Grand Theft Auto allows players to hijack cars, rob banks, outrun the police, frequent strip clubs and wreak general havoc on open world environments with copious amounts of violence.
But in the years since the bestselling franchise released 3D games, there has never been a playable female protagonist.
All that is about to change in Grand Theft Auto 6, which will reportedly feature a female character in its single-player campaign for the first time.
The character will be a co-lead in the much-delayed game, according to a Bloomberg report published on Wednesday that details shifts in the culture at its publisher Rockstar Games.
The new female character, who will be of Latina descent, is one part of a crime duo modeled after famed bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde who will be based in a fictionalized version of Miami.
The game will launch around March 2024 and will be regularly updated with “new missions and cities on a regular basis,” according to the report.
Players have been allowed to create their own characters in the online version of the game. GTA Online allows for various customizations, including gender, but the single-player campaigns have been almost entirely dominated by male protagonists.
The original 1997 version of the game technically gave players the option to play as a woman, Kotaku notes. The release, however, was presented from a top-down perspective and gender selection had no relation to actual gameplay. “You couldn’t really tell you were playing as a woman,” according to the gaming review site.
More often than not, women within the game’s universe are depicted as girlfriends, sidekicks and sex workers who are regularly brutalized and abused.
The Grand Theft Auto franchise has earned the reputation of being profoundly misogynistic and violent, leading various lawmakers and politicians, including Hillary Clinton, to take steps to keep the game out of the hands of children and blame the franchise for encouraging real-life crimes.
The inclusion of a playable female protagonist is part of an attempted culture overhaul at Rockstar Games, according to the report, as the company aims to become a more “progressive and compassionate workplace.”
Developers are also being “cautious” not to “punch down” jokes about marginalized groups, a source told Bloomberg, in contrast to previous games, which heavily trafficked in racist, homophobic, and sexist storylines.
In addition to removing “transphobic jokes” from the most recent game release, a game mode called “Cops ‘n’ Crooks” was also abandoned in the summer of 2020, following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Since 1997, Rockstar Games has has released seven standalone Grand Theft Auto titles among a host of expansion packs.