When dealing with the slippery slope of artistic expression, one should never stray far from the path of freedom.
Most games will never know the kind of success that comes along with a Grand Theft Auto launch. This time last year, GTA V set records and smashed sales projections (clocking somewhere in the billions when all was said and done). With its recent next-gen remake allowing for a second victory lap, it has again captured the hearts and minds of an entire gaming generation on the PS4 and Xbox One. It’s taken everything we loved about the first go ‘round and upped the ante twice over.
But did you know there are some who actively seek to take it away from us? A controversial petition is gaining traction, which has already garnered over 25,000 signatures as of this writing. It was published by an Australian based activist group whose mission it to have GTA V immediately pulled from the shelves at Target. While you can read the full details via change.org , here are the excerpts that best outline their overall message and goal: “This game means that after various sex acts, players are given options to kill women by punching her unconscious, killing with a machete, bat or guns to get their money returned…Please Target – we appeal to you as women survivors of violence, including women who experienced violence in the sex industry, to immediately withdraw Grand Theft Auto V from sale…This game spreads the idea that certain women exist as scapegoats for male violence. It shows hatred and contempt for women in the sex industry and puts them at greater risk…Target, you pride yourself on being a family company, caring for local communities, and have a strong ethical sourcing policy…We urge you to follow the example set by the New Zealand’s largest retailer, NZ Warehouse Group, in upholding Corporate Social Responsibility and ethical corporate leadership, by removing these games.”
I find myself torn on exactly how to tackle this subject. On the one hand, I have my fuming rage and contempt towards anyone looking to further build up the wall of censorship I so vehemently wish to tear down. On the other hand, violence against woman is a subject I’m very sensitive to and empathize with greatly. However, emotions tend to run high with subjects like this (much like the abortion debate or politics in general). Being too close to an issue can often cloud things like logic and common sense. The three women helming the petition claim to be survivors of such crimes as sexual assault and battery. As a man, I can’t even begin to understand what that must be like (as it’s a uniquely female plight that no woman should ever have to bare). Having said that, I have no problem stating this petition is a step way too far. Granted GTA V is a violent game by nature. The problem is this group paints a false narrative here, with only one aspect of the gameplay being held under the microscope ( IE : both male and female characters alike can be subject to the same acts of violence). It’s also purposefully rated “Adult Only” by the ESRB for a reason. So this notion it targets the youth of today in hopes of transforming them into little psychotic monsters is utter hog wash.
I’m not so naive to suggest children aren’t witnessing what goes on in these titles. Perhaps they even own a copy of their very own. But that comes as a lack of parental skills found in those specific households. Hell, sometimes kids are just going to sneak and do what they want anyway. There’s no stopping that. I know I’m not the only one who watched his fair share of Cinemax After-Hours in my younger years (after the parents thought I had seemingly gone to bed). As far as I know, I didn’t become a sexual deviant as a result. The idea the rest of the consenting adult world must now have their toys stripped away in a blanket wave of censorship is asinine thinking at best, and tyrannical at worst. Why does this petition say nothing of the violent films and TV shows found in Target’s DVD section? I can throw a rock right now and knock content off the shelf depicting far worse anti-feminine messages (in live-action no less). Is that not the exact same message those 25,000+ people who’ve already signed this letter are sending?
Or think of it this way: imagine you’re the parent of a young boy. The logic here is, no matter how diligent and watchful you are, outside influences found in games, music and movies are destined to twist him into a misogynistic asshole who desires nothing more than to beat and rape his way through society.
If that insulting assumption isn’t enough to get your blood boiling…then what will?
UPDATE – 12/3/2014:
After this piece was completed and went live, CheatCC received a troubling bit of news. It seems Target has in fact buckled under the pressure and will pull all copies of Grand Theft Auto V from its store shelves in Australia. Take-Two was quick to respond with the following statement from CEO Strauss Zelnick:
“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 what do you think? Was this the right move by Target or should they have stood their ground? Let us know in the comments section below or on our official Facebook page.