Everything I Need To Know About Work I Learned From Grand Theft Auto

Another day at the office. 

I will never take any career as seriously as I take my virtual criminal enterprise

I’m incredibly fortunate because not only am I one of the six recent college graduates in America to have a job, but because I also happen to really enjoy that job. I love what I do – I find it fascinating and I love the opportunity to get paid to be creative.

That said, I’m still as much of a lazy shit as I was at any other job I’ve held: When my alarm goes off every morning, my first thought is, FUCK me, I’ve got to go to work. BULLSHIT. Even though I’m going to end up enjoying what I’m doing, I still hate having to get up and go do it. Likewise, I spend the last couple hours of the day with one eye on the clock, looking forward to going home. I work to live, not the other way around.

However, when I’m playing an up-and-coming freelance thug in a Grand Theft Auto game, I’m an absolute workaholic. Each successive installment in the Grand Theft Auto series has added more and more extra activities to their vast open worlds – street races, stunt jump challenges, minigames like pool – but I eschew virtually all of them in favor of rushing across town to get another mission from whatever bent cop or sociopathic crimelord needs a witness assassinated or a brick of heroin stolen.

My in-game avatar will work mission after mission for virtual days on end without seeing the inside of his apartment or even changing his clothes. If I brought the same sort of enthusiasm to writing that I bring to gangland hits and drug dealing, I’d have won the Nobel Prize for literature by my sophomore year of college.

Networking is everything

These guys probably have kickass business cards. 

Just about every Grand Theft Auto game starts like this: You’re an everyday guy with impeccable driving skills and decidedly hazy morals who shows up, penniless and alone, in a fictitious American city. You’ve got one eccentric friend or relative in the area who inevitably is in a serious pickle that can only be resolved by you killing someone – presumably because it wouldn’t be a very interesting game if you just had to help your friend move a couch into his new apartment or something.

So the way it pans out is that you do a bunch of shitty low level jobs for your friend until, in the course of one of your missions, you meet somebody who’s impressed with your ability to run over a prostitute while simultaneously sniping the fuel line of a pursuing police cruiser with your Uzi, and then that person starts offering you work. You meet people through those jobs who start offering you work and so on and so forth until you’re suddenly the most sought after mass murderer this side of Uday Hussein.

The only way you can get work in Grand Theft Auto is by making a name for yourself on the strength of your talent alone. You never apply for a job or hand some mob boss a resume (JULY 2006 – SAN ANDREAS – SHOT DOWN POLICE HELICOPTER W/ ROCKET LAUNCHER, STOLE ICE CREAM TRUCK, RAN OVER OLD LADY) – you just do good work and make connections.

In my first month in LA I sent out probably 150 resumes and online applications for various entry level industry jobs and didn’t hear back from any of them. Finally, I finagled an unpaid internship, and thanks to my two-pronged method of writing great script coverage and kissing copious amounts of ass, I got the people there to hook me up with about a dozen paid production assistant gigs.

I didn’t blow up a helicopter or run over any prostitutes (quite the opposite – I lived in harmony with about 50 of them for two weeks) but my reputation as a friendly and helpful PA got me a good reputation, which turned into more work.

The downside to that was that, as a production assistant, I was the bottom of the food chain and an easy target for abuse and misdirected rage from the various coked-out producers calling the shots on set. Fortunately, years of Grand Theft Auto taught me that…

It usually pays off to work for a total douchecanoe, at least for a while 

This is actually one of your least threatening employers.

Your employers in Grand Theft Auto exist far outside the realm of normative social behavior. If you try to count how many times one of your employers screams at you, kills one of his underlings in front of you, waves a gun around, threatens to kill you, or actually tries to kill you, you’re going to need a pretty huge abacus. (Or, y’know, a four function calculator.)

Grand Theft Auto isn’t a game that rewards you for making a principled stand regarding your workplace conditions – you can either work for crazy people who routinely threaten and backstab you, or you can turn off the XBox and go read a book or some stupid shit like that. Over the course of the work you do for these nutjobs, you wind up making a lot of money and connections that allow you to move onto more lucrative work, leaving your old bosses in the dust. (Sometimes, you get to kill them later, which is an added bonus.)

The last PA job I ever did was without a doubt my worst. I’d worked with this company once before – they’d gotten my name from the folks at my internship – and they called me back to do three days as an office PA and two days as a set PA for a commercial for a South Korean bank.

The producer – my boss – was a South Korean national with a thick accent, a short temper, and the lumpy build and Communistic-chic fashion sense of the late Kim-Jong Il. He was great at giving vague, unintelligible instructions, and then flipping out when his implied demands weren’t followed to the letter. 

Two people have ever thought these glasses were fashionable, and I worked for the other one.

On day three of working with this cocksucker* he came back to the office from an errand, took one look at the production booklets I’d put together according to his very hazy specifications, and went nuts at me in front of everyone in the office. 

*If you’re a male or female who legitimately enjoys sucking on penises, please don’t take offense – I’ve got no problem with people who literally suck cocks, but I cannot abide a cocksucker.  

He flipped through one of the booklets, tearing pages out, yelling at me and demanding to know why I hadn’t included this table or why I’d used that font or put such and such section ahead of some other section – all things that he’d just assumed, like the shittiest of girlfriends, that I would know I had to do.

Finally, he pointed to an actress’s picture on the call sheet.

“What is her call time tomorrow?” He demanded.

“I… I’m sorry, I don’t know.” I stammered.

He pounded his fist on the desk. “8:30 AM! You should know this! This should be your Bible! If you ask me another question, you’re fired! I’ve worked with you twice now – ask yourself, why would I want to work with you again?”

So we all had to stay three hours late, remaking the booklets to his marginally different specifications. On set the following day, he made so many changes to the schedule that the books were all completely useless within 30 minutes.

Immediately after being publicly humiliated for no reason, I was very seriously flirting with the notion of marching into his office and quitting. In my country, that’s not how we talk to people! I imagined myself yelling in the least racist way possible.

As a general rule, dropping Frank Costello quotes is not a good way to make friends.

But ultimately I swallowed my pride and finished out my week working for The Cocksucker – I hadn’t had a job in months, and I desperately needed the money.

In my second day on set, I wound up palling around with an art department PA. We hit it off and had a great time shit-talking The Cocksucker behind his back at every opportunity. We exchanged information, and a week later the art department PA called me to let me know his friend’s ad agency was looking for freelance copy writers, and would I be interested?

If I’d jumped ship the minute The Cocksucker went all cocksucker on me, I never would’ve met the art PA (JonathanDenmark.com) who set me up with a fantastic job. In all likelihood, I’d still be foraging for $100 a day PA work, getting up at 3:30 AM and breathing cigarette fumes and BO from the grips.

The Cocksucker’s company called me earlier today, offering me a PA gig. I politely declined, and told the person on the phone that I don’t do PA work anymore. I had leveraged my work for the low-level mob flunky into a contract with a friendly and professional major crime syndicate, and I needed him no longer.

Now, I’m making it my goal to become successful enough that I can afford to buy The Cocksucker’s company through an anonymous third party, and then force him to watch as I burn the building to the ground, all while dancing around cackling, flipping him off, and yelling, “Who’s fired now!?” There would probably be an arson investigation, but I could easily elude the authorities by having my car repainted and lying low for a couple of minutes.

At least, that’s how I roll in Grand Theft Auto.

Truman Capps hopes that an inordinately long update makes up for the lateness.