The GTA franchise holds an irreplaceable position in modern pop culture and entertainment. It has achieved that status through an uncompromising dedication to a vision that is carefully crafted to stir up controversy and encourage uncomfortable conversations.
While the GTA games are exceptionally well-made games with a lot of great qualities to offer, there is also another side to the franchise. Due to their satirical nature, the games have invited quite a bit of controversy over the years.
From jokes being in poor taste to a history of misogynistic portrayal of women, Rockstar Games' GTA is no stranger to controversy. Here's a look at some of the biggest controversies the franchise has been involved in.
5 of the biggest controversies involving the GTA franchise
#5 Hot Coffee Mod - GTA San Andreas
The GTA franchise found itself in hot water with the release of Grand Theft Auto San Andreas. Crafty players and modders were able to uncover a gameplay mechanic that was buried deep in the game and used a mod to bring it to the surface.
This became known as the "Hot Coffee Mod" as it included an explicit mini-game right after CJ's girlfriends invited him to their house for coffee. This sparked outrage across the United States as well as in other countries. GTA San Andreas was even pulled from several retail stores as it was slapped with an AO rating.
This led to Rockstar Games releasing a patch that would eliminate the lines of code from the game entirely.
#4 Mothers Against Drunk Driving - GTA 4
In a bid to emulate some sort of realism, Rockstar chose to have Niko and, by association, the player experience the effects of alcohol quite viscerally.
Niko's motor functions would sometimes take a sharp dive, with him barely being able to walk without toppling over sideways or face-first to the ground.
The effects will carry over when Niko drives, resulting in a rather uncomfortable situation for the player. DUI is a serious felony and is not taken casually in most countries.
MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) did not take too kindly to this "feature" in GTA 4. Rockstar maintained that if the player chose to do that in the game, they would immediately be hit with a Wanted Level and be stopped by the police
#3 By the Book - GTA 5
GTA 5 is one of the most ambitious works of art ever in the history of modern video games. Its satire is second to none, with its commentary as razor sharp and cutting edge as it gets.
However, it does occasionally feel like Rockstar got swept up in the satire and lost sight of any real meaning or purpose. One clear example was during the mission "By the Book," where the player must essentially torture an innocent man for information that he is willing to give up.
Rather than trying to communicate a larger point about the futility of torture and the immorality of it, it just felt like poor shock tactics. It gained the ire of not just GTA's critics but also a large portion of its fanbase.
This was one of the rare times where Rockstar failed to make any legitimate points with their satire in the GTA series.
#2 Jack Thompson vs Video Games
Once upon a time, the name Jack Thompson was plastered all over mainstream news, often in conjunction with video games. This was because Jack Thompson, an activist and now-disbarred attorney, led a one-man tirade against video games and, specifically, the GTA franchise.
Jack took offense to the casual approach to violence in video games and professed that they contribute heavily to what he perceives as obscenity in modern culture. He subsequently tried to litigate Take-Two Interactive (Rockstar's parent company), among other game-makers.
This ultimately didn't lead to anything apart from a lot of news coverage and a rather pointless discourse against video games, with the GTA franchise at the center of it all.
#1 GTA 3 and the September 11 attacks
To be fair, this controversy was not the GTA franchise's fault and was simply a matter of unfortunate timing. The release of GTA III was in close vicinity to the September 11 attacks. This led to Rockstar going back and changing a lot of elements in the game.
The issue was that Liberty City was modeled after New York at the time, which was going to cause a lot of problems. Rockstar changed the color of the squad cars as well as the uniforms of the LCPD so that they looked different from the real-life colors of the NYPD.
Many such changes were made to GTA 3, but its release didn't exactly go down well with the public at large. The game would go on to sell incredibly well, but it became a hot topic on the news and in the mainstream media because of the controversy.