Opinion: Moral Panic Prevails as Grand Theft Auto 5 is Pulled From Shelves

This deliberately provocative image has been attached to the petition to evoke outrage, but is a poor representation of the reality of the game.

Originally published at n3rdabl3

Last week I was browsing my Facebook feed and I noticed a friend had posted about a Change.org petition calling for Target to remove Grand Theft Auto 5 from its shelves due to its apparent encouragement of young boys to commit and tolerate violence against women.

This deliberately provocative image has been attached to the petition to evoke outrage, but is a poor representation of the reality of the game.

This deliberately provocative image has been attached to the petition to evoke outrage, but is a poor representation of the reality of the game.

Now let’s just get a little something straight: GTA5 is R-rated here in Australia. That means you have to be 18 years or older to buy the game. So just how are these “young boys” getting their hands on this R18+ game? Someone is buying it for them – and, from my (completely anecdotal evidence and personal) observations, it’s usually their parents!

Australian gamers have fought long and hard to even have an R18+ classification, and for the entirety of our gaming lives have had to deal with censored and cut down versions of games, or wholesale banning, because bleeding hearts continue to fail to recognise that adults play games, and that adults actually comprise the majority of game consumption in Australia. A veritable goldmine of research indicates the average gamer in Australia is over 35, and yet it has only been in the past couple of years that we’ve actually obtained the R18+ classification.

So let’s get back to this moral panic about “young boys” and their apparent brainwashing by GTA5. I’d strongly suggest that any issue with children playing a game like GTA5, which is clearly designed for the adult market, stems wholly from irresponsible adults allowing access to such games. A lot of parents these days don’t take the time to think about the content of a game, and bow to the pressure of their kids, going ahead and just giving them what they want without even knowing what it is. Whether it’s laziness, ignorance or a deliberate decision, the responsibility lies with the parent, not a game developer or a shop that stocks it.

GTA 5 also encourages young boys to ride their bicycles without wearing a helmet. It’s an outrage!

GTA 5 also encourages young boys to ride their bicycles without wearing a helmet. It’s an outrage!

A few days after the petition was distributed, Target pulled GTA5 from its shelves, despite previously refusing to do so after an earlier attempt by petitioners.  The wording of the latest Change.org campaign was significant in painting the store in a bad light, so Target has had to “listen to its customers”.  The latest development is that K-mart has now followed suit. As an adult gamer, this action appals and dismays me because it sets a dangerous precedent for an ill-informed vocal minority to influence the freedoms of the many. I am not personally a fan of the GTA franchise; however, I absolutely and unequivocally support an adult’s right to make their own decision whether or not to consume an R-rated product. R18+ ratings are there for a reason.

Whilst the GTA games are violent, and allow players to maim and kill and commit all many of other crimes (mostly against men if I want to get nitpicky), the thing that people need to realise and understand is that it’s not real, it’s not meant for children, and that there has been no link found between violent video games and perpetuating violence in real life. Games continually receive criticism over their inclusion of violence; however, there are far more graphic representations to be found amongst both modern and classic literature and film. The whole “won’t somebody please think of the children” argument needs to stop, because it is completely irrelevant when talking about games that are designed to be consumed by adults.

It’s totally okay for stores to sell this book though; even though it *actually* does include violence and manipulation towards women. As long as the guy is rich and sexy Christian Grey, it gets a pass apparently.

It’s totally okay for stores to sell this book though; even though it *actually* does include violence and manipulation towards women. As long as the guy is rich and sexy Christian Grey, it gets a pass apparently.

Before I wrap up, I also want to address another very important point that the creators of the petition got entirely wrong. A large component of their argument centres on the “fact” that GTA5 rewards players for raping and murdering prostitutes and committing other violent acts. This is absolutely and undeniably incorrect; the game does not reward you in any such way, and such conduct is the choice of the player, not an inherent requirement of the game. In fact, when a player does kill people they are reprimanded by the police, so in a sense they are punished for such actions! 

As I’ve said, this isn’t the kind of game I’m into, but I really disagree with it being removed from sale at stores. I sympathise with the women who initiated the petition, who are survivors of violence, however I feel that this was not the right platform to use to address the issue of violence against women. Instead the core concern has been lost and has instead become an essay on censorship and political correctness gone mad. Won’t somebody please think of the adults?

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