Someone Actually Tried Testing Out If GTA V Cops Are ‘Racist’

Someone Actually Tried Testing Out If GTA V Cops Are ‘Racist’

Back when Grand Theft Auto V was originally released, there was one particular theory that floated around everywhere. According to some players, the cops in GTA didn’t treat all of the protagonists the same. For whatever reason, some players convinced themselves that Franklin, the African-American character, got racially profiled by cops.

This belief became widespread among some players largely because of this video, uploaded by scudpunk. It shows Franklin getting killed by cops after saying something completely innocuous to them:

At the time, Rockstar denied allegations that GTA cops were programmed to be racist. “This is absolutely false, the in-game police don’t treat one lead character any differently from the others,” Rockstar said to Buzzfeed. Not only that, but most of what people were saying about GTA cops was anecdotal, or descriptions of one-off incidents where cops arrested or killed Franklin more than the other protagonists. It wasn’t really enough to prove anything, even if the theory did make for some ridiculous YouTube videos of overly-aggressive cops. But today, The Game Theorists tried to test out people’s claims by setting up an experiment, in an effort to pool data.

To conduct the experiment, The Game Theorists dressed the characters in neutral clothes, and brought them to three separate police stations all across Los Santos — Vinewood Station, Paleto Bay station, and South Los Santos station. Each character went up to the cops individually, and spoke to them five separate times in each of these police stations. They recorded the results. Additionally, they also ran a set of tests where each of the protagonists went up to the cops in a car and honked at them five separate times, while recording those results as well. Then, to have a control group, they also did a run where they brought each of the characters near the cops five separate times, without provoking them, just to see what they’d do.

What did they find? Well, in the control sample, the cops ignored all of the protagonists all fifteen times — which makes sense. The cops weren’t ‘provoked.’ But during the actual trials that involved talking and honking? Franklin was the character that got harassed or attacked the most times by cops, by far:

Someone Actually Tried Testing Out If GTA V Cops Are ‘Racist’

The Game Theorists make some cracks at what this could mean in their video — they reason that cops’ responses have to do with how affluent their neighbourhood is, relative to the socioeconomic status of the character you’re controlling. Michael gets attacked the least number of times because he’s rich, according to this theory. I’m not sure I buy that, but, it’s interesting to see it all play out like this. Start the video at the 3:36 mark if you’d like to skip the intro stuff:

That said, at the end of the video The Game Theorists make sure to say that their experiment doesn’t prove that GTA V cops are racist. It might’ve just been random chance that made the results happen like this. But, even so, this experiment is way more formal than the anecdotal ‘evidence’ that people relied on to make their conclusions before.


  • And in today’s episode of “Let’s manufacture problems so we can play the offended…”

    • I don’t think anything in the article suggests that anybody is taking offense at this, or thinking that if the game does work like this is a problem. If anything it’d be an interesting bit of realism, and that seems to be the attitude people are taking towards it.

      • Never said the article did, but if you look into the whole overall “GTA5 cops are racist!” thing there’s actually a number of people bitching and moaning about it.

        That first video has such incredibly outrageous escalation that it looks more like a minor game bug to me than anything else, but people see what they want to see… And are conveniently blind to it when it happens to the white characters in the game. Know why? Because generally society sees the image of cops shooting a black guy as far more shocking than cops shooting a white guy. And if the cops in question are white then holy shit prepare for INSANITY.

        I’ve seen plenty of police hostility towards Michael and Trevor in my time with GTA5… But nothing noticeably more or less than Franklin.

        In fact I’d wager the results would likely average out if taken from a bigger set of data, which is why this ‘study’ can’t be held as proof of anything as they said themselves. Even then the numbers to conduct a proper study would have to be absurdly large… There’s a lot going on in that game, to this day I still see things from the AI that I hadn’t witnessed at all before.

        But sure, I could forget all that and only remember the hostility towards Franklin and then claim racism… You know, like people that go actively looking for something to be offended about because they haven’t got anything better to do.

  • I watched this video this morning, its very interesting but hard to test. The results are inconclusive and it doesnt seem to result in any proof or violent racism in the game.


    The meta of the video is that the study isnt being taken place within the video but instead is a study on the viewers themselves. The media shitstorm that is taking place all over the globe but more specifically in the US at the moment. Particularly Ferguson Missouri.

    I’m not going to go into that but the video is eye opening but not in the way you are expecting.

    • What did lice ever do to you? Just sitting in your hair minding it’s own biznatch. And what does their socio-economic status have to do with anything? I know plenty of lice that can provide very well for their families. … Some of my best friends are lice…

  • *shrug*

    If the police aren’t programmed to respond to the protagonists differently, then it’s simply not possible for them to be racist, regardless of survey results.

  • As I commented on the video, the results seem more likely the AI is more reactive to the characters rather than the race of them. Trevor is more susceptible to police action in the area he would be known, same for Franklin and Michael is more or less unknown everywhere because he wasn’t committing crimes before the start of the game. Then again the testing was probably too small of a pool to get a real result

  • I was once driving through LS as Franklin, as you do. The cops got involved in a high speed chase (not with me) but rear ended my car, causing Franklin to go flying through the windshield. This gave me a wanted level of one star. Then the police shot me to death while lying on the ground.

    #ferguson #racist #icantbreathe

    Seriously though, I get bored and stuff around like this with the cops and have found it seems as though cops attacking you is all RNG

  • I’m sure flipping a coin 100 times would give you tails 70% of the time as tails never fails.

    Does that mean tails is racist? I think the answer is completely photosynthesis.

    Thus ends my argument.

    *lots of applause*

    My cats name is Mittens.

  • RNGesus having a lol at out expense? Fifteen trials? Might as well have taken the first result and call it a day.

  • The test actually seems to be conducted with 45 trials; 15 for each of the police departments in the game. The image in this article only depicts the results from South Los Santos PD; don’t know why Patricia left the other two out.

    South Los Santos PD:
    Franklin – 12, Trevor – 8, Michael – 3

    Vinewood PD:
    Michael – 7, Franklin – 7, Trevor – 6

    Paleto Bay PD:
    Trevor – 9, Michael – 6, Franklin – 4

    Trevor – 23, Franklin – 23, Michael – 16

  • I seriously don’t think the cops are programmed to be racist in this game. Hell, I’ve had way more trouble with the law playing as Trevor. The A.I. in the game can be wonky as hell sometimes, too. While driving around as Michael, a cop got into a high speed chase with an NPC and rear-ended my car. SOMEHOW, that got me a one star wanted level. On Franklin, I once went around and shot two or three people out of boredom and the cops didn’t even come after me. I also think it’s based on location, though.

    As Trevor, I don’t get into trouble with the police as easily in Los Santos as I do in Sandy Shores. The most I’ve gotten into trouble as Franklin is around Strawberry, but to be fair, after he got the house in the hills, I almost never go back there. And with Michael, I usually get in trouble over the silliest of shit, just. The rear-end thing, I bumped into someone while running and that got the cops on me. And if you really wanna talk about racist cops, how about the time I was walking in the ghetto as Michael, had a group of black guys pulled guns on me for literally no reason and shot me, and then I got a wanted level?

    I know (some) people aren’t looking to get offended all the time, but it really does seem pointless to even try and discuss something like this that’s in a game where you can kill people for the heck of it and easily lose the cops by parking in an alley way or driving into the mountains. Cops be like “aww come back, we dont wanna LOOK for you….”

    Cops can be pretty dumb irl, too. Take the Ferguson and Baltimore cases (both tragic, of course) and compare it to some of the other crap cops have done before, like shooting a kid to death with a toy gun because they were scared it was real and that they would get shot. ( ) How about when Dillon Taylor was killed by a black cop two days after Michael Brown was killed and no one seemed to give a shit? ( )

    I am not anti-police, but at the same time, they can be pretty fucking stupid. That’s just how it is. You put someone in a position of power, it goes to their head, regardless of race. There was a whole experiment that proves that. ( ) That doesn’t mean every white cop is racist scum.

    I know this ain’t the place for all of this serious discussion, but my point is:

    It’s just a game. Fucking play it.

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