Kylie, who wishes to remain on first name terms, wants to join the police force. Being a cop is a dream she’s held since being a child, but one she didn’t have the confidence to pursue until roleplaying as one in Grand Theft Auto Online.
“I didn’t really think of girls as being cops, and I was always kind of thin and wiry,” Kylie admits. “In addition to that, I also have juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, so I didn’t think it would be manageable or possible to meet my goal. But, after roleplaying as a cop, speaking with other officers, and doing a lot of the beginning process and filling out the physical requirements, I discovered that I can do it.”
The version of GTA Online that Kylie plays isn’t the standard spectacle of guns, chaos, and high-speed car chases others have come to know. Rather, through the use of various mods, it’s a collection of servers that allows players to embody a character through their profession. Some take up the role of journalists, while others fall back into being a criminal.
The most significant difference, though, is that the various GTA RP servers are non-violent. They all abide by a set of rules that brings a sense of realism to each instance. Gun another player down, and the character they were roleplaying dies with them.
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At first it’s a familiar scene: citizens scatter as a police car comes hurtling around a corner, raising the tempo of the chaos you’ve just ignited. Driving that car, however, isn’t the standard NPC programmed to gun you down, but a roleplayer frantically figuring out what to do.
It may sound stressful, but Kylie explains that it’s the kind of rush that drew her to GTA roleplay. “I didn’t know too much about roleplay or any of that, I just wanted to play videogames as a cop,” she explains. “I’ve always wanted something like that, but there was just nothing on the market that’s like a cop simulator. When I saw other people doing this I realised that it was exactly what I was looking for in a videogame. I just haven’t been able to find it until now.”
Not everyone who dons the badge in roleplay wants to serve in real life. For streamer ConfusedDevil, who wishes to remain anonymous, it was a means to escape a physical injury he sustained away from his mouse and keyboard.
“I started Twitch with no real idea of what kind of stream I was going to do,” he recalls. “I hurt my back powerlifting and was told by the doctor to take a year off. So I started with some normal games, doing art, etc. Then I saw an article about people roleplaying in GTA private servers. It sounded hilarious so I searched it up on Twitch. I found Vader, started watching, and then I found Koil – he needed cops so I sent him a message. I wanted to be a cop because I liked Koil’s vision of how he wanted the roleplay to work; he wanted us to be actual characters.”
Grand Theft Auto roleplaying isn’t just an alternative to GTA Online. For these cyber-actors, it’s the immersive experience they had hoped for all along. “When I first heard about GTA Online I remember imagining myself as being able to do whatever I wanted – be in a profession, have a house – basically a roleplaying game,” Kylie says. “But it turned into just shooting cops and blowing things up, which is still fun but it’s not what I was hoping for. In GTA RP, you can provide the more idealistic, down-to-earth, and real-life experience in Grand Theft Auto.”
ConfusedDevil adds: “I have probably played six to seven hours of GTA Online, and the two aren’t comparable. GTA RP is a live, ever-changing group of stories and experiences for all of the players. They can directly influence each other every day. There shouldn’t be any competition in RP, especially not like that in GTA Online. It’s not about ‘accomplishing missions and getting things’; it’s about developing a character that interacts with other characters in a way to develop a continuous story.”
Good roleplay, however, can lead to a visit from viewers with bad intentions. Livestreaming your play sessions leaves you open to anyone who fancies sharing information about other characters you shouldn’t know. It’s called metagaming, and it breaks the immersion upon which roleplay is built. As cops, it’s something that Kylie and ConfusedDevil have bumped into before, because they tend to meet these viewers after arresting their favourite streamers.
“Roleplay is built around trust and believing in the people that you’re roleplaying with – it’s a trust exercise,” Kylie tells me. “It’s not really about winning or losing, and Twitch chats can miss that point as they’re focusing on the ‘winning’ portion. So, you’ll get a lot of Twitch chat that likes to metagame, and they like to spew toxicity and all sorts of terrible things. Cops usually get the brunt of that in roleplay, specifically, because a lot of people view the cops as the enemies in roleplay servers. They’re not the good guys, as most people play criminals.”
ConfusedDevil chimes in. “I want to emphasise that this is 95% from fans of players, not players themselves – NoPixel has a very tight-knit community. There is a lot of immersion, and fans get very involved in their favourite character’s story. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Players that are good at RPing as cops have to be able to work past those instances.”
GTA’s roleplaying scene received a shot in the arm last year when popular streamers Summit1G, TimTheTatMan, and Lirik joined in – giving it exposure to a broader audience. Despite the potential for more harassment, Kylie and ConfusedDevil explain that the influx of interest has been healthy for the scene. It has brought the community to new eyes who are still sticking around long after those streamers have moved on to other games.
“It has been a pretty big shock for almost everyone I’d say,” Kylie tells me. “Back when I started in roleplay if you were averaging 300 viewers, you were relatively successful, and you were doing a good job. That was the medium range, good echelon to be at. Then all of a sudden, people who were averaging 300 to 600 viewers were now at 5,000 to 10,000. I went from averaging 120 to 1200 per stream over a few months.”
Looking toward the future, neither Kylie or Confused Devil see the scene going anywhere, even if interest wanes a bit following the departure of popular variety streamers. “People with 12,000 viewers will go down to whatever they go down to,” Kylie explains. “But until a new roleplay game comes along, there are just too many good stories that can be told in GTA RP. There are too many people who haven’t seen the medium before that are getting freshly exposed to it, and, mainly, what it comes down to is that there is no better game to roleplay in than GTA RP. You can play in Rust, Conan Exiles, and Ark, but it’ll never be as immersive or as engaging as GTA RP.”
As for her aspirations of being a police officer, Kylie tells me she’s still going for it. “I’m still going through the application process currently,” she says. “It’s a long process; there are a lot of rejections and sad news that’ll come along with it. It’s going pretty good so far. I have applications in for a few different departments across the country. I have some interviews scheduled and physical exams – so it’s going well.”