Aaron W. Boseman, 23, is a rising cop. He starts his day with a routine round, accompanied by friends, while later joining the academy’s new wave of cadet training. The most curious detail is that Aaron does not exist, he is an avatar controlled by Wellington Silva, 33 years old, in the real world – within what we call GTA RP, a kind of “Second Life of Generation Z”, which uses the success of GTA Online, from Rockstar.
As we’ve explained here, the GTA RP is basically a mod for GTA 5 for PC that turns the game into an online RPG. The acronym “RP” comes from “Role play”, or role-playing, as it is also in the classic RPG. There are several servers around the world, including in Brazil, where players gather and live a kind of complete life, with the right to jobs, tasks, social relationships and, of course, crimes.
However, unlike MMORPGs that do not “force” the player to interpret, here everything is taken to the letter. Depending on the server, the rules can be stricter or looser, but always with the goal of keeping all users in character 100% of the time, to create immersion and simulation.
In this special I go beyond just explaining what the GTA PR, but also explore the universe created by players, without any involvement – or even authorization – from Rockstar. As a 2013 game it still remains relevant and active thanks to its community, attracting even serious and gigantic companies for custom ads. Which is not really new, but it has its great merits.
Welington Silva works in entertainment and the arts. Professional cosplayer, Well, as he is also called, gained fame when he decided to dress up as Black Panther, one of the greatest movie heroes at Marvel Studios. This gave him a huge prominence, as he made a point of setting himself up with a deliberate physical resemblance to actor Chadwick Boseman, who played the character on the big screen.
Cosplayer since 2015, it was in 2018 that he saw things take off, after leaving his job at a restaurant. That’s when he decided to dedicate himself to the cosplay of the Marvel hero, participating in events such as guest attraction, jury, parties and even winning awards in his presentations as Black Panther.
Well has also been a gamer since childhood, starting with Telejogo. He played with his father and brother, which he took for a lifetime. With the 2020 pandemic, he decided to start streaming his Instagram pranks with the PS4, filming the screen, then building a PC gamer, migrating to Twitch, and expanding his streaming options.
Player of GTA since its first version, Well became aware of the GTA PR with a friend, who also does lives on Twitch. Soon he researched, learned and decided to participate. The cosplayer is a citizen of Cidade Alta, a PR server for Loud, one of the main brands of games and electronic sports among young people in Brazil today. Founded in 2019 by the influencer Bruno “PlayHard”, Loud is already present even in real sports, clothing and music brands.
Cidade Alta was launched by Loud in February 2020. It didn’t take long for it to also gain a huge audience and audience. To enter you need to register when the so-called “whitelist” is opened, from time to time, and then go through an interview in several stages – as if it were a job in real life. Today their Discord server, where people start the sign-in process, has 236,000 users, including active participants and those waiting to open the next whitelist.
It was through this process that Well went through to enter the Upper City. It started on a secondary server and was soon promoted to the “main city”. The most curious thing, however, is that Well is an official police officer within the game. He needs to follow orders, minimum working hours during the week, follow an extensive primer and guides to the profession, among others. It’s like a job, making money in the virtual world and nothing in the real world – just fun and content for your Twitch lives.
“There are some basic professions, which are police, doctor, mechanic… But it can be kind of everything. There are people who are cafeteria attendants. And you need to work properly, as if it were in real life”, commented Well, in conversation with me. “When I made my whitelist it took a long time to be approved. There were more than 10 thousand forms and more than 9 thousand people approved, imagine selecting each one of them. In my test they already saw that I wanted to be a policeman. After I passed, I took the test and started in the profession”, he added,
Well, or Aaron on the server, started by defining which character he wanted to be. He wrote his previous story and presented it to the interviewers. “My character never wanted to be a police officer, because he didn’t want to take advantage of my father’s benefits, who was a major. Until his father died and he wanted to become a policeman to honor the family,” he said.
When he entered and was approved, he had to read a huge booklet, penal code (seriously, written down to the smallest detail!) and test all the equipment correctly before starting to work as a cadet, to then pursue a career and evolve in position, which already happened.
And don’t think that police work is easy or merely illustrative. When a person is arrested, they are searched, they have to be identified, there is a penal code within the game and it is necessary to follow them to the letter. The game will already calculate how long you will stay, for example 30 months, which is equivalent to 30 minutes inside the game. Depending on the aggravation of the crime, you can increase or decrease this penalty. Everything can be an aggravating factor, if you are a first offender, the penalty will be discounted. After the player is arrested, he stays in prison, with the prisoner’s clothes, and must serve the 30 minutes.
Profession: server influencer
As Well explained, this detail of professions varies greatly. Each server has a pre-determined list of professions, but each one can be whatever it wants. In Cidade Alta, for example, players can choose between police, doctor or mechanic. Each one guarantees a fictitious salary, which adds money to your account every few minutes – the police officer receives, for example, R$ 4,000 every half hour. Anyone who wants can choose other tasks, which are not official on the server but also earn money. The player can even be outlaws, get involved in crimes and specialize in bank robberies, for example.
But usually they are all professions that don’t make money in the real world, because that would be complicated to monitor or organize. However, there are those who play for real money, the server influencers. They are like regular players, they do everything that regular players do, but they are hired by organizations to promote the server among fans so that more people can whitelist and try to sign up to get a chance to play.
This is the case, for example, of Alessandra Tramontini, or Ale Maze, aged 26. Former Free Fire presenter and narrator of Free Fire tournaments, she is hired by the organization Flow and also plays on Complexo, a server owned by the same company, which was launched just now, at the end of August 2021. Ale plays free fire three years ago and started broadcasting live two years ago. At the GTA RP she arrived in less time, but already having a lot of fun.
“Since I’m new to PR, the guys laugh a lot at some of the messes I do, when I get away from the police”, commented the influencer. Her character, Agatha, lives the life of crime in the city where she plays, along with other friends. “When I get caught I get nervous! And I’m still learning, along with my audience, since everyone comes from another game, Free Fire, but the guys have fun and laugh with me”, added the influencer.
Tássio “Santi” Rafael, 27, makes Cidade Alta his virtual home in the GTA PR. There he is known as Raed Hadi Santi, a 46-year-old police officer who is one of the most respected on the server and also deals with family issues from time to time. Most interestingly, Raed has a history that originated in “other cities”, according to its creator.
Santi has been playing GTA Online for seven years and has gone through other servers since discovering GTA PR. His in-game wife, Paty Landim in real life, is also one of the managers of Cidade Alta. “When I started with Raed he was 37 years old. I went through several servers, or cities as we call them in the game, but I’ve only been working for two years as an influencer”, said Santi.
In online broadcasts, he plays up to 10 hours a day, due to the goals he has to meet on the platform, Nimo.tv in this case, and also because of the workload that his job as a police officer in Cidade Alta requires. Even outside the game he spends his time with the server, taking care of spreadsheets or answering calls that arise on demand from other players. “I have a spreadsheet with 220 operators, who are other police officers, each one is a unique player”, he said.
What Santi and Ale Maze have in common is that they are influencers with real tasks on and off their servers. Now players like Well can play just for the sake of playing, following their professions, but they are also free to monetize the game from broadcasts on different platforms, such as Twitch. On the other hand, servers need structure, planning and especially money to keep everything running. And then we got into the business side of GTA PR.
the money game
O GTA RP exploded in Brazil at the end of 2019. Since then, several national servers have been created, but, for the most part, they are small and support few people – normally 30 users, the same number of players as standard GTA Online, without modifications.
All servers are based on fiveM, which is a program that modifies the GTA on the user’s computer, allowing play on private channels. So to take advantage of the RP you need to have the GTA original purchased and installed, either on Steam or Epic Games Store, and also install the fiveM, which has been in existence since 2016, by the way, although it only received a certain fame much later.
This is not to say that the game is less serious. Cidade Alta and Complexo are organized by qualified companies and already with a large catalog and success cases in the game market, especially of influencers. On YouTube alone, Loud has more than 12 million subscribers. There are 11 million followers on Instagram. nobru, considered the main player in Fluxo, earns R$ 2 million per month only in transmissions on its Twitch channel, discounting other sources of income, such as sponsorships and championships. Other numbers are usually restricted, but they are companies that have prepared and experienced people – not by chance are they a success.
That’s why Cidade Alta and Complex don’t just want to attract players, but commercial partners. As the Complex has just opened, there are few – just stores with Fluxo clothes and uniforms and also an entire building of Banco do Brasil, but Lucas Xavier, “So-and-so”, reveals that he has plans to implement more sponsored content there.
Fulano is a partner-owner of the Complex and also one of the influencers of Fluxo. He explains that the Complex was launched after a six-month plan, after testing server versions for 32, 64 and 128 people. There’s even a great protection structure against virtual attacks, to keep everything perfect and hassle-free for those who play, with 24-hour support. Today the city has a capacity for 1024 users, which is the maximum for a channel of GTA RP.
To this end, partnerships will be developed, as creative as possible. With Banco do Brasil, for example, the special building inside the city really works like a bank. Players can work there, distribute money through ATMs, replace banknotes, transport valuables with a strong BB car. The simulation is really taken seriously and goes beyond mere propaganda.
Banco do Brasil also promotes the Stream Battle within the Complex. It is a “reality show” style action, broadcast in the city, to choose a professional streamer for the bank. Furthermore, partnerships with celebrities who are or are not gamers are also in the plans or in development. DJ Henrique de Ferraz, with 1 million followers on Instagram, is one of those who take advantage of his time there. The launch of the server also featured a show by MC Poze.
The Cidade Alta works in a similar way. Partnerships with brands and pop culture big names are in the package. The singer Anitta, who is now an international success, has a very famous character on the server. Brahma Duplo Malte has a themed bar, Tinder has developed a special version of the app for players in the city, Submarino has just opened a virtual store, an in-game sales channel available 24 hours a day, with exclusive discounts, Jeep has officially launched a car in the city, which can be rented or purchased by its residents.
Cidade Alta has more than 700 active influencers working on the platform, precisely because it has been in operation for over a year. This was all born from the joint effort of Loud and Outplay, the company that manages the server. According to its director and co-founder, Paulo Benetti was not even that high, when compared to other projects – something between R$ 15 thousand and R$ 20 thousand. The motivation was to really bring something like Second Life, as I mentioned at the beginning of the article.
“We got in touch with the Up server, which already existed, and with Loud, to make the partnership. In the beginning it was a small thing, it wasn’t ambitious. We were just three partners, each in one position – administration, support and development. Today we have 44 employees”, said Benetti. It is in Cidade Alta that there is also a greater concentration of celebrities who draw attention to the game. In addition to the aforementioned Anitta, the server counts and featured humorists Diogo Defante and Eduardo Sterblitch, player Gabriel Jesus and singer Kevinho.
In addition to commercial partnerships, there are also social events and noble causes. “We had a LGBTQIA+ parade, in partnership with Facebook, not for profit”, recalled the executive, commenting that it was a very well accepted initiative, showing that the players of GTA RP are willing to abandon prejudice, compared to other gamers and audiences.
For the future, Benetti says there is a plan to make Cidade Alta earn real money for its players. The server has an already active monetization system, which sells emeralds, a kind of premium currency and VIP passes. But in the future, the executive says he wants to create a market for official items, so that each player can sell his in-game and earn money in real life.
What does Rockstar say?
The subject “Rockstar” and “Take-Two”, the two companies responsible for the series grand Theft Self, seems to be prohibited or sensitive among creators and administrators of servers of GTA PR. Those involved with the Complex did not even want to enter into the merits, previously informing that this topic could not be dealt with during our interviews.
Rockstar does not officially recognize the RP as a valid modification. The company doesn’t even mention anything about it in its official channels and only talks about the GTA Online standard, present on all platforms.
Cidade Alta commented on the case when I talked to them. Paulo Benetti claims that the server’s official partnership is with the fiveM and not with Rockstar, but that the plan is to use the city as a showcase for products, elements and occasions in the real world. “FiveM is licensed and has several rules that we have to follow. But on our side, with Cidade Alta, we want to bring events to life, not be held hostage by GTA 5. The plan is to work more with people at physical events and parties next year, or as soon as possible. Create restaurants that exist in the game, but in real life. Our biggest challenge is not to be held hostage by Rockstar”, he pointed out.
Imagine that your company has invested a lot of money and has a team of people hired to take care of a server. GTA PR and, overnight, Rockstar decides to pursue these initiatives and close each one of them. It’s a risk to be taken, but the responsible companies seem aware of it and have plans for future occasions.
But it’s always worth remembering: there aren’t just these two.
There are thousands of channels in the world for GTA RP. In Brazil there are many others. Some of them are:
- Ribeirão Pires RolePlay (maximum 120 participants)
- Brasil Capital (1 thousand maximum participants)
- Complex (1024 maximum participants)
- Cidade Alta (1024 maximum participants)
- City of Angels (64 participants maximum)
- Divine City (maximum 500 participants)
- NoWay Evolution (1024 maximum participants)
- Pixel Evoltuon (maximum 300 participants)
- Cidade Santa RP (800 maximum participants)
A hangout in the city
Of course, I wasn’t going to sit out and test up close what it means to have a real second life in a modern game. Both Complexo and Cidade Alta granted me access and it was a curious experience, to say the least, but certainly very interesting.
I read page after page of rules from both servers. Basic command instructions, how to behave towards other players, among other obligations. Some servers are more flexible and allow you to use the term “mentalize” to mention real-world commands or elements – for example, one player explaining to the other “to get you into the case, mentalize the F key”. In Cidade Alta this is not allowed, the rule there is very strict and leaving the RP in any way is punishable, or even permanently expelled.
As soon as I arrived at the Cidade Alta airport, for example, I was confused by the controls. I called a taxi to take me downtown, but I kicked the taxi door open instead. As a bonus, I attacked another character I didn’t know, and who was close by, by pressing several buttons at the same time. All without meaning to, but all within the rules. He said that the trip had done me wrong, because it was long, and that was why I was beside myself at the time.
It’s funnier to show than to tell…
A short time later I started to get more used to the whole situation. In the first moments it is necessary to buy a cell phone. There you have Altagram and Altazap, alternatives to Instagram and WhatsApp, which work exactly like their real equivalents. Tinder, as I said, is already installed on your cell phone. Soon you take a selfie and post it on social media or your profile in the dating app.
Later I met Aaron, whom I interviewed at the beginning of this story, who guided me around town, showing me a few more rules and teaching me how to live there – all following the interpretation of RP. I rented a Jeep car, went to the pier for pizza, bought a new coat because mine had torn during the trip – in fact, a visual bug showed it torn.
My character, Philip parker, is a journalist who came from “the countryside” and wants a job in the big city. The next mission would be to visit the Alta News building, the local broadcaster, and try for an interview to get a job, as the money is not infinite and at some point it will run out.
Aaron Boseman also gives me survival tips. It teaches three points on the map that the favelas are. “Never enter there, unless you are accompanied by a resident,” he said. In a sad way, the game imitates the most regrettable parts of our lives, even though in the virtual environment everything is fake and those who live in the favela are there by choice.
The day ended after a long walk and the life of my almost renowned journalist from Cidade Alta. The rules are welcome as the immersion is really good. You feel a part of it and the line between real and virtual blurs as you talk directly to people using voice chat from within Team Speak. I also had slight contact with the so-called “dark RP”, which is the term used when someone makes sexual innuendos or actually have sex. Some servers have rules for and against “dark”, including a ban on publicly broadcasting acts.
And that’s how, with elements that mix the real with the fantastic in a very natural way, RP is gaining more and more followers for a virtual environment far from algorithmic-dependent social networks and also far from companies that produce online games, serving as a bridge to something bigger in the future and also as a showcase for influencers to show a little of their life, even if it’s fake.