I beat Grand Theft Auto V a couple of weeks ago. It took a while. I push pencils full time, for myself and for a living, and I found one hour windows to play once a week. Twice if I really wanted to fuck up my deadlines. The game takes place in Los Santos, a satirized & compressed but otherwise stunningly accurate rendition of Los Angeles.
The game came out in mid-September, exactly one month after moving to Los Angeles.
I mean, I was born and raised in "Los Angeles" but any true Angeleno knows that LA is less of a city and more of a bunch of spread out disparate parts. LA County, my turf south of Greater LA, is where I spent most of my life thus far. It's a world of difference from the big city out-of-towners imagine when I tell them that I'm from LA: everything has a parking lot, everything is built flat and long, everyone lives an elliptical life disconnected from the center. It may as well be Reno, or Odessa, or Camden. Los Angeles, from Santa Monica to Highland Park, is the sun. Everything else, from the Valley to the South Bay, is its own planet in orbit. Life never really has to leave it, or even care much for the sun other than know it is there.
I have loved LA since I was a teenager, the way kids in the 70s loved space. I looked at it from a distance and felt an urge to explore and touch a bigger universe. You can tell by that metaphor that I'm one of those people, the ones that define the value of their life by its proximity to something that feels culturally important. I might toss around the phrase "center of the world" if I were brave enough. After college, I knew that was the goal. I began interning in LA, then working in LA, then driving there every day. It was a pain of a commute, a slow depressing trudge for over an hour every early morning, but it brought mere here to a studio apartment in the middle of it all.
By the time I got to live here, I was already well versed in the city's ways. I knew the landmarks, some history, a lot of the spots. I knew that you're better off taking Fountain over Sunset. So, when GTA V came out and I was tasked with exploring a digital Los Angeles, I was prepared to see a lot of my newfound life in the big city.