Target and Kmart stores in Australia have decided to pull Rockstar's modern day classic Grand Theft Auto V from sale, after Target was the recipient of an online petition damning the game for its depiction of violence towards women.
The online petition, supported by over 40,000 signatures, was created by a group of ex-sex workers who have previously suffered from violence and sexual abuse, and hinges its argument on the game's ability to allow players to harm and kill sex workers.
We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we've been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.
The game's revolutionary first person perspective has also been called into question. 'Nicole', one of the founding creators of the anti-GTA petition believes the FPS element has "upped the ante", allowing the player to "feel what it feels like to do this [violent acts] to somebody."
In a publicly released statement, Target Corporate Affairs manager Jim Cooper said the decision was made "following extensive community and customer concern" regarding the R18 rated game, in which Target have been in congress with "many customers" and have found there to be "a significant level of concern about the game's content."
There are some, however, who disagree. A counter-protest has appeared on the web, that is intent on keeping GTA V on sale in the Australian megastores. Created by change.org user Moromillas Radec, the counter-petition, named "Protect the artistic freedom of video game developers", believes the petition against GTA V has fabricated the purpose of the game.
Nowhere in the game are you encouraged to murder women for entertainment, the game actually discourages you from killing random NPCs. The police in the game, are in an in-game mechanic that attempt to punish the player should they be caught commiting crime, predominantly, crime that the game is named after: Grand Theft Auto. It's an electronic version of cops and robbers.
Jim Cooper and Target have acknowledged the voices supporting the sales of the game. Speaking on the subject, Cooper said "we've also had customer feedback in support of us selling the game, and we respect their perspective on the issue," alas, "we feel the decision to stop selling GTA5 is in line with the majority view of our customers."
Take-Two, Rockstar's parent company's, CEO Strauss Zelnick released a statement regarding the ban of GTA V from all target stores in Australia.
We are disappointed that an Australian retailer has chosen no longer to sell Grand Theft Auto V--a title that has won extraordinary critical acclaim and has been enjoyed by tens of millions of consumers around the world. Grand Theft Auto V explores mature themes and content similar to those found in many other popular and groundbreaking entertainment properties. Interactive entertainment is today's most compelling art form and shares the same creative freedom as books, television, and movies. I stand behind our products, the people who create them, and the consumers who play them.
So it seems that Target and Kmart, who, incidentally, are both owned by Wesfarmers, are stores that actively listen to their worried consumers, but don't believe that said consumers can think for themselves. E-commerce will now see a major boom in Australia, me thinks...