The Grand Theft Auto video game series has been widely successful across multiple platforms and generations of consoles for nearly two decades. That same series has also been the root of numerous controversies since the first edition of GTA was released in stores. It is understandable why so much about GTA over the years has been controversial. The game has essentially been built upon players completing missions that include committing simulated crimes such as theft, assault, and even murder. The GTA series and also first-person shooter titles have long been criticized by activists groups and individuals who would claim that video games can inspire real-life criminal activities and violence.
Somebody hypothetically linking a GTA segment with something that could occur in the real world is one thing. Any humor and fun and games about such discussions have been tossed out the window when the matter has been taken to court. The GTA series has been part of multiple lawsuits, and there have also been accusations that the game has used the likenesses of living persons without consent. Regardless of those controversial moments, or maybe even because of them, the GTA series remains popular with gamers who have enjoyed numerous editions of these titles, and also with younger fans who are just being introduced to GTA for the first time.
10 The Entire Package
Perhaps the most controversial moment in GTA is that, as professional wrestling personality Eric Bischoff famously wrote about, controversy creates cash. David Jones and Mike Dailly, who created the original GTA, hired respected public relations guru Max Clifford to build a noteworthy profile for the game. According to a piece published on GameRant.com, Clifford “planted stories” in publications with the hopes of manufacturing controversy that would help grow the popularity of the title. The services of a PR person such as Clifford are, of course, no longer needed, as the letters GTA are now widely recognized by gamers around the world.
Acts of prostitution have been depicted in GTA titles for some time, to the point that long-time players of the series regard those moments as just another aspect of the game. This alone has been controversial, as the prostitutes in the game are largely throw-away characters who are used to acquire health and money. Even more controversial in the eyes of some is that prostitutes in GTA games can be murdered and subsequently robbed. While doing so is not a required mission in order to defeat a title such as GTA III, the fact that the option is there at all has been regarded as controversial.
8 Jack Thompson
Jack Thompson is a disbarred attorney and activist who has a long history of hitting out at the GTA series. It was alleged, when GTA IV was released, that the makers of the game hit back in the form of character Tom Goldberg. Goldberg is an attorney in GTA IV who is, per the plans of the mission, to be killed. Goldberg famously explains, in his final scene in the game, the following: “Guns don't kill people. Video games do.” Goldberg is then killed. Mr. Thompson did not take kindly to this, as he saw it as a direct reference to him.
7 GTA Vice City: Haitians and Cubans
It was back in December of 2003 when GTA: Vice City was in the headlines for reasons other than the entertaining nature of the title's game play. The original GTA: Vice City, as explained by Reuters and CNN.com, urged players to “kill the Haitians!” and also to “kill the Cubans!” This enraged representatives and activists from both of those communities, and it once again generated conversations about the violent nature of GTA titles and of other similar games. The creators of the game realized that they had made a miscue, and they eventually vowed to “remove the objectionable statements from future copies of Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.”
6 Lindsay Lohan
GTA V included Lacey Jonas, an actress who is supposedly an entirely fictitious character. Not everybody saw it that way. Lindsay Lohan, in particular, believed that the character was based on her, so much so that she took the matter to court. Kotaku did some work and found a picture of Lohan that does suspiciously match a depiction of the GTA character. Take-Two, the game publisher behind GTA, fought back in the fall of 2014, saying that the Lohan lawsuit was “legally meritless.” Pictures of the Jones character were used in promotional artwork that was featured on billboards, websites and other forms of advertisements.
5 GTA V: Torture Scene
GTA V was, in several ways, the most controversial edition of the series to date. In order to finish GTA V, players must complete a torture scene in the mission named “By the Book.” The Guardian quoted Freedom from Torture chief executive Keith Best, who spoke out about the GTA scene: “Rockstar North has crossed a line by effectively forcing people to take on the role of a torturer and perform a series of unspeakable acts if they want to achieve success in the game.” While Erik Kain of Forbes wrote the scene is “not fun to play, and it’s not fun to watch,” Kain also stated that the scene is “obviously commentary on the US government’s of torture.”
4 GTA IV: Little Lacy Surprise Pageant
The GTA IV game included quite the Easter Egg that players could unlock. After going into an Internet cafe, users can enter the following URL: www.littlelacysurprisepageant.com. Upon doing so, a message appears on the computer screen that the website has been shut down. The screen also has the following warning: “We see it all. We know it all.” After exiting the screen, your wanted level will immediately go up to five stars for attempting to “access explicit images.” While the game in no way praises such actions, that the option is there made for some controversy.
3 GTA Lost and Damned: Nudity
GTA IV was, like prior editions of the series, controversial on its own. The game once again made news with the release of the Lost and Damned expansion pack. One of the scenes that was included in the expansion pack featured full frontal male nudity. While that one scene is not sexual in nature, it still caused quite the stir among critics and even fans of the GTA series. Online videos that show that portion of the Lost and Damned have either been censored by the uploader or deleted by websites. Even cartoon nudity is frowned upon in many circles.
2 GTA V: Karen Gravano
Lindsay Lohan is not the only person who has claimed to have her image portrayed in GTA. Karen Gravano, who has appeared on the VH1 reality television series Mob Wives, believed that the GTA V character Antonia Bottino was based on her. Gravano wanted $40 million over the issue. Rockstar Games had a pair of responses as explained by the Cinema Blend website: The company claimed that GTA V was a work of fiction, and also that the Bottino character and Gravano do not look alike. TMZ put it in a different way, saying that Gravano was “too fat to sue.” Ouch.
1 GTA San Andreas: Hot Coffee Mod
It is one of the better known mods ever made for a video game. The main character in GTA: San Andreas can date multiple women at the same time, and those women may, now and again, invite Carl inside for “coffee.” The game implies Carl and his lady friend have more than a cup of coffee, but the “Hot Coffee” mod goes one step further. The mod allows players to take part in a sex “mini-game.” While the characters are clothed throughout the simulation, the mod was nevertheless controversial. Take-Two Interactive apologized for the mod and claimed that the content available through “Hot Coffee” was never intended to be in the original game.