You can do a lot of different things in "Grand Theft Auto V," most of which revolve around stealing stuff and then using it to kill people in various ways. For all the controversy that's been swirling around Rockstar's latest blockbuster hit, making artwork might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think of possible activities to participate in when traipsing through the admittedly gorgeous scenery of the game's fictionalized version of Los Angeles. But that's exactly what two "GTA V" fans, David Frank and Jordiën de Ruiter, decided to do with a stunning three-minute long time-lapse video that was posted to their YouTube channel "DespicableChannel" recently.
The video, "Random V — Timelapse," might be set in the shimmering virtual world of Los Santos, but it has more in common with an art documentary like "Koyaanisqatsi" than the wanton mayhem that players usually associate with Grand Theft Auto.
Work like this follows in a tradition set by other gamers who've learned how to turn their preferred medium into art in its own right, however. As the gaming site Kotaku noted back in 2011, gamers like Duncan Harris, who posts unusually exquisite screenshots from video games on his blog Dead End Thrills, have begun turning the strange art of game screenshots into their own brand of virtual photography. And the wildly popular gaming website Machinima got first started when players of the famously gory first-person shooter "Quake" started turning gameplay videos into short films.
Videos like the early "Quake" movies can be considered abstract art in their own right, but "Random V — Timelapse" does something different simply by showing the peaceful side of "Grand Theft Auto V." Given all the controversy a game like "GTA V" often invites, it's important to remember how many different ways there are to play the game. As New York Times contributor Chris Suellontrop noted on Twitter shortly after posting his initial review of the game, "GTA V" even let him go scuba diving with his 3-year-old daughter.
"Less violent than Mario," he wrote of the experience.
Yannick LeJacq is a contributing writer for NBC News who has also covered technology and games for Kill Screen, The Wall Street Journal and The Atlantic. You can follow him on Twitter at @YannickLeJacq and reach him by email at: Yannick.LeJacq@nbcuni.com.