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Extra Life


Brett Massé

Confused and falling in love while playing ‘Grand Theft Auto’

Ar 170719564
Alexi Grojean/Special to DGO
Ar 170719564
Alexi Grojean/Special to DGO

Are you in love? If your answer is yes, can you tell me how you know? Can you describe the point where it turns into being in love rather than something else? Think about it for a while because I’m confident your immediate answers will scarcely compare to your answer if you chew on it a little longer.

I think “Jazzzkat” and “Doughnut98” probably chewed on it for a long time. I’m sure they weren’t even consciously aware of those questions when they first met on that heist job in 2010. I’m sure no one playing a heist job in “Grand Theft Auto IV” had even been remotely close to considering such questions as they sped through the city and down to the dockyards, guns at the ready, shoulders tense and hands clenched. But they would ask those questions eventually, laying the brickwork for a complex scaffolding they would never finish, but always be tending to.

Jazzzkat and Doughnut98 were both college students separated by only a couple years in age and 5,245 miles. Doughnut was studying accounting and business in England but seldom went to class due to some crippling shyness and a pension for long stretches of gaming at home. Jazzzkat was floating through degrees and found the anthropology degree program to be comfortable enough. Though, at a certain point, escaping the confines of reality had become far more appealing. That and, strangely, shooting up some barge filled with Russian gangsters with a handful of strangers along with this “Doughnut” guy.

Frequently we decide our actions with a loose sense of cause and effect. Sometimes we orchestrate our circumstances such that we’ll be happy or at least content with the results. Occasionally we completely lose control of our feelings and take wild stabs in the dark at what can only marginally be classified as “rational behavior.” Gripping tightly to any outcome usually makes the situation more extreme. It is an exhausting, dizzying, frightening, tasty, and wonderful experience of the human condition. I hope you go through it soon, ever, often.

Online multiplayer in many games can be an unruly, foul bitch of an experience, rife with trolls, griefers, and other exciting flavors of scum and villainy. Online multiplayer in “GTA” is definitely no exception. A prime specimen, actually. Now, I’m not saying it will always be a wretched time, but I never would have imagined it as a place for two lovely people to fall in love. I’ve ran successful heist operations, burgled some banks, raced across the city, and leapt from a helicopter into a backyard pool, but I had never witnessed anything like a life-changing occurrence catalyze in a different reality.

In the case between Jazzzkat and Doughnut98, they were wholly unprepared for falling in love. They did what anyone has the impulse to do, and that was proceed to behave in a manner that suggested they didn’t have these confusing feelings for one another. And would keep playing at odd hours for long hours. And occasionally skip classes. And get awful sleep. Ignore piling dishes. Neglect laundry. Stare at the screen. Stare at the ceiling. Stare out the window. Wondering.

It was pretty strongly headed in one direction from the start. You may feel like I did at the time and just want them to figure it out and see them make it work. But they were confronted with a lot of “““rational””” reasons like school, distance, and money. You’ll appreciate the quotation marks around “rational” when I tell you that one of the biggest reasons for their confusion was the fact they were both men who had never really been confronted by their own sexuality before. I’ve looked, but so far there isn’t a rulebook on that or in-game tutorial with floating arrows and dialogue options. Maybe someday. Probably never.

Whatever it ended up costing them, I was happy to learn that Jazzzkat had moved to England by the time I met them again – in-game – a couple years later. By then, an addition to “GTA IV” had come out called “The Ballad of Gay Tony,” which I can only now, upon writing this, appreciate how fitting that was. We were enjoying some base jumping and reckless shenanigans when they told me. They were still figuring a lot of it out. They were still asking a lot of questions. They still probably don’t have answers to all of them. I’m usually suspicious of people that do.

Brett Massé is currently playing “STRAFE” by Pixel Titans