Rumor has it that the creator of Grand Theft Auto, Rockstar Games, has already pinned down a location for the fifth incarnation -- Las Vegas. We urge the programmers to reconsider. If corruption, mayhem, and scandal are the desired parameters, San Francisco would be an ideal setting. In fact, we've taken the liberty of coming up with the plot line and a few theoretical missions. We can see it now, and we won't even demand royalties ...
Date: April 2000
Location: Just-opened Pac Bell Park
The Mistake: You, Tommy Vercetti, have settled down from the criminal life, leaving behind the violent chaos of your four previous adventures. You've moved into a Sea Cliff mansion, intending to chat with Robin Williams and live the good life.
You're watching a Giants game from your luxury box and enjoying a beer with your loyal and none-too-legalistic lawyer, Ren Goldberg. "So when are we going to get back into business? I can only make so much money off of my Pets.com, Webvan.com, and Kozmo.com stocks," Goldberg says. "I've got a family to support." He massages his nostrils.
"You mean you've got a coke habit to support," you say. "Anyway, I'm done with crime. I'd be fine just kicking back, eating hot dogs, and watching Barry Bonds hit home runs for the rest of my life."
Just then, you hear a voice behind you; a hand grabs your shoulder. "You've washed off the dirt ... but how would you like to get filthy rich?" You turn around and see a dark-suited Asian man, smiling.
"Fang. James Fang," the man says, extending a bony hand. "Mr. Vercetti, it is an honor. Your reputation precedes you."
"Nice to meet you, Mr. Fang," you say. "But I'm not interested in any funny business."
"Oh," Fang says, "there's nothing funny about this business at all. This is the newspaper business, and for a small investment in the Examiner, you can be one of the masters of San Francisco ...."
The Objective: Complete the following missions to earn back the money you lost trying to be a San Francisco media mogul.
MISSION NO. 1 -- PEACENIK POTHOLES
Location: The San Francisco Bike Messenger Association office, South of Market
Lowdown: The smell of marijuana clouds the air as you enter. It is almost completely dark. Across the room, beneath a dangling light bulb, the smoke parts, revealing a female figure in a dirty white shirt and a tattered baseball cap. The figure does not move, but, after a short pause, speaks: "I won't touch this package, and none of the other bike messengers will either. No, for this delivery we need someone more ... ethically challenged." She holds up a manila envelope between her thumb and forefinger, as if it contained anthrax. You take it and read the sticker: Bechtel Corp./Iraq project.
Mission Objective: Steal a bicycle and deliver confidential documents to the Bechtel offices in the Financial District. The Black Bloc will attempt to stop you by hurling steel-toed boots, bricks, and unused deodorant canisters at you.
Degree of Difficulty: 8
MISSION NO. 2 -- DAVE'S DIRTY WORK
Location: The Writing Center, 826 Valencia St.
Lowdown: Dave Eggers calls and asks you to meet him at the Writing Center; it's an emergency. Once there, you make your way past tubs of lard, glass eyeballs, and other pirate supplies, as well as dozens of bored volunteers. He invites you to sit down on a giant Turkish rug, and brushes a few stray curls out of his face. "We have a deluge of tutoring volunteers," the famed writer says. "The problem is that we don't have enough kids who need tutoring on writing skills, leaving the volunteers free to pursue their actual motivation for coming here."
"To stalk me," Eggers says, smiling semi-ironically. "They ask me to marry them, dig through my trash, write love poems in a semi-ironic style, and even try to date my brother Toph. If this doesn't stop soon, I'm going to have to close down 826, move to Alaska, and write the sequel to You Shall Know Our Velocity."
"No, Dave! Anything but that!" you say.
Mission Objective: Find 500 San Francisco kids who have reading problems, most likely at video gaming centers. Entice them away from their first-person shooter screens with advance copies of Quake IV and bring them to the Writing Center.
Degree of Difficulty: 6
MISSION NO. 3 -- JEAN MANIPULATION
Location: Castro and Market streets
Lowdown: Wandering through the Castro one day, you're accosted by a man on a sea-foam green Vespa. "Hey mister, nice jeans," he says, whipping out a Listerine PocketPak and popping an oral care strip.
"I'm not that kind of guy, all right?" you say, backing away.
"Chill out, amigo!" he quickly tosses out, adjusting his backpack. "I'm not coming on to you; I just want to know where you got those jeans."
Mission Objective: Hijack a truck, park it next to the Castro Theatre, go inside the nearby Diesel store, and pose as an employee. "Inventory" the store's complement of highly fashionable, highly fenceable jeans, then load as many of them as you can onto the truck. When well-coiffed, buff men notice and try to reclaim the jeans, the only way to shake them is to navigate the hipster armies at 16th and Valencia and make it to the Lexington Club.
Degree of Difficulty: 4
MISSION NO. 4 -- BUTTON BRIGADE
Location: Newsom for Mayor Campaign Headquarters, 1625 Van Ness Ave.
Lowdown: "Sit down, Tommy," says Gavin Newsom, welcoming you in. "Would you like something to drink? Ketel One and OJ? Bombay Sapphire and tonic? Macallan 30?"
"No thanks," you say. "Let's just get down to business."
"All right," the mayoral aspirant says. "We have a problem. The accountants say "Care Not Cash' is "unfunded,' whatever that means. We've taken away the cash, they say, but can't afford the replacement services. And it's hurting us in the polls."
"Hmm," you say, glancing around the office. "What have we got to work with?"
"We've got that button-making machine over there," says Newsom. "That's it -- until Daddy comes back from the Gettys'."
Mission Objective: Eliminate the need for millions of dollars of city "care" funding by getting homeless people to wear thousands of cheap "Newsom Cares" campaign buttons.
Degree of Difficulty: 10
Payoff: $100,000 and a special mayoral assistant's post
MISSION NO. 5 -- FAJITA FRENZY
Location: Blue Light Cafe, 1979 Union St.
Lowdown: You're walking down the street in North Beach when you see Francis Ford Coppola sitting on a bench near Washington Square Park, on the verge of crying.
"You're young and strong," he says, beginning to whimper. "I need your help."
"What is it?"
"I'm ... I'm ... hungry."
"Why don't you go get some ravioli or rigatoni ...," you ask, and Coppola begins to sob.
"No, right now I just want to eat Mexican. That's all!" he says. "But they just won't let me be. Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in ...."
Mission Objective: Order fajitas to go at the Marina's Blue Light Cafe, evade drunken packs of off-duty police officers, and deliver the skirt steak to the ravenous American genius.
Degree of Difficulty: 9
Payoff: $1,000 and name-dropping privileges
MISSION NO. 6 -- REEFER MADNESS
Location: Intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets
Lowdown: You get a call from Sean Penn on your cell phone. He sounds distraught. "Bro! I'm going nuts here. Georgie and Johnny, Georgie and Johnny, man. They took my car and they took my guns. They're trying to silence me, dude, I'm telling you."
"Georgie and Johnny? What's with you, Sean? Do you need something in particular, or do you ..."
"I just need to relax, man," the agitated movie star says. "Can you help?"
Mission Objective: Hijack a Volkswagen Vanagon and drive to the Haight-Ashbury District to buy a bag of kind bud. Find a dreadlocked hippie to make the deal with, but make sure that: the hippie is not an undercover cop; the product is not grass clippings or oregano; the hippie does not demand to smoke up with you, bringing on discussion of Big Brother & the Holding Company album cover art and exhausting the time available.
Degree of Difficulty: 6