Checking off various tasks from my to-do list in Grand Theft Auto V’s single player campaign, I approached the Ranton Canyon jet ski race with little more than a need to fulfil my OCD. And yet, what transpired was one of the most impressive moments I have experienced in video games in recent memory. Approaching the jet ski at near dusk, I initiated the race, and the soundtrack automatically changed to the track ‘Sleepwalking’ by The Chain Gang of 1974. This is one of my favourite pieces of music from Rockstar’s latest outing, so I was thrilled to have it play soundtrack to my race. As the countdown to race time began, the sun was slowly setting down behind the canyon walls creating an almost deep pink hue across the sky. The surface terrain was turning a purple shade and the water was becoming an almost oil black. As I bobbed and weaved through the treacherous passes of the canyon river, taking the rapids as softly as I could while trying to maintain my lead, the pink grew ever deeper while the water became almost a perfect mirror of the sunset above.
Paired almost perfectly with the soft electro-pop melodies of The Chain Gang, I could not help but reflect at just how beautiful the moment was. I stopped thinking about the task as a race (I had at that point pulled so far ahead that there was no true feeling of worry anymore), and began to think about all of the work that must have happened behind the scenes to allow me to find myself in this moment. And it truly was me finding myself here. This was a feeling that could not exist in any other medium minus real life. And even then, in real life the soundtrack would be in my head or on some muffled stereo, not something so perfectly married to the picturesque visuals for which I bared witness. The beautiful immersiveness of what Rockstar had created became all the more present to me: the art direction that created the perfect canyon wall; the lighting engine that had created the perfect sunset. But then, what if I had come to that race just a minute later? The sun would have been slightly more set, and the race would finish under the stars rather than the warm glow of god rays barely scraping their way past the canyon walls. I had brought myself to this perfect moment. Not the game. The game only allowed this moment to happen. Here in lies why I love video games. This was an all-too-gamey experience; digital jet skiing through a make-believe canyon. But it was entirely personal at the same time; a moment where I had become the chief character in my own fantastical moment. A few minutes more and the sun was set, but the moment remains in my head. What other form of entertainment could ever give me this?