In early 2022, "Grand Theft Auto" fans finally got the good news they’ve been craving: Rockstar confirmed that "GTA 6" is in development. It was a while before fans got to see or hear anything else about the game, but the next update to the saga caused a bit of a stir — one that may have long-reaching consequences.
The massive "GTA 6" leak of September 2022 was nothing if not significant. The leak, which consisted primarily of video clips from the in-development game, gave audiences their first taste of the game’s main character, combat, and plenty of other small details. However, we cannot understate just how controversial this information is. A hacker going by the name of teapotuberhacker (who may or may not be 16 years old) snuck into Rockstar Games’ servers, stole the aforementioned development videos, and leaked them online. Admittedly, that’s a very "GTA" thing to do, which resulted in a slew of reactions before and after Rockstar confirmed the leak‘s legitimacy.
And honestly, even though the leak is serious business, some of the reactions from the fan community have been pretty hilarious.
Busting some heads
No two people react the same way to seeing their work circulated around the internet without their express permission. Some view it as free advertising, while others are incensed. Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive sit well within the latter, and gamers know it.
When word of the "Grand Theft Auto 6" leak spread, Twitter user @GoldEpidemic posted a gif of someone smashing a mannequin’s head in, complete with the caption, "The Bigboss after find who leak GTA 6." The joke here appears to be two-fold: Beyond the obvious connotations of Rockstar seeking revenge, the execs at Rockstar and Take-Two are notoriously ban-hammer happy when it comes to their IP. Previously, these companies have gone after modders, and they once went after one of the original "GTA" developers, Mike Dailly, and forced him to delete videos of early "GTA" prototypes. Needless to say, he was not happy.
Of course, these reactions were in response to content for games that already existed. It’s safe to say Rockstar is going to feel a bit more vengeful after this leak. Maybe not "bat to the head" vengeful, but still.
Nibel’s feeling awkward
When it comes to video game updates, Nibel has his ears to the ground. While he normally reports the news, sometimes he provides his own two cents, which is what he did when the "Grand Theft Auto 6" leak hit the internet. But unlike others commenters, he let his response speak for itself.
At three in the morning on September 18, Nibel posted an image of the "awkward look monkey puppet" meme. No context, just the meme, but virtually everyone got the message. As the name suggests, the image conveys a sense of awkwardness, but awkwardness of what? Given the depth of the leak and its implications, anything. The meme could signify the awkwardness Rockstar Games developers felt from seeing their in-development game posted on the internet, the awkwardness of seeing how easily videos and code was stolen from under their noses, or the awkward realization that gamers were more interested in bashing their in-development game than celebrating its development. Or it could be Nibel signaling his decision to not share the leaks and risk a DMCA strike.
That’s the beauty of this reaction. Viewers can fill in the blanks, and anything they dream up will probably be accurate. Sometimes less is more.
Remembering Sernando’s fake copy
We’ve been waiting for "Grand Theft Auto 6," either an announcement or the actual game, pretty much ever since "Grand Theft Auto 5" released in 2013. Yes, "GTA 5" is almost 10 years old. Where does the time go? Some fans spent the years waiting patiently, but others channeled it into content that made fun of the hype surrounding the phantom game.
In response to the leak, Viewtiful Vash (and several others) posted an image of someone holding a clearly fake copy of "GTA 6," claiming the guy in the picture will soon be up to his old tricks. Who is this man? None other than YouTuber Sernando. In 2017, he posted a video of him unboxing a "prize" from Rockstar Games, which he claimed contained an early copy of "GTA 6." The actual game disc and box were clearly custom made, but they still fooled a few people.
Since the fake "GTA 6" video is one of Sernando’s most popular projects, fans may be wondering if Sernando will follow it up with some more homemade "GTA 6" goodness. After all, Sernando has recently quipped in the comments of this video that he’s the one behind the huge leak.
It goes without saying that what the "GTA 6" hacker did was highly illegal. Maybe you can get away with it in a game like "GTA," but that game still has checks and balances — and some responses to the leaks have imagined those consequences translating to the real world.
Twitter user @JEBEERRI’s response to the hack is as fitting as it is funny. Since the hacker stole "GTA" material, @JEBEERRI posted an image of "GTA" wanted level stars. Normally, wanted levels only go up to five stars, which is when in-game police and military pull out all the stops, spawn near endlessly, and pursue players with reckless abandon. But according to @JEBEERRI, that’s nothing compared to the hacker’s wanted level, which appears to be a whopping 100 stars.
What happens at 100 stars? We will probably find out soon, since the FBI is searching for the leaker, who might also have hacked into Uber and given themself executive-level access to the company in the days before the "GTA" leak.
GTA 7’s map?
Developing a game is a long and arduous process, and the initial steps never look like the finished product. In fact, unless you build a game with pre-made assets, the earliest builds won’t even look much like a game at all.
When noted game analyst Daniel Ahmad caught wind of the leaked "Grand Theft Auto 6" videos, and possibly that people were complaining about its graphics looking incomplete, he decided to joke about their responses. In a Twitter post, he claimed to have uncovered an "early in development image" for "Grand Theft Auto 7." The image in question consists of an indistinguishable gray object on a gray background with an x-y-z axis on top.
The joke — aside from the fact that "GTA 7" isn’t even a glimmer in Rockstar’s eye yet — is that every game asset, be it a character model or a static piece of scenery, starts as a simple piece of geometry before being built out. Even pre-made assets begin life in that basic form, because someone has to build them before they are ready for market.
Grand Theft Auto: Californication
"Grand Theft Auto 5" was released almost 10 years ago. That’s plenty of time for audiences to give up hope for a sequel — and more than enough time for shady developers to create fakes that take advantage of any lingering hope. To celebrate the "GTA 6" leak, Low Poly Depression tweeted out four images from what appeared to be a "GTA"-like game. On the surface, the pictures look like they came from a cheap asset flip you could download from a mobile app store. These knockoff games are a dime a dozen and typically interrupt gameplay with constant ads. So which game is this one? Trick question.
In reality, the screenshots tweeted by Low Poly Depression originated from the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ music video for "Californication," which put the band members in an extremely "Grand Theft Auto"-esque game. Now, most modern gamers who didn’t grow up with MTV might wonder what the music video has to do with "GTA 6." That’s beside the point; Low Poly Depression’s reference here is so obscure that it boggles the mind in a hilariously positive way.
Rockstar has had it
Leaks and the ensuing public reactions can change the course of game development. Usually these changes only culminate in some gameplay or narrative fixes, but in extreme situations, a developer might throw up their hands and scrap all their hard work. Rockstar Games decided against that nuclear reaction — but what if the company had thrown in the towel?
YouTuber SKizzleAXE posted a meme that imagined an alternate reality in which Rockstar Games decided to cancel "Grand Theft Auto 6" due to all the complaints pointed at the leak’s lack of polish. And for extra comedic effect, instead of sounding professional (like the company’s actual statement), the fictional tweet has all the emotion of a disgruntled employee throwing a temper tantrum. The fictional rendition of Rockstar Games doesn’t care what people think, and neither does the tweet.
If you think this reaction is too outlandish to be true, remember that Phil "Fish" Poisson canceled "Fez 2" outright because he found the game industry too toxic. Meanwhile, SKizzleAXE’s imaginary version of Rockstar Games decided to quit because audiences were criticizing a game that wasn’t finished. Truth is often stranger than fiction.
Sometimes, life feels like it’s just waiting for the worst opportunity to fall apart — and when it does, it does so in an instant. Twitter user PlumpZombie knows this, or at least they felt like they knew how Rockstar felt when "Grand Theft Auto 6" was leaked.
For PlumpZombie’s reaction, they posted a tweet that compared the leak to a gif taken from the "Team Fortress 2 – Meet the Pyro" trailer. Specifically, PlumpZombie clipped a section that shows what the Pyro saw (a fantastical wonderland) vs. what they were actually doing (burning everything to the ground) and seemingly recontextualized it as Rockstar Games’ attitude before and after the leak. Happy and bubbly one day, panicking the next.
Since Rockstar Games responded to the "GTA 6" leak by removing all videos and helping in the investigation into the hacker, PlumpZombie’s tweet was probably pretty close to reality. Thankfully (and unlike the gif), Rockstar Games didn’t literally catch fire in response to the leak, but the staff were probably feeling the heat all the same.
When an unfinished game looks unfinished
The current state of game development has left audiences jaded. Gamers have seen so many studios follow a "release it now, patch it later" mentality that if a game doesn’t look perfect right out of the gate, they instinctively complain. That’s not an unreasonable reaction, mind you; had titles such as "Cyberpunk 2077" and "Final Fantasy 14" spent more time in the oven, they might have been better received at launch. However, this knee-jerk reaction came back to bite angry fans after the "Grand Theft Auto 6" leak.
While many people were gamers to see any news on "GTA 6," even if it was the result of hacking, more than a few said the leaked footage didn’t look up to snuff. According to YouTuber MrTLexify, though, that was to be expected. After all, "GTA 6" is still in development and probably several years out from release. Wonky visuals, incomplete lighting, placeholder text, and glitches galore are common before release (and sometimes after). But, some audiences seemingly forgot that. In Lex’s own words, viewers are complaining that an unfinished game looks…unfinished. That’s on the same level as complaining that water is wet.
Chalk up yet another reaction that is funny because it’s true. The hilarity only increased when other developers began sharing screenshots of their own games during the alpha phase, proving that games don’t become graphical masterpieces overnight.
Pointing out nonsensical responses to the footage
James Stephanie Sterling is one of the internet’s most vocal game critics, known for coming down on horrible game industry practices such as crunch and microtransactions, but they also don’t hold back when gamers and other people in the audience act toxic. Sterling’s latest video tackled the "Grand Theft Auto 6" leak and predicted that the game is destined to make audiences salty. To prove this point, Sterling cited some of the absolute worst takes regarding the leak.
Sterling likewise called out everyone who complained that the in-development game still didn’t look ready, even praising the leaked "GTA 6" for looking as good as it did in what was probably a pre-alpha state. But that wasn’t the end of Sterling’s video, which took the haters to task with a heaping helping of snark.
Sterling also slammed the detractors who were annoyed that one of the game’s protagonists will be a woman. Some commenters have claimed a female lead is somehow against the spirit of "GTA," even though players can currently play as a woman in "Grand Theft Auto Online." In Sterling’s own words, it’s almost as if the people who supposedly don’t want politics in games are already "determined to hate [‘GTA 6’] on political grounds."
You’ve done it again, Lester
Before fans learned that the "Grand Theft Auto 6" leaker was most likely a 16-year old kid, numerous people theorized who was responsible. Everyone had their own hypothesis, but gaming news site Dexerto might have had the funniest theory.
When Dexerto responded to the "GTA 6" leak, the outlet’s Twitter account posted an image of who they thought was the most likely suspect: Lester Crest. For those who haven’t played "GTA 5" in a while, Lester notably sends players on the "Friend Request" mission, which revolves around corporate espionage and sabotage. Lester is also tied to various "GTA Online" missions, even takes center stage in "The Doomsday Heist" and "The Diamond Casino Heist" expansions. Lester is more than capable of hacking into servers to look at other people’s emails, and can even get the police off a player’s tail when a job goes poorly.
Simply put, if Lester Crest existed in the real world, he probably would have been the one who hacked into Rockstar Games’ servers and stole the "GTA 6" info. That activity certainly tracks with his vindictive personality and skill with computers.