The Humans Who Made Grand Theft Auto

From deep within our archives, the faces of those who created a phenomenon.

The following is part of our 25-day Holiday Countdown Calendar! Every day from December 1st through the 25th, we’re posting a cool game history treat, daily updates from the VGHF, giveaways, and more! To make sure you don’t miss a day, sign up for our email list:

This is all part of our annual Winter Fundraiser donation drive, where we ask those who are able to generously give what they can so that we can continue thriving. If you’re able to make an additional one-time charitable contribution, this really is the best time to do so, as your donations will be DOUBLED thanks to a generous group of sponsors! Head on over to to learn more and give today.

Alright, the dust has settled. The GTA VI trailer has been out for 24 48 hours now. We’re sure everyone is still going through it frame-by-frame, just like they did for GTA V and GTA IV.

But before Niko or CJ or Tommy, before there were Roman numerals or city names appended to the ends of game titles, there was, simply, Grand Theft Auto. The game was made at DMA Design by a small team in Edinburgh. For them, it was just another game among many of their experiments. No one knew it would become a phenomenon.

Team photo from the original Grand Theft Auto

This photo from our archives is the only picture we know of showing the faces of the innovators who created Grand Theft Auto. It was taken from a press kit sent to magazines before the game came out, and as far as we know, no magazine ever published it. Like the development team, no one in the media knew what a hit it would be either!

Today’s Sponsor

Today’s sponsor is Q-Games! Q-Games is an indie game studio in Kyoto, Japan, and the creator of games like The Tomorrow Children and Pixeljunk Scrappers Deluxe.

They’ve offered to DOUBLE every dollar put toward our goal this year, up $500! As I write this we’re still pretty far from our goal, so if you’ve been waiting to give this year, this would be a really great time.

This is why we spend so much time and money on securing and archiving press material. It’s unlikely that the world will forget about Grand Theft Auto the game anytime soon, but without awkward, stilted, low resolution photos like this, we might forget about the people who made it.

We supplied this photo, along with some other behind-the-scenes items from GTA1, to the game documentary channel Noclip for their video on the history of the company that would become Rockstar. You should go watch it if you haven’t!

You can see tomorrow’s post right now!

Members of our Patreon who support us at $5 or more per month get to travel through time and see our daily calendar entries one day early! Christmas comes early for our beloved team of time bandits! Memberships at higher tiers also include access to our Discord community, monthly hangout calls with VGHF staff, and more!

Coming tomorrow: We uncovered a beautiful copy of a prestigious game awards show from way back in 1999! Will Ocarina of Time win Game of the Year? Only one way to find out:

Giveaway Time!!!

Our friends at Mother To Earth have a special giveaway just for VGHF supporters!

Mother To Earth is a fantastic documentary on the localization of the original Mother – aka EarthBound Beginnings – for the NES. But maybe more than that, we like it as a documentary that is at least in part about the earliest days of video game prototype preservation, something very much at the roots of the Video Game History Foundation.

Oh, and our founder Frank Cifaldi is in it too. Bonus!

We have 500 rental codes to give away, but they’re first come, first served! If you’d like one, simply fill out this form.

Winter Fundraiser Update

As I write this, we’re about halfway toward our year-end fundraiser goal. Though we have all the way until the end of the year to hit it, we’re starting to get a little nervous, as the initial Giving Tuesday hype from the start of our campaign has died down.

It is no exaggeration to say that this fundraiser is what helps us determine what it is that we’ll be capable of doing next year. Unlike most similar organizations, our funding comes almost entirely from individual contributors who believe in our cause and want to see us continue our work preserving video game history…history like you’re seeing right here!

If you’re able to give this year but haven’t made the leap yet, please consider doing so today!

Community Spotlight

We’re really excited to see that historian Critical Kate Willaert is starting to publish her groundbreaking original research on the origins of Mario and Donkey Kong!

Kate is a phenomenal independent historian whose work, like ours, is funded mainly by individual patrons. If you like what you see, consider supporting her.

Help spread the word

With the future of social media becoming more uncertain by the day, we’ve had a hard time in 2023 keeping people engaged and excited about the history of games! If there are people or groups in your life who might appreciate the work that we do, it would mean a lot if you helped spread links to this or any other content on the website.

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