Grand Theft Auto, one of the world's most popular video game franchises, may be known for its violent themes, but the developers behind a new modification for GTA 5 said they were motivated by "love."
“We’ve basically created a mod for Grand Theft Auto where players can have a colorful Pride parade marching down the streets of the game,” Sedir Ajeenah, an advertising executive and one of the modification's developers, told NBCOUT.
"Mod," which is short for modification, is an unofficial alteration made to a video game, and Ajeenah said they are huge in the gaming industry.
"Mods are always made by the general public or fans," he explained. “The modding community for GTA 5 is quite big. People do anything from creating new cars and clothes, or more sophisticated things like inserting the Spiderman character with all his abilities inside the game."
Ajeenah and his creative partner were approached earlier this year by Stockholm Pride, the largest Pride celebration in Scandinavia, which was looking for a unique way to promote its annual festival, which this year runs from July 25 to July 31.
“We both are interested in gaming, and we thought of how the city in GTA 5, Los Santos, offers everything from burger joints to clothing stores. It has virtually everything a real life city has, but it lacks one thing – a Pride parade,” Ajeenah said.
And that's how Los Santos Pride, an unofficial mod for Grand Theft Auto 5, was born.
“We like doing campaigns that both put the spotlight on the festival but also furthers the conversation and gives us a chance to talk about the need for Pride and talking about LGBT issues,” Christian Gerdes, president of Stockholm Pride, told NBCOUT via email.
“We definitely created a lot of reactions, both pro and con, which will lead to discussions and insights for people, and hopefully less hate in the world," Gerdes added.
The modification had been in development for two months before the Pulse nightclub in Orlando was attacked. The tragic event resulted in doubts about launching Los Santos Pride, but Ajeenah said they decided to go forward and honor the Orlando victims within the mod.
“Our first reaction was that Los Santos Pride maybe was completely wrong, but then we realized the importance of ... taking a stand for more love and equality in the world,” Ajeenah said. “That's why we decided to make the parade indestructible inside the game. Not to moralize or spark a discussion about gaming violence – just to show that love always triumphs.”
The response to Los Santos Pride has generally been positive, according to Ajeenah, but he acknowledged the mod certainly has its critics - both those who find it in poor taste and those who have expressed anti-LGBTQ sentiments.
"We’ve received lots of beautiful reactions, but obviously there’s a lot of negative comments too,” Ajeenah said. “Unfortunately, some people do not share our message of love. The gaming community is unfortunately not as open and inclusive as it should be.”
Grand Theft Auto and Pride may be strange bedfellows, but Ajeenah said that's partially the point.
“GTA is known for being a really good game with great attention to detail, but it has also received a lot of criticism for violence and its depiction of women, while Pride is a celebration of love and equality,” Ajeenah explained. “They’re two different worlds. It’s this unlikely combination that has made Los Santos Pride such a huge topic.”
NBC OUT contacted Rockstar Games, the publisher of the Grand Theft Auto gaming franchise, and was referred to the creators of the Los Santos Pride modification.