GTA V Torture Scene Controversy

(image courtesy of

(image courtesy of

I’m not really a person who gets offended easily by anything shown in any type of media art form.  I even watched the Human Centipede and for some strange reason the sequel as well, and yes there were gross and seriously disturbing scenes in there but I could get through it, and sleep quite well at night I might add because well it’s just a movie.  I’m not doing those things…

Have you guys heard about the latest controversy?  Well, it’s in a little game called Grand Theft Auto 5


OK so there’s a mission where you and your terrible trio of three have to break into some type of federal building to break out this guy who MIGHT have information about a bad guy that needs to be taken out.  I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but this is just the build up anyway.

Once you have gotten this guy, the F.I.B (which is the F.B.I. really) asks Trevor (who is as psychotic as they come BUT at the same times, has his morals?) to torture this man to obtain the information.  So, Michael heads to the location with another F.I.B. agent to find the target but they need the correct information.  Que the controversy scene..

In order to find out what the target looks like, Trevor is contacted and asked to get the info.  You have a couple of tools to choose from in order to get the answers.  You have a wrench, which I think was to break knee caps or testicles, jumper cables hooked up to a battery on one end and the others will go onto the nipples of the tortured and then you would electrocute him,  a tank of gasoline which you can drown your victim in and pliers to pull teeth.  Let me paint you a picture..

OK, so how do you feel?

Now while I was playing that I felt the need to walk away.  My instinct was to not participate in this kind of behavior however in order to progress I had no choice but to play my role as psychotic red neck which I did.  I still remember pausing the game and saying to my wife I wish I could skip this part.  The pulling of the teeth in particular was grueling for me, because as you saw by the video, they really make you work to get that tooth out.  It was a horrible ordeal.  I wasn’t offended by it but I was put off because I don’t like the idea of hurting other people and I didn’t have the option to skip.  Wait a minute, did I just say “I don’t like hurting other people“?  Hmm, interesting, because if I’m truly honest with myself, I’m a fucking hypocrite again.

How many people have I killed in Uncharted, Mass Effect, Tomb Raider, Assassins Creed, Call of Duty, The Last of Us, Resistance, Singularity, etc, etc.  Do I feel bad about killing these people?  No, not really.  So what does that mean?Are we all monsters deep down?  Why was this particular moment in GTA V so different from everything else we’ve played?

My first explanation is that the acting was brilliant, I believed the guy was in pain and I felt bad for him, I heard bones break, and could hear the electricity coursing through him.  I could almost feel that tooth coming out.  And when he was crying and gasping all I wanted to do was let him go.  The sound was excellent which really immersed me in the entire situation.  What I find interesting now is that I’m referring to this guy as a real person and I’m referring to it as a situation and not a mission.   Don’t you think that’s odd?  Because I could see his face, see the damage I was doing and hearing how painful it was. I think on a sub-conscious level my mind thought it was real.   I was the person controlling this character.   That’s why I felt bad and disgusted by it.  I’m not saying Rockstar did a bad thing in fact I think they should be applauded for making so many of us feel so revolted and uncomfortable.  I felt more uncomfortable in this scene alone than I did in the entirety of The Last of Us.

My wife brought up a good point that maybe it was so bad because the guy couldn’t defend himself.  There was no way out and I was in a way the executioner.  Perhaps that’s why its easy to kill thousands of other “enemies” because they are armed.  It’s a fair fight.  But is it?  Is it fair to a roof top guard in Assassins Creed, to get stabbed in the back simply for doing his job?  Is it fair for a henchman to get an arrow in the head simply for patrolling his designated area in Tomb Raider?  Granted these guys would kill you given half the chance but my point is, is that it’s easy to kill “enemies” who are simply obstacles to over come.  But at the same time, I guess we weren’t torturing these enemies, we simply killed them, put them out of their misery, couldn’t look them in the eyes and pull the trigger.  If we were forced to pull the trigger slowly on an enemy in a normal gun fight, hearing him injured from a bullet wound that you caused, would you still be comfortable?

What I think Rockstar did was skip the obstacle and delve straight into our humanity, our moral fabric of what is right or wrong.  Were you offended because you had to torture him in a game or because you had to face him head on and torture him while he expresses the pain?  Or maybe we are all evil bastards that just want to kill but can’t come face to face with the gravity of it or maybe we’ve been programmed to resist?  It’s interesting or at least, it is to me.

What I’m mainly interested in, is why everyone is so upset with Rockstar about it?  Again it came to my article on censorship, that either everything is off limits or you can do what ever you want in a game.  Rockstar is always pushing the envelope.  Have they pushed too far?

What do you guys think?  I know a few of you have got the game, so for those of you who have gotten to that part, what do you think?  Morally grey?  Down right wrong?  Should people Chill?


13 comments on “GTA V Torture Scene Controversy

  1. This article is perfect; this is the epitome of modern gaming, and you definitely bring up a great point; why don’t we bat an eye to racking up thousands of COD kills, but injuring this one man in GTA V is so revolting?

    I think it comes down to a multitude of things, including the speed of the kills in COD, the lack of guilt (or a reason to feel guilt) and the fact that if you’re playing COD, it’s the objective of the game to begin with.

    I’ll be honest; watching that video was pretty rough for me, because I don’t like to see stuff like that. I guess I can’t say “I don’t like to hurt people” considering I play FPS titles, but it’s one thing to roll through putting people out of their misery, while it’s another to have the fine level of detail where we have to torture them, listen to their pain, and watch them struggle. There’s none of that in an FPS, which makes the experience different.

    I hate to see torture scenes, excessive blood and gore, etc. but Rockstar was definitely doing it for that exact reason; we don’t like to see (or in this case, to do) that sort of stuff. That’s exactly why they didn’t give a way out. As you can see, the suspect was more than willing to talk; he said so himself. Trevor, after the fact, was disgusted that he had to do what the F.I.B. agent told him. Wouldn’t it have been simple enough for Rockstar to simply put in an option to kill the agent instead and let the suspect talk freely after the first tooth pulling?

    Yeah, it would’ve been simple, and they could have done that. Because they didn’t, I can see that they wanted us all to have to go through that. Why? Who knows, really. Either way, it’s amazing how we can be desensitized to the fact that we kill thousands of soldiers with quick shots to the head, but we want nothing to do with pulling the tooth out of one man, even though we’re not taking his life, or really much of anything, at that point. Although afterward, the rest of the stuff is much worse..

    • oh man, what an awesome comment! Thank you for giving such an in depth response. I don’t think there is an answer really, they pushed the envelope and now there’s controversy just like The Last of Us with that rape scene although this is much more in your face.

      I think they wanted us to go through that. This is GTA after all, and the whole point of GTA is that it is rough and not for the faint of heart. It’s a nasty neighborhood . lol. The game is full of political jokes, marketing, privacy, they jab at everything so maybe their point was to get a group upset just because they knew they could.

      Still I know where my limit is, where If a game made me do a specific thing that was completely against my personal genetic programming, i would simply switch off, call the game developer slightly screwed up, and never complete it. I wouldn’t boycott them or anything that would just be them crossing my line…

  2. Excellent post! That video is rather tough to watch, but you bring up some amazing points. In almost every game I play the goal seems to be to kill the enemy. It doesn’t matter if it’s CoD, Halo, Mario, KoTOR, etc. The difference stems from our mind’s inadvertent ability to sort through moral rights and wrongs. It really makes me think, as a gamer who kills almost on a daily basis, about why something like torture in a video game hits home at such a deeper level.

  3. At least it’s not just me that finds this interesting. I was playing Assassins Creed 3 again last night, no hesitation in stabbing guards, when the bodies crumpled to the floor, I ran to the next objective, not even a second though…so weird

  4. I didn’t really enjoy my time spent in GTA V. Not because of the torture but because the was boring to me. The torture really didn’t bother me to be honest. Does that make me a bad person? Or am I just an asshole? Maybe both. I’m a writer and in some parts in my stories some pretty dark stuff happens. I’ve wrote some pretty good torture parts in my stories that disturbed me to death so I guess seeing it happen in GTA V didn’t really bother me like most people since i’ve been doing it for the last 7 years.

  5. Pingback: 2013 in the Gaming Industry | John Heatz

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