GTA 6 including a female protagonist is good — if Rockstar don’t give in to fandom

GTA hacker not guilty headerRockstar Games

Recent reports suggest GTA 6 will be introducing a female protagonist to the main narrative for the first time. While this may sound like a great step in the right direction for the franchise this inclusion might be a recipe for disaster if poorly implemented.

A new report detailing Rockstar’s desire to change their workspace and the GTA franchise claims the franchise will include a playable female character in GTA 6. If this is true then the upcoming game will be first in the franchise to do so.

I would first like to point out how fantastic this is to hear. To know a major gaming company is working hard to atone for its lack of action in the past is a great step in the right direction.

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From the sounds of things, it appears Rockstar is committing to revamping its culture. According to a report by Bloomberg’s Jason Schreier, one employee had lauded the progress made by the company, saying that it felt like a ‘boys’ club transformed into a real company”, while morale is higher across the studio.

As for the game, it has also been reported that this character will be Latina, again another great win for diversity in the series. This is an especially big inclusion for the GTA franchise given historically the Latina community has been portrayed as the antagonists or rivals to the player.

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Schreier has also noted that developers are “being cautious not to ‘punch down’ by making jokes about marginalized groups”.

Sexist and misogynistic GTA fans are already out for blood 

On paper, this is a fantastic idea. Something that has me intrigued and excited about. Rockstar taking their biggest franchise and seemingly modernising it is great for the gaming industry. To have one of the biggest developers pushing for this change is just about as inspiring and hopeful as it can get.

One problem with the reveal of a female protagonist for GTA 6 is that it is coming off the back of a great push forward to create a safer and better workplace environment, and that has led to even more negativity from the more sexist and misogynistic elements of the GTA fanbase who don’t understand why Rockstar’s desire to modernise should be reflected in the game.

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The online discourse has been depressingly predictable, just like it was when Sam Kerr was revealed as FIFA’s first female cover star. I worry that the disgruntled fan base of GTA might ruin something that, to many women, is a huge win for diversity in the gaming space. 

These examples are just from the first report. I shudder to think about what this line of dialogue will look like in the months to come when gameplay footage and character designs for GTA 6’s female protagonist begin to pop up. 

It’s worth mentioning that not all fans are engaging in this negatively and many are even excited about the decision. Unfortunately though, these voices feel overpowered by the hate that others are trying to insight.

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GTA having a female lead will be a challenging task for Rockstar

I was way too young when I started playing GTA. San Andreas was the first real GTA title I played through and at the time it was just a fun game I could customize cars and wreak havoc in. As someone who grew up on the PlayStation 2, many of the best games on that console were a part of the GTA franchise. Since then, I have played almost all the main GTA games.

However, I stopped playing GTA Online due to the almost endless amount of sexist comments I would get sent to me through the Xbox 360’s private chat. It’s not hard to predict what the reaction to positive change for the series will be like from many fans, but what we don’t know is whether the new character will be an inspiring female lead.

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First and foremost, almost all Grand Theft Auto protagonists are in some ways villains. They’re criminals, and while their personal lives can sometimes be a great way to ground them in reality, often they are just characters that want to kill people and move up the ranks of the criminal underbelly.

GTA 6 female protagonistTake-Two Interactive
Most GTA protagonists can be categorized as anti-heroes

Of course, some are still beloved by the fan base. Vice City’s Tommy Vercetti and San Andreas’ Carl Johnson are just two examples of previous playable characters fans still adore.

It feels like Rockstar could be setting themselves up for failure now with a female protagonist. I worry about GTA’s potential female protagonist being used as a form of evidence of the transformation of Rockstar’s workplace culture. If she is similar to the others then she will appease the fanbase but likely not be an inspiring representation of a positive shift in workplace culture.

If this potential female lead is a more heroic type protagonist or, god forbid, an out and proud feminist, some members of  the GTA community will be up in arms. It’s all well and good that Rockstar wants to make changes but it’s hard to undo the damage the series has done over the last 20 years.

Rockstar’s rocky past with LGBTQ+ commentary

At its core, the GTA franchise has never been an inclusive and diverse gaming space. The games themselves have for years been perpetuating negative stereotypes about women as well as the LGBTQ+ community.

Transphobic jokes from GTA V are finally being removed for the games current-gen release after featuring in the game since its initial release. And while one of the protagonist Trevor is presented as bisexual, he is also seen acting aggressively towards his romantic partners. This type of representation does more harm than good.

Beyond that, Grand Theft Auto: The Ballad of Gay Tony was an expansion that provided an outdated and pretty much non-existent representation of the queer community. Many even described the expansion as “the straightest Grand Theft Auto ever“. The character’s sexuality is never even truly explored despite the expansion literally being called “The Ballad of Gay Tony.”

GTA 6 female protagonist gay tonyRockstar Games
Despite the promise of a more queer-centric GTA experience, The Ballad of Gay Tony expansion was simply more of the same.

The only female character that comes to mind when examining strong and complex female characters in the GTA franchise is Catalina, who appears in GTA: 3 and San Andreas. However, she is depicted as lacking any control of her actions. An unhinged figure who is even described by CJ in San Andreas as “berserk.” Even despite all this she is still able to also be played off as a love interest.

So while this announcement has made me interested in the idea of a female protagonist making their way to the GTA 6 main story, execution is so important. Here’s hoping that Rockstar can pull it off and that fans keep an open mind when the game finally releases.