×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Times Grand Theft Auto Took Things Too Far

Grand Theft Auto is a franchise known for going there. No subject is off-limits and developer Rockstar is unafraid of stirring up controversy. This is why the games have infamously been at the center of that hackneyed "video games cause violence" argument. GTA games are undoubtedly violent, but they're not that bad... right? 

There have been numerous occasions where GTA took things too far for the sake of being realistic, or worse, outright provocative. There are some lines that just shouldn't be crossed, even in largely satirical titles. And yet, Rockstar tap danced all over this line, drawing the ire of both gaming Luddites and players themselves. This is why, despite the enormous success of the games, they live in infamy in many circles. Parents are understandably averse to letting their young ones play out race wars in their leisure time. And that incident is far from the first or last time that GTA took things too far.

No one is safe on the streets

Okay, let's break down one of the biggest controversies in gaming; Rockstar's apparent problem with misogyny. It's been a glaring fact that not a single Rockstar title has had a female protagonist in its long history, but what's worse is that violence against society's most vulnerable women is gamified and even encouraged in GTA titles. Yes, you can kill indiscriminately, but there's something especially sinister about the practice of picking up prostitutes, paying them for their services, and then murdering them to get your money back. 

Numerous op-eds have been written on this controversial mechanic, and just as many YouTube tutorials boasting the "best ways to kill hookers" have been published. There have even been petitions to outright ban the game entirely, and GTA 5 was indeed pulled from shelves in Australian Targets over Rockstar's problem with "violence against women."

The torture mini-game is torture

Trevor Phillips isn't exactly a likeable guy, but we pity him for the task the FIB (that's Federal Investigation Bureau rather than the Federal Bureau of Investigation) asks him to complete in the mission "By the Book." Trevor is put in a room with a bound man, pliers, a car battery, and a wrench. No, they're not fixing up a car. Rather, Trevor must torture this — innocent as it turns out — accused terrorist for information. 

Rather than coming off as typical Rockstar satire, this infamous torture mini-game is gratuitous and, in the end, seems to justify waterboarding practices as a means to an end. Anti-torture groups came forward to speak out against the scene after the release of the game, saying, "This adds insult to injury for survivors who are left physically and mentally scarred by torture in the real world." To this day, the scene can be compared to some of the more grisly moments in games like Heavy Rain and is certainly not for the faint of heart. Speaking of hearts: Trevor has to keep an eye on his victim's heart monitor and have a dose of adrenaline ready for when, not if, his heart stops. That's just how brutal "By the Book" is.

GOURANGA isn't good

No one likes to be solicited on the street, but Rockstar appears to have nothing but hatred for Hare Krishna practitioners. For those not in the know, the Krishna movement is a branch of Hinduism often characterized by practitioners handing out flyers or flowers on the street and asking for donations in return. Krishnas were stylized as a gang in GTA 2 and thus were targets for the protagonist. 

Therefore, GTA 2 featured the "GOURANGA" achievement. The mantra is something of a prayer for eternal happiness and pops up on screen when the player mows down a row of Krishnas with their car or blows them away via firing squad. You can see why this is, to put it mildly, a controversial achievement. Imagine if the game encouraged players to do the same to a line or nuns or rabbis or imams. We expect that kind of offensive violence from games like Postal. GTA usually is gratuitous within reason. Those who get hurt have it coming to them, which is why we can excuse the franchise's habit of pushing boundaries. Sometimes, however, GTA just goes too far.