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Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto Hardcover – April 1, 2012

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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

How does a group of young underdogs with big dreams but little experience transform a culture and industry? In the case of the $75 billion video game business, it helps if the outfit is run by a brash iconoclast with the vision of an outlaw and the work ethic of a Puritan—and grew up madly in love with gangster movies, video games, and rap music. It also helps if the company makes the most revolutionary, controversial, and successful video game franchise ever—Grand Theft Auto.

In Jacked, acclaimed author and journalist David Kushner takes you on an unauthorized joyride through the high-risk, high-profit, and fast-moving world of the biggest players in the game industry—and the haters out to get them. He reveals the untold story behind the people who created the product that defined one generation and infuriated another.

Drawing on more than a decade of his own reporting, game playing, and interviewing, Kushner goes deep inside the making of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), long veiled in secrecy, rumor, and myth. He also examines the cultural and political backlash that sent sales soaring, even as it threatened the game's continued existence.

This is a pop culture story for the ages. It begins in the back alleys of Dundee, Scotland, where the geeky geniuses at DMA Design invented GTA. Fledgling marketer and rebellious gamer Sam Houser saw GTA's enormous potential and pushed DMA to make it bolder, wilder, and funnier, and let players freely explore the game's gritty cities, wreaking havoc whenever they pleased. With its groundbreaking innovations and cinematic flair, GTA quickly became the centerpiece of Houser's new company, Rockstar Games, and the hottest title on the planet. But one of America's most notorious culture warriors, Jack Thompson, had his own mission—to ensure that GTA was banned from store shelves for corrupting youth and to bring Rockstar to their knees—even as the gamers of the world rallied against him.

With its incredible artistry, arch satire, and massive press coverage, GTA earned critical and commercial acclaim around the world, breaking the Guinness record for most successful entertainment product launch of all time. But deep within its urban wasteland lurked a nasty little secret—the now-famous sex mini-game, "Hot Coffee." It would mean big trouble for Rockstar Games and bring Houser and his rival, Thompson, to the brink.

Whichever side you're on, Jacked gives you a new understanding of this breakout industry, and the game that defined it.

From the Back Cover

Praise for Masters of Doom

"A fascinating portrait of visionary coders transforming a previously marginal hobby into a kind of twenty-first-century art form—and enraging an entire generation of parents along the way. Kushner tells the story with intelligence and a great sense of pacing. Masters of Doom is as riveting as the games themselves."
Steven Johnson, author of Everything Bad Is Good for You and Where Good Ideas Come From

"Masters of Doom is an excellent archetypal tale of hard work and genius being corrupted by fame too young and fortune too fast. I rooted for these guys, was inspired by them, and then was disturbed by them—and was fascinated from beginning to end."
Po Bronson, coauthor of NurtureShock

"Kushner's mesmerizing tale of the Two Johns moves at a rapid clip . . . describing the twists and turns of fate that led them to team up in creating the most powerful video games of their generation . . . An exciting combination of biography and technology."
USA Today

"Meticulously researched . . . as a ticktock of the creative process and as insight into a powerful medium too often dismissed as kids' stuff, Masters of Doom blasts its way to a high score."
Entertainment Weekly

"Kushner's portrait of Carmack is lustrous and gripping . . . An impressive and adroit social history."
The New York Times Book Review

"Terrifically told . . . The storytelling is so fluid, so addictive, that your twitching thumbs keep working the pages."
The Washington Post Book World


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Turner; 1 edition (April 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470936371
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470936375
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #564,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Kushner is an award-winning journalist and author. His books include Masters of Doom, Jonny Magic and the Card Shark Kids, Levittown, Jacked, and The Bones of Marianna (selected by Amazon as a Best Digital Single).

A contributing editor of Rolling Stone, Kushner has written for publications including The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Wired, New York Times Magazine, New York, GQ, and Details. He served as the digital culture commentator for National Public Radio Weekend Edition Sunday. He has been included in The Best American Crime Reporting and The Best Music Writing, and taught as an adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

For articles and info, visit his website

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Charles D. Herold on May 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I recall enjoying Kushner's Masters of Doom, which gave you two interesting characters and some insights into game design and game design personalities. Jacked is not as good a book. It focuses primarily on two people. One is Rockstar co-founder Sam Houser, but while the book tries to portray him as he apparently sees himself - rebel rock star of the gaming world - he comes across more as a pretentious jerk. The other is anti-video-game crusader Jack Thompson, who is given a surprisingly sympathetic portrayal.

Unfortunately this fails to give enough shape and tension to the book, perhaps because these two characters don't know, and don't generally even acknowledge one another. The book probably would have been more interesting if Kushner had detailed more of the bizarre actions that got Thompson disbarred and had focused more on Sam's megalomania. The book also might have been more interesting if it gave you more of a sense of how GTA was developed in the way Masters of Doom gave you a strong sense for what game development was like.

Jacked is also poorly copy edited - I saw an unusual number of typos - and Kushner's prose is sometimes clumsy. It's a perfectly readable book, but ultimately doesn't bring much to the table.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By PhilG on September 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
If David Kushner's other book (Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture) is about success and business souring a friendship, then "Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto" is about the cold business world destroying wild dreams and ambitions.

Sam Housar is a man who came to America with such wild dreams. The president and co-founder of Rockstar Games wanted to create video games that reminded him of the movies he enjoyed in his youth. Not only that, he wanted to make games immersive and sophisticated - an art form that older generations could no longer stereotype as 'children's toys.' But after the multimillion dollar success of the Playstation 2's "Grand Theft Auto" trilogy, Sam and his rebel crew at Rockstar found themselves caught in the crosshairs of an American culture war fueled by puritanical politicians and parents. Pressure only worsened as Rockstar's parent company, Take-Two Interactive, was struck by fraud investigations. Suddenly, making envelope-pushing video games was no longer a dream job... collided with cold reality, it was hell on earth.

The Hot Coffee scandal in particular really drove the boys to the brink. "Jacked" does a good job of showing the immense amounts of tension and soul-crushing strife in the aftermath that forced many to leave the company and others to view their stressful work environment as a place that wasn't quite so fun anymore.

Meanwhile, behind enemy lines and spearheading the attack on Rockstar (or at least trying to make a name for himself as a crusader for justice) was an embittered Miami lawyer.
Read more ›
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By howie black on March 31, 2012
Format: Hardcover
I have been an avid reader of David Kushner books and articles for a long time. I just bought and read Jacked overnight. It is one of those page turners where one chapter leads into the next and you want to see what happens.

Kushner writes clearly and cogently about Grand Theft Auto. I did not now HOW successful a venture that game was. WOW!He makes it evident, but more, he gives you a terrific insight into the whacky life of the creators and how Grand Theft Auto came into being and the extraordinary impact it had on the whole gaming industry from players to Congress.

I would like to see this book as an HBO special or a movie. It will have a huge audience.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Will on August 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As an avid fan of Rockstar this book was a little disappointing. Overall it was well written and informative, but I suppose you can't hope for a happy ending in non fiction

I expected a good deal of bias. I figured Sam Houser would be portrayed as likeable, while Jack Thompson would be slandered. However, I felt sympathetic towards both men at the start of the book and sort of hated them both by the end. Additionally, Rockstar's actions throughout the GTA controversies and the working conditions, apparently for all of their games, left me feeling a bit guilty for supporting the company.

Overall, I enjoyed the book a great deal, finishing it within a day, but it left a bitter taste in my mouth, despite the fact that Kushner tried to show how they had "grown up" with GTA IV.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Liz on April 1, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Kushner provides a fantastic view inside the rise of the tumultuous, controversial and great Rockstar Games. Kushner provides insight to the private geniuses behind some of the greatest games of this and the previous console generation, from the guerrilla marketing campaign at E3 1999 for GTA 2 to the all-night parties at "the Rockstars'" favorite bar to the schism created by the controversial title Manhunt, to Jack Thompson's repeated attempts to take them down Kushner's fantastic novel is the closest thing we'll get to a documentary about Rockstar Games.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By spraypaintsensei on May 14, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fun read about Rockstar Games and GTA. The prose is occasionally difficult to follow and the narrative is not particularly strong, but for anyone interested in Rockstar or video game development in general, it is a very good read. It's full of interesting tidbits and it will definitely keep your attention.
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