Target’s Grand Theft Auto V ban leaves us no one to blame
How do you analyze the news that Target has decided to give in to the pressure, to a strong petition of 41,000 people and has deleted Grand Theft Auto V shelves. How you react to that ?
I’ve struggled with this since the second I heard the news.
The basic instinct in me, in all of us, I guess, is to rush to the battle stations. Wield the cannons of the video game and mercilessly detonate the hypocrisy of it all, blindly spewing bits of rage against the Moral Panic Squad.
Because as a culture Australian players are so used to this debate. We are used to being attacked. Above all, we are used to video games being treated differently from other art forms. We have heard and seen it all. We know the counter-arguments by heart.
But here’s the problem: In this particular situation, these arguments are virtually useless. They are simply not applicable. News Target deleted Grand Theft Auto V of stores puts people who love video games in a strange and untenable position. Making a huge unruly noise will get us nowhere. It will make us back down.
To begin with, we need to come to terms with some hard truths.
First, Grand Theft AutoThe representation of women by s is problematic. Put aside the fact that video games allow gamers to be violent – equally – to men and women. Set that aside for a second. It is a given. Female characters in Grand Theft Auto are poorly drawn; they are either “prostitutes” or screaming and harassing buffoons. The handful that remains inevitably becomes damsels in distress. There are very few women in the world Grand Theft Auto that exist outside of this spectrum. It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t to play Grand Theft Auto, that doesn’t mean it’s worthless as a cultural artifact – it just means that we have to accept that gambling has issues, especially with its portrayal of women. We have to accept this.
Second, we have to accept that Target’s decision to take down the game is not censorship. Hypocrisy? Yes. Absoutely. Censorship? Not even close.
Target has every right to sell or not to sell any product it deems appropriate for any reason. Target doesn’t sell a lot of stuff. He don’t sell pornography, he don’t sell the Metroid Prime Trilogy on Wii. He doesn’t sell Irn Bru. He doesn’t sell Jenga, as I recently discovered to my disgust after spending an entire day browsing Westfield trying to find a box of this stuff.
The point is, this is not the same as the R18 + problem. In this situation, government legislation literally prevented stores like Target from selling R18 + rated video games. In this case, an individual retail group made a decision. A decision she has the right to make.
As a consumer, you also have the right to stop shopping at Target as a result of this decision. Importantly, you also have the right to purchase the game from a number of other stores. I suspect that many will choose to exercise these rights. Its good.
Third, we can’t even blame Target to make this decision. You can accuse him of hypocrisy. You can list the dozens of other R18 + rated products sold at Target stores. You can complain 50 shades of Gray, but to date no one has produced a petition with 41,000 signatures demanding its deletion. When such a powerful and large-scale statement lands on your virtual desktop, some sort of response is needed. You might disagree with this answer, but consider the tangible elements.
Target is essentially a chain of stores that markets and sells to an older category of consumers who are, more often than not, parents. Much of Target’s advertising is aimed specifically at this demographic. It must protect this segment of its income. Ask yourself how often you buy video games from Target. Ask yourself who normally buys from Target and what they buy. Target made a strategic decision based solely on damage control and perception management. That’s what businesses do.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we cannot blame the women behind the petition or any of the men and women who signed the petition.
Do you think their concerns are wrong? Absoutely. Do you believe that worries are the result of widespread moral panic? Worried that their success will set some kind of precedent? Sure.
But it’s from primordial It is important to understand and accept that this petition was the work of women with serious and sincere concerns. Important concerns regarding the representation of women and the impact it would have on the attitudes of young men towards violence against women. These are former sex workers who have suffered sexual violence from men. Their concerns are more than valid.
And their concerns deserve to be heard. It is important to take these concerns seriously. It is important to integrate them. Abusing or verbally threatening these women – or any of the men and women who signed the petition – is toxic behavior and only serves to make the situation worse. It only serves to prove their point of view. Above all, it is wrong.
Essentially, what we should be fighting against here is the prevailing belief that video games are exclusively for children. More importantly, we should fight against the idea that interactive media have a stronger impact on gamers compared to movies, TV or music. These are the misconceptions behind these petitions. These are the misconceptions that are consistently reported in the mainstream media as fact. These are the misconceptions that the media regularly exploit for trafficking and fabricated outrage.
With the introduction of an R18 + rating in Australia, part of me had hoped that these attitudes were a decaying and dying thing. This widespread education and the growth of gambling in all demographic groups could change these attitudes. I had hoped the mainstream media would get the message, but it looks like I was wrong.
And nothing – absolutely nothing – will change until these attitudes are dead and gone.