Grand Theft Auto: Sex, Drugs and A Whole Lotta Controversy

Grand Theft Auto is renown for it’s controversy of adult content that it contains within it’s games, and how easily accessible it is for younger people, especially those in pre teen years that can have an effect on their growing up. In my last blog ‘Video Games Cause Violence’, I explored the common misconception backed with various studies and that it really didn’t have a real effect on the individual playing the game. However, the Grand Theft Auto series still faces controversies brought up by various mother groups and has caused quite a stir in the ‘public sphere’.

Grand Theft Auto’s list of controversies is quite large, no seriously, have a look. It’s ability to allow players to have sex with prostitutes, take drugs and murder everything in sight has had seen a large uproar, which in turn caused Target to remove the game from its shelves. It has sparked many debates within the public sphere, such as ethnic discrimination in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, drink driving in Grand Theft Auto IV and sexism in Grand Theft Auto V.

In 2002, Rockstar released Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and received rave reviews across the gaming community for its gameplay and soundtrack. However, along with its rave reviews came its controversial reception, especially from Cuban-American and Haitian-American civil rights organisations which believed the game “invited players to harm immigrants from those two nations.” Rockstar believed that the groups were blowing the issue out of proportion, but later changed the dialogue to satisfy the groups. The groups providing that racism is being taught to younger people playing the game, which has had a lasting effect on the mediated public sphere, as racism has been a social issue dating back decades.

Grand Theft Auto’s introduction of drink driving in the 2008 game ‘Grand Theft Auto IV’ had again caused a stir, which caused famous figure Hillary Clinton to come out and criticise the game. Mothers Against Drunk Driving had asked the ESRB to change the “M” rating of the game to “Adults Only” due to the drink driving introduced to the game. Drink driving being another current social issue that has affected many families, and allowing children and young people to replicate this behaviour has caused a large outcry from those in outside the gaming community.

GameSpot journalist Carolyn Petit had reviewed the 2013 Grand Theft Auto V as ‘misogynistic’ for its depiction of women and the ability for the player to inflict violence towards women in the game. Lindsay Lohan and television personality Karen Graven even sued Rockstar, alleging that Rockstar had used their likenesses to base characters off. A petition had been started in Australia about the violence in the game which resulted in Target removing the game from 300 stores, which was followed by Kmart who also removed the game from their stores.

So Grand Theft Auto has explored modern social issues but has however come under scrutiny for allowing the players the ability to interact with this issues, a game that has caused much a debate in the mediated public sphere.


3 thoughts on “Grand Theft Auto: Sex, Drugs and A Whole Lotta Controversy

  1. Grand Theft Auto would definitely be one of the most controversial gaming franchises in the gaming industry. I definitely agree that the games have very explicit adult content, ranging from murder, to sex, and to racism. Although some people believe the game should be banned, others believe it to be the best game series available to play. And this is why it creates so much controversy in the public sphere.

    There is definitely violence, sexism, and racism within the game, but the people who are against the game are mostly feminists and mothers to young children (and feminist mothers). But the game is not for everyone, so if many people enjoy the games, such as myself, why are others ruining them by starting protests and petitions that ban the games from stores? Personally I believe that Target and Kmart banning GTAV was a giant step too far.

    The issue with children playing the game (and being affected by it?) is not the game’s fault, but it is the parents who buy the game and allowing for their children to play it. The packaging of the game clearly states that it is 18+, and there is no way that someone underage would be able to purchase it from a store, due to very strict monitoring. Even I get asked for ID at 21 years old.

    Furthermore, although the game is violent, there are many other media mediums that are just as violent, such as films and movies. So why are people making such a big deal out of one game, and taking such offence to it? And in turn punishing gamers.

    This article ( demonstrates how video games and real-life social violence have nothing in common. I definitely agree with the article, and believe this ‘fact’ is just a lie to deter people from purchasing violent video games. Real-life violence comes from other factors, and not from video games and fiction. Also, mature adults (at who the games are aimed at), would not be so easily influenced by a video game.

    Personally, I believe that although the Grand Theft Auto series does contain a lot of adult content, it shouldn’t be banned or changed in any way. The games are just a work of fiction and creativity, so I believe that those who enjoy them, such as myself, should continue to play them. The only people who have a problem with the games are those who don’t play them, and so they should ignore the industry rather than go out of their way to ruin it for us.

    Unfortunately, games like this will always spark debate, and there will always be controversy surrounding this genre of gaming within the public sphere. Although the solution should be to leave it if you don’t like it, and play it if you do, such a simple answer would never be the resolution.

    Personally, I will continue to purchase and play the games as long as the franchise exists.


  2. It was very interesting that you chose to use GTA as your media platform for public debate and this worked very well with the topic. As someone who has never really played video games nor been interested in them, I have however, heard of the controversy that surrounds the game. Although a virtual world, the idea of implementing modern social issues to potentially young audiences is debatable. However, by giving for example GTA II an MA rating, it should be assumed that parents would not condone their children to play if they see this as inappropriate. There is nothing wrong with including these social issues in my eyes, because GTA have attached the rating to the game. GTA I believe, is aimed at an older audience, it is a choice to play. Within the game too, when referring to prostitutes and drink driving, GTA state that whilst the player has the option to do these acts, there is no requirement to do so in the game. This means that although the game involves these social issues, it is an option to participate in them. They are not forced! I personally see this as a way to give players the opportunity to make life choices that may reflect on choices they make in the real world.


  3. Grand Theft Auto is a really good example to use for this topic! I think some of the themes and actions included do cause anxiety in society, but the fact that they are included in the game doesn’t mean people should replicate them in real life. I’ve never played the game, but my younger brother does and I can see why certain groups within society would be concerned about the effect it might have on younger children. But if the rating is so high, shouldn’t parents either talk to their children about the real implications of such actions or not allow them to play it until they understand them?

    Realistically, the game isn’t designed for everyone to like it. It shouldn’t be up to the creator of the game to monitor how those using the game interpret the actions of the fictional characters. If anything, the game is putting issues that aren’t usually talked about in society in the spotlight, seeing that many people become aware of them, and possibly try to engage in things that will help them become less present in society.


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