Grand Theft Auto is an open-world game where players participate in and complete missions to progress through a bigger story. These missions always tie together, painting a larger picture and following several characters along the way. The franchise itself was born in 1997 when David Jones and Mike Dailly, along with the DMX Design team, created the open-world, yet narrative-driven game. It followed a criminal who had to climb his way through the ranks of the criminal underworld in three major (fictionalized) cities: Liberty City, San Andreas, and Vice City, based on New York City, San Francisco and Miami, respectively. The game was released on MS-DOS, Windows 95, and PlayStation, allowing it to be purchased and enjoyed by a large portion of the gaming population.
The game has come a long, long way since then and has even resulted in the creation of Grand Theft Auto Online, which takes open-world gaming to another level as you can take your self-made character through countless missions, games, and all other sorts of trouble.
In Grand Theft Auto Online, gamers are allowed to customize their own character however they so choose; this was the first time that players could choose to play as a female character. However, the graphics of the game have never been known to be that feminine-friendly as all the characters have masculine features that are unchangeable. Many have even stated that allowing online players to create male or female characters came as an afterthought, not something they intended. The disproportionately little attention to detail that the female characters receive has even sparked a series of YouTube videos where creators attempt to make a female character that more accurately represents the feminine-seeking audience. Two examples of these videos (both very well received) can be found by YouTuber “merron,” here, and YouTuber Kat Avocado, here.
The franchise’s most popular game came out in 2013, titled Grand Theft Auto V, and is playable on PlayStation, Xbox and Windows. This is the franchise’s most recent release, but that has not stopped the developers from continuously releasing new downloadable content (DLCs) for players to add a little something new to the nine-year-old game.
Now, as for the new female character, the Latina protagonist will be the co-lead in the franchise’s upcoming game, Grand Theft Auto VI. The game is currently in production, so only a little bit is known about the actual content, creation, and release of the game. Rockstar Games has stated that the game is still at least a few years away, leaving fans hopeful that this means 2024 at the latest, rather than 2025, 2026 or later.
The game is officially known to take place in Vice City (real-world Miami), meaning that players who have followed the franchise will already be extremely familiar with the game’s setting. The main story is said to be Bonnie and Clyde-esque, following a male and female duo. This is where the new female protagonist comes in. It is safe to guess that you will be able to do all the things that the male characters have been able to do in the past, with the added bonus that the female character will not exist solely for the man’s pleasure.
In addition to attempting to increase the inclusivity of the series by adding a female lead, Rockstar and the Grand Theft Auto developers and writers have also stated that they are aware and consciously moving against making a game that includes jokes that “punch down” on marginalized groups of people. This is vastly different than what players have seen in the past, and it is a nice reminder that the gaming community has come far over the last 20 years.
As for why this new inclusion matters, it is a direct reflection of how society, specifically the gaming industry, has come to view its players. While hard to record exactly, there have been many attempts to see just how many women play video games. According to this statistic, the split percentage between male and female is 55% vs 45%. This is a staggeringly close race, and highlights how naïve some people are about the fact that there are tons of women who play video games. But, this is a small sample and one that appealed to female gamers. However, in the last handful of years, it has become abundantly clear that games of all different genres can be played by both boys and girls. And, it is a safe bet that female gamers make up about half of the gamers in the world.
In the case of Grand Theft Auto, it was certainly a game designed for and advertised to male audiences. But even GTA has shown that they can adapt and change. The introduction of a female protagonist does not undermine the role of the male protagonists; it is simply an addition to the team, and one that may seem small in scale, but is really a major step for women who like to play this kind of game. This is a win for Rockstar Games and the developers of Grand Theft Auto, and an exciting peek at what the gaming industry can do to change the way audiences view these games and who should play them.