Grand Theft Auto (GTA) is a video game series published by Rockstar Games. The first Grand Theft Auto game, released in 1997, was divided into a set of three cities-Liberty City, Vice City, and San Andreas. Viewed from a top down perspective, players possessed free rein to roam around the city and cause chaos and destruction. In order to advance to the next city, players earned points through criminal activities such as stealing cars and killing non-player characters (NPCs).
Grand Theft Auto III introduced the franchise to fully three-dimensional character models through the use of a 3-D game engine. Like previous games, players could explore and cause havoc in whatever way they chose. However, this new generation of GTA games placed greater emphasis on story by taking inspiration from classic crime films and American popular culture. The success of Grand Theft Auto III's 3-D open world inspired an entire genre of sandbox action adventure video games, known as Grand Theft Auto clones, including games like Saints Row, Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven, and Sleeping Dogs.
The game's success also led to controversy. Grand Theft Auto's aggressively violent content has drawn attention from lawyers and politicians. Additional criticisms have be made about the game's use of drugs and prostitution-the latter being a way in which players can restore character health. In 2004, Rockstar Games became the subject of a Federal Trade Commission inquiry when a fan unlocked previously inaccessible code in the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The code, nicknamed "Hot Coffee," was discovered to be a sexual mini-game involving the player character and his in-game girlfriends. Though this code was hidden and ultimately cut from the final game, its presence was enough to cause a media storm about sexual content in video games. In 2008, Rockstar was once again the source of controversy when Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) condemned Grand Theft Auto IV for including an option to allow players to drive while intoxicated.
Grand Theft Auto has grown to be one of the most popular and controversial video game franchises, with approximately ten games and spin-offs released across numerous platforms in its first decade. Grand Theft Auto III along with sequels San Andreas and Vice City rank as the 2nd, 5th and 6th highest rated PlayStation 2 games on popular review site Metacritic. As of September 2011, the franchise as a whole has sold more than 114 million games.