09.20.1312:03 PM ET

A Love/Hate Relationship With ‘Grand Theft Auto’

Girl gamers recognize sexism, but can’t stop playing it.

The only woman featured on Grand Theft Auto’s front cover is a busty blonde in a bikini, holding a cell phone in “selfie” mode. She probably helped it make $800 million in its first day of sale. Nonetheless, about 15 percent of GTA fans are female (myself being one of them—who can forget the glory days of coming home from school to play Grand Theft Auto 3, which for me consisting of getting chased by cops and and listening to “She’s on Fire” on GTA radio?) But female gamers are torn between loving GTA and hating its demeaning portrait of women. Developers and critics alike play the game because it’s so much fun and it immerses players into a fast-moving alternate reality, but they recognize that past versions have put a spotlight on prostitutes and strip clubs. For the first time, players can choose between three different characters—but they are all men. “It's like dress up,” one 43-year-old female player says. “You had a hard day at work, you go home and you run over some people and steal their money. You feel better.”