After years of dodging rumors on how it had to alter Grand Theft Auto III following the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, Rockstar Games has decided to come clean.
You recall the events of 9/11, right? A group of terrorists hijack a bunch of planes, fly them into New York City's World Trade Center towers, killing thousands and kicking off both the last decade of xenophobic American foreign policy and a mad rush by all sorts of creative types to remove any and all references to the towers in their upcoming works. Most notably, an early trailer for the 2002 Spider-Man film that showed Spidey capturing a helicopter by building a web between the two towers was buried by Columbia Pictures, despite having been shown to audiences prior to the attack.
Videogames were not immune to this phenomenon, and for years after its release, fans believed that Grand Theft Auto III -- a game which debuted only one month after 9/11 -- had lost a host of content following the attack. Given the game's release date, and it being set in a fictionalized version of New York City, that made a lot of sense for an open-world crime simulator where players are given the opportunity to fly planes.
In an effort to commemorate the game's tenth anniversary, creator Rockstar Games has decided to host an official question and answer session, inviting fans to finally get some kind of closure on the mystery.
And what did Rockstar say when asked, point blank, about the effects 9/11 had on the content of the game?
We removed only one mission that referenced terrorists and changed a few other cosmetic details - car details, a couple of ped comments, lines of radio dialogue etc - the game came out a very short time later. The biggest change was the US packaging which remixed the previous packaging into what became our signature style - because the previous packaging [which was released as the cover of the game in Europe] was, we felt, too raw after 9/11. All of the more extreme rumours are amusing but impossible to have been achieved in such a short period of time.
The very next question asks if Rockstar might ever release the content that was cut from the game, but the developer dismisses the idea immediately. "No, it really was not very much stuff - just one mission and other than that some superficial and cosmetic details," it responds.
So there you have it. 9/11 did move Grand Theft Auto III's developers to cut content from the game, but it was apparently only a paltry amount. The huge sandbox game Rockstar was creating was still almost entirely intact when it hit the PlayStation 2 in October 2001, despite the best efforts of militant religious extremists. If it wasn't for all the dead hookers, I'd say this is a beautiful metaphor for America itself.
Source: Rockstar Games