Parallels: Why Grand Theft Auto V’s Los Santos is Not Los Angeles

In the second episode of Parallels, our video team decided to take a deep dive into the environmental design choices of Grand Theft Auto V. Los Santos is basically Los Angeles, right? Episode producer Ben Wright posits that it’s not at all Los Angeles as Angelenos know it.

Whatever you think about their conclusion, I can at least tell you my own experience with GTAV and living in Los Angeles.

I played the original release of GTAV on PS3 in 2013, but I didn’t play it much. I bounced off of it because in 2013 I was <checks notes> closing a business I started and getting a divorce. Yikes. 2013 was a lot.

Anyway, the PS4 release over a year later found me in a happier place. I was celebrating a year together with my eventual, current spouse and she was trying to convince me to move from the traffic hell of Austin, TX to the traffic hell of Los Angeles, CA. I played a lot more GTAV the second time around.

My view of Los Angeles wasn’t quite the half-glossy, half-explosive version of Last Action Hero (nice pull, Ben), but it was obviously inspired by films and by Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and GTAV. I tried to figure out where we’d live by playing GTAV like a tourist. I’d take cabs from one side of the map to the other just to see the scenery.

Even if I don’t particularly love Rockstar’s sensibilities when it comes to “satire,” I hugely admire the detail of their game worlds.

When we actually moved to Los Angeles, I found a city more vibrant, interesting, and sincere than Los Santos. I fell in love with this city fast and it fortunately never reminds me of the bizarro world Rockstar built, as impressive as it is.

Please watch this episode of Parallels and let us know what other comparisons you’d like us to make!