GTA 6 isn’t “going woke”: it’ll be as amoral as ever

If you think any GTA game is going to be right-on, I've got a Vice City bridge to sell you

Jimmy and Tracey in GTA V
(Image credit: Rockstar Games)

There are two kinds of people in the world. There are people that read an article about GTA 6 and think "ooh, that's interesting, and probably quite good". And there are the people that read the same article and immediately go online to complain about GTA "going woke" and, inevitably, "going broke" as a result. And over the last few days, the internet has been full of the second kind, with the odd US right-wing political candidate joining in too.

According to the article published by Bloomberg a few days ago, GTA developer Rockstar Games has tried to clean up its corporate culture a little bit. That means it decided not to go ahead with the GTA Online Cops'n'Crooks mode in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, one of many Black men killed by police officers; it removed some childish, transphobic jokes from GTA 5; and it does not want to punch down on marginalised groups in GTA 6. 

As if that wasn't enough to enrage the online anti-woke warriors, GTA 6 will also feature a playable protagonist who isn't a white guy. The hero (or anti-hero) this time will be a Latina woman.

You can imagine the response. To which I'd say: have any of these outraged people actually played a GTA game?

GTA is a horrible place, and that's why we love it

The idea that GTA is going "woke" is laughable: GTA? The game that started with the criminals as the heroes and became ever more amoral and violent as it progressed? The whole point of GTA is to satirise and skewer the American Dream, to say that the world is so broken and awful that the only way to rise to the top is to be the baddest, most brutal, most ruthless human possible. Just because Rockstar isn't going to punch down on marginalised groups doesn't mean that GTA 6 is going to be nice. It's still GTA, with all that entails.

I need to declare a dog in this fight: I'm a trans woman, and I've been repelled by the transphobia and misogyny in previous GTA games: it's not necessary, it's not funny if you're older than nine, and it makes me feel unwelcome in a game that I know I'd like otherwise. Transphobia – or racism, or homophobia, or any other bigotry – in a game feels like a punch in the gut when you're the one being picked on for a cheap laugh. Not having it in the game won't spoil your experience at all, but it means lame frat-boy humour won't spoil mine. 

And as for going broke, that's laughable too. GTA 6 will sell billions of copies, and if a few people decide that they won't buy it because it isn't sufficiently racist or sexist, then they won't even be a blip in the sales figures. And like the people who boycotted Horizon Forbidden West because it featured – gasp! – a female protagonist, they're the ones missing out. GTA 6 will be awful, disgusting, abhorrent and terrible in so many ways. It's going to be great.

Carrie Marshall

Writer, musician and broadcaster Carrie Marshall has been covering technology since 1998 and is particularly interested in how tech can help us live our best lives. Her CV is a who’s who of magazines, newspapers, websites and radio programmes ranging from T3, Techradar and MacFormat to the BBC, Sunday Post and People’s Friend. Carrie has written more than a dozen books, ghost-wrote two more and co-wrote seven more books and a Radio 2 documentary series. When she’s not scribbling, she’s the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR (