"Grand Theft Auto" was originally developed to "poke fun" at American culture, specifically regarding gun violence in urban environments.
Paul Farley, an original designer of the infamous cop-killer game developed by the Scottish firm DMA, told the Guardian in a new interview that the team went into a crash course of sorts about American culture in the late 1980s and early '90s:
We had one PC with internet access for research. Other than that, we went to the library. We’d come in on a Monday and say: "What movies did you watch at the weekend? What music are you listening to?" That really informed the game. We had guys who were really into cars, others into heavy weaponry.
A recorded gameplay of the original game shaped by Farley's work shows a player shooting pedestrians and automobiles in an urban setting with a machine gun:
Farley dropped a frank blow to GTA's stateside fans by writing in the Guardian that the team of designers used their internet and library research to "poke fun at US culture":
We wanted to poke fun at US culture and could do pretty much whatever we wanted, since from day one the plan was for it to be 18-rated. Sometimes we went too far. In one mission idea, which was later cut, you had to go around burning churches. You’d probably be arrested for putting that in a game now, even though it was all very tongue in cheek.
Using a video game to mock violence in America is all the more cutting today, given the game's overwhelming success since its initial release. American gun culture, for instance, has changed little since then.
In this interview, filmed more than a decade after GTA's first release, the designers still seem surprised at the negative reaction the game received.