In a recent interview with GQ, co-founder of Rockstar Games Dan Houser has expressed that he's glad Grand Theft Auto 6 isn't being released in the current political climate. The interview mainly focused on the development of Red Dead Redemption 2, with the above comment leading into the upcoming release being a period piece.
It’s really unclear what we would even do with it, let alone how upset people would get with whatever we did. Both intense liberal progression and intense conservatism are both very militant, and very angry. It is scary but it’s also strange, and yet both of them seem occasionally to veer towards the absurd. It’s hard to satirise for those reasons. Some of the stuff you see is straightforwardly beyond satire. It would be out of date within two minutes, everything is changing so fast.
GQ's writer specifically referred to the "age of Trump". Looking at social media and the news these days, nobody can deny that a troubling shift has taken place where we're all exposed to seemingly much more vitriol than we were years ago. Popular satirical publication The Onion is often invoked under actual real news with people saying it's slowly becoming impossible to satirize anything because reality is so stupid.
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Satire has always been a core element of GTA games. Satirical humor underpins the entire tone and it permeates the fictional rendition of the United States featured in every title. The fictional companies, stores, brands, locations and people are all skewed extremes of what appears in the real world, though in more moderate quantities. At least, they did in 2013 when GTA 5 was released.
Today? One might argue that someone living in 2013 could be exposed to the reality of 2018 and they'd honestly believe it is satire. That is a surprisingly large challenge for satirical media to surmount. GTA 5 had Jock Cranley, but what could GTA 6 possibly do when Trump is even more of an extreme than a fictional character intended to be satire?
Red Dead Redemption 2, like its predecessor, differs from the GTA franchise greatly in terms of tone. Neither are wholly dry and serious affairs, but they are a far cry from the dick jokes of GTA. More serious and arguably more mature, Red Dead Redemption 2 doesn't need to compete with modern politics in an attempt to be satirical, meaning the writing team can focus on creating a compelling and realistic world. Realism, as we're often reminded, is one of the prime directives of Rockstar when it came to creating Red Dead Redemption 2.
What does this mean for the future of GTA, though?
Depressing as it may be, it seems far too optimistic to hope that the world will get better before it gets worse. In a world where actively trying to limit the liberties of certain people based on sexual orientation is an accepted political stance, when a political leader can create a persona around unchecked racism and sexism and continue to somehow have support like Trump has, if Rockstar is looking to release a GTA game soon they will still have this issue.
The internet being what it is, rumors about what's next for GTA are already afoot. Unsubstantiated, but popular nonetheless, are the notions that a major title will be released sometime 2020-2022, coinciding with the next console generation that Sony plans for that timeframe.
The next presidential elections in the USA are going to be in 2020. If Dan Houser is afraid of releasing a GTA game now, then that particular prospect must be terrifying.