21st October 1997

First release of Grand Theft Auto

The Grand Theft Auto series of video games were among the most influential and groundbreaking of their generation. Initially developed by Scottish programmers David Jones and Mike Dailly, they were published by Dundee-based DMA Design.

In the game, players assume the role of a criminal, who is tasked to perform missions by their superiors. Frequently, as the name suggests, these missions involve driving cars.

18 age rating

The game initially caused some concern. On 27 November 1997, shortly before the game hit British shelves, the Aberdeen Evening Express wrote that “a sick computer game that challenged players to mow down people in a stolen car has been slammed by North-east child care experts… the 18-certificate game awards points to players for shooting down members of the public as well as setting fire to monks… the purpose is to wreak havoc on unsuspecting citizens by seeing how much death and destruction can be caused before police arrive on the scene.”

The game had been given an ‘18’ age rating, meaning it could not legally be sold to children. Retailers who did so risked a significant fine.

Choose a car… and steal it

Three days earlier – on 24 August – the Sunday Mirror had also written about the game under the headline “Learn how to steal cars and kill cops”. Players were given a choice of 35 cars to steal, the paper said. “They then go joyriding through busy city streets – gaining bonus points for killing policemen who get in their way.”

The first Grand Theft Auto was originally released for PCs, with support for Game Boy Colour and PlayStation 1 added subsequently. It was swiftly followed – in 1991 and 2001 respectively – by Grand Theft Auto 2 and Grand Theft Auto III. Support for Game Boy Colour was dropped in 2001, but the game, in which players entered a 3D environment for the first time, was ported to Microsoft Xbox, Apple’s iOS for iPhone, Google’s mobile Android operating system, and Amazon’s FireOS.

Earlier success

DMA Design’s first big success was the game Lemmings, in which players guided the on-screen creatures through a series of obstacles to safety. Released in the early 1990s, it was available on all major platforms and sold in its millions.

Lemmings on a gate post in Dundee
Lemmings on a gate post in Dundee
Lemmings design materials at the McManus in Dundee
Lemmings design materials at the McManus in Dundee

DMA Design was the subject of a series of acquisitions over the years, which eventually saw its assets in American hands. However, development of Grand Theft Auto, by the subsidiary Rockstar North, continues to be based in Edinburgh.



Other events that occured in October

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