"If we make fun of Grand Theft Auto, we're not going to hurt the sales of Grand Theft Auto… But yeah, we've definitely had some reactions—we've had to pull stuff from the game."
Rockstar has this little thing it does to prepare for games they're working on: it creates a sort of tone poem with scenes from movies and music that help to set the mood for the game. This is what the game should feel like, these are the cues they're taking. I've been lucky enough to see a few of these videos, and they're usually pretty rough, but when you play the resulting game you see where they were coming from; it's a good tool to get the team on the same page when working on a game. This is why it's so surprising to hear that Rockstar may have asked EA to make some changes to the upcoming Simpsons' Game. The Grand Theft Scratchy section is now called Mob Rules; hopefully that was the only edit that had to be made.
The Grand Theft Auto series, and to a lesser extent the sublime Bully, have gotten where they are by tapping deeply into pop culture to bring us characters and worlds we already recognize from numerous films, pop songs, television shows… these are the worlds that people who have been saturated in pop culture dream about. In creating games with such rich material, Rockstar has created a cultural force in Grand Theft Auto; it should be the highest honor that the game and its settings have become so entrenched in our minds that another team is satirizing it. In some ways, it's like the student becoming the master.
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; why doesn't Rockstar take the compliment?
I'm not sure what Rockstar hopes to do here. It has always been the bad boy of gaming and its games are wickedly funny and show a sharp mind for picking up on the violence and insanity of pop culture. But, now that Rockstar is pop culture, it seems to have lost its sense of humor about its own brand. Grand Theft Scratchy wouldn't have hurt the brand, and it proves how big the Grand Theft Auto series is to gaming in general. If Rockstar forced EA to remove aspects of the Simpsons' Game, causing lead designer Greg Rizzer to say the words that lead off this post, it shows that Rockstar doesn't quite understand how it got where it is. It's a damn shame for such a talented group of people to be so grumpy about their own ubiquity.