How Grand Theft Auto 4 almost ruined my relationship

Mike P Williams
How Grand Theft Auto 4 almost ruined my relationship
GTA 4 XBOX 360 screenshot

It's funny how much video games can impact our lives, sometimes to a much greater extent than we realise, especially in the story I'm about to relive today.

It began in the springtime of 2008. Spain were about to embark on their dominance in world football in the forthcoming European Championships; summer actually felt like summer with (low and behold) actual good weather, and it was also the time game developers Rockstar were set to unleash their latest Grand Theft Auto game (the fourth instalment, no less).

April the 29th was the date, and amidst a frantic midnight scurry to Tesco, I was able to secure myself a copy of the most eagerly anticipated game of the year. Arriving home at about 1:00 am safe in the knowledge I'd secured a now nationally sold out game meant I could sleep soundly (after an hour's play that is); much to the dismay of my girlfriend who was trying to sleep beside me.

At first the alarm bells didn't sound because it was merely business as usual for the first few days after purchasing a new game. However, as the days turned into weeks, it became noticeable that I'd spent more time living my life as GTA's Nico Bellic than spending 'quality time' with the missus. What's more, she began to notice too; unhappy expression and negative body language became a frequent occurrence.

What started innocently enough with a 'quick blast here and there' became long, drawn out sessions and would, as per those rare, engrossing games, postpone or even skip meals altogether. The most desperate times came during the night. Once settled in bed, and due to differing body clocks, my spouse would quickly nod off leaving me awake to ponder life and, well, GTA. I believed it was the opportune time to splurge a few hours on the game; void of distraction or, even worse, a disapproving glare. This 'after hours' gaming seemed to go well: the TV muted; I'd have my Turtle Beach headphones on as I'd race through the streets of Liberty City; go bowling with my cousin Roman; or call one of my ladyfriends (Michelle was a firm favourite) for a date and some post drop-off boot-knocking.

I wasn't a sadistic player, either: I'd try to stick to the mission I was doing, whether it was side or main story, rather than embark on an unprovoked, blood-fuelled rampage. I'd often get a few missions ticked off during these sessions, so in turn felt rather proud of myself. But the thirst for completion got worse, and the finishing times later and later, until I was still trying to win that illusive street race come 3am, which is when sleeping beauty next to me would wake up from the bright glare of my 40-inch TV and sternly tell me to turn it off. And I'm ashamed to say I couldn't help myself, resulting in 'shushing' her back to sleep with a delicate stroke on the face before running down some innocents whilst evading police capture in my stolen sports car.

You might assume such a taut tale would end in tragedy - which it very nearly did - as my other half would become more and more aggravated by the night, until one day I discovered her past desire for video games. Naturally, I used this to my advantage in an attempt to normalise my obsession; to make my affliction appear less severe. In a heated moment I challenged her to give it a go. I persuaded her to experience the joy I craved so badly -- so badly that it was taking priority over the relationship.

As soon as she grasped the controller I could see the fire in her eyes reignite after such a lengthy absence. Suffice to say, my 'problem' was quickly forgotten as she became partial to evening sessions of motorbike-stealing and mayhem-causing herself.

This would be the part where I recite the moral of my experience whilst patronisingly shaking my finger, but in honesty, I don't think there is one.

...Live and let live, perhaps?

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