In GTA 6 City of the Week, we take a look at a different city in the USA and put it through its paces to see how it would measure up as the setting of a GTA title, according to a number of criteria tailored to the franchise.
For the past few weeks, we've stuck to one of the two coasts or at least close to them in order to nail cities that score well in terms of geography. In order to mix things up a bit (and because we've almost run out of coastal cities), we're moving further inland in our hunt for the next GTA location. That said, we're not quite ready to leave the comforting proximity of water just yet...
Salt Lake City
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In spite of being named after the Great Salt Lake (with the "Great" part only dropped 1868), Salt Lake City technically does not share a shore with the lake itself. The only indirect connection it has with the lake is the Farmington Bay Waterfowl Management Area, a swampy collection of small lakes joined to the Great Salt Lake by a narrow strip of water.
Today, the city proper is home to just under 200,000 residents, making it one of the smallest we've looked at in this article series. That said, the Salt Lake City metropolitan area around it is the home of over one million, so it's not like the area falls too far behind the others.
The Crossroads of the West, as it is often called, was an important factor in the expansion of European colonists in the western reaches of what is today the United States. Though hardly the first city in the area, it boosted the number of incoming pioneers who used it as a jumping-off point to found new settlements both in Utah as well as neighboring states.
Even though less than half of the city's population today considers themselves to follow that faith, the foundation of Salt Lake City can be traced back to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. More commonly known internationally as Mormons, the followers of this offshoot of Christianity were at odds with other denominations in the east, and therefore migrated over to what then was Mexican territory.
Allegedly, the group's leader at the time divined the location through a vision and directed the settlers to an arid, desert area. Eventually, extensive irrigation initiatives succeeded in turning the area into fertile land, and the city was founded. Due to the influx of other Mormons and eventually those of other or no faith allowed the city to grow. Railway connection with the East, as well as several mining booms, brought further prosperity to the city.
However, today the city's economy is focused on other matters. As the natural resources in the vicinity dwindled, or mining companies moved away, Salt Lake City became reoriented around services and tourism. The region's natural beauty and many skiing resorts in the Wasatch and Oquirrh mountain ranges attract a high number of recreational tourists each year.
The city has been building a "the great outdoors" persona in recent years, focusing on the wilderness around the Great Salt Lake as well as the numerous nearby mountains and wildlife reserves in an attempt to become the number one stop for people seeking to escape the rushed hustle and bustle of city life - to moderate success.
Salt Lake City is also a major banking hub, with financial services being the other pillar of the city's economy next to tourism. Two notable banking corporations with several subsidiaries each are the Deseret Management Corporation and the Zions Bancorporation. Incidentally, both are affiliated with the Mormon church.
In terms of Geography, Salt Lake City doesn't quite measure up to the coastal cities, but it does fare better than most inland cities. Thanks to the Great Salt Lake, it's easier to work that video game magic to turn the area into an island than when dealing with a city that lacks any bodies of water nearby.
Hell, the lore may as well present the map as a massive island in an even larger inland lake. All Rockstar needs to do is add a scaling mountainous backdrop to the skybox around the endless sea. That down, Salt Lake City has all it needs. A varied wilderness, secondary urban areas, and justification for the use of water vehicles. Add to that the fact that there's a place called "Twin Peaks", and you've got additional reference/easter egg/joke material to work with too.
Exact and credible crime statistics about Salt Lake City are difficult to come by, however the city did see a violent crime rate of 381.5 per 100,000 residents. While this is above the national averages by a bit, in terms of major cities, Salt Lake City ranks as pretty safe. Add to this the fact that Utah is one of the safest states in the country, and you've got a poor outlook for a GTA setting.
Now, in the Crime category we usually elaborate on what kinds of crimes characterise the city we're looking at - but in the case of Salt Lake City, there really isn't anything to elaborate on. Between a general lack of data and a general shortage of crime, there just isn't much to talk about.
Unfortunately, this category won't pay Salt Lake City much credit either. Due to the surrounding wilderness being the main source of tourism, the mountains around the city are more iconic than the city itself. Even most Americans are likely to scratch their heads as to which city a GTA setting based on SLC takes inspiration from - let alone foreigners!
Nonetheless, some of the main landmarks are the Block U, the City and County Building, the Salt Lake Temple and Abravanel Hall. It should also be noted that the building of the University of Utah Medical Center is pretty fly, but that's just personal preference.
Okay, we all know how Rockstar operates. There is absolutely no chance, should they base the setting of their game in Salt Lake City, that they's pass up the chance to spend a whole game poking fun at the LDS. Now, I don't mean to offend any Mormon readers with this, but Rockstar is known for controversy, and they would be willing to even risk angering a whole denomination as long as they could make their satirical storyline. For the sake of peace, I won't elaborate further.
Pros: Decent geography (kinda), story potential (?)
Cons: Low crime rate, poor recognition, story potential (?)
Yeah, overall, Salt Lake City just really doesn't fit the GTA bill. Regardless of whether or not you view the obvious chance for a highly satirical storyline as a bonus, the poor recognition, and low crime rates just drag the city down. Chances are we won't be seeing a GTA game set in SLC.
Which city would you like us to look at next week?