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Grand Theft Auto V may not be outright banned in Australia, but the game will no longer be sold on Target Australia’s shelves, a media release reports today.

The Australian Retail chain posted a press release, announcing that it has made the decision to remove the R-Rated GTA V after a petition released criticising the game’s “depictions of violence towards women.” This was a bone of controversy in the original uncensored release but according to critics accentuated due to the inclusion of a first person view, the first for the series. Despite the first person view being limited to the PS4 and Xbox One releases of the game, GTA V on all platforms has been pulled from all Target Australia outlets as well as the online store

Jim Cooper, General Manager of Corporate Affairs for Target Australia, announced the move based on “extensive community and customer concern about the game”, noting a “significant level of concern about the game’s content.” The release specifically notes “violence against women” as a factor in their decision.

Cooper noted that the store “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 release also notes that the store will continue to sell other R-Rated DVDs and games. The issue of the link between violence and sex in video games is not a new problem for Australian censorship, with both Saints Row IV and South Park: The Stick of Truth being temporarily banned by the OLFC for depictions of sexual violence for comic effect.

The petition, made by an individual using the pseudonym Nicole Survivor, links the game to sexual violence, claiming the “misogynistic” game “literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women.” As of the 3rd December, the petition to remove GTA V from Target has over 41,000 signatures.

It should be noted however that GTA V’s campaign at no point forces the player to kill or assault women. This decision is the latest chapter in the long-running debate on player agency in video games, and whether giving a player the option to commit an act in the controlled consequence-less environment of such a game is glorifying or encouraging violence outside of the game world.

Update: In the wake of the Australian chain of Kmart and the New Zealand chain The Warehouse following suit in their removal of GTA V from store shelves, a counter petition has been launched by a man named Brett Herbert, refuting the aims and objectives of the original petition, arguing the creators are “misinformed” and the conclusion that banning the game will lower domestic violence and sexual abuse numbers as “simplistic”. As of writing (12/05/14), the petition has over 15,000 signatures.

David Rose

An upstart literary critic and lifelong gamer who mixes a huge enthusiasm for gaming, academic critique and a effervescent writing style together into one bouncy whole.