On a day-to-day basis, the world of Grand Theft Auto Online can be total mayhem.
It's that kind of chaos that caught the eye of Christopher Murrie — a man who now plays the game as a combat photographer. While in passive mode, Murrie explores the streets of Los Santos looking for action.
In the real world, Murrie is a self-described amateur photographer and a senior film editor at Laika. His credits include animated films such as Coraline and ParaNorman. Speaking with Polygon via email, Murrie said the idea to take in-game combat photography happened in an unexpected way.
"In a recent session, I was trying to evade repeated destruction by a tank, and I switched into passive mode in order to give me a chance at escape," Murrie wrote. "It occurred to me all of a sudden that it might be fun to then follow the tank as it hunted down other players so I could get an 'on the street' view of the action. Once things started getting violent, I started taking pictures."
Coincidentally, Murrie had recently discovered the game's camera options — often used for selfies — for filters and borders. Shooting photos in a square format with a sepia tone seemed thematically appropriate, he said.
"As a film editor, I am always working in a wide screen aspect ratio, so the square format was appealing just because it forced me to try and compose the frame differently than I am used to," Murrie said. "It added a little challenge."
Murrie's career as a GTA Online photographer is only a few days old, but continues to develop. He describes exploring with the idea in earnest as a role-playing exercise, even going as far as to outfit his character with a jacket labeled "MEDIA." His ride around town is typically the WEZL News van.
"I like trying to capture as much narrative in a single image as I can."
A handful of Murrie's pictures are available on Imgur in a collected album, including his favorite shot yet. The photographer enjoys capturing images that manage to tell a story.
"I really like one shot I got of a player taking cover in the foreground as another is advancing towards camera," Murrie said. "As a composition it is pleasing enough, but I like that there is a story to the image.
"I think this is where my role as a filmmaker influences things for me. I like trying to capture as much narrative in a single image as I can. What is really great about this process in GTA Online is that you have to actively seek those moments out and have good timing and luck to be in the right place at the right time."
As a single, working parent, Murrie doesn't play as often as he'd like. He's only spent a few hours navigating the role of a war correspondent, but he plans to stick with it. Murrie isn't the only photographer in town anymore, either. His crew, Media Lens, is open to anyone with interest; their photos are viewable through Rockstar's Social Club.
"In just a couple days, thanks to my posts on Reddit, the crew has close to 150 members out covering the never-ending battles unfolding across San Andreas," Murrie said.
In terms of an endgame, Murrie says, there isn't one. Most of his energy goes into movie making, and activities like Grand Theft Auto Online are more for fun.
"I think if I tried to do anything more than that, the leisure aspect of it might no longer be there," Murrie said. "I'm just delighted that so many people responded so positively. I am such an enormous fan of the GTA series. I enjoy the worlds that Rockstar creates and have spent many years exploring these places, getting to know them as intimately as my own city. Being able to still find new ways to explore and interact with their universe is enough reward in and of itself."