Target Australia is pulling “Grand Theft Auto 5” from its stores’ shelves on Wednesday, after an online petition to remove the game gained more than 41,000 supporters in just four days.
Rockstar Games’ action-adventure title “Grand Theft Auto 5” has been available since September 2013, but last month’s release of the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 versions caught the attention of many concerned parents and anti-violence advocates. This was partially due to the game’s updated first-person mode, in which a player could have sex with a prostitute and then murder her after she exited the vehicle. Yes, players could always do this in “GTA V,” but the first-person perspective made the in-game crime seem all the more realistic.
Originally, Target defended its right to keep the game in stores, especially since the seventh-generation, 2013 versions of “GTA 5” sold more than 34 million copies worldwide.
“It's a game that encourages players to murder women for entertainment,” the petition read. “The incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get 'health' points.”
Many supporters of the petition are women, victims of domestic and sexual violence, and sex workers. The petition was started by Nicole, Claire and Kat, who chose not to reveal their last names. Nicole is a former sex worker. The women state that games like “GTA 5” make the lives of sex workers all the more dangerous.
“We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we've been trying to rebuild our lives ever since,” the petition says. “Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure – to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.”
General Manager of Corporate Affairs Jim Cooper said Target decided to remove the game following "extensive community and customer concern about the game."
“We feel the decision to stop selling GTA5 is in line with the majority view of our customers,” Cooper said in a statement. "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.”
Cooper assured buyers the company would continue to sell R-rated films and other video games with adult ratings. "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,” he said. "However, in the case of ‘GTA 5,’ we have listened to the strong feedback from customers that this is not a product they want us to sell." “GTA V” is still available at numerous other stores like GameStop and Target, and at many online retailers, though Target's reaction to the petition could be the beginning of a movement that sees the game banned in other stores, something many women probably wouldn't mind.
“This game spreads the idea that certain women exist as scapegoats for male violence,” a paragraph in the petition says. “Women in the industry are 40 times more likely to be murdered by a man than any other group of women.”