Turning Ann Arbor into my own personal Vice City

Paul Wong

The other day I was minding my own business, just taking a little stroll down a neighborhood street after a hard day of work. Out of nowhere, some jackass almost hits me with his car. Admittedly, I probably shouldn’t have been walking down the middle of the street amidst heavy traffic, but this was my territory. Then the idiot who almost took out my legs with his SUV began honking at me incessantly and it started to get on my nerves. So, like any other gentleman in my case would do, I politely pulled him out of his car and beat him to death with a golf club.

This didn’t happen to me in Ann Arbor, but rather in the everglade-crime-haven confines of Vice City, the glorious setting of the latest (and greatest) installment of the “Grand Theft Auto” series. Along with the five million other people who purchased the game since its release date two weeks ago, I have quickly become addicted to Rockstar Games’ newest title. And after all the car jacking, gang wars, drug trafficking, prostitution and needless violence, I think the game is starting to have an effect on me.

Author’s note: (It’s not just a mental thing either. For some brilliant reason, I developed a severe case of motion sickness last year when playing certain video games. “Grand Theft Auto” happened to be one of those titles, and whenever I turned on my PS2, I lost my lunch. Yet, I still play video games on a regular daily basis.)

For the record, I have never been arrested, committed a crime or served any jail time. As far as law enforcement records indicate, I’m as harmless as a character on “The Waltons.” There was the one speeding ticket I got at the tail end of high school, but I didn’t realize my speedometer was off by about 30 mph. Tommy Vercetti, my Vice City counterpart, however, has stolen over 200 vehicles, killed 346 innocent bystanders and set the local shopping mall on fire. But now I find myself having a more difficult time separating this video game artificiality with my own, mundane reality.

Let me explain.

Yesterday I went into Starbucks thinking I’d earn some extra income. You see, I had just completed a mission titled “Cop Land” in “Vice City” where my character roughed up a few store fronts to earn some protection money. When the cashier/coffee-maker at Starbucks asked me what I wanted, I lowered my voice and did my best Ray Liotta impression. I demanded they pay for protection, but instead I got a nasally laugh and an overpriced latte.

Dejected, I walked out of the store and looked for something else to do. I felt like Data in “The Goonies” when he found out the $50 bills in the abandoned restaurant were fake. My dreams of a life of crime were quickly fading.

Seeing various students driving their BMWs up and down South University infuriated me even more. Sometimes I wish life had a triangle button so that I could upgrade my grandma ride into a luxury vehicle. Unfortunately, I’m stuck driving around town in my ’88 Olds.

Now that I think about it, Ann Arbor would be a great setting for “Grand Theft Auto 4.” Just imagine the possibilities. Top notch voice talents from Mary Sue Coleman, Shakey Jake, the employees of Shaman Drum, John Navarre and Ralph Williams would give the game a real feeling of authenticity.

Vehicles would range from bicycles and scooters to cabs and AATA buses. As with the real Ann Arbor, parking could be a mission all in itself (The closer you get to campus, the more valuable the spot is. Finding a parking spot within 50 yards of Angell Hall would give you infinity cash.).

Imagine running into Michigan Stadium and collecting all the money from football Saturdays to spend buying Bentleys and Hummers.

Of course the setting wouldn’t necessarily have to be present day. As “Vice City” is set in the ’80s, “Grand Theft Auto: Ann Arbor” could take place during the Woodstock era when Ann Arbor was a cultural beehive of activity.

Ann Arbor circa 1992 might work as well. One of the early missions could involve picking up cars and other “gifts” from Ed Martin and delivering them to incoming basketball players.

I don’t think Rockstar Games has any desire to set their multi-platinum game in our little liberal college town, but it would seem to be an ideal location for some pixilated mayhem. I guess I’ll have to be content living out my normal life in Ann Arbor and keep my fantasies down in “Vice City.”

Do you have any ideas for the next installment of the “Grand Theft Auto” series?

Jeff Dickerson can be reached at jsdicker@umich.edu

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *