It’s been over a month since Rockstar Games released the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto V remake for PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, and the removal of questionable content from the game continues even post-release. More precisely, the removed content was previously labeled as transphobic by some journalists and gamers, so Rockstar Games decided to remove them from GTA 5 — though the company hasn’t publicly stated the motivation behind their decision.
According to IGN, non-player characters labeled as “drag queens” are no longer spawning in the game outside Cockatoos, and their dialogues have been removed from the game. In fact, a Reddit user named JayProspero first noticed a small change in one of the in-game offices, which had a row of action figures on display. In older versions of the game, one of the figures, Captain Spacetoy, had “interchangeable genitalia” and was dressed in pink, with garish makeup, and had a penis-like bulge. Well, this figurine, which can be interpreted as a nasty joke about trans women, isn’t present after the GTA 5 update.
NPCs that were previously labeled as “drag queens” in the game are also missing from the GTA 5 remake, though they’re still present in the game’s files on PC. These characters also wore garish makeup and bulges and could be heard conversing with other NPCs, or the player, about hormone use. Again, this could very well be interpreted as a joke at the expense of trans women and the trans community in general. Dataminers, like those that leaked details about The Last of Us Part II multiplayer game, have confirmed that the character files are still present but disabled, and their voice lines have been deleted.
The removal of transphobic content from the GTA 5 remake was warmheartedly greeted by OutMakingGames — an LGBTQ+ gaming advocacy group that wrote an open letter to Rockstar, urging them to remove the allegedly transphobic content from the game. This content includes the aforementioned NPCs and the action figurine, as well as the abundance of allegedly transphobic ads throughout the game’s world, which still exist in the game.
OutMakingGames believed that Rockstar previously designed GTA 5 trans characters in a way that inspires repulsiveness in players who bring their pre-existing transphobia to the game, allowing some players to relish hurting and killing said characters for being trans. So, in the end, while some may disagree with the removal of content, we can all agree with OutMakingGames’ perspective on how this may inspire various degrees of hateful action.
Admittedly, this isn’t the first time Rockstar Games has opted to remove controversial content from their titles. The Confederate Flag, one of the symbols of white supremacists, has been removed from GTA Online and the flopped GTA: The Trilogy. And though both games offer significantly better performance, despite The Trilogy’s initially rocky launch period, some of the content is obviously missing.
Rockstar Games still hasn’t officially discussed its reasons for removing said content from GTA 5 or any other details. The remake was released on March 15 for PS5, Xbox Series S/X, and PC.