The recently released PS5 and Xbox Series X / S versions of Grand Theft Auto V seems to lack some content that was considered by many to be transphobic. These elements had received criticism from some journalists and players, although Rockstar Games has not commented publicly on what motivated the decision to make these changes.
The removal of this content was first discovered by Reddit user JayProspero who noticed a small change in one of the game’s offices. In older versions of the game, a number of packaged action figures on display included one with “replaceable genitals, ”Is dressed in pink with screaming makeup and has a large penis-like bulge. This action figure, which could certainly be interpreted as an ugly joke about trans women, is no longer present in the PS5 or Xbox Series X / S port.
Also removed from the latest edition of GTA V are NPCs that were tagged as “drag queens” in the game’s instructor mode and tagged as “transvestites” in the game’s files on pc. These characters also had screaming makeup, dents and could sometimes be heard telling the player or other NPCs that they were using “hormones”. Again, these characters were obviously a joke at the expense of trans women.
Both the action character and the NPC “drag queens” are now away from the game. The models for the NPCs remain in the game’s files, but no longer spawn and appear to have had their voting lines cut, as evidenced by GTA mud and data mines SpiderVice and GTA forums admin Kirty Cloud. (SpiderVice has helped Kotaku and myself in the past previously with data mining verification and clipped content stories.)
Last year, Kotaku’s own Carolyn Petit wrote a story about GTA V ‘s horrific portrayal of trans womenwith reference to the now removed NPCs as well as the abundance of transphobic ads throughout the game world that still exist in the game from 2022. This story was then directly referenced by LGBTQ + game advocate group Out Making Games in a open letter to Rockstar. In the letter, the group called on the company to “remove transphobic elements from the game”, stating that Rockstar had an opportunity to “have a positive impact on the new generation of players” coming to GTA V via these fresh ports.
Here’s what Petit had to say about the trans NPCs last year:
Often, people respond to concerns like this by pointing out that you can target and kill anyone in Grand Theft Auto V. The game is “equal opportunity” in the freedom it gives you to wreak havoc in Los Santos, they say. If you want, you can target white guys in cargo pants or people doing yoga.
But there is no “equal opportunity” in the position of transgender people in society right now. And unlike other random NPCs, the way Rockstar designed GTAV’s transgender people actively plays into the hateful stereotypes that many transphobic gamers hold. The transsexual workers you may encounter, with their screaming makeup and prominent penis bulges, seem meant to be ridiculous and repulsive to players who bring their pre-existing transphobia to the game. It’s as if they’s designed specifically so some players might enjoy hurting and killing them because they’re trans.
Rockstar has not yet officially discussed its reasons for removing the content, or what other details, if any, may have been altered. Kotaku contacted Rockstar Games about the removed NPCs and action figure, but did not receive a response in time for release.
In a short blog posted yesterdayOut Making Games responded to the discovery of the removed NPCs and action figures, saying the group is “excited” about the adjustments.
“Grand Theft Auto V is a wildly popular game with millions of players worldwide, ”wrote Out Making Games. “This change can have a huge impact on the way these players view transgender people. Thanks to everyone at Rockstar who prioritized this issue – we are game developers ourselves and understand that even small changes like this take coordinated time and effort.”