You may have heard that the Australian arm of the retailer Target has removed Grand Theft Auto V from sale in all of its stores. Their reason, is that the game’s dark and gritty content – much of it featuring less than lovely treatment of women – is something their customers don’t want to see in store.
This isn’t all too surprising. When it comes to videogames, Australia’s been a bit of a nanny state and only recently allowed mature games to be sold in shops. It seems people just aren’t ready for graphically violent or mature-themed (though arguably still immature) games to be sold in stores.
“We’ve been speaking to many customers over recent days about the game, and there is a significant level of concern about the game’s content,” said Jim Cooper, Target’s general manager of corporate affairs. “We’ve 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 odd thing is that Target will continue selling other games, movies and the like that feature similar, if not worse violence.
“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,” added Cooper. “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.”
And I think that Target itself is one of the reasons people are so up in arms. Target, like many people, still see games as toys, as things for kids. Here’s how the company advertised the game before they yanked it from shelves (via Kotaku Australia)
You see the problem? “The best toy prices in Australia… guaranteed!” Yes, that’s an R18+ rated video game featured in an advert right next to Peppa Pig and Barbie. There’s still a pervasive attitude here and in places like Australia that games are for kids. Yes, they can be, and often are – but ratings exist for a reason; they’re there so that you can make informed choices and not for some sort of moral policing. Removing a game from stores because people complained, however, is moral policing. And now, another Australian retailer, KMart, has done the same.
“Following a significant review of all content in Grand Theft Auto Games Kmart has taken the decision to remove this product immediately,” KMart management says, according to Kotaku Australia. “Kmart apologises for not being closer to the content of this game.”
Take 2 boss Strauss Zelnick has responded to Australian stores pulling the game.
“We are disappointed that an Australian retailer has chosen no longer to sell Grand Theft Auto 5 – a title that has won extraordinary critical acclaim and has been enjoyed by tens of millions of consumers around the world.
“Grand Theft Auto 5 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.”
I mostly agree. While some of GTA’s content made me feel uncomfortable, I think creators should be free to make the games they want to make. People, likewise, should also be free to criticise those games. What people shouldn’t be able to do, is get games removed from stores under some sort of moral self-righteousness. They’re games for adults, and as a (sometimes) adult, I’d like to believe I can make my own informed choices.
Last Updated: December 4, 2014