The United States of America (USA), more commonly known as the United States (U.S.) or America, is a federal constitutional republic situated mostly in central North America. Its 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C., the capital district, rests between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, bordered by Canada to the north and Mexico to the south. The state of Alaska is in the northwest of the continent, with Canada to the east and Russia to the west across the Bering Strait. The state of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific. The country also possesses several territories in the Pacific and Caribbean such as Puerto Rico.
The United States in Grand Theft Auto
In the Grand Theft Auto universe, most of the locations in the games are based on cities and states found in the real-life USA.
- Liberty City is based on New York City and is one of the three settings of Grand Theft Auto and the main setting of Grand Theft Auto III, Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories and Grand Theft Auto IV. It also makes a minor appearance in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
- Vice City is based on the city of Miami and the Keys located in South Florida. It is one of the three settings in Grand Theft Auto and the main setting in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories.
- San Andreas takes different inspirations depending of the universe:
- The city from the 2D Universe is based on San Francisco, California. It is one of the three setings in Grand Theft Auto.
- The state from the 3D Universe is inspired by the real-life states of California and Nevada, comprised of fictional cities based on real cities in those states, these are: Los Santos (Los Angeles), San Fierro (San Francisco) and Las Venturas (Las Vegas).
- The state from the HD Universe is closely based on real-life Southern California and is comprised of two main counties: Los Santos County and Blaine County. It is the main setting of Grand Theft Auto V and Grand Theft Auto Online.
- The State of New Guernsey is based on the state of New Jersey and is located to the west of Liberty City. Although the two states are completely independent from one another, Guernsey City is known by many as being part of Liberty City's metropolitan area. It is part of the first two first chapters of the first Grand Theft Auto.
- The State of Alderney is based on the state of New Jersey and is located to the west of Liberty City. Although the two states are completely independent from one another, Alderney City is known by many as being part of Liberty City's metropolitan area. It is part of the main setting of Grand Theft Auto IV.
- The State of North Yankton is based on North Dakota and is the minor setting in Grand Theft Auto V, in the Prologue and in the mission Bury the Hatchet.
The State of San Andreas, which contains three large cities and rural areas with small towns between, is located in the American Southwest, considering it has large deserts. The 3D Universe's Liberty City is located somewhere in the Northeast, since it snowed in the mission Saint Mark's Bistro in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and the player must fly eastwards to get there. The Grand Theft Auto IV rendition of Liberty City is in Liberty City State, also located on the East Coast. Note that the 3D Universe and HD Universe do not follow the same canon.
Vice City is located in the South of the United States. Unlike the other cities featured in-game, Vice City is the only known fictional city to be located in a real-life state, as various characters refer to the city as being located in Florida.
In all the games (excluding GTA V), the cities are always located on several islands connected by bridges. They appear to be isolated islands in the middle of the sea, but this is due to game limitations. Rockstar Games have stated that they avoid placing unreachable pieces of land within the games to keep the complete feel to the game. There are multiple islands, and every game except GTA V starts with certain bridges blocked, restricting the player from exploring the entire city at the start of the game. There is always a story why the bridges are shut, sometimes relative to the location of the game; for example, the bridges in Vice City are shut due to hurricane warnings, while in HD-era Liberty City, they are blocked due to to terrorist threats, and bridges in San Andreas are blocked because of a major earthquake and Frank Tenpenny warning Carl that he couldn't leave the town. These restrictions are lifted as the story progresses, with the earlier reason for them being closed having passed, unlocking new parts of the city/state for the player to explore.
Other cities are mentioned as well and some of them are the main settings of other Rockstar's videogames:
- Bullworth is a town in New England, and is where the game Bully takes place, apparently as a bridge between the 3D and HD Universes. GTA IV contains references to Bully, as Bully contains references to 3D Universe.
- Carcer City is an industrial city located in the Rusty Belt area of U.S.A., and is where the game Manhunt takes place. It takes place in the 3D Universe. There are references to Manhunt in GTA III during a news segment on the radio saying that Carcer City is not too far from Liberty City.
- It is unknown whether New Austin, Nuevo Paraiso, and West Elizabeth are in the same universe, as there are no references to indicate this, but nothing to contradict it either; however, the real states of New York and California are mentioned in the game, so all three regions may be in a different universe. However, Sandy Shores (small town which featured in GTA V) has a street named Cholla Springs Avenue, a reference to a desert location in Red Dead Redemption. There is also a car hire business named Escalera Rent-A-Car, a reference to the Nuevo Paraiso town of Escalera. Also in GTA Online, you can pick John Marston or a descendant of the aforementioned to be your father.
- During the mission Practice Swing in The Ballad of Gay Tony, Tony refers to Rocco as being under the age of consent in Utah, thus confirming the State of Utah's existence in the GTA universe.
- Tony also refers Ohio as stated in a Liberty Tree article: " If I wanted to go to bed at 8 pm everyday, I would go to Ohio. Not that there's anything wrong with Ohio. I just used it as an example".
- In a GTA IV commercial for the in-game movie Dragon Brain, California was mentioned.
- The state of Arizona is referenced by congressman Thomas Stubbs in The Lost and Damned 's final mission "Get Lost".
Throughout the GTA games, numerous United States politicians are mentioned, including presidents, congressmen, governors, and mayors. These include both fictional and real-life individuals. Fictional U.S. politicians are used to parody several real-life individuals as well as the U.S. and local governments.
- John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) - In GTA San Andreas, set in 1992, The Truth mentions John F. Kennedy and his assassination.
- Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) - Mentioned on the radio and his photo is an Easter egg in GTA Vice City.
- George W. Bush (2001-2009) - The Liberty Tree article "The W Comes To Town" shows George W. Bush having just been elected president at the time of GTA III, entirely canon with real-life events.
- Alex Shrub (?-1986) - A fictional right-wing Florida congressman appearing in GTA Vice City whose name and mannerisms are based on George H.W. Bush, voices his intention to run for president, although he fails after his affair with porn star Candy Suxxx becomes public (all of this happening in 1986). Said affair became a very public spectacle, even across the country in San Andreas where photos of Shrub and Suxxx are seen on Carl Johnson's wall.
- Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809) - Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton mentioned in GTA IV in TV program A History of Liberty City.
- Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865) - Abraham Lincoln and his assassin John Wilkes Booth are mentioned on the GTA V website Yourdeadfamily.com.
- George Lawton (Unknown) - Presumably based on George H.W. Bush. He became a senator after serving as president.
- Joe Lawton (Unknown-present) - A parody of former president George W. Bush mentioned in both GTA IV and GTA V.
- Julio Ochoa (2001-2009) - Liberty City Mayor. Possibly a parody of Michael Bloomberg or Rudolph Giuliani.
- John Hunter (2008) - A liberal candidate running for governor of the State of Liberty in GTA IV.
- Michael Graves (2008) - A conservative candidate running for governor of the State of Liberty in GTA IV.
- Jock Cranley (2013) - A conservative candidate running for governor of the State of San Andreas in GTA V.
- Sue Murry (2013) - A liberal candidate running for governor of the State of San Andreas in GTA V.
While similar to the real life USA in a number of ways, there are a few notable differences with the United States of America in Grand Theft Auto, with the most obvious one being the exaggerated amorality and corruption.
Government and Politics
In the 3D universe, particularly during the 1980s, rampant anti-communist fervor was on display, paralleling the Cold War politics of the era. However, as of the HD universe era, political undertones that had once been sidelined in the 3D universe era are now more blatant, often reflecting the controversies and issues surrounding the real-world United States of 2008 and 2013.
In 2008, fear of terrorism is seen as a valid reason to close the bridges of Liberty City, thus making the life of common people difficult (much of this is seen as a jab at Bush-era neoconservatism, as well as the paranoia and jingoism common to that time in history). It is also worth noting that the country has reputedly fought an Australian-American War, and this event is canon in both the 3D and HD Universe. Likewise, as of 2013, paranoid right wing nativism appears to exist alongside exaggerated left-wing hypocrisy, particularly with regards to characters such as Devin Weston. Overall, Grand Theft Auto's depiction of American politics is shown to exaggerate and lampoon both sides of the political spectrum.
The Federal Government, on the other hand, is also shown to either be highly corrupt, incompetent, or downright malignant in some cases, with branches of the government such as the International Affairs Agency covertly planning to commit acts of state-sponsored terrorism to increase their funding by the government. Paramilitaries and private security firms such as Merryweather Security are allowed to act openly on US soil, often with the overt sanction of the US government.
The United States of the Grand Theft Auto universe is shown to be economically powerful (much like the real life United States), with companies and businesses often paralleling real-life industries. It is shown that in the 3D Universe, there was some backlash to the prevalence of Japanese manufacturing in the United States in the 1980s-1990s, paralleling similar sentiments in the real-world United States of that time period.
By the 21st Century of the HD Universe, the American economy is shown to be dominant worldwide, although some businesses such as the automotive company Bravado have been bailed out by the US government, paralleling the actual auto industry bailouts of in the United States. Judging by how some businesses are displayed on the internet and on television adverts, deregulation and the non-existence of safety standards appears to be more commonplace with regards to many industries in the GTA universe, such as the tobacco industry and the arms industry. By 2013, internet companies and social media firms such as LifeInvader are shown to have become excessively invasive in people's lives, both publicly and intimately.
Entertainment and Mass Media
Society has become indifferent to the point that on some radio stations, violence is allowed to go unpunished and sometimes even encouraged. One radio host allowed an unhinged man to fracture the skulls of two other guests on broadcast with a drill, and another radio station features a judge who frequently abuses his power, displays rampant sexism, and at one point forces defendants to fight each other to the death.
News media parallels the actual state of American broadcast news, often with an extreme and hyperbolic political slant (uncommon to the real-world of 2008 and 2013, but far more prevalent as of the late 2010s-early 2020s). Political pundits are shown to endorse questionable and often violent tactics, such as right-wing talk show host, Richard Bastion, who has encouraged his viewers to openly shoot at civilians on the Liberty City Subway under suspicion of speaking Spanish.
From 2013 to 2018, American society has become morally bankrupt enough that television shows regularly air blatantly disturbing and deranged content, ranging from crimes being openly committed on air to televising extreme right wing and left wing cartoons. The talent show Fame or Shame shows open racism and has the host frequently bullied and even outright assaulted. The Jack Howitzer reality program shows Jack firing a gun at the TV crew and is implied to have the killed previous talent agent. A dead prostitute can also been seen in the motel Jack is living in. Again, there does not seem to be any legal consequences for these actions.
Vehicular gladiatorial death matches such as Arena War are seemingly legal and is shown to a live audience in the maze stadium, it is also broadcasted through streaming devices such as the internet. Spectators are encouraged to interfere and even murder the contestants during the matches. The commentators are also gleeful and mocking in their commentary on the destruction and homicides that occur during matches, showing no regarding or care for the numerous deaths that occur.
Religion in GTA's depiction of the United States is often shown to be corrupt and hypocritical, with Megachurch pastors in the 3D Universe such as Pastor Richards lampooning real-life televangelists. As of 2013, new-age cults such as the Children of the Mountain and the Epsilon Program are shown to be prevalent, with the Epsilon Program having achieved immense money and influence through their followers. Some groups, such as the Altruist Cult, are shown to be more reclusive, likely due to their cannibalistic tendencies.
Science and Technology
The United States of the GTA universe is shown to be more technologically advanced than in real life, to minor extents in the 3D Universe (with experimental technologies such as the Jetpack), as well as exaggerated elements bordering on science fiction in the HD universe. In 2008, two Libertytreeonline.com articles demonstrate that human cloning is close to becoming a reality, and may have likely been successful as of 2017. In 2013, portable Railgun weapons exist, while as of 2017, multiple countries and private individuals are developing sentient artificial intelligences alongside orbital space-based weaponry.
- Liberty City (New York City)
- Central Landmass (Manhattan)
- Eastern Landmass (Brooklyn, Queens)
- Minor Islands (Roosevelt Island, Rikers Island)
- North Eastern Island (The Bronx)
- State of New Guernsey (New Jersey)
- San Andreas (San Francisco)
- Northern Landmass (San Francisco)
- South Eastern Landmass (Marin County)
- Vice City (Miami)
- Western Landmass (Miami Mainland)
- North Eastern Island (Miami Beach)
- Eastern Island
- Liberty City
Note: The latter is not included in any gameworld, and therefore inaccessible in-game.
- Bone County
- Flint County
- Las Venturas (Las Vegas)
- Los Santos (Los Angeles)
- Red County
- San Fierro (San Francisco)
- Tierra Robada
- Alaska (mentioned in the talk show Pressing Issues in VCPR)
- Idaho (mentioned by Toni on Flash FM in GTA Vice City)
- Indiana (mentioned by Toni on Flash FM in GTA Vice City)
- Kansas (mentioned by pedestrians in and on the talk show Pressing Issues in VCPR GTA Vice City)
- Miami (mentioned in GTA III and GTA Vice City)
- Los Angeles (Hollywood is mentioned in GTA Advance and Manhunt. Pictures of Los Angeles can be found inside Madd Dogg's Crib in GTA San Andreas.)
- Nebraska (mentioned by Toni on Flash FM in GTA Vice City)
- Alabama (mentioned by Pastor Richards as his place of birth in a fictional town named Mars)
- Ohio (mentioned by Mike Toreno in Highjack in GTA San Andreas)
- Nevada (mentioned in the talk show Pressing Issues in VCPR)
- Capital City (Washington, D.C.)
- Columbia, Missouri (Mentioned by Mary-Beth Maybell on K-Rose in GTA San Andreas)
- Green Bay, Wisconsin (Mentioned by BJ Smith on K-Chat in GTA Vice City)
- Nashville, Tennessee (Mentioned by Mary-Beth Maybell on K Rose in GTA San Andreas)
- Tampa, Florida (Mentioned by BJ Smith on K-Chat in GTA Vice City)
- Alderney City (Jersey City)
North Yankton (North Dakota)
- Ludendorff (Fargo)
- Blaine County
- Los Santos County (Los Angeles County)
- Red County
- Arizona (mentioned by Thomas Stubbs in The Lost and Damned, and is also the birthplace of The Ballad of Gay Tony character Evan Moss)
- Michigan (mentioned on Leftover-vacations.com)
- Ohio (mentioned in The Ballad of Gay Tony)
- South Carolina (mentioned on the radio talk show Just or Unjust on WKTT Radio)
- Texas (mentioned in GTA IV as Wade Johnson's birthplace, and in GTA Online)
- Utah (mentioned in The Ballad of Gay Tony)
- California (mentioned in a commercial for the in-game movie Dragon Brain. Silicon Valley is mentioned during The Bogdan Problem in GTA Online.)
- Connecticut (mentioned by various club-goers in The Ballad of Gay Tony)
- Kentucky (Mentioned on a bottle of "Richard's Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey" in GTA V)
- Florida (Mentioned in GTA IV)
- Carcer City (located in the Rusty Belt area of U.S.A.) (mentioned in The Paleto Score)
- Fairbanks (mentioned in The Science Of Crime ad on radio)
- New Orleans (mentioned on Liesdamnlies.net, a user called Phil from London posts about a holiday he took to New Orleans)
- Pittsburgh (mentioned in "Strange Tramps Seen All Over Liberty City")
- San Fierro (mentioned multiple times in GTA IV and also mentioned on Fabien LaRouche's website in GTA V)
- Las Venturas (Mentioned multiple times in GTA IV and on the CB radio of certain cars in GTA V)
- Red County (Mentioned in GTA IV and the CB radio of semi trucks in GTA V)
- The Carraways and specifically, East Carraway, mentioned multiple times in GTA IV and GTA V.
- Salem (a map was seen in the backroom of the club Bahama Mamas in TBoGT)
- Even though the Grand Theft Auto video games are made in the United Kingdom, specifically Edinburgh, Scotland, they are released first in the United States of America, and subsequently Canada followed by the UK and Europe. The games are primarily based on American popular culture, and nearly all have been set in fictitious (or copied) locations on the American mainland. The music, the clothes, the slang, and the abundance of vehicles in the game are considerably of American origin.
- The Idaho, the Washington and the Tampa are vehicles named after American states and cities of the same name.
- The San Andreas Flight School Update added an USA Chute Bag in GTA V and in the enhanced version, the Dukes has a customizable option where the player can add an American flag to the roof of the car for $2,500.
- The Police Stinger police car, the Liberator monster truck and the Sovereign motorcycle have American-themed schemes on it.
- There is a USA/American scheme for the Marshall monster truck.
- Several Vehicle Brands appear to be of an American origin or mostly based on real-life American brands:
- Several weapons in Grand Theft Auto V are stated to be of an American origin or manufactured by American firearm manufacturers.
- Multiple real-life U.S. states are featured in GTA V, on the wall of Sandy's Gas Station near Trevor's Trailer, in the form of license plates. The states included are Washington, Colorado, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, and California (included twice, with different designs). There is also a plate with the year 1965 on it, with the rest of the text covered up.
- The 1965 plate is more than likely from Ohio or based on the Ohio plates from that time.
- A California plate is also visible on a Slamvan wreck located at Stab City in GTA V.