A petition signed by over 40,000 called for its removal, but other R-rated DVDs and games still remain on the retailer’s shelves. A move that’s one step forward and another back.
Target Australia released a press release today announcing that the retailer will be pulling Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V from their shelves following massive negative feedback regarding the depictions of violence against women.
Target Australia’s corporate affairs executive Jim Cooper explained that the decision to remove the game from the retailer’s shelves was what the majority of their customers wanted. It’s highly probable that the petition created on Change.org a few days before the announcement influenced this outcome especially since more than 40,000 people have supported it as of this writing.
While the petition generally advocates to women survivors of violence, it specifically highlights the violence towards sex workers in the game: “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,” the petition reads.
If you’ve never played any of the Grand Theft Auto games before, the page linked this video as an example:
I think it’s quite interesting how this whole activity started in earlier games. The game didn’t specifically instruct players to kill sex workers after the deed to get your money back. I don’t think players even knew that they could get their money back. Perhaps, someone realized that you could have a freebie and it grew into a thing. I encountered this when I was seven years old and I was more fascinated in getting something for free in general than the act of killing a sex worker. Heck, I would do the same thing if that worked in Cluckin’ Bell.
Anyway, I commend Target at the very least for listening to the complaints and treating it as a valid concern. The problem is that it probably is only a concern for them because a majority of their consumers said so. They wouldn’t be pulling it if only a select group of people complained regardless of the validity of the complaints.
I also think that the solution is quite problematic. The retailer is pulling one game with misogynistic elements from their shelves, but will still continue to sell other Rated-R games and films? There are countless other titles that are exclusively for treating women like crap. While former GameSpot writer Carolyn Petit drew ire for calling out the game’s misogyny, she still thought the game was worth playing and gave it a high grade of 9/10.
It’s not far-fetched to assume that most of the petition’s supporters backed the campaign without playing the game themselves. Yes, it’s really horrendous that we can mistreat women in the game but there’s a lot more to the game that needs to be taken into consideration before making a decision like this. It’s like basing your vote on merely one YouTube video of a presidential candidate’s speech on a singular matter.
I’m not undervaluing the experiences of women survivors of violence. I’m sure that seeing videos like the one above triggered unpleasant memories that they’d rather forget and they fear that the pleasure gamers take out of it will translate in real life. However, cutting one bad tree in a forest of misogyny won’t solve the problem. It would stop people from being exposed to it, but it won’t help them understand why it shouldn’t be there in the first place. They’ll just move on to the next tree which could probably be Drive Angry or Saints Row. Cutting everything won’t help either because people will just plant new trees to replace what they’ve lost.
Removing Grand Theft Auto V was an easy yet ineffective solution for both parties involved. If they want real change and progress, why not campaign towards promoting dialogue and reforming companies’ attitude toward women. Both sides has its problems. Target could have been more careful in advertising the game. It’s no surprise since this road requires more time, money, and effort, but that’s what’s needed to enact real change instead of temporary band-aids.
Rockstar Games isn’t without blame, but that doesn’t mean they should stop making games altogether. Gamemoir’s own LGBT & Gender columnist Philip Wythe shared his two cents on the matter: “We should be pressuring Rockstar to create better female characters and a woman player character, and identifying the games’ problems. That’s what most feminists really want; very few gaming feminists want Rockstar’s series pulled from shelves.”
Everyone and everything has its own faults and strengths. Grand Theft Auto V is a great game, but it can be better. It can’t be that if we take it away for good.