Games: Grand Theft Auto celebrates a quarter century of controversy

The original GTA was released in November 1997
The original GTA was released in November 1997

Happy 25th, GTA

THE sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll of videogames officially turned 25 this week, with Grand Theft Auto's maiden release having first sullied young minds on November 28 1997.

Developed by tiny Scottish coders DMA Design, the top-down crime spree was originally conceived as a cops vs criminals open-world chase. Realising it was much more fun to play as the baddies, this creative lightning strike produced Grand Theft Auto, and thanks to silver-haired snake Max Clifford, tabloids branded its joyriding jollies a national disgrace, with pearl-clutching Tories cementing the game's wrong 'un reputation. In fact, the game's original creators, David Jones and Mike Dailly, have said "Max Clifford made it all happen".

It wasn't until 2001, though, that the GTA we know and love came into being. I recall, as a budding games hack, traipsing to – of all places – a disused swimming pool in Hamburg for the reveal of Grand Theft Auto III, a landmark in open-world game design that took GTA's 2D Matchbox action into the third dimension.

After seven standalone titles, Grand Theft's overt sexuality and Looney Tunes ultraviolence has made it one of the world's most successful entertainment products, raking in over $6 billion in revenue. Its most recent effort, GTA V, has spanned three console generations, never leaving the charts since its original 2013 release.

From hiring sex workers before snuffing them to get your money back to the discovery of how to unlock the remnants of an erotic interactive minigame nicknamed Hot Coffee which was abandoned during development but not quite properly deleted from its code, GTA's knack for inspiring moral panic hasn't diminished.

And, to celebrate a quarter century of scandal, the BBC has released a seven-part podcast, Bugzy Malone's Grandest Game, in which the Manchester rapper reveals how his own life has mirrored GTA's gang culture.

Exploring the game's creative highs and controversial lows, the series reveals how one company changed the face of entertainment, including turning down the chance to make a GTA movie starring Eminem and directed by Tony 'Top Gun' Scott.

Oddly, this isn't GTA's first brush with Auntie: the Beeb's 2015 GTA-themed drama The Gamechangers starring Daniel Radcliffe and Bill Paxton prompted game publishers Rockstar to tweet "Was Basil Brush busy? What exactly is this random, made-up b******s?".

Bugzy Malone's Grandest Game is available now on BBC Sounds, best enjoyed with a cold Pißwasser (or hot coffee) in celebration of the biggest thing to come out of Edinburgh since Sean Connery, JK Rowling and Pringle jumpers.