If you live in Australia, you have one less location to pick up a copy of Grand Theft Auto V.
In a media release published today, Target announced its stores down under will no longer sell GTA V because of “feedback from customers about the game’s depictions of violence against women.” Target will continue selling other R-rated forms of media, however.
“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,” states Target General Manager Corporate Affairs Jim Cooper in the press release. “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.”
This move follows a Change.org petition asking Target to withdraw the game from its shelves. “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,” reads the petition. As of publication time, the petition has 40,000 supporters.
News.com.au has reported that one signatory cited the new, first-person perspective introduced by the next-generation re-releases of Grand Theft Auto V on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One as being particularly problematic.
“Games like this are grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women. It is [fueling] the epidemic of violence experienced by so many girls and women in Australia – and globally,” read the petition.
Players being able to solicit sex workers in the game and then kill them to reclaim the money paid for services has for years been one of the most often repeated concerns about the Grand Theft Auto series
In fact, this concern is precisely what Strauss Zelnick, the CEO of Take-Two Interactive, the company that distributes Grand Theft Auto games, was confronted with in a recent appearance on Bloomberg TV following the release of GTA V on next-gen consoles.
“This is a criminal setting. It’s a gritty underworld. It is art. And I embrace that art, and it’s beautiful art. But it is gritty, and let’s not make no bones about the environment in which we operate,” Zelnick said. “And we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other major motion picture releases and major television shows that explore a similar universe.”
Grand Theft Auto V holds an R 18+ rating from the Australian Classification Board, which means the media is restricted to adults.
There is no evidence that violent video games inspire real-world violent behavior. Many studies investigating the question are conducted using first-person shooter games, so there’s no evidence that the introduction of first-person camera perspective in next-gen versions of Grand Theft Auto V ought to have any different effects on players than the traditional third-person perspective of Grand Theft Auto games.
Even if concerns over behavior have no solid ground to stand on, discussion of the psychological effects of negative depictions of women in video games on real world attitudes, however, has dominated the discourse in video game culture in 2014. Increased focus on this topic by feminist critic Anita Sarkeesian among others was arguably the spur for the backlash that erupted into Gamergate. It is not a concern that is limited to feminist critics. Men are speaking out loudly about these issues, as well.
Image via Rockstar