Late last week Wesfarmers retail chains Target Australia, and then later K-Mart, made the decision to remove copies of Grand Theft Auto V from their shelves in response to a petition started by concerned survivors of violence against women. The response has understandably been immense, but it highlights problems that the gaming industry and community must overcome if they’re to be taken seriously.
You would really have to look hard to find any other game in history which has has generated such a level of hysteria as the Grand Theft Auto series. Some consider it not far removed from a hooker killing simulator, and the petition further reinforces this view. To quote from the petition: ‘It’s a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment. The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘health’ points’. With a description like that, there’s little wonder that the petition raised over 40,000 signatures and climbing. It does however conveniently ignore one basic fact. Under Classification Rules, no game is permitted to feature sexual violence – you have to look no further than Saints Row IV’s ‘Rectifier’, or the anal probe scenes in South Park: The Stick of Truth, to see how they have enforced this in the past. To argue that the game requires you to undertake such actions to progress the game or score ‘health points’ does nothing except further expose your ignorance of your subject matter. Sure there are problems with how women are depicted in GTAV, big problems, but to suggest that they are specifically targets for violence is off the mark. The game allows you to be violent to all NPCs, be they male, female, or animal, and doesn’t push you to do so in one direction or the other.