BBC making drama based on Grand Theft Auto video game series

The programme will focus on the development of the game in Britain

The BBC is developing a new drama about controversial video game Grand Theft Auto (GTA).

Infamous for its use of prostitutes, torture, graphic sex and extreme violence, it may seem like an odd choice for the national broadcaster but the drama will be based on its creation, rather than the game itself.

Rockstar developers in Edinburgh and Leeds have contributed to the series, which started in 1997 on the PlayStation 1 and has since become a huge critical and commercial success.

A gamer poses with his copy of the console game Grand Theft Auto 5 at the midnight opening of the 17 September, 2013.

The BBC hailed GTA as “arguably the greatest British coding success story since Bletchley Park” in a statement.

A spokesperson said it was the “brainchild of a bunch of British gaming geniuses who had known each other since their school days” and that the new drama would tell the story of GTA’s creation and the global reaction.

“GTA offered gamers the chance to step into a fantasy world where they could behave like criminals, gun down rival gangsters and cops, hijack cars and venture deeper into an imaginary American gangland underworld,” he added.

GTA is set in a lawless universe

“But the violent gameplay coupled with its outstanding success led to fierce opposition: from parents worried about children immersing themselves in such a violent world; from politicians, alarmed at the values it encourages; and above all from moral campaigners, who have fought passionately to stop it.”

The 90-minute drama, called Grand Theft Auto, will air on BBC Two at an unknown date.

The most recent release, Grand Theft Auto V, earned $1 billion (£675 million) in its first three days on sale in 2013, becoming the fastest selling entertainment product in history.

But it was taken off the shelves by some retailers amid an outcry over its presentation of women.

Many critics cited the fact that players can earn health and money by having sex with prostitutes – with different options and prices - and then killing them, although the effects of murdering any passer-by in the game are always the same.

Developers have repeatedly defended the presentation of prostitutes and female characters, saying it reflects the game’s setting in a criminal underworld and that protagonists’ behaviour is not condoned.

The BBC announced the programme as part of its Make It Digital initiative aimed at young people.

There will also be a documentary on Bletchley Park, where British code-breakers including Alan Turing worked during the Second World War, and a BBC Three talent show called Girls Can Code.