting tidbits and it will definitely keep your attention.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about the games that defined my college years 30 Sep 2012
By PhilG - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
If David Kushner's other book (Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture) is about success and business souring a friendship, then "Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto" is about the cold business world destroying wild dreams and ambitions.

Sam Housar is a man who came to America with such wild dreams. The president and co-founder of Rockstar Games wanted to create video games that reminded him of the movies he enjoyed in his youth. Not only that, he wanted to make games immersive and sophisticated - an art form that older generations could no longer stereotype as 'children's toys.' But after the multimillion dollar success of the Playstation 2's "Grand Theft Auto" trilogy, Sam and his rebel crew at Rockstar found themselves caught in the crosshairs of an American culture war fueled by puritanical politicians and parents. Pressure only worsened as Rockstar's parent company, Take-Two Interactive, was struck by fraud investigations. Suddenly, making envelope-pushing video games was no longer a dream job... collided with cold reality, it was hell on earth.

The Hot Coffee scandal in particular really drove the boys to the brink. "Jacked" does a good job of showing the immense amounts of tension and soul-crushing strife in the aftermath that forced many to leave the company and others to view their stressful work environment as a place that wasn't quite so fun anymore.

Meanwhile, behind enemy lines and spearheading the attack on Rockstar (or at least trying to make a name for himself as a crusader for justice) was an embittered Miami lawyer. Having already had moderate success against Two-Live Crew and Howard Stern, Jack Thompson trained his litigating guns on a new scourge that was not only threatening the youth of America in his eyes, but putting his young son in danger on a daily basis: violent video games. And Rockstar made just the type of product that got Thompson's infamous press releases rolling.

"Jacked" fascinated me. I followed the entire controversy and free-for-all between Thompson, politicians and Rockstar Games during my college years, and this book recounts those warring days in perfect detail. I remember the blowup over "Kill All the Haitians," Hot Coffee, the numerous proposed bills, and Thompson's persistent trolling of GamePolitics.com. I was there for it all - and "Jacked" was a wonderful trip back in time as well as a fulfilling journey behind the scenes.

Speaking of Jack Thompson, the book's portrayal of him is surprisingly sympathetic. For gamers, he has come to represent a kind of mustache-twirling supervillain, a destroyer of fun wherever it may be. In stark contrast, the man presented here is a concerned father who only wants to make the world a safer, cleaner place for his son. Of course, if one were to dig up Thompson's lengthy, rambling, bile-filled press releases (which "Jacked" doesn't quite reproduce) they might see a different side of the disbarred lawyer... perhaps a man driven mad by a crusade that has consumed him.

Each chapter is headed by an illustration or quote that makes the story feel like it's straight out of a "Grand Theft Auto" playthrough. As Rockstar gets in larger amounts of trouble, the chapters are illustrated with increasing 'Wanted Level' stars. I loved this little element - it made the book even more of a fun ride.

Perhaps the book could have gone into more detail about some things. For example, Kushner left out any mention of Volition Inc. and how Sam Housar might have felt about the GTA clone "Saints Row" series - especially "Saints Row 2," which some gamers jumped onto as a response to GTA IV's focus on heavy realism and man-dates. The Sam in "Jacked" doesn't strike me as the type of person who would be too happy about that.

All in all, this was not only a great book, but a captivating page turner. I was sad to see it end so quickly. Like "Masters of Doom," "Jacked" has all the right elements for a fantastic movie: drama, humor and heartbreak. If you're like me and you've spent hundreds of hours between "GTAIII," "Vice City" and "San Andreas," you'd be doing yourself a huge favor by reading this book.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars shows how childish adult games can be 1 Aug 2012
By Will - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
As an avid fan of Rockstar this book was a little disappointing. Overall it was well written and informative, but I suppose you can't hope for a happy ending in non fiction

I expected a good deal of bias. I figured Sam Houser would be portrayed as likeable, while Jack Thompson would be slandered. However, I felt sympathetic towards both men at the start of the book and sort of hated them both by the end. Additionally, Rockstar's actions throughout the GTA controversies and the working conditions, apparently for all of their games, left me feeling a bit guilty for supporting the company.

Overall, I enjoyed the book a great deal, finishing it within a day, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth, despite the fact that Kushner tried to show how they had "grown up" with GTA IV.
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