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Target Australia removes GTA V from sale following petition

Sex-worker led protest cites first-person violence against women UPDATE: Kmart follows Target's lead

Update

Kmart Australia has also removed GTA V from its stores, citing the same reasons as those given by Target yesterday.

In a statement issued to Kotaku Australia, the retailer claimed it had undertaken a "significant review" of the game's content, ultimately concluding that it shouldn't be sold in Kmart Australia's stores.

”Kmart apologises for not being closer to the content of this game.”

Update

Take-Two's Strauss Zelnick has responded to the removal of GTA V from Target Australia's shelves, issuing the following statement.

"We are disappointed that an Australian retailer has chosen no longer to sell Grand Theft Auto V - a title that has won extraordinary critical acclaim and has been enjoyed by tens of millions of consumers around the world. Grand Theft Auto V explores mature themes and content similar to those found in many other popular and groundbreaking entertainment properties. Interactive entertainment is today's most compelling art form and shares the same creative freedom as books, television, and movies. I stand behind our products, the people who create them, and the consumers who play them."

Original Story

The Australian arm of retail giant Target has decided to stop selling GTA V following a petition signed by thousands of customers which protested against the game's depictions of violence against women.

"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," said the company's general manager of corporate affairs Jim Cooper, who also acknowledged that there had also been public support for the game.

"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."

The petition at the heart of the decision was started by a group of sex workers who believe that the game incentivises sexualised violence against women, something they felt was illustrated particularly starkly by the first-person perspective which is offered in the new-generation versions of the game.

Key to this argument was the emergent gameplay quirk of being able to sleep with a prostitute before killing her and taking the money back - something which has been a part of the series for some time but which has never been actively promoted in-game. Many of those opposed to the ban have pointed out that this isn't an integral part of gameplay, whilst many other forms of incentivised violence actually are, but a spokesperson for the campaigners says that this misses the point she's making.

"This is the argument we hear every time violence against women is mentioned," she said, when asked about the game's predominantly male on male violence. "Even on White Ribbon Day, there are cries of 'But it happens to men, too'.

"In this case, the male gamers are saying they don't mind violence against themselves in this game. Implicit in this is the recognition that if men don't mind, then women have to put up with it. This is hardly a gender-neutral argument. Implicit in it is the very misogyny we are rallying against."

The campaigner, operating under the pseudonym 'Nicole' for fear of reprisals, said that age-ratings were not a sufficient preventative measure, despite GTA being listed under Australia's most punitive rating of R.

"It is promoting this horrific violence against women," she said to News.com. "The players are rewarded for buying sex and then brutally killing. It doesn't matter if you are 17 or 80, it's still a horrific thing."

Cooper also issued a rebuttal to the argument on ratings, stating that whilst the company generally felt that they were sufficient, they did not in this particular instance.

"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. However, in the case of GTA5, we have listened to the strong feedback from customers that this is not a product they want us to sell."

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Latest comments (82)

Rolf Klischewski Founder & CEO, gameslocalization.com3 years ago
Good thing you can't mutilate men in the game.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 3 years ago
Poor Australians, they always seem on the sharp end of conservative nutters when it comes to games, didn't they have to battle for years to get an 18 age rating(not sure if they succeeded), and games like Saints Row IV have to be edited to remove levels
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
The Australian public has always had issues with violence against prostitutes.

The whole regain energy from prostitutes may add some kind of atmosphere, but it was always a risky idea in terms of offending people. While I like the freedom entailed of allowing the player to act as they wish, and the real consequences of when you give something to someone (such as money) they still have it in their possession one nano-second later (bucking the trend of every RPG ever, no matter how much you give the storekeeper he doesn't have anything worth stealing and how you can fight against hundreds of heavily armed thugs only to loot their bodies and find a rusty penknife and a half eaten apple) by rewarding a player for using the services of a prostitute, it also rewards them for killing them afterwards.

I don't see how anyone could expect some people not to be upset about the feature - especially as it has received so much attention over the years.
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Show all comments (82)
Graeme Quantrill Mobile App Developer 3 years ago
If the energy regain was removed from using prostitutes, then there would be no incentive to use them and the whole argument falls apart.
Rockstar could just patch that region to get around the problem.

Yep, there'd still be violence against women in the game but at least it'd be all equal (against race and gender; but not profession as obviously killing shopkeepers and whatnot has an incentive)
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Jordan Lund Columnist 3 years ago
Someone needs to explain to them the difference:

A game allowing something to happen is not the same thing as a game encouraging something to happen.

If someone has sex with a prostitute then kills them, that's on the PLAYER not the game.
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Russ Cogman Senior Game Artist, Serious Games International3 years ago
So...don't shop at Target?
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Rashad Foux Character Artist, Hi-Rez Studios, Inc.3 years ago
I love the GTA series, but there's definitely something disturbing about watching players beat, and kill women (and men), in the first person.
I don't mean to say the game is bad, or playing it makes you a bad person, but the comfortable "pretend distance" of watching some other character commit violent acts isn't there anymore when you're playing it in the first person.
So I can see why people react the way they do to players now punching a woman in the face, or stabbing them to death. This perspective for violence, isn't something other types of media can portray. And doing it in a "realistic" urban/suburban environment magnifies the affect of seeing this type of stuff.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rashad Foux on 3rd December 2014 4:43pm

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Rashad Foux Character Artist, Hi-Rez Studios, Inc.3 years ago
@Jordan Lund:
The player has a large portion of the responsibility for their actions, but GTA is not a Sword Art Online-esque simulation. They didn't replicate the nuances of life and in all the good and bad ways that humans can treat each other.
They chose to create and focus on certain mechanics, and designed them for players to use and take advantage of these mechanics.

So to say that the developers are not in large part responsibile for the actions that players take in the environment is untrue.
And given the state of domestic abuse, of abuse in prostitution, of violence against women and the culture that surrounds it, I can see why some people are objecting to this content.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Rashad Foux on 3rd December 2014 5:33pm

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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
A game allowing something to happen is not the same thing as a game encouraging something to happen.

If someone has sex with a prostitute then kills them, that's on the PLAYER not the game.
But the game rewards a player it - the artificial mechanic of energy renewal. This comes at a cost of money, but that money can be retaken resulting in free energy. The use of prostitutes and killing them is incentivised. If players choose not to do this, they are relatively 'penalised'.

It makes no sense, imho, to say the game does not encourage it as it is the sensible thing to do in game even if it on some level horrifies you. If you gained no energy from it then picking up prostitutes and killing them would just be something players either did or didn't. If like many situations the the prostitutes turned into friendly NPC and faded away then violence (if perpetrated) would not reward the players by giving the money back.

Postal 2 had some great situations of allowing the player to choose what they did. Often you would have the choice of waiting in a line of rude, pushing, impatient people or you could get out your can of petrol and box of matches.... the choice was yours. This GTA mechanic does not fall into that category of freedom.
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios3 years ago
Men don't mind because, compared to women, we have little reason to fear real life violence. I've heard colleagues make a similar argument defending Hitman; "you can kill men too, therefore it's gender-neutral!" That would be true if our society was also gender-neutral when it came to violence. Unfortunately in most cultures women suffer FAR higher rates of violence (especially sexual violence). So giving players the opportunity to assault both gender is hardly even-handed in context, especially since there is no option to play as a woman.

The age rating is no solution either because historically society has considered games as children's entertainment (largely thanks to early hardware limitations driving a trend for cartoony graphics) and many parents still ignore them. Also people do not become magically immune to cultural/media biases at the age of 18.

GTA has grown from a cartoony teenage satire to a photorealistic teenage satire, and the improvement in graphical fidelity only makes the subject matter more disturbing. There's a fine line between satire and glorification.
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Quincy Ward Studying Computer Science, University of Arkansas3 years ago
If I'm not mistaken Target Australia is not the Australian arm of Target Corporation but a separate company altogether.
So this decision should (should) not affect Target Corporation.
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But it's fine to go around shooting people in the head? Just not to have sex with them and then shoot them in the head. So yet again, it's sex that is bad and violence that is ok. World is broken.
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Rashad Foux Character Artist, Hi-Rez Studios, Inc.3 years ago
But it's fine to go around shooting people in the head? Just not to have sex with them and then shoot them in the head. So yet again, it's sex that is bad and violence that is ok. World is broken.
They didn't say that sex was bad. They didn't say that violence was okay. They said the sexualised violence (that is, acts created by the developers specifically to illicit a sexual response and the perpetration of violent acts upon the object of those sexual acts, i.e. women), is a problem in GTA. It always has been.
And the latest version of GTA exacerbates the issue because it's from a first person perspective.

The women involved in this story focused on this one issue because it impacted them the most based on their own horrible experiences. The fact that they focused on that should in no way imply that they're saying "Violence is Okay" because they didn't also immediately decry non-specific violent acts against everyone besides women.
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Daniel Merritt Software Engineer - Cloud Development, NVIDIA3 years ago
This would be a reasonable response if there was ever definitive proof that video games produce real world violent actions.

That's the rub, sure it's interactive, and because it's not a direct part of the game, it allows specific people to perhaps indulge in a fantasy that is not normally accessible. That's fine. Does Call of Duty, which has sold far more copies over all than all the GTAs put together, encourage violence, especially against Russian civilians or shooting up airports? It does not. This is a classic argument about, "well what if?" or "There haven't been enough studies!" There have been enough studies, and enough casual observation. Games with violence have been around for over 20 years, and there has nary been a crystal clear case of healthy child > video games > criminal behavior. It's just a non-concern.

And they're correct, it's not pretty, it's not a great indication against you if you play this way, you wouldn't admit that you enjoy playing this way to your mom or boss, but it's just another piece of art, and despite being offended, you aren't allowed to censor it just because you don't understand it.

Of course, this is just like the chemical being removed from subway bread. Everyone knows its not harmful, or a problem in any way, but because the uneducated and alarmist public had a loud enough voice, a crazy lady got a company to buckle. It's all about profits. If Target Australia thought that it would improve their overall profits by not banning the title, then they wouldn't ban it.
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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios3 years ago
@Daniel - I too used to be firmly in the Games Don't Cause Violence camp. And I still don't think there's any direct correlation.

But I DO think that our media as a whole - TV, movies, games, magazines, newspapers, adverts, etc - perpetuates problematic stereotypes and skews our thinking in subtle but measurable ways. I don't advocate censorship, but I think it's very healthy for the public and press to point out dubious moral issues (such as the player terrorising Orcs in Shadow of Mordor) and discuss them. If we want our work to be considered art, then we have to honestly consider it's artistic merit.

And in the case of GTA, I do think the satire is often lost on it's audience amid genuine enthusiasm for the in-your-face violence.
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Graham Bromley Lead Level Designer, Codemasters3 years ago
Is this not the "Violent Games/Books/Films make you do violent stuff” argument being recycled and reused again?

Hasn't the alleged games to real life link already been disproven? Does seeing in 1st person make it any more likely?

How many more people here are robbing cars in real life, because they did in GTA?
How many more are doing it now they've seen it in 1st person?
How many extra assassinations of CEO's, to manipulate stock prices, occurred in real life when GTA V came out last year?
How many more have occurred this year, now that we've seen it in 1st person?

Campaigning to stop the sale of games because they changed the camera view from 3rd to 1st person seems a bit odd to me - the virtual criminality and violence depicted haven't changed, just the angle you see it from.

No-one is saying real life violence is acceptable, but protesting against a game because it contains a depictions of nastiness that can happen in the real world, probably isn’t the most effective way of preventing those things from happening in the real world.

Perhaps the same amount of effort and support in fixing the issues in the real world might be a better idea.
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John Kauderer Associate Creative Director, Atari3 years ago
Bans GTA V... A year after it comes out.... Still sells Bill Cosby DVDs, Chris Brown CDs.... etc... I guess it's only virtual-elective-violence they care about and not like... you know, real violence. Or they just care about press... Nah that couldn't be it.
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Barrie Tingle Live Producer, Maxis3 years ago
@Quincy, you are correct. They are totally different companies - https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/target-us-australia-unrelated-twins-015204028.html
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Shane Sweeney Academic 3 years ago
Australian Sex Workers successfully lobbied to pull GTA5 from Target for the new First person perspective in the Next Gen versions. I'm sure the internet will find a way to make this about Feminist Frequency.

Target/Wallmart/EBGames or any major retailer does not sell 18+ rated games in America. Target might become the first to not stock them in Australia.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 4th December 2014 12:16am

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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online3 years ago
@Rashad: You write: "I love the GTA series, but there's definitely something disturbing about watching players beat, and kill women (and men), in the first person."

But haven't 3D shooters allowed to shoot and stab and what not - hello, Soldier of Fortune - other men and women in the first person for quite some time?

@Chris Payne: I'm with you. While I see no direct correlation, I wonder why "good" games and software has good effects on kids and adults, while "bad" games and software has zero effects.

Where kids on schoolyards would stop fighting when one's on the ground, they now keep hitting and kicking. Same for showing respect and empathy to others. One could argue that this is caused by the breakdown of families too, but still ... we learn by modeling behavior that we see others doing. This does not mean shooting others in the head, but being less caring human beings.
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Carl Hudson Studying Computer Science, University of Adelaide3 years ago
Wow! I only signed this petition yesterday. It's good to know that even the smallest action CAN actually make a difference. Target actually listened to its customers, so it gets extra points added to the fact that they also sold me the most cost effective PS4 bundle and an extra controller (in Australia) 4 days ago. Chuffed.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
@Shane

I'll bite

Anita Sarkeesian has claimed repeatedly she is not out to censor or ban games. This is her big chance to prove it by instructing her followers demand the return of the game to the shelves. As of this posting, no statement for or against. Considering that the reasoning for its removal is squarely in line with her criticisms, it's very appropriate to involve her in this discussion.

My personal opinion is that the culturally conservative in Australia have used a petition created by people who may or may not have been inspired by Anita (though I believe it likely given the content of their statements), to take some payback for R18 finally passing, and pig piled onto their cause, and used their influence to make sure it was seen by the right people. Pure speculation, but in line with similar events in the past. The hijacking of someone's beef, legitimate or not to further a larger, but entirely seperate agenda.
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Reilly Davis3 years ago
Id just like to know where the main questline is for getting a pro and then killing her afterwards... oh there isnt one so no one is being forced to do these things... someone decides to do it off there own twisted mindset? yep its the games fault lets just ban it, while your at it though ban any form of prostitution pornography or riske adds because their all in the same ballpark as this ludicrous action glad I dont actually buy games from these places
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
Is this not the "Violent Games/Books/Films make you do violent stuff” argument being recycled and reused again?
No, it is not. This is about rewarding players for using and killing prostitutes.

It is a shame that Take-Two did not specifically address this key point, but I suppose it is never going to come out in a press release "We stand firmly behind rewarding players for killing prostitutes that they have just...". Also this repeated use of the word art (I mean at least twice :))in relation to this story is a bit disturbing.

Why people have specifically targeted Target to remove the game from their shelves, or what they hope to achieve by this I am not entirely sure. Not being a sex worker, I can't possibly imagine how it would feel to see this feature in a game. But for one thing it would send a message throughout the world that we disapprove of this. It also can say that while consenting adults are welcome to play what games they like, restricting availability is a good thing. Maybe also there is a cultural thing that if Target sell it, it can't be that bad.

It is also strange how often I am seeing repeated here that while game developers and players have the individual right to make and play what they want, people don't have the right to complain about games and stores do not have the individual right to sell what they want.

It is almost as if we all have the individual right to agree with a certain position but not the right to disagree.

On another point, of course there are differences in how different media are treated. Books, for example, get away with anything. Any subject can be covered in a novel without it getting any press and there is hardly any restriction on where you can buy books with graphic violence, sex, rape, murder, child abuse, etc., Films and TV are treated differently. Because perhaps of their mass appeal, because visual depictions are simply more emotive, because of the money involved, because they influence more people... I don't know. Probably people have done lots of research on the subject that I am cheerfully ignorant of. Games to are always going to be seen differently as it is so much more immediate if the player is making choices, and also getting rewarded for it. Like the classic screenshot from some Japanese eroge with the image of a girl lying down and the options "Rape Ayumi" and "Don't rape Ayumi".

GTA with this mechanic risked taking criticism over it. It was a conscious choice that they made, so I think they have to suck up what ever are the implications of it, in terms of what press they get and if people decide to restrict the games availability. I don't agree with censorship in general, but a shop not selling a game does not to me constitute this.
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
Id just like to know where the main questline is for getting a pro and then killing her afterwards... oh there isnt one so no one is being forced to do these things...
The article quite clearly states that it promotes the action, not forces it upon players. Do you have a reason why the game could not have shipped without the energy regain mechanism from prostitutes?
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Graham Bromley Lead Level Designer, Codemasters3 years ago
I'd disagree that the game promotes the action. It allows the action, that's not the same as promoting it.

There are easier ways to recover health, or get money, and there aren't in game tutorials to show you how rob sex workers after you've paid them for services.
You have to discover that for yourself, or read about it on the internet, or watch a user generated video on YouTube.

Should we shut down YouTube and any internet site that hosts these videos and instructions next? After all the videos, blogs and walkthroughs are showing the same violence.

If the issue here is that there's too much real world violence, let’s do something about that - all that’s been achieved here is that one general retailer has stopped selling a game.
If people want it, they can still buy it (cheaper) elsewhere, so even the virtual violence hasn't been effectively stopped, and sex workers are still at higher risk of real world violence.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Graham Bromley on 5th December 2014 4:33pm

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Eoin Moran Studying Bachelor of Engineering, University of Melbourne3 years ago
As an Australian, I think good on target for listening to their customers, as well as the customers for voicing their concerns. Hopefully this can be viewed as good evidence for the free market bring able to regulate itself. Those who still wish to buy the product can do so elsewhere (hopefully their local independent game store), whilst it should also send a message to the developer's that the market may not tolerate such gameplay elements.
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Rashad Foux Character Artist, Hi-Rez Studios, Inc.3 years ago
@John:
Plus the mechanics are irrelevant. Do you think any of the sex worker or even those that protested are aware of those details.
That's not the point. The point is the women involved in making this happen saw those moments in the game where you take a prostitute into your car, and then kill her after you're done with her.
They believe those moments taken out of context are reprehensible, given their own experiences, and the dangers they faced as actual sex workers. They believe that the game makes light of a serious issue and threat faced by sex workers.

Those moments within context are not flattering either. And Target and Kmart agreed that the imagery within the game at those moments is disgusting, and they don't want to sell it. Probably for the same reason Target and Kmart don't also sell pornography in their stores. It's not something they want to associate with. It's their choice. As a company.

To make the argument that it's censorship would be to also say that all stores must sell a given product. And there is no such requirement in a free market and society.
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Graham Bromley Lead Level Designer, Codemasters3 years ago
"Target and Kmart agreed that the imagery within the game at those moments is disgusting, and they don't want to sell it"

They've been selling it for the last 12 months containing exactley the same violence. they didn't think it was so disgusting when it was sat at no.1 in the charts - Some might say that Target and Kmart have stopped selling a year old game in order to generate a lot of free publicity.

If they genuinely cared about the issues being raised, they should donate all thier profits from selling these violent games to charities that could improve the safety of the women involved.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Graham Bromley on 5th December 2014 3:10pm

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Rashad Foux Character Artist, Hi-Rez Studios, Inc.3 years ago
They've been selling it for the last 12 months containing exactley the same violence. they didn't think it was so disgusting when it was sat at no.1 in the charts - Some might say that Target and Kmart have stopped selling a year old game in order to generate a lot of free publicity.

If they genuinely cared about the issues of raised, they should donate all thier profits from selling these violent games to charities that could improve the safety of the women involved.
I think that most non-game retailers have no idea what's in the actual games that they sell. As they themselves said. They trust the ratings system, and the games they sell become just one of a 100,000 other products in their catalog until someone points out a specific issue.

In this case, the companies listened to feedback, recoiled at what they saw and how it made some of their customers feel, and decided not to sell the game anymore.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
They've been selling it for the last 12 months containing exactly the same violence.
The petition at the heart of the decision was started by a group of sex workers who believe that the game incentivises sexualised violence against women, something they felt was illustrated particularly starkly by the first-person perspective which is offered in the new-generation versions of the game
As for "It's censorship". No, it's not. It's a business decision. Were all retailers in Australia to not sell it, then you could argue censorship via proxy, as it would create a financially arduous situation for violent games developers, since there would be vastly less places to sell their wares. But 1 or 2 retailers? No. WHSmith stopped selling porn in their UK stores 10+ years ago - that wasn't censorship of porn, it was a shift towards being more family-friendly. This is the same (though hypocritical considering how violent other items they sell probably are).

tl;dr:

Here's what censorship in Australia looks like: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_censorship

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 4th December 2014 6:04pm

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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee3 years ago
Rashad and Chris Payne have made some good points, so they get me vote as far as responses go.

Not 100% sure what I think about this yet (was it a good move or not?), age ratings do come into it and that needs to be considered when it comes to laws surrounding what people are allowed to consume. The same applies as much to GTA as it does to everything else. Then there is also public opinion, which has clearly played a part here and cannot be ignored.

A different but similar example in media would be the pick-up artist banned from entering the UK (and subsequently a show being cancelled) due to sexist language/behaviour towards women. We can turn around and say its comedy and for adults but at the same time, the public has a right to deplore things they see as damaging to society and outlets and government should respond.

However, does it reflect the will of the majority in this case with GTA? Probably not and the world may collectively sigh whilst this violent, yet for many entertaining 'fantasy' game will continue to sell and add to its own record success.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Adam Campbell on 4th December 2014 6:31pm

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Quincy Ward Studying Computer Science, University of Arkansas3 years ago
@ Barrie Tingle Thank you for that link. I think this should be made clear to avoid widespread confusion. Now I also know that Kmart Australia and Target Australia are actually two brands used by the same Australian based company. So of course this happens: "Kmart Australia has also removed GTA V from its stores, citing the same reasons as those given by Target yesterday."

The publisher should make it clear that none of these companies are related to the U S chains with the same names.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Quincy Ward on 4th December 2014 7:14pm

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Carlos Bordeu Game Designer / Studio Co-Founder, ACE Team3 years ago
In Dishonored you can kill prostitutes in the 'house of pleasure' mission, and as a player you are somewhat "encouraged" to do so, since if they spot you they will bring guards which can kill you. That is way closer to "promoting" the action of killing than the health regeneration in GTA 5.

Question: Do the people who agree with the removal of GTA 5 also think the same should apply for a game like Dishonored? I'm aware you cannot sleep with the girls in this game, but the whole debate is related to the violence, not the sex, no?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Carlos Bordeu on 5th December 2014 12:17am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
@ Carlos

I think that relates to Kenny's earlier point:
The use of prostitutes and killing them is incentivised. If players choose not to do this, they are relatively 'penalised'.
In Dishonored, you're more roleplaying: killing the guards means your character is not threatened. Whereas in GTAV, you're gaming the system - there is no real roleplay reason to kill the prostitute, unless you're roleplaying being a psychopath/sociopath.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 years ago
The only better advertisement right now would be if there was some weird face sitting bug when you ragdoll into a pedestrian.

Also, you cross the line when you kill in a game, not when you kill a prostitute in a game. You really should have a grasp on reality and what not to do in reality before enacting any virtual crime, not just crimes against prostitutes. I know, wishful thinking.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
@Radhad

If their buyers dont know the content of Grand Theft Auto a decade after GTA3, and after millions of copies have passed thriugh their fingers, no, it's virtually mpossible that even these idiots don't onoe what's in GTA Dishonored I'd buy, not this one. They've already milked 90あ% out of the cow, and think the positive PR is worth more.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 3 years ago
@Jeff Kleist
Anita Sarkeesian would support to the bitter end the right for even something nefarious like Rapelay to exist just should be criticized for it. Video game critics show a level of support for the medium that the most conservative of GamerGaters could never muster

It's not the culturally conservative, its just Australia has a pretty large Sex Worker industry with a brothel listed on the Australian Stock-exchange and we have a pretty powerful Sex Party here.

I would argue that despite this petition being started by and promoted by Sex Workers it was indeed signed by people of a variety of ilk. But it's pretty clear if this had not blown up into a controversy over harmless discourse people wouldn't be so emotively driven to picking sides like a battle. This announcement from Target\Kmart only happened because of GamerGate and could not of happened without it.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 5th December 2014 12:30am

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Kevin McIntosh Head of Production, Torus Games3 years ago
"we have little reason to fear real life violence."
"women suffer FAR higher rates of violence"

Wikipedia; Worldwide homicide statistics via gender (Sex differences in crime)

Only 7 countries in the world have less than 50% male victims. Based on that table alone, 78.7% of worldwide homicides are male. Maybe have a skim through this and look at the excessively long green bars; http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/924156220X.pdf

By pointing this out, I'm not ignoring that there are statistics about violence involving women too. But the larger issue is violence against men, and it runs much deeper than these couple of links.

Anyway, it's madness to pick a subset activity of a subset activity in a game that has complete optional control and then highlight that as cause for removing it from the shelves. What ever happened to just ignoring those things that aren't for you and moving on to something else? I don't whinge at the TV stations for putting on shows that I disagree with. I change the channel.

Blah.
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Carlos Bordeu Game Designer / Studio Co-Founder, ACE Team3 years ago
@ Morville

I read Kenny's point and I'm simply not convinced and find it a super weak argument. The whole regaining health by sleeping with prostitutes is being misrepresented or blown out of proportions. I have to wonder if you actually played GTA 5. I beat the entire game and I never knew or was told about this mechanic. It would be really hard to notice - especially in a game with no prominent health bar. And one thing that is not being mentioned is that most of the times when you kill innocent civilians the cops show up and try to gun you down - so to claim that a good way to regain health "for free" is by sleeping with prostitutes and killing them is completely untrue.

GTA 5 is an open world game and like so many others the world is populated by male and female NPCs. In Skyrim I can go to any town and kill the nearest village girl and loot her body to get some insignificant reward - something as "convenient" to my gaming experience as the supposed "gaining health for free" with prostitutes in GTA.

For all the reports that GTA 5 is a deeply misogynist game, I have to wonder again if the critics actually went through playing the whole thing. I might be wrong here (since I didn't do all the side missions) but to me the part that made me feel very uneasy was a story mission (which I could not skip or reject) where I had to torture a poor innocent dude up close and personal... all this while he begs me to stop - Pulling out his teeth with pliers, electrocuting and waterboarding him. I just cannot see anywhere that women are being especially selected as targets of violence. The game shows mostly violence of men done against other men.
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Matt Jeffries Senior Producer, Telstra3 years ago
Well its certainly making waves here in Australia, and the 'Gaters are all over it (maybe because the original story was posted to 4Chan), raising straw men all over. Now there are petitions for Target (Australia) to remove The Bible from sale, as it encourages readers to “commit sexual violence and kill women”, and for Target to change its “violent name and aggressive logo”. Oh, and Mario cops it too for promoting the “wilful murder of wildlife, consumption of hallucinogenic flora and collection of income without declaration of tax.”

http://www.news.com.au/technology/home-entertainment/grand-theft-auto-fans-call-for-ban-on-sickening-bible-in-fightback-after-attack-on-the-game/story-e6frfrt9-1227145911622
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 3 years ago
Now there are petitions for Target (Australia) to remove The Bible from sale, as it encourages readers to “commit sexual violence and kill women”,
I'm not that big on censorship but you gotta admit the bible is pretty violent.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 3 years ago
My Atheist communities are sharing the Bible link petition completely as an unrelated thing to video games.

It's so funny how easily things go viral when they reinforce peoples own already established world view.

I love the reality that Target does not sell copies of the Bible.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 5th December 2014 4:12am

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
@ Carlos
I have to wonder if you actually played GTA 5.
I have not - I'm waiting for the PC version.*frustrated sigh* This is one of the reasons I've stayed out of the comment thread (mostly), but I was considering expanding on Kenny's point when I saw your post. :)

I do wonder, actually, how much is down to roleplay/gaming the system when people play GTA-type games. You mention Skyrim, but, again, there's a valid roleplay reason for killing a villager (even if it's just arbitrary - "they looked at me funny"). Perhaps it's just the fantasy-setting that makes me think that, though? Dishonored/Skyrim/Fallout/Witcher all have mechanics that reward for doing something morally wrong, but only GTA V is set in a realistic, modern-day, setting.

*shrugs* Just thinking out loud. :)
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
@Shane

Anita's track record does not support your assertions, but as I said, here's her big chance to prove it. She has plenty of games to present out of context, both narratively and technologically.

Strictly speaking from a marketing and PR standpoint, it's a gigantic minefield

Option A: Show integrity and do what you say you support, but lose the faith of your fellow hardcore supporters for allowing what they perceive asmisogyny to live
Option B: support the women, re-enforce the base, and prove your critics entirely correct
Option C: Say nothing, maintain the status quo

Unless I was planning a major operational push into Australia, which I find unlikely she is, option C is what I would recommend for one of my clients.

If there's one universal truth I've found, is that if someone objects to something enough to speak out publicly about it, they really aren't satisfied with anything less than shooting it into the sun. "change the channel" is a pure pipe dream when it comes to resolving conflict.
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
A lot comes down to the point in the article. Many here are using the argument that they are not offended, so anyone that is offended is just wrong. That is not a very sound logical argument. The fact that it is not a main quest line, I am guessing would mean little to someone who, as a prostitute, had experienced first hand the threat of violent death at the hands of a customer. But maybe, not - maybe that is really really important.

The point is that the game rewards the behaviour - that is indisputable fact. How offended you are by it is another matter. Being able to play through the whole game without ever noticing it, also does not effect the fact that it is true. Also if people really are unaware of this feature that seems really strange to me if you have been following the games industry over the last few years. Back when GTA III was released, this was already big news. Whether or not the situation was fabricated to make good reading, iirc a Sun columnist was having her 12 year old daughter show her the game so that she could write a piece on it to be told at one point by said daughter "you are low on health, so pick up a hooker then kill her to get your money back." This story, even if not true, shows exactly why people can have issues with this situation. It debunks the ideas that one, children don't play the game (blaming the parents hardly solves the issue), two, that no one would ever find out about the feature (the child knew about it, it is something that you tell another player when showing them the game, it was featured in a national tabloid paper....) three, that you would only do it if you were that way inclined anyway (those 12 year old girls are sick little puppies, aren't they?) and probably more points as well.

Let's be straight here, I am not offended by this gameplay element. But why is there such an issue in this industry with dealing with criticism? Why can Rockstar/Take Two say something like,
There are not words that can express our contrition that our creation has added to the distress to people that have already suffered cruelly through the hands of violence. It was never and will never be our intention to offend or upset anyone. We do ask that people realise the fictional and escapist nature of the game, where a main theme is to lower the player into a cruel and morality-free underworld. Actions that happen in the game, should never be taken into the real world and we urge all parents to ensure that their children are not exposed to the game until they are of an appropriate age because of the adult content.

That said, we support fully the artistic direction that our developers have taken. Computer games are a media where artistic and narrative expression can reach new levels due to the intimate involvement of the player themselves. We simultaneously stand behind our creators to explore and experiment through this medium while accepting our responsibility to ensure the highest quality and player experience.

As our games feature sex workers, and some if those in real life in this profession so clearly have issues with our portrayal of this element in our game, we will be looking to gather feedback from these individuals so that we can reflect on their opinions indepth and can use these poignant experiences to enrich and deepen our game world.
Continuing to keep this feature in game courts controversy, in the press. Removing it courts annoying hardcore fans who could see it as outside influence altering a game they love. But it is telling that nearly everyone in speaking in defence of the game also claims that they didn't know about or don't use the mechanism. So why then is it so important?
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 3 years ago
It's censorship, pure and simple look at Hot Coffee and the power of American retailers in particular, Rockstar were supposedly OK with an 18/AO certificate for GTA:San Andreas but it was the American Retailers policy of not stocking those titles that forced San Andreas to be censored with the "Hot Coffee" lock. Its a dangerous and slippy road to travel and I hope with the rise of digital distribution that the influences of these easily swayed publicity hungry retailers will diminish.

On the other hand I think its bonkers that some games get M ratings in the US allowing younger gamer to buy them, even if I find PEGI a tad overzealous compared the old BBFC rating system, at least an 18 rated game is enforced by law in the UK and there is no "M" style fudge to get games into stores
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
I was reading the AU news site that is linked in the story to see what the petition was actually calling for (if was against the game in general or only targeted at Target) read the article about the reaction. I just had to share something that struck me,
“Censorship and political correctness gone off the bloody rails. It’s an R18+ game; kids don’t have access to it unless their parents go and buy it for them,”
and
“I’ve been playing these games since I was 10 and I’m not an axe murderer, I don’t run down prostitutes. When I was a kid, I didn’t even know you could do that,”
So good, that clears that up then.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 3 years ago
@Kenny I think the R18+ certificate is a very recent development in Aus
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Bruno Patatas Senior Game Designer, Outplay Entertainment3 years ago
I don't really see what is the problem with this.Two privately owned retailers decided they don't want to continue to sell GTA V. Period. No one can force them to have the game on their stores. If I have a shop (no matter what I sell), no one can force me to sell stuff I do not want to sell. This is not censorship. You can still buy the game in countless other places. It boggles my mind how people are already throwing Sarkeesian into this decision.
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Andrew Watson Tools Programmer 3 years ago
@Bruno
I'm convinced that bringing up Sarkeesian or GamerGate is GI's version of Godwin's law.
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Bruno Patatas Senior Game Designer, Outplay Entertainment3 years ago
@Andrew
That sounds just about right :)

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bruno Patatas on 5th December 2014 11:38am

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Shane Sweeney Academic 3 years ago
It's not censorship unless the government does it.

This is a private company makings its own decisions.
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
Except the game content is not censored, those who have bought the game are not affected, and no other physical or online retailer is affected (except those that voluntarily take the same action).

So yeah, those poor Australians who can only shop in Target are so victims of evil undemocratic censorship.

It isn't censorship because nothing has been censored, and no choices have been curtailed. In this matter the individual right of the retailer to sell what they want prevails over the individual right of the consumer to buy what they want at whatever shop they want. Oh yeah, that second right doesn't even exist. You can disagree with their decision all you want, but their is no logical way to turn it into some sort of undemocratic conspiracy. The whole point is that Australians can just shop somewhere else should they want to, either on principle of this decision, or simply to buy the game.
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The game is rated R. The real issue is why these stores were openly selling R rated material. They shouldn't be.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 3 years ago
The government didn't force Rockstar to censor San Andreas with Hot Coffee, it was the retailers and it was censored so to say that a retailers decision not to stock something isn't promoting censorship is absurd, because it has clearly happened in the past.
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Andre Kling David 3D Artist, Social Point SL3 years ago
Well since this is a feature that has been present in many other gta games, i believe its very likely that the next interation of gta will also be possible to do the same, i wonder if they gonna bann GTA 6 before it comes out, or also 1 year afterwards.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
The government didn't force Rockstar to censor San Andreas with Hot Coffee, it was the retailers and it was censored
But if it was illegal to sell due to the Hot Coffee mod, then retailers would've been liable should they have continued to sell it.

It's cause and effect, but which is legally binding? The Australian government makes the rules about what's legal, so unless retailers wanted to rally behind GTA as a cause célèbre, they had no choice but to remove it from sale.

Also, interestingly, according to this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hot_Coffee_mod the game was patched world-wide? So, who's choice was it to "censor" the game worldwide? Oh, that's right - it was a business decision of Rockstar's.
You can disagree with their decision all you want, but their is no logical way to turn it into some sort of undemocratic conspiracy.
Absolutely this.

@ John
The same way Apple have every right not to sell games with inappropriate content like the sweatshop one.
I was thinking of Apple earlier on. This situation and Apple's are two very different beasts, though. Apple determine what is allowed on the App Store. Not allowed? It's not sold - that is censorship by proxy, since they say what is okay and what is not. Kmart and Target are just two (large?) retailers, in a whole country. Australians can shop elsewhere. I'm sure EB Games in Australia is rubbing its hands in glee at all this.

Edit:

To be honest, the PR copy writes itself: "The game that Target and Kmart didn't want you to play. Available now at EBGames!"

Censorship my arse. :D

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 5th December 2014 5:43pm

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Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios3 years ago
All the people screaming "censorship!" - it's not. For comparison try Germany, where for historical reasons they are hypersensitive to violent content, and it's common practice to create "green blood" variants of games in order to sell a German SKU at all.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Video_gaming_in_Germany#The_USK_and_censorship
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 years ago
@Chris
...and then sell "unrated" PEGI versions for an additional 15€, so go figure.

Welcome to Germany, the second law is: you can do whatever you want, except for when what your doing conflicts with the moral laws. Sorry, no, they are not written down, we make them up as we go along. Long live Mutti Merkel.
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Shane Sweeney Academic 3 years ago
I'm well versed in censorship and media regulation, especially the Australian one having been involved in the R 18+

Target are not a censor, they are a retail path way and choose to stock product A over product B. As not being a censor they cannot excert censorship.

Target do not stock guns or porn, this does not mean to imply they censor both guns and porn. Again there are a multitude of retailers in Australia, plus can be ordered online. And I'm sure EbGames and JBHiFi will be sending Target a nice Christmas thank you card.

Craig, you keep mentioning the sad reality that the largest economy in the world (US) and the six largest market chains in that economy have decided to not ship 18+ content, thus companies to be as profitable as possible target and design games for those six chains. This is not censorship but is a market cooling effect. This is a very US centric issue due to the size of its economy and bringing this up in the context of Australia or any other country besides maybe China just makes no sense.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Shane Sweeney on 5th December 2014 11:00pm

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship3 years ago
I think it's a wee bit sad that there's so much apparent industry support for Target here. Fine, it's their store, their rules.

But this is our industry. And yes, it's Rockstar, this is obviously commercially irrelevant to them (in fact, probably a net positive given the publicity). But a product is being removed on the basis of what is an evidence-free assertion that it is 'problematic' in a way that causes harm. I wouldn't accept that from Bible-waving puritans, and I don't accept it from people who think they know what's best for our culture. Beware people who say 'I know best', always. Gamasutra did not like being commercially targeted on the basis of perceived ideology, and neither did any number of other journalist outlets, who argued strongly (and in my view, fairly) that it amounted to little more than politicised commercial bullying. And ok, it's easy to overlook this because Rockstar are rolling around in money. But it doesn't make it right.

The fact is, attempting to moralise over other peoples commercial or artistic endeavours is an illiberal position to take, whether or not you find the content 'problematic'. There is no evidence it is harmful, and I would set a very high bar before accepting that we place ourselves at the mercy of whatever activist group takes a dislike to our content.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 5th December 2014 10:59pm

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Christian Slater DevilBliss Games Consultancy 3 years ago
In parallel to all this I didn't particularly enjoy the part of GTAV where you're given no choice but to torture someone.

Plus I seem to recall that you get a health and XP boost in God of War for schtupping the ladies (but you're not given the option of then murdering them,, thankfully).

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Christian Slater on 5th December 2014 11:49pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
@ Nick
I think it's a wee bit sad that there's so much apparent industry support for Target here.
I don't know if there's support, so much as acceptance. And, personally speaking, people crying censorship don't help.

Do I like that Target and Kmart have done this? Hell no. But there's many things worse - actual censorship (it was Banned Books Week in America not long ago), the stupid porn laws in the UK that have just come into effect, poverty. I certainly can't summon anger enough to admonish two Australian retailers, when the Australian government is crazy with censorship. And retailers stock or don't stock items (books, toys, games, clothes) based on moral and/or publicity concerns all the time. I do believe fur is making a come-back, but how many retailers stock real fur?

In addition, to completely attack Target/Kmart here would be a slippery-slope - there's certain games our industry has turned out which we all want to forget. Were this a campaign to get one of the nastier (but still legal) hentai Visual Novels back on the shelves, would we really see all this fuss?

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 6th December 2014 8:52am

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Nick McCrea Gentleman, Pocket Starship3 years ago
I feel we've established countless times, in these debates on this site, that the fallacy of relative privation is not an adequate defence for anything :)

I simply do not want to see a situation where the industry rides to the defence of one team / game / product but not another, based on the nature of the content, *within reason*, where that is defined by local laws and norms. The slippery slope argument works both ways. Fine, we're all not that fussed because it's a cause many are sympathetic to and it's Rockstar, the long time bad boys of the industry.

But what if it was religious groups doing the agitating, and the game featured educational sexual content along the lines of that recent app HappyPlayTime?

What if some conservative group managed to garner 40k signatures for Walmart to toss out Dragon Age because it features gay sex? Would that be ok?

The principle of advocacy groups being able to dictate what media is produced or consumed is bad, though perhaps unavoidable. Maybe we can't stop it. But I still don't think we have to endorse it, implicit or otherwise, which I still think a lot of people do. It's pure mood / tribe affiliation.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Nick McCrea on 6th December 2014 11:29am

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Shane Sweeney Academic 3 years ago
Unfortunately it is extremely easy to have direct censorship and is pretty common place in western nations and universal in the rest.
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 3 years ago
@Kenny
Many here are using the argument that they are not offended, so anyone that is offended is just wrong. That is not a very sound logical argument. The fact that it is not a main quest line, I am guessing would mean little to someone who, as a prostitute, had experienced first hand the threat of violent death at the hands of a customer.
I, personally, think it a reasonable and logical argument. Someone who is offended though isn't wrong, it just simply should not matter. They have the right to be offended, but to petition to pull a game from a store simply due to them being offended is wrong. To force your own views onto other people simply because your offended is stupid.

If I got offended by the bible, should stores no longer be able to sell that book? If I got offended by a hat that had the words nerd... should a person no longer be able to wear such a hat?

Now, it's target's and Kmart's choice to not sell GTAV. My point though is it should have never been a petition in the first place. Nor should anyone have signed such a petition. Anyone who signed such a thing, is trying to censor and ruin everyone else's fun because they are offended. As if people are forcing them to play the game. Forcing them to watch it.
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
@Brook

Starting a petition is not forcing your opinions on other people. When people are agitating for the banning of a game, as in its complete removal, then you can talk about trying to force their opinions on people. Asking a retailer to not sell it is not forcing anything. Target was completely free to refuse to stop stocking it. It is an essential part of free speech to allow people to protest and complain about things. While you may not think that if you are offended by something that you should complain, that does not mean that somehow this subjective opinion is correct and those that do complain when offended are wrong. And the implication that such petitions should be ignored or prevented surely would be an example of forcing one set of views (when you may complain about something) on people that *don't* hold those views?

If someone criticises the games industry, I don't feel the answer "you are not allowed to, stop ruining our fun" is a particularly helpful answer. Minority groups, special interest groups, people from outside the industry have interesting and important things to say, and we as an industry need to listen. I am not a fan of petitions. I don't think that large numbers of people saying +1 is a substitute for reasoned arguments. On my forum, petitions of any kind are not allowed. That said, they can be an effective way of raising publicity and ensuring that real consideration is given to the issue which an email to customer services might not. It is up to Target, or whoever they addressed to take their limitations into account (such as how many on an online petition are actually Target customers etc).

I would echo Morville's comment that there is not so much support for Target's decision as the recognition of their right to do make that decision.

The main issue in this - or any other - situation of supposed censorship is whether people are imposing their views on others. While it can be argued that Target are restricting their customers' choice, this is a demonstrably false argument as there is nothing stopping a single person from obtaining or playing the game. Prostitutes are right to feel sensitive about how violence against their profession is portrayed. They are exposed to horrendous risks constantly, particularly in countries where it is still illegal. Prostitutes are one of the most vulnerable groups in many societies. It is definitely understandable that they have extremely strong views on the subject, and to counter those views (whether you agree or not) with "stop ruining my fun" is condescending and belittling a very serious subject indeed. It is exactly the fact that intensely painful issues are being replayed in a game for fun that is part of the issue.

Games have grown and grown up over recent years. The ability of game developers to tackle issues and deepen the player experience has grown as well. This has multiple effects. It allows greater creative freedom for developers, freedom for players to do what they want within a game and greater realism just to give a few. Compare for example running over a whole line of chanting hari krishnas in GTA to get a Gouranga Bonus, with picking up a prostitute and watching your health regenerate as the car bounced up and down (when you could also clearly see that the people in the car were still sitting motionless in their seats) in GTA III, and with what is shown in GTA V. Lots of changes, not necessarily all positive.

Retailers not stocking hyper-violent games, or those with graphic sexual content, does not have to be a bad thing. Games still have a lot of growing to do before they can be viewed as the same kind of narrative, artistic and political vehicles as books or films. The perception that games are childish is still there. That they are about winning and losing and a high score table. That the player character is nearly always a one man army of super hero proportions. Gameplay is still the over-riding factor in a game (when it is not purely about showcasing how shiny the newest hardware and software can make things), story and the emotional journey of the player not given as much attention. Example, it is easy to imagine a film about Anne Frank, not so easy to imagine a game. Or one about Josef Fritzl. But I think games will continue to grow and expand. Games that deal with child abuse or sexual violence, but not where the player is the perpetrator but the victim. Games where players are faced with Sophie's Choice and have to negotiate the rest of the game with the knowledge of what they have done. Games that show war from not Total War style rulers viewpoint, but what Waterloo was like as a common soldier, in the mud, confusion, death, and terror. Games should make use of the immersion of the player allow players to experience and feel things that the traditional media cannot, even with their greater narrative capabilities.

For games to grow in any of these direction or even just the direction that they have been going now, relying on retailers that are sensitive to their reputations as family stores, or indeed are toy shops, is going to be a great barrier. Adult games for adults, need to be kept from children and shouldn't be put on shelves next to Sonic and Skylanders. In all honesty, trying to keep games on the shelves in as many shops as possible while constantly pushing the envelope of how adult they can be is not a responsible thing to do. Perhaps a new retail model will be a painful transition but I think it would be beneficial for all concerned.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kenny Lynch on 8th December 2014 2:03pm

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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
To those saying that it's just a retailer making a choice:

In this country, Wal-Mart literally controls 40% of all retail transactions. Yes, that's terrifying

Let me give you some examples:

Was-Mart refuses to carry explicit lyrics CDs. If you do not provide them a censored version, they will refuse to carry your product
There was a case of one of then ingest pictures off hen year comings up in the early days oF DVD. This movie was a two disc set, one with the widescreen movies, nod a second one disc of extras. Was-Mart decided the mouth breathers couldn't understand black bars, and demanded aPan and Scan version be included. Now, to was Christmas, and there was no rom on the line to run a second SKU. So then number got screwed out of hours of specialfeatues.

Now if you don't bend to these desires, they won't refuse to carry Guardians of the Galaxy, but they'll puniish you in others remain ways. Charge you your first born for end caps, reduce the stocking of catalog significantly, all kinds of games. These stores not carrying the game removes it from circulation to a large number of consumers. And then al battle is form he next game. I'm sure they've been told that they'll come up with some bullshi to procedure to cover their ass for gta6, and since its a reissue, it's not am it deal. The real problem is that the whiners will now be emboldened, and more retailers will bend, probably not on GTA, but on other things with less visibility
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
Wall-mart regardless of their market share are allowed to sell what they want. Fact.

You want to sell stuff through Wall-mart then you must bide by their rules. Fact.

If you don't want to do this, or can't, then you must develop another means of retail. Fact.

Calling women who have experienced sexual violence who have complained about sexual violence in computer games "whiners"...probably can't give my opinion on that one.

You can't use a slippery slope argument to not do the right thing. No retailer has to stock adult themed games. And I think that if you have an industry that refuses to listen to criticism, and that attacks those offer it, you are only going to create a bitter conflict in which increasingly retailers and other major and important players will be forced to choose sides. Discussing these issues and opening dialogues with the offended parties would help make this less of an issue, and help take things to a place where less people will feel the need to choose sides but can simply participate in the discussion.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
In this country, Wal-Mart literally controls 40% of all retail transactions
Similarly, I dread to think how much market-power Game has in the UK (and it was worse before their bankruptcy). But rather than getting annoyed at them, I'd rather get annoyed at the government that allowed the merger of Game and Gamestation that created such a powerful (and detrimental?) force in game retail. Perhaps the industry should lobby the Australian government about Walmart's powers? Perhaps the industry should back indie games stores more, rather than shoving pre-order bonuses at chains?

Perhaps... Perhaps... Perhaps.
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Jeff Kleist Writer, Marketing, Licensing 3 years ago
@Kenny

I don't think you understand, by possessing what would be in the past before he Is given,net eas quite so bought and paid for, a grossly illegal level of market influence, they have veto power over any product being made simoly due to then umber off oeople you cannot reach without them. This is a"too bi to fail" scenario. The fantasy of the freed arrest is exactly that. It always ends up with eh powerful becoming more powerful, and using that bully power. This isn't healthy for anyone, as has been demonstrated countless times in the past. I suggest you read the segment in Console Wars detalingTomKalinske's battles to get Sega into Wal-Mart, and they weren't nearly back then what they are today.

@Morville. I certainly am furious at those who permit those things. But I can Ben ad at the perps as well as those who enable them :)
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 3 years ago
So are we saying this is a complete non story and as much relevance as if Target choose to or not to stock Strawberry Pop Tarts? I don't think it can be dismissed that easily, I find it a deeply disturbing decision that could have future repercussions for games being released uncensored(eg. South Park) in the region.
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
Target's decision is not a non-story. It has huge potential implications, though to be fair in itself it probably means nothing to those that live outside Australia and little to those that do. If it is the start of a trend, those implications grow and become more serious.

But the point is not if Target were right to make the decision, the question is more what is the industry going to do about it?

For example here in the Netherlands two of the main outlets for retail games are Bart Smit and Intertoys. I have no idea as to their market share, but they are certainly the most obvious sellers as independant shops disappear and these two chains both have multiple outlets in every city. They sell everything from baby toys to teen jewellry, nerf guns to paddling pools, dolls to Lego. If you buy GTA V as present they will wrap it in colourful childish wrapping paper covered in cartoon clowns or elephants respectively. They sell nothing for adults, with perhaps the exception of an Ipad mini or Lego Star Wars. GTA being sold in these shops (or indeed any adult rated games) is hugely confusing as every subliminal message says this is for children. It is like Sunny Delight's advertising and only allowing it to be sold refrigerated tried to subliminally convince people that it was comparable to fruit juice in terms of health and cost. It is essentially a dishonest marketing technique. Even the success of the industry of fending of claims that violent games make people violent helps give the impression even 18 rated games aren't that bad.

It makes sense to me that if the industry continues to make more adult orientated games (which makes sense as the demographic of players increases in age) that these shops will have to decide whether they want to stock them, or that their customers will pressure them because they don't want a game that explores male dominant sexual fantasies in a shop that otherwise is exclusively for children. I would support the removal of adult games from these shops, both because I think it is best for children and because I want to play games that explore male dominant sexual fantasies so I don't want games to be limited to what can be sold in a toyshop.

So what is the industry going to do? Make bland inoffensive games to aim at the biggest marketing opportunities (this is what mainstream could almost be defined as) or break free from retailers that scared of adult content and allow creative and artistic freedom to developers? Or both? Actually diversify, have separate publishing labels for adult titles and then retailers can easily choose if they have adult games without having to choose on a game by game basis. Shops don't have to watch every film that is released to make sure that they don't stock hardcore pornography. The same should be for games, imho. I want to play Duke Nukem where the porno mags are not pixellated 2d sprites. I want real adult content. I want nudity - male and female genitals, not get excited if you actually get to see nipples. I want games not to aim everything at 14 year old boys, so that it is more accessible to everyone and can actually deliver content for adults. And the fact is that games with adult content will never be mainstream, just as pornography is not in other media.
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Craig Burkey Software Engineer 3 years ago
You say "games with adult content will never be mainstream" but then we are talking about GTA V which was the biggest selling game last year and broke multiple records, looking at UK stats for Top 10 selling games of 2013 50% of the games were PEGI 18 titles
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
Actually diversify, have separate publishing labels for adult titles and then retailers can easily choose if they have adult games without having to choose on a game by game basis.
There's precedent for this in a similar industry: comics. In the 1980s both Marvel and DC created publishing imprints in order to allow creators a free-hand with adult material. Marvel's Epic included the English translation of Akira, and DC's Vertigo counted Sandman and Transmetropolitan as long-running titles. It strikes me as odd that the games industry hasn't followed suit, considering its love of branding.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th December 2014 1:17pm

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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
You say "games with adult content will never be mainstream" but then we are talking about GTA V which was the biggest selling game last year and broke multiple records, looking at UK stats for Top 10 selling games of 2013 50% of the games were PEGI 18 titles
Edit added quote for clarity.

Perhaps I was too lazy with the use of 'mainstream' and 'adult'. What I meant was for example a sexualised MMO is never going to be the new WoW. The Sims is unlikely to feature much adult content, and any Sims clone that does is likely to be a niche market. Films that are 18+ I would not always think of as adult; but I take your point.

This is one issues with the games industry, and that is highlighted here. The biggest players in the game industry are not compatible with the biggest players in retail. Extreme violence through incremental increases and incremental advances in graphic rendering has sort of crept into being normal. The subject of games, often war or crime related has allowed this violence to be necessary to the narrative of the game, but then it also sets the standards for the whole industry. Because of this, the some of biggest income is generated through games that revolve around hyper-violence or at least contain it. Many retailers want a piece of that income. Some of the biggest retail opportunities are family stores, or childrens stores, or at least mainstream stores that don't want bad publicity. Economics means that these two really want to get together (Wall-mart and GTA or CoD for example) and that means something of hedging over differing ideals and values. For example any form of nudity has been very slow in coming to the most adult/violent of titles because (probably) of US cultural inclinations to nudity and the potential outcry and bad publicity it would bring. Take the prostitute in that GTA V video made famous by the petition. She may have performed multiple sexual techniques, been run over, blown up, set on fire and riddled with machine gun bullets but at least she did not take her underwear off. That would have been disgusting.

And at some point something is going to give. Either (mainstream) games need to rein in the violence and adult features or retail need to happily stock adult games or something else will need to be worked out.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Kenny Lynch on 9th December 2014 1:17pm

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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
The ratings imho are a bit too vague. While perhaps as I am not in the retail industry there are finer distinctions than I am aware of, sticking strictly to age ratings would mean that we would be classifying "Naughty Cheerleaders 46" and "Schindler's List" together.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 3 years ago
Indeed. Gone Home is PEGI 16 for Strong Language. And Lords Of The Fallen is a PEGI 16 for Realistic Looking Violence. :p

Let's bear in mind here that anything makes it easier for retailers to sell/stock a game - and harder for outrage (manufactured or otherwise) to occur - is A Good Thing.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 9th December 2014 1:30pm

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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 3 years ago
If there ever was a fox in charge of hen houses, it was industry organised rating boards putting age stickers on DVD boxes. It would be foolish to think that rating boards born out of political agendas were any better.
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Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 3 years ago
@Kenny
Starting a petition is not forcing your opinions on other people.
Yes it is. If they where not trying to force their opinion on other people there would not even be a petition. There would be absolutely no purpose. The reason you petition to stop selling something in stores, is so others can't buy it from that store. If you don't plan on buying it in the first place, why remove it from the stores? What is the actual purpose of the petition? What is the goal? The goal is to get the store to stop selling it, so others can't buy it.

I don't have any problems with the decision the store itself made. They are free to make what ever choices they want. The issue is the petition. The second issue is the store made a choice based on that petition. If the store felt the game wasn't suitable, fine. Then that should be the reason they took it off the shelves. Not because a petition told them too. Not because some people who don't plan to buy the game have some issue with it.
If someone criticises the games industry, I don't feel the answer "you are not allowed to, stop ruining our fun" is a particularly helpful answer.
There is a huge difference between criticism and creating a petition.
Criticism is perfectly acceptable. They can complain and be dissatisfied all they like.
However, a petition isn't the same thing. They are enacting an action that doesn't just effect them but effects an entire company and those who shop there. They are forcing their criticism on other people. The only way you can say they are not, is if they where the only ones who shop at that store. Which isn't the case.
Minority groups, special interest groups, people from outside the industry have interesting and important things to say, and we as an industry need to listen
That is perfectly fine and acceptable. But you must allow people to listen, not force them too listen. Again it's a huge difference.
The main issue in this - or any other - situation of supposed censorship is whether people are imposing their views on others. While it can be argued that Target are restricting their customers' choice, this is a demonstrably false argument as there is nothing stopping a single person from obtaining or playing the game. Prostitutes are right to feel sensitive about how violence against their profession is portrayed. They are exposed to horrendous risks constantly, particularly in countries where it is still illegal. Prostitutes are one of the most vulnerable groups in many societies. It is definitely understandable that they have extremely strong views on the subject, and to counter those views (whether you agree or not) with "stop ruining my fun" is condescending and belittling a very serious subject indeed. It is exactly the fact that intensely painful issues are being replayed in a game for fun that is part of the issue.
When they walk into the store, they are not forced to look at the game, play the game, or buy the game. So how exactly does it effect them in anyway shape or form? Explain to me, how it effects them in anyway. Saying, stop ruining my fun is not condescending or belittling a very serious subject because it effects them in no way.

If that really was the way society works, then tell me all the thing you have fun with. Then let me petition that I don't want any of the things you have fun with being sold in the stores I shop at because it offends me. Whether you disagree or not, for you to say "stop ruining my fun" is condescending and belittling a very serious subject. See how stupid this sounds. It makes no sense.

Those who try to force their opinion are others are the ones who I find are condescending, and seriously in the wrong. Again .. these are clearly people who where never planning to buy the game in the first place. So why petition a store to stop selling something .. .you are not planning on buying?
Retailers not stocking hyper-violent games, or those with graphic sexual content, does not have to be a bad thing. Games still have a lot of growing to do before they can be viewed as the same kind of narrative, artistic and political vehicles as books or films.
This is perfectly fine, but it should be the stores decision entirely. There should not be any petition about it. A store that doesn't sell hyper violent video games I am perfectly fine with. It's when others are the cause of the store doing so, that I have a problem with it. Others should not be doing that.
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Kenny Lynch Community Rep/Moderator 3 years ago
Starting a petition does not entail forcing anyone to do anything.

If I start a petition to for example, have GTA V removed from amazon.co.uk, does that force anything? Does anyone signing that petition force anything?

A petition is about getting your opinion heard, and allowing others to agree with you and give that opinion even more weight and publicity.

While this specific petition doesn't state a goal beyond getting Target to stop stocking the game and to set an example to other retailers, it is easy to see some possible other aims. To raise awareness of the content of the game so that for example parents can be vigilant about their children playing it (such as at friends houses), to make retailers aware that many people don't like to see this sort of content in shops (pornography for example is generally only available from select outlets), to try and counteract the idea that games are for children, and I am sure there are many more, not least of which is to start discussions such as this in many places around the world.

You claim that Target made the decision based on the petition. If they had not wanted to do so, they could have refused. In their press release, they say they had been in communication with their customers and decided that the majority of them had grave concerns over the content of the game. Why do you call them liars? Kmart stopped stocking the game without a petition aimed at them due to the content of the game, nothing to do with their customers at all. And the retailer in NZ stopped stocking all R18 games and DVDs before any petition. This all shows that while you blame everything on the petition, it was only a factor and one of uncertain value, as other means of public pressure could have 'forced' the same reaction anyway. And you have provided no evidence or arguments as to why you think that these stores want to sell the game.

The petition does not force anything on anybody. I am not sure whether you have issues with the word 'force' or whether you are unaware how a petition works. I have signed countless petitions about political issues that have resulted pretty much nothing.

The game being in the shop affects them by content they strongly object to being sold in a family shop, or next to toys, it offends them as it seems to imply that the content acceptable and as harmless as stocking Wii Fit. You might disagree with this, and might lack the imagination to empathise with their position but it doesn't make them wrong. And to be fair, it doesn't make them right either. One of the points that you keep ignoring is that Target agreed with them, and not you. Even if it is a simple fact of them bowing to perceived public pressure, why should any shop sell anything that they don't have the cajones to defend? If you can't stand up in public and say, we are selling this product, then maybe you shouldn't?

The concerns that the people make are very serious. Even if you do not agree with them, and even if they are not right. You don't have to be right to be allowed to protest against something. And comparing serious issues with 'fun' is belittling it. You are comparing something that has left scars in someone's life that will never go away with something that is one of a multitude of things you enjoy doing in your spare time.

You want to know something that I enjoy doing? I enjoy taking my daughter to the park and feeding the ducks. Start a petition, let's see if you get 40k signatures, also you would have to be able to show how you hold very strong opinion over the matter for the analogy to hold true. Something else? I enjoy playing computer games with strong adult themes, such as, but not limited to, violence, sexual violence, dominance and submission, nudity and humiliation. And I am wholly willing to listen and discuss these issues with those that protest about any such games. There are a lot stuff to be discussed about availability, about where if anywhere any lines of acceptable and unacceptable should be drawn.

And finally, you are just wrong. It is a fundamental right of people to protest, in such a manner as petition. No one has to start, sign or listen to one. And your logic is very shaky - are you suggesting that it would be ok for people to petition a store not to stock something that they are going to buy? Is it not a given it would be a product that they are not likely to? And even then, I am not Australian and know nothing about Target so I would never sign the petition. But if there was one here in the Netherlands about removing 18 rated games from toy shops, I would sign, and I do buy 18 rated games.

And finally, a petition forces nothing on anyone, except that it makes people notice it. Once it is in under your scrutiny then you are totally able to ignore it. You are simply twisting words and meanings to fit an argument.
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