A hypothetical take on a ‘Grand Theft Auto’ game based on Fargo
By Turner Blaufuss
For 20 years Rockstar Games has been cranking out the highly successful “Grand Theft Auto” series.
The controversial games, which are set in a fictional (crime-filled) version of the world, have immersed gamers with parody cities like Liberty City (New York City), Vice City (Miami) and Los Santos (Los Angeles). Judging by the artwork in its most recent release, “Grand Theft Auto V,” the game’s creators also had Fargo in mind.
North Dakota easter eggs already present in ‘Grand Theft Auto’ designs
Although most people would quickly brush it off saying, “A lot of theaters look like that,” the game’s wiki confirms the inspiration of the Pollock Cinema was the Fargo Theatre. Along with the similar building, other familiar Fargo and Dakota sights can be seen.
Fans of the title will remember North Yankton as the location of the opening mission and the only area of the game that didn’t allow the player to explore. There’s a lot more to the snowy area than some fans realize. According to the game’s wiki, the state of North Yankton is possibly based on North Dakota. Yankton is also the name of a town in South Dakota.
One Fargo blogger, who is listed as “Gotown,” compiled all the similarities he found between his hometown and the game’s design. Along with the theater, there were familiar police cars, a resemblant state patrol seal, similar map designs and a church that looked a lot like St. Mary’s Cathedral in Fargo.
The fictional town within North Yankton is Lundendorff, which makers of the game based on Fargo and Bismarck. There’s also a little bit of South Dakota flavor. The license plates have a red stripe with white “YANKTON” text, which was modeled after the lower Dakota’s 2001-2006 plates.
Creating the Red River Valley
With all the nods to the Fargo-Moorhead area, it makes some gamers wonder what would a “Grand Theft Auto” game be like if it parodied the Fargo-Moorhead lifestyle?
A few long-time fans of the series weighed in on what they’d expect from a hypothetical “GTA Fargo” game.
“I would play a Fargo-based ‘GTA,’” MSUM alumni and video game enthusiast Tim Bullock said. “I think it would be awesome. It would be interesting to see locations from Fargo and Moorhead brought to life. One of the nice things about a Fargo-based ‘GTA’ is the wide variety you can have. Downtown Broadway, the more suburban areas, north Fargo and West Fargo, too.”
Minnesota State University Moorhead student Harrison Rothfork, who plays the game online with Bullock, would also enjoy seeing his own community on his Playstation. He even had some ideas for the game’s story mode, which would likely be the first video game to ever take place in North Dakota.
“I think it’d be super cool to have a game based on where I live,” Harrison Rothfork said. “The setting would be a lot more entertaining. It’d be fun to go places and do things that I normally wouldn’t be able to. I think it’d be cool to have the (Red River) be prominent to the story. It’d be fun to have the popular bars and restaurants be open to go into or have them directly be involved with the plot.”
Planes, trains and tractors?
When your game starts with, “Grand Theft Auto,” players expect a wide range of vehicles. “GTA Fargo” would be able to oblige with its version of The Fargo Air Museum.
Even though the game would primarily take place in the metro area, the agriculture aspect would still likely play a major role in missions. Rothfork said that long and frequent trains would also make the F-M experience genuine.
“Fargo-ish missions would be farming-related. Something with the trains, too, would be nice,” Rothfork said. “Everyone hates the trains in the F-M area, but they’re needed.”
Although Rothfork was spot-on by saying the trains would be a realistic hassle, the guys at Rockstar beat the fans to the punch once again. Bullock, who actually noticed that North Yankton was based off North Dakota when he first bought the game in September of 2013, said the trains are almost as bad in the game as they are in real life.
“It’s pretty awesome. You can tell it’s accurate because even though it’s a short section of the game, the trains are a huge pain,” Bullock said.
Rothfork, who sells motorcycles for Legendary Motorsports of Fargo, said he realized there are a lot more other bikers in the Red River Valley than most people realize. This would fit in perfectly, since all of the recent “GTA” installments have a ton of bikers riding around. He also said North Dakota would be an ideal fit for the franchise because the “GTA” series is known for its wide open space that allows the players to explore.
“I’d want the openness of North Dakota because once you’re outside of city limits, you can take vehicles and just go crazy,” Rothfork said.
Mixing the culture into the experience
No “GTA” game is complete without its side missions. Downtown Fargo-Moorhead could host several of the locations. Both of the video game enthusiasts said weekends at the bars would be essential to the game’s storyline.
“The well-known bars and all of Broadway street should be put in,” Rothfork said. “They sure as heck better not forget the backbone of Moorhead, which is J.C. Chumley’s.”
Bullock agrees. “The nightlife is a big part of Fargo, so they would definitely need to capture that spirit.”
These two video game veterans say the ideal main character would be someone who just moved to town. An outsider would likely view the area as “a culture, with no culture,” and would frequently comment on how there’s really nothing to do but go out and drink.
As the game’s protagonist bounces from the parodied versions of all the downtown Fargo bars like “Old Broad’s Way” and “The Fickled Ferrot,” he starts to wonder, “Why are all these wasted people celebrating in gold shirts?”
“There would definitely be a lot of green and yellow walking down virtual Fargo streets,” Bullock said. “The Bison are an integral part of Fargo’s community. Of course Rockstar would put their own spin on us.”
The NDSU fans could also set up a joke about how the game is unrealistic because the gold team wins basically every time they play, because five-straight national championships sounds a lot more realistic on a video game.
“NDSU of course,” Rothforks said. “Everyone loves it so it needs to be there a lot. Everybody around here loves football.”
‘Fargo’ references? Oh, ‘Yeah, you betcha’
Rockstar would have a field day with the Midwestern stereotypes.
“Midwest stereotypes would be the Minnesota accent. I’d like to see the Minnesota nice stereotype present too,” Rothfork said.
Since the game would be especially focused on the accents like in the movie “Fargo,” it only makes sense to base some of the plot off the famous Coen brothers film.
“I know a lot of people disagree with the accent, but you’d need to have it to a certain degree,” Bullock said. “You’d definitely have to have a ‘Fargo’ movie mission, complete with the wood chipper.”
Bullock said outdoor sports would be a welcome element in the game, along with a couple of other special touches to make the world feel like home.
“Cornholing would definitely need to be a mini-game, along with hunting, fishing and snowmobiling,” Bullock said. “There would need to be hotdish.”
Along with all the unique aspects of Fargo-Moorhead, an advantage Fargo could have on larger cities is actually its modest size. The smaller the map, the less game developers need to cut out.
Speaking of advantages, the biggest (and most selfish) reason “GTA Fargo” should get the green light is the competitive edge the locals would have on their competition.
“I know when I have played the other ‘GTAs’ it got incredibly frustrating not remembering where anything was on the map because it’s so big,” said MSUM student Tayler Ward. “I think something like (“GTA Fargo”) would definitely help the people around here have more success because they know where to go.”
(Turner Blaufuss is a senior majoring in multimedia journalism at MSUM. He’s currently working as a sports editor for the Wahpeton Daily News and will continue to work in journalism after he graduates in May. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.)