In the summer of 2013, I started becoming aware of a movement to boycott the as-yet unreleased Grand Theft Auto V specifically because you couldn’t choose to play as a female character. In particular, there was a Jezebel article that articulated this rather loudly, but I also recall talking about it with an acquaintance on Twitter. We were talking about both GTA V and Saints Row 3, and my friend refused to even consider playing GTA V: “I only need one open world gangland sim in my life, and GTA won’t rate for me unless it adds a female PC.”
At the time, I found this line of reasoning profoundly pretentious, ridiculous, and ultimately misguided. For one thing, I found it preposterous that people were getting outraged over something that had never been promised or even hinted at in the first place. For another, the idea that you would actively choose to not play what by all appearances looked like the greatest game ever made solely because you couldn’t choose to play as a woman—in a franchise that has historically gone out of its way to treat women as horribly as they can be treated—seemed ludicrous. (Indeed, as of this writing, there are only two games in all of Rockstar’s catalog where you can choose to be a female character: the original Grand Theft Auto and Table Tennis.)
Of course, this hullabaloo took place long before the game had even come out. Once I finally got my hands on GTA V, I found a host of reasons to be offended that had nothing to do with the treatment of women, even as the game’s treatment of women was somehow even worse than I’d anticipated.