By Phil S., part-time contributor and all-the-time husband
As long as there have been video games, there have been people questioning their effect on the player and society. Did pong translate into mad tennis skills? Was Pacman an indictment of the Korean war? Is Grand Theft Auto giving our youth sound financial advice?
Wait, what was that last one?
Yes, hidden not so subtly throughout the Grand Theft Auto series are several critical lessons in money management and building personal success.
1) Debt is Bad
In real life, debt is usually bad. It can be used for good things, houses, student loans, etc, but it can easily build up into a crushing weight.
In the Grand Theft Auto games, you are taught early on the dangers of taking on debt. In the game, you are even placed in the position of a professor, teaching others to not go into debt. This lesson usually entails a baseball bat and the instructees legs, but a lesson is a lesson. Debt is bad.
2) Save up for what you want
Because you have learned to not go into debt, or use banks, as a player you have to save up for the weapons or body armor you want. If you have $19,995, and the Explodifier 4500 costs $20,000, then you are out of luck until you… acquire, the remaining $5 (Beating up drug dealers is an excellent source of supplemental income, and tax free too!). You cannot negotiate with the game.
If you don’t have enough money, you can’t buy it. Whether it’s a house, an Explodifier 4500, or a car. Wait, can you even pay for cars in this game? I thought they were just paraded outside your house in a long line of available options.
3) Look for Bargains & Recycle
So you finally have enough money for the Explodifier 4500. You’ve waited so long for this moment. Oh shit. You’re now running out of ammo in your other weapons, and the Explodifier only comes with 8 rounds. That’ll only hold the cops at bay for 2 minutes, this is completely unacceptable.
Ah, but wait. Legend has it that several of the weapons you already have can be found in nearby alleyways and on the roof of the chicken place (because where else would you find AK47 ammunition?). If you fetch those, then you can still get the Explodifier!
4) Be A Business Owner
There comes a point in the game where the missions just aren’t paying enough anymore, and the drug dealers are proving harder to find. How are you going to keep making money to keep your unspent ammunition collection strong? The answer is to buy an asset.
Deliver some “packages” around the city, and the corner store will now supply you with a daily income to keep you in the lifestyle to which you have become accustomed.
Building a solid network of contacts is the key to your characters success in GTA. While helping one of your friends out with that debt problem from earlier, you meet someone else who then offers you more work. One contact leads you to another contact, in an increasing spiral of responsibility. As you prove your worth to one person, another person takes an interest in you and you add someone else to your network.
Tragically, you will need to cut some of the earlier contacts in your network loose over time. Typically, with a high speed chase and a shotgun, and occasionally with an apache attack helicopter and missiles. Ah, that is the way of it sometimes with networks. Some will come, and some gotta go. Explosion-style.
As the Wise Wizards of Rockstar Games have shown us, there are a few key financial lessons that we can take from GTA and apply in our own life. Maybe just…without the Explodifier 4500 and the drug dealers…