One of Rockstar Games' most popular video game series, Grand Theft Auto, is based on the premise that people enjoy committing virtual crimes, ranging from speeding and looting to murder. But the virtual criminal wonderland has reportedly taken an even darker turn (if that's possible), as word broke that players in the game's newest version, Part V, are using a hack to rape other players.
A Reddit thread appeared earlier this month detailing the escapades of user DEEPER_IN_DA_ASS, who has hacked the game in order to allows male avatars to latch themselves onto other characters. The pantless animation than thrusts its pelvis back and forth behind a victim in a clear simulation of sex. After being virtually assaulted, characters are forced to perform strip dances.
"You cannot kill him and there is nothing you can do about it. Worse, when he's done, you are stuck doing strip dances," Redditor merikmatilla noted on the thread, posting screenshots on Imgur. So far, all of the victims of the hack have been men, and the Reddit thread has tended to treat the whole thing as a big practical joke. Users have also been posting videos of hack, boasting of their "conquests." Some of those videos have since been removed, but others are still online.
Redditors have also noted that since the game doesn't recognize these "rapes" as a crime under the game's rules, the modification doesn't earn users any points. So really, the rapists are just doing it for the violent gratification and trolling.
When contacted by Mic, Rockstar Games did not respond as to whether they are aware of the hack and if they have plans to remove it. As of now, the modification has only been seen on PS3 systems, where users can connect online and play against both friends and strangers.
Whether or not those who first described the behavior find it funny or apalling, using virtual reality to simulate sexual assault is not an innocuous pastime. Just ask video game writer Kim Correa, who recently described her own experience being virtually raped at gunpoint in the zombie apocalypse game DayZ. "One of them said that he hadn't gotten pussy since the end of the world," Correa told On the Media. "He was pointing a gun at my face. I made a disgusted noise over my mic and started to back up and said his friend wasn't sure if they should kill me or not. I called him a sick puppy. He said that unfortunately for me, he was into necrophilia, and that he wanted to rape my dead body, and then he shot me."
Image Credit: YouTube
And that's only the beginning. In fact, an exhaustive history exists of gendered and violent crimes in video games. Several years ago, American politicians were horrified after learning about a genre of controversial erotic Japanese games like Rapelay, which encouraged gamers to rape female characters. Meanwhile, moderators for an online version of popular game Minecraft reacted with disgust in April after one gamer bragged about and documented committing a virtual rape on Reddit.
"This is an issue [with] real-world implications,” moderator ariehkovler wrote, according to the Daily Dot. "We won't and can't allow what can be considered a real-world crime like this to occur on the server. Also, CivCraft is open to all ages; the legal implications across the server's and players' jurisdictions create a real hazard to the community."
The modification in GTA has so far targeted men only, which might make it easy for some gamers to write off the whole thing as a joke. But rape, whether it targets male or female characters, should never be a punchline, just as it should never be a reward or a "special" modification in a video game.
Last year, a GTA player posted on a related message board, noting that, although he "wasn't a psycho," he would appreciate the opportunity to "kidnap a woman, hostage her, put her in my basement and rape her everyday, listen to her crying, watching her tears." In light of what happened to Kim Correa, this type of statement is troubling, and continues to reinforce the fact that even in the virtual world, women are seen as objects to be used and abused at the leisure of their male peers.