In recent years, the press and LGBTQ+ groups have pressured Rockstar Games to remove or edit content they consider “transphobic” in Grand Theft Auto V. Now, players have noticed a few such changes to transgender representation in the game’s recently released “expanded and improved” upgrades for the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
Reddit user JayProspero was among the first to notice a change to the action figures lining the office wall in the game’s arcade. A “Captain Spacetoy” figure dressed in bright pink, in a box highlighting prominently the “interchangeable genitalia”, was removed in newer console versions of the game; an alternate figure with a more reserved outfit and “posable vomit direction” remains on the wall.
In next-gen GTAV/GTAO, Rockstar seems to have stopped trans cartoons or “drag queens” from spawning outside of cockatoos. This could follow a call from OutMakingGames last year. Hope this comforts anyone who felt these NPCs portrayed harmful stereotypes 🏳️⚧️
—Kirsty Cloud (@kirstycloud) April 8, 2022
Kirsty Cloud, who helps manage the GTAnet fan community, has also Underline that the exaggerated trans female character models, apparently referred to as “drag queen” in the game files, no longer appear outside of Cockatoos, an in-game nightclub. Although these character models are still accessible in the game’s sandbox-style director’s mode, dialogue options that explicitly reference their gender and sexuality were removed.
A successful pressure campaign?
Rockstar did not respond to a request for comment on the apparent changes. But the move comes months after content like this was branded ‘transphobic’ by Out Making Games, a ‘self-proclaimed group of hundreds of LGBTQ+ games professionals working in the UK games industry’. In an open letter written in September, the band cited coverage by Kotaku’s Carolyn Petit who called out trans representation issues in the original 2013 release.
“Unlike other random NPCs, the way Rockstar designed GTA VTrans people actively play into the hateful stereotypes held by many transphobic gamers,” Petit wrote. “The trans sex workers you may encounter, with their garish makeup and prominent penis bulges, seem calculated to be ridiculous and repulsive for gamers who bring their pre-existing transphobia to the game with them. It’s like they were designed specifically so that some players might enjoy hurting and killing them because they’re trans.”
Some critics have noted GTA Vreductive and derogatory treatment of trans characters since the game’s original release. visibility and violence of transgender people has changed dramatically over the past seven years.”
“I think there is a huge responsibility for all games, all types of media, not to rely on lazy stereotypes,” said Birmingham City University professor Dr Ben Colliver. to Conditt in 2020. “In the Grand Theft Auto series, a lot of the stereotypes seem to me to be there just for comedic effect. They’re just there to make trans people and LGBT people more broadly a joke.”
The new console remasters are “a great opportunity to remove transphobic elements from the game and positively impact the next generation of gamers who will pick up a copy,” writes Out Making Games in its open letter. “Given the cultural impact GTA V a around the world, Rockstar has a social responsibility to your players (many of whom may be LGBTQ+), to your staff, and to the world at large not to promote violence against trans and gender diverse people. »
This is not the first time questionable content has been removed from GTA games over time. The Confederate flag has been removed from some locations in Grand Theft Auto V and a character’s shirt in the remastered GTA trilogy. And Rockstar had to re-release a new version of grand theft auto san andreas after modders unlocked an otherwise inaccessible “Hot Coffee” sex minigame included on the disc, resulting in an ESRB rating change.