Update: We've just noticed that we originally named Walmart in this story when it should be Kmart. We've removed the instances of Walmart and deeply regret the error. Also, it should be noted that Kmart Australia and Target Australia are divisions of Wesfarmers Limited and not related to the US corporations with similar names.
As you may have heard if you follow gaming news, the next-gen console version of Grand Theft Auto 5 release in Australia hit a bit of snag this past week. Now, let's start this off by noting that it was only recently that the government of Australia finally agreed to treat its citizens like adults and allow the kind of video games we enjoy in the States to even be sold in the land down under. It came along with a strict ratings system, of course, but at least these games were finally available for purchase. It was a victory for speech and art.
And now, stupidly and cynically, retailers are pretending to be prudish, in the face of a petition by a vocal minority making almost purely emotional arguments, and have agreed to remove Grand Theft Auto 5 from their shelves. The focal impetus of this response by both Target and Kmart in Australia appears to be this Change.org petition, which is about as Change.org-petition-y as it gets.
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.
As anyone who has played the game, as I have, can tell you, this is only half true. Or, actually, perhaps less than half, because all the same violence, sexual misanthropy, and cruelty applies at least to the men in the game as well, and I'm pretty sure I remember smacking around some wildlife during my foray into the game as well. The point of GTA5
isn't to demean women; it's to demean everyone and everything
. The whole thing is a farce for violence and cruelty. That's its very point. But, to understand the plea of the petition, you have to understand who is issuing it.
We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence. It haunts us, and we've been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. 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.
Let's be clear about two things. The first is that any real life abuse of women, sexual or otherwise, is a horrific thing and should not be tolerated in any fashion anywhere. It's horrible and it breaks my heart knowing that survivors of such abuse must slog through life on a daily basis overcoming the abuse every step of the way. The second thing we must be absolutely clear on is that for anyone that values free speech, be it government or a corporate entity, the fact that these women issuing their petition are abuse survivors doesn't matter even a little bit
. Free speech and artistic expression don't simply get to be limited just because some people may be emotionally hurt by it.
The two retailers, Target and Kmart, being private entities, can of course do as they please. But when they say the following in their press release
"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," [Target's GM of Corporate Affairs] Mr Cooper said. "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."
then they must also explain why this decision over a forever-controversial gaming franchise is only coming upon the re-
release of the game, which originally came out a year ago, and how they can also take the following stance.
Mr Cooper said Target would continue to sell other R-rated DVDs and games.
"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.
Because the first quote from Mr. Cooper obviates his company's need to take such a stance. All he and Target must do, to remain consistent, is constantly follow the demands of whichever group is shouting the loudest. Because, given that we're talking about one of the best-selling videogames in the history
of the medium, that line about Target listening to the majority of consumers is a big bucket of bullshit. And, of course, Target and Kmart will happily sell the game elsewhere in the world, and make gobs of money off of it, while the petitioners updated their petition with "Thank you Target/Kmart" posts.
Fails all around, so... well done everyone.