One of the more unusual stories of the week has been the unexpected removal of copies of “Grand Theft Auto V” from Australian retail chain Target. It began with an online petition launched by three female survivors of sexual violence who set up a petition on change.org urging Target to withdraw the game.
The petition says: “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. To see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainment is sickening and causes us great pain and harm.”
It also claims that games like this are “grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women”. That argument is a tougher sell as “Grand Theft Auto V” is rated R18+, is not available for sale to minors, and has been on sale in stores for over a year without incident.
Approximately 47,000 people signed the petition which was specifically targeted at Target retail stores in Australia. It worked, and Target withdrew the game from sale yesterday and pulled “Grand Theft Auto 5” from shelves across the country.
It has since gone further. Target is owned by retail giant Wesfarmers who runs some of the biggest retail chains in Australia including Coles, Kmart, Officeworks and Bunnings Warehouse. Kmart has now not only pulled the game but also the previous game in the series, “Grand Theft Auto IV,” from shelves.
The removal is not expected to spread to other retailers. Both Target and Kmart are retail stores that target families, especially mothers and kids, and aren’t known for being a place where people go to buy video games. More youth, game and tech-oriented retail giants like JB Hi-Fi, Dick Smith and EBGames (the Aussie equivalent of GameStop) are still selling copies of the game without incident.
The petition has also led to a backlash from Australian gamers. A rival petition has gone online asking that both retail chains and others still selling the game be allowed to continue to do so. That petition has already clocked 16,100 signatures.
Fairing even better? A parody petition asking retailers to ban the Bible because it too “encourages readers to murder women for entertainment by commit(ting) sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get ‘god’ points”. That petition is already up to almost 25,000 signatures in a day.