Considering on where you stand in the matter, the first tangible victory or defeat for social issue concerns in games has been breached in Australia. There, the Target retail franchise has opted to take Grand Theft Auto V off its shelves, after a petition from its customers protested against the game’s portrayal of violence against women.
Jim Cooper of corporate affairs at Target spoke about the store’s decision to pull the specific game:
We’ve been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game’s content.
We’ve also had customer feedback in support of us selling the game, and we respect their perspective on the issue. However, we feel the decision to stop selling GTA5 is in line with the majority view of our customers.
The petition, launched by a group of formers sex workers, has grown to see the support of nearly 40,000 signatures. According to the group, the game would perpetuate its series’ traditional gameplay capability of having sex with a prostitute, only to brutally murder them afterwards.
In particular, the group feels that the remade version of Grand Theft Auto V on Playstation 4 and Xbox One made this a realistic issue, given its new possibility to see the acts done in first-person view.
In rebuttal to the opposing argument that the game incentivizes violence against other targets, a spokesperson of the group, under the name Nicole, responds as follows:
Male gamers are saying they don’t mind violence against themselves in this game. Implicit in this is the recognition that if men don’t mind, then women have to put up with it.
This is hardly a gender-neutral argument. Implicit in it is the very misogyny we are rallying against.
CEO of Take-Two Interactive, Strauss Zelnick, pointed towards other media, such as TV shows and movies, to justify the crime setting of Grand Theft Auto V, stressing the grim reality.
Grand Theft Auto V is sold as an adult product in Australia, with an R rating that classifies it as designed for ages and 18 and above. Regardless, Target specified that this particular instance can be justifiably taken out of its selection range:
While these products often contain imagery that some customers find offensive, in the vast majority of cases, we believe they are appropriate products for us to sell to adult customers. However, in the case of GTA5, we have listened to the strong feedback from customers that this is not a product they want us to sell.
Australia has always had a strict policy when it comes to games, regardless of current arguments. For example, EA’s Syndicate reboot is currently still banned there, which isn’t exactly a pioneer in game violence.
No one tell Target, but Grand Theft Auto V’s remake is still coming to PC in January.