In recent years, the press and LGBTQ + groups have put pressure on Rockstar Games to remove or change content they see as “transphobic” in Grand Theft Auto V. Now, gamers have noticed a few such changes in transgender representation in the “expanded and improved” game upgrades recently released for PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X / S.
Reddit user JayProspero was among the first to notice a change in the action figures along the office wall in the arcade of the game. A hot-pink-clad “Captain Spacetoy” figure, in a box highlighting “replaceable genitals,” has been removed in the new console versions of the game; an alternative figure with a more reserved outfit and “adjustable vomiting direction” remains on the wall.
In the new generation of GTAV / GTAO, Rockstar seems to have disabled trans caricatures or “drag queens” from spawning outside cockatoos. This could be after a prayer from OutMakingGames last year. I hope this gives comfort to everyone who felt that these NPCs portrayed harmful stereotypes 🏳️⚧️
– Kirsty Cloud (@kirstycloud) April 8, 2022
Kirsty Cloud, who helps run the fan community GTAnet, has too highlighted that over-the-top trans woman models, apparently referred to as the “drag queen” in the game’s files, no longer occur outside of Cockatoos, a nightclub in the game. While these character models can still be accessed in the game’s sandbox-like Director Mode, dialogue options that explicitly refer to their gender and sexuality have been removed.
A successful press campaign?
Rockstar has not responded to a request for comment on the apparent changes. But the move comes months after content like this was branded as “transphobic” by Out Making Games, a self-described “group of hundreds of LGBTQ + gaming professionals working in the UK gaming industry.” In an open letter written in September, the group quoted coverage from Kotakus’ Carolyn Petit, who called for trans-representation issues in the original 2013 release.
“Unlike other random NPCs, the way Rockstar designed GTA V“Transgender people are actively playing into the hateful stereotypes that many transphobic gamers espouse,” Petit wrote. their pre-existing transphobia to play with them. It’s as if they’s designed specifically for some players to enjoy hurting and killing them because they’re trans. “
Some critics have remarked GTA V‘s reductive and derogatory treatment of trans characters since the game’s original release. And back in 2020, Engadget’s Jessica Conditt expressed concern that the remasters coming at the time would not reflect how “the conversation about transgender rights, visibility and violence has changed markedly in the last seven years.”
“I think there is a huge responsibility at all games, all types of media, not to rely on lazy stereotypes,” said Birmingham City University associate professor Dr. Ben Colliver to Conditt in 2020. “I Grand Theft Auto series, many of the stereotypes to me seem to be there only for a comic effect. They’re just there, so transgender people and LGBT people more broadly are a joke. “
The new console masters are “a great opportunity to remove transphobic elements from the game and have a positive impact on the new generation of gamers who want to pick up a copy,” Out Making Games wrote in its open letter. “Given the cultural influence GTA V around the world, Rockstar has a social responsibility to your players (many of whom may be LGBTQ +), to your staff, and to the world as a whole for not promoting violence against trans and gender differences. “
This is not the first time it has been edited out of questionable content GTA games over time. The Confederate flag was removed from certain places in Grand Theft Auto V and from a character’s shirt in 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 mini-game included on the disc, leading to a rating change from the ESRB.