Grand Theft Auto V remains one of the most popular games on Steam and consoles alike. And, like any popular online game, it’s full of children who are below the ESRB age rating. I’m not here to tell you not to let your children play Grand Theft Auto Online—in fact, exactly the opposite. I love playing GTA with my kids, but that M for Mature rating exists for a reason. In this first post in a category I’m calling “Mature to Everyone,” we look at some simple options we can set to make Grand Theft Auto Online much more child friendly.
Grand Theft Auto Online’s Passive Mode
Easily the first thing to be aware of is the game’s Passive Mode. Accessed through the interaction menu (hold the touchpad until menu pops up), Passive Mode allows someone to play with no weapons and immune to the attacks of other players. If players fly by in a jet raining exploding machine gun arounds all around, you’ll be completely unscathed in passive mode. My 7-year-old started playing GTA when he was 4, and I told him he had to be in passive mode at all times. Passive mode will not protect you from NPCs and police attacking you should you break the in-game laws, however. So running people over or stealing cars can still get you killed.
Other settings in the Interaction Menu
The other two important settings in the Interaction Menu are the Voice Chat and Player Targeting Priority settings. Setting Voice Chat to “No-one” disables voice chat in Free Mode.
Voice Chat settings don’t work in missions, so if your child wants to do races or other types of missions, you’d need to create a private party within the PS4 itself. Alternatively, connect the chat headset to the controller, though be sure the mic is muted so other players won’t pick up your child’s voice.
Player Targeting Priority and Passive Mode don’t work together, but should your child be old enough that you feel comfortable with the shooting, setting this to Strangers ensures that any friends (if, say, you’re playing on a second PS4) won’t become the target of random bullets.
The options menu may be useful or not, depending on the level of protection you want for your child. The key options here are Quickplay Actions, Player Overhead Display, Controller Speaker, and Startup Flow.
Quickplay Actions are like emotes. While in some games you might wave or bow, in GTA you’ll flip the bird or make a jerking off motion. Setting these to “None” disables those emotes for your character.
Player Overhead Display simply disables the display of players’ names on the screen (not on the player menu, though). If you don’t want your son reading semi-offensive usernames, set this to Marker Only.
Grand Theft Auto V utilizes the Dualshock 4 controller speaker for phone calls, lock-on sounds, and notification beeps. The phone calls that come in may contain foul language, so I like to keep them on the TV speakers where they’re a little less audible while other things are going on. Turning down the Dialogue Boost option in the Audio Settings helps with this as well, but short of playing with no volume it’s hard to avoid this entirely.
Startup Flow is probably the best option in here. Grand Theft Auto V’s single player is full of foul language and sexual and excessively violent scenes. The content in Grand Theft Auto Online is tame by comparison, especially if you stick to free roam. Startup Flow launches the game in Online mode directly, completely bypassing single player. First loading into single player will play a random scene. These can include drug and alcohol use, fighting, swearing, or all of the above. Best to skip that altogether.
Setting gameplay rules
Finally, set simple rules kids must follow. If they want to keep playing, they follow the rules. My kids are not allowed to shoot police, visit the strip club, or use melee weapons on NPCs. If you’re playing with your child, or at least observing how they play, you may find rules that are more appropriate to your child’s age or video game hobbies.