The GTA franchise is no stranger to controversy and revels in its rebellious nature and brash approach to supposedly "taboo" or "sensitive" topics. The franchise is a clear example of a game series that acts as a provocateur in the gaming industry.
While some art attempts to bring nuanced perspectives in order to be a catalyst for conversation around sensitive subjects, GTA has the nuance and subtlety of a sledgehammer.
GTA's purpose isn't to create meaningful discourse; it would much rather hold up the proverbial "middle-finger" to pop culture, media and politics rather than engage in discourse.
As a result, the franchise has developed quite the fanbase as well as a fair share of critics and detractors. While some controversy is good business, the GTA franchise has often been controversial to a fault.
GTA: 5 biggest controversies in the franchise's history
5) Toxic work culture and excruciating crunch
Crunch is one of the most persistent issues plaguing AAA game development at the moment, and one that will require constant effort and a compete re-thinking of the approach to game development.
Such a massive re-work will require effort from both the fanbase as well as the studios. However, Rockstar Games became the one studio most media houses and publications considered as the poster-child of toxic environment.
Many pointed to Dan Houser's comments of "100-hour work-weeks" for Red Dead Redemption II as a clear example of how toxic the work environment was at Rockstar Games. Since then, Rockstar have had to re-think their approach to game development.
Many have cited Dan Houser's comments regarding the work hours at Rockstar as the reason for his departure from the company he helped create.
4) Jack Thompson vs GTA
While GTA was still new to the scene, it was already making waves throughout the world, and especially in America. The Houser siblings were particularly fascinated with the country, and their satire reached the deeper recesses of American society. Its violent and supposedly "voyeuristic" content seemed to have caught a lot of attention, for some reason.
One key voice that emerged as the biggest critic of GTA was former attorney and activist, Jack Thompson.
Thompson has been known for his criticism of the presence of "sex and violence" in modern media. This makes GTA the perfect target for him to focus his attention on.
Since 2003, Jack Thompson has been pursuing legal action against Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar Games' parent company) over the content of the GTA franchise as well as Manhunt and Bully.
Their history is simply too vast for it to be condensed into bullet points as Take-Two even went as far as to file a counter-suit against Thomspon for "public nuisance".
3) GTA III coinciding with 9/11
It is honestly a miracle that GTA III ever saw the light of day and was actually made available in the stores. By this point, everyone knows that GTA III had been the cause of a widespread fear of "violent video games" in America since its release.
However, the bigger controversy surrounding GTA III was its delay in the release date as it coincided with the devastating and unfortunate September 11 attacks.
Rockstar had to go back and make several changes to the game, some of which included changing the attire and design of the police forces in the game to have it be distinguished for the real-life NYPD.
Several other changes were made to GTA III but the game was spared none of the flak as it received plenty of criticism in the media for its violent content in such an unfortunate time.
2) The Torture Mission
GTA has, for the most part, successfully managed to defend its controversies under the guise of "creative freedom". However, one case sticks out like a sore thumb, and not even fans can fully defend the infamous torture sequence in the mission "By The Book".
While GTA 5 and Rockstar does attempt to explain the character's actions, it ultimately ends up sounding very tone-deaf and out-of-touch for a franchise as big as GTA.
In the mission, players, as Trevor, must torture a character who has been detained by a certain intelligence branch of the government. The sequence is absolutely horrifying, and the game doesn't do a great job to make it look like commentary.
The sequence was held up as one of the many reasons why the GTA received as much as flak as it did.
1) Hot Coffee Mod
The Hot Coffee Mod is, essentially, a mod that unlocks a part of the game that is in the game code. The mod unlocked a "mini-game" in GTA San Andreas that was deemed extremely graphic and crude.
Rockstar Games attempted to bury the files of this mini-game under the game code but data miners were quick to uncover it. This resulted in the infamous Hot Coffee mod that would give critics the ammo they needed against the GTA franchise.
The fact that Rockstar Games had not removed the game files formed a major portion of the controversy. The game was pulled from stores all over the country and slapped with an "AO" ERSB rating, which is essentially a death sentence for games in terms of sales.
Rockstar went back and removed the said content and re-released GTA San Andreas with an "M" rating by the ERSB.Published 09 Oct 2020, 17:15 IST