GTA Trilogy trailer reveals a subtle but important character tweak

A Confederate flag was swapped out with a skull and crossbones on a character’s shirt.

A screenshot from the original GTA Vice City

Last week, Rockstar made waves with the unveiling of a remastered bundle of the original GTA games, which included the titles that started it all: GTA: III, GTA: Vice City, and GTA: San Andreas. Now that people have had some time to sit with the trailer for a minute and reflect on the franchise’s influence, it’s time to parse the former for any hints about how the game(s) might function.

As pointed out by Kotaku, there was a slight wardrobe change that appears briefly in the trailer. Throughout the series, players become familiar with a character named Phil Cassidy who, for all intents and purposes, is a complete bozo. He’s loud, obnoxious, and loves being drunk and toting firearms, usually at the same time. When you meet him for the first time in Vice City, he’s incomprehensibly sloshed while in the process of constructing something out of dynamite. Oh, and the shirt he’s wearing depicts the flag of the Confederacy:

While the game doesn’t endorse this particular wardrobe choice, given that Cassidy is portrayed as an oafish dumbass who blows up his arm upon meeting Tommy Vercetti (the protagonist that you play as), the Confederate flag cut-off serves as a way to distinguish who he is as a character. However, it seems that the shirt will no longer be present in the upcoming trilogy — about halfway into the new trailer, Cassidy is shown evading some sort of explosion with Vercetti, wearing a new cut-off, this time featuring a generic skull and crossbones.

Social reckoning — It seems safe to assume that Confederate iconography will be no longer present in Rockstar’s remastered trilogy of the GTA classics. This move is representative of the direction video game publishers and developers have been going in regards to the cultural climate of the country.

More and more, developers are leaning into the idea that their games don’t take place in a vacuum and are attempting to take a stand on social issues; in 2015, Apple removed games that featured depictions of the Confederate flag, NBA 2k halted online play over the summer of 2020 during the wake of racial protests following the murder of George Floyd, and Fortnite had an event focused on educating players on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Whether or not these statements come across as genuine or are simply part of the corporatization of social justice is another matter entirely, but for now, we’re happy to be interacting with Phil Cassidy dressed like a normal buffoon instead of a racist one.