In a Thursday tweet, Rockstar Games announced that it would be temporarily shutting down access to Grand Theft Auto Online and Red Dead Online. The online modes, which make Rockstar hundreds of millions of dollars each year, were unavailable from 2-4 p.m. ET on June 4, 2020.
GTA Online and Red Dead Online were part of a broader server shutdown held by Rockstar’s parent company Take-Two Interactive. Servers for NBA 2K, Dragon City, and Monster Legends were also down during this time, the company confirmed to Polygon.
The decision was made to honor George Floyd, the man whose death at the hands of police on May 25 sparked global protests against racial injustice and police brutality. The server shutdowns also coincided with Floyd’s memorial service, where eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence were held. Eight minutes and 46 seconds is the length of time now-fired police offer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck.
The GTA Online and Red Dead Online server shutdowns were seen by some as a touching gesture held in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Not everyone feels the same, and the responses to Rockstar’s tweet have been laden with fire and brimstone.
A common question is, “how is this going to stop racism?” Moments of silence are typically done out of respect, but here, the idea also seems to be that gamers will use the time to think about the protests. When Sony delayed the PS5 reveal event, it said that it was because it wanted to allow “more important voices” to be heard, and this seems to be what Rockstar is doing here.
While there were more than a few angry messages from players who just wanted to enjoy their games, there were several pieces of constructive criticism. Several gamers asked why Rockstar wasn’t choosing to hold a Black Lives Matter day where it donated money spent in GTA Online and Red Dead Online to charities fighting racial injustice.
Rockstar was one of several gaming companies to donate to organizations fighting COVID-19, so it wouldn’t be that odd to see it give here.
Rockstar did post another tweet about donating to charity but did not announce any donation that it was making itself. The company may have also felt that hosting an event about police brutality in games where you can shoot the law and perform many acts of gun violence, probably wasn’t the most supportive thing that it could do.
Turning the servers off may not have been supported by everyone, but it is a rare gesture from one of the world’s most popular game developers.