The announcement of Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy in light of Grand Theft Auto III’s 20th anniversary was welcomed news among gamers and fans of the series. Encapsulating three of the series’ classic titles, Grand Theft Auto III, GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas, The Trilogy will also feature extensive graphical and gameplay enhancements, alongside some other corrections. Namely, the remastered version of the game leaves the Confederate flag in its historical releases.
As reported by Kotaku, the newly released trailer showcases many of the game’s graphical updates. Among its reveals, the footage offers a brief glimpse of arms dealer Phil Cassidy – a recurring Grand Theft Auto character – sporting a black t-shirt with a skull across the front instead of his usual Confederate flag. It’s still unclear whether this omittance of the symbol of Southern slavery has been removed from the remasters as a whole, though it seems unlikely that Rockstar Games went through all the trouble of such an alteration for the purpose of a single trailer.
With that said, this isn’t the first time Rockstar Games has removed the Confederate flag from its games. Gamers first caught wind of this after the flag was removed from one of the trailer parks in Grand Theft Auto Online, beginning in 2015, though the symbol remained elsewhere in the game. The developer and publisher of the GTA franchise has since replaced all Confederate flags with American flags across all games where such flags aren’t crucial to the narrative. And they did it at an appropriate time since Twitch introduced guidelines at the end of 2020, which banned the display of the Confederate flag due to its symbolic association with slavery and white supremacist groups.
An arms dealer, gun freak, and drunk, Phil Cassidy appeared in several Grand Theft Auto titles, including GTA III, Vice City, Vice City Stories, and Liberty City Stories. However, he’s most prominently featured in 2002’s GTA: Vice City – the only game in which he’s actually depicted wearing the Confederate flag on his clothes. Besides the flag on his clothes, Phil’s most notable feature is his one arm, as he lost the other one (the right one) during the events of GTA: Vice City when he was caught in the blast radius of one of his homemade explosive devices.
Cassidy is also mentioned in another Rockstar Games title, the 2003’s Manhunt, by Carcer City Police Department members, implying that he expanded his gun-dealing business over to Carcer City too, which is close to Grand Theft Auto’s Liberty City.
The removal of offensive content from games, especially during remasters, has become increasingly common for game-producing studios. For example, just this month, Capcom and Facebook have removed suggestive dialogue and discourteous behavior towards female characters from the new VR version of Resident Evil 4, though the original game, with all of its questionable content, has remained available on Steam. Rockstar Games, however, opted to remove the Grand Theft Auto III, Vice City, and San Andreas from various digital distribution platforms in light of the highly-anticipated arrival of GTA: The Trilogy on November 11.