Here’s a little secret about Los Angeles, haters: the traffic isn’t that bad.

The worst thing about driving in LA is trying to stay focused on the road amidst the most beautiful and complex scenery ever created by the dual forces of nature and technology. It’s a sprawling network of neighborhoods and mountains and asphalt that inspires feelings of awe, and delightful regret that no one person can ever truly understand the depth of its character.

That’s how I felt when I moved here three years ago, anyway, and it’s the near-exact emulation of this emotion that makes Grand Theft Auto V the greatest video game that has ever existed. The action unfolds in a fictional city called Los Santos, and it isn’t an exact replica of LA — that’s a simulation too banal to sell to 18–35-year-old men. It’s more of a Late Night Cheeseburger Dorito: satisfying because it’s delicious, but transcendentally entertaining because it tastes exactly like a cheeseburger you’d eat late at night.

But we don’t eat our games in 2013. We control caricatures in a universe limited only by a developer’s budget—Rockstar Games allocated around a quarter-billion dollars for GTA V, which makes it the most expensive game ever produced. That’s wild, but what’s truly bonkers is that around half of that went to marketing, leaving the programmers with a mere fraction of a typical Hollywood budget to build a high-functioning alternate reality: an abridged city that contains enough recognizable buildings, neighborhoods, and freeways to make it feel unmistakably Angeleno.