As many of my fellow gamers already know, Rockstar Games’ GTA 5 was the focus of a recent petition – started by a former sex worker – that called for its removal from Target Stores in Australia. The petition was ultimately successful in its goal, with Target Australia pulling the game from its stores’ shelves – leading other retail franchises (such as K-Mart) to follow suit.
Following that, gamers from all around the world rallied together to sign a counter-petition asking for GTA 5 to be put back in Australian stores.
However, that’s not what I’m here to talk about, at least directly. I want to focus on the reasons behind GTA 5‘s “banning,” and how utterly futile and misguided they are, regardless of their end intentions.
What better way to analyze the recent GTA 5 Target Australia petition than to respond to the words of the very individual that started it?
In a recent article published by DailyLife.com.au, the woman who launched the aforementioned petition, a former sex worker, outlined the motivations behind her starting of the GTA 5 ban. As such, I will quote her statements verbatim and subsequently provide my thoughts on them.
Read what I have to say on the GTA 5 Australia situation after the break.
Editor’s Response To The Recent GTA 5 Australia Fiasco
“In GTA 5, an R-rated video game that allows players to attack and kill sex workers, I would have been the character who gets left by the sidewalk, bleeding and unconscious. Or hit with bats, run down, set alight still screaming and graphically murdered – for game points, or maybe just ‘for fun.'”
I worked in the sex industry in my early 20s. But instead of the virtual world of GTA 5 – the abuse I suffered, while not as extreme as those in the game, was terrifyingly real.
It has taken me almost ten years to get my life back on track and to recover from the sexual violence and abuse I faced. I still live with flashbacks, nightmares, and crippling depression and anxiety.”
While I do sympathize with what the woman has experienced in her time as a sex worker, there is nothing that can be done to get those 10 years back. The associated symptoms of her experiences (depression, nightmares, anxiety, et cetera) cannot be cured by placing the blame on a product in the games industry.
Such is life. It may sound cold, even insensitive for me to say that, but that’s just the way life is. We choose our paths, what we want to be, what we want to do – whether or not that particular field is in the sex industry – is something done on one’s own volition, either by necessity or desire. I do not personally know the ins and outs of what is considered the “sex industry,” but I can imagine that it’s not a career in which “workers” can expect Prince Charmings or gentlemen cut of similar cloth to frequent. Niceties, chivalry, or even common courtesy do not strike me as defining characteristics of consumers of the sex industry.
Abuse of any kind, be it sexual, physical, psychological, emotional and by any means – real-life or online, should not be tolerated, and should be dealt with in the proper manner.
As I’ve previously mentioned, placing the blame on a video game (or any form of art or entertainment for that matter) is not going to get rid of the abuse suffered by the women petitioning its removal from store shelves. The problem lies not with gamers, instead it stems from the inherent risks of the industry they are participating in. As I’ve alluded to in the previous paragraph, I imagine that a decent number of customers of the sex industry are not the nicest of individuals – they are trading money for life’s most common carnal pleasure after all.
“…that a game exists which makes ‘enjoyment’ out of the kind of abuse I lived through in real life is sickening. For survivors of abuse, it adds insult to injury to think someone could get a thrill out of violence against women, even if it was in a ‘virtual world’.
In GTA 5, a new ‘first-person player mode’ feels more realistic than ever. This includes a more realistic depiction of sex acts with women (who are largely represented as prostitutes) – and the options that follow of being able to kill them with machetes, guns or bats to get their virtual money back.
Making it all the more disturbing was having a retailer I shop at which sells and promotes this kind of game. As recently as last week, Target was advertising Grand Theft Auto next to Peppa Pig. This was being marketed at parents buying Christmas toys.
It sent a terrifying message. This is a game that has ingrained misogyny and graphic violence against women. It breeds an acceptance of abuse in our world; abuse from which I’ve been trying desperately to recover – and by stocking this game, major retailers are lending their credibility to it.
Gamers also argue that games like GTA 5 have no impact on real life violence, despite research published earlier this year showing violent video games increases aggression, aggression-related variables and decreases pro-social outcomes.
We know because we’ve lived it. We know how violence can start with ‘playful’ remarks and turn into dangerous, controlling behaviour. We’ve seen the violence implicitly condoned in these games play out in real life.
The ‘thrill and pleasure’ that gamers get off violence against women in GTA 5 makes the world less safe. Not because every gamer turns into the abuser – but because it breeds a casual acceptance of violence against women.”
Playing games is enjoyable, that much is true. And GTA 5 is arguably one of the most enjoyable games in recent memory. Granted, it is violent and contains sexually explicit content. However, keep in mind that it is intended for mature audiences. Whether or not the respective player of the game is “mature enough” to be playing a game of such ilk is something that simply cannot be quanitified. In my experiences, parents buy mature-rated video games for their underage children all the time. Instead of blaming those mature enough to buy and/or play GTA 5, parents should exercise discretion when purchasing games for their kids.
Furthermore, having sex with prostitutes and subsequently killing them in a variety of ways to get one’s money back is optional in the game. It’s not part of the critical narrative, it’s not an objective in any of the GTA 5‘s missions, and it’s definitely not advertised on the back of the box. It’s possible, yes, but there is so much more to the game. The perspective of focusing on a particular action that can be done in-game, taking it out of context, then applying it to the detriment of the gaming community is, at its core, flawed.
In the above statement, the petition-starter essentially calls gamers, publishers, and retailers misogynists and proponents for the acceptance of abuse. Not only is this wholly inaccurate, it’s ludicrous and offensive to many of those within the gaming community.
Playing a violent game does not automatically mean the respective player is totally fine with abuse.
For example, in GTA 5, I could shoot a civilian in the head with a .50 caliber pistol, steal an elderly woman’s vehicle, and run over 20 civilians as I attempt to escape LSPD. Failing that, I could jump out of the vehicle, pull out a grenade launcher, blow up everything in sight, taking hundreds of cops and innocent civilians’ lives in some sort of last stand.
I could then put down the controller, shut off my game console, and eat dinner with my lovely family without participating in some sort of misogyny-driven act of abuse against my female relatives. How? Because I (along with the majority of gamers) can separate fiction from reality. It’s really that simple.
As for scientific studies done on the subject of violent video games causing aggressive behaviors, it’s still very much an unfounded claim. Mainstream media wants the public to believe that recent shootings by young people are because of their penchant for violent video games. This view is skewed, as shooters/abusers/criminals whose actions have been attributed to violent video games were already mentally unstable to begin with.
“Gamers have launched vicious and violent attacks on myself and other women who dared to speak up. We’ve had threats of rape and torture. To mutilate us and set us on fire.
One gamer has threatened to locate us and publicise where we live. Another has superimposed the face of a friend onto the body of a murdered woman lying in blood, in a scene from the game.
“I’m going on GTA 5 right now and pretending every ugly c—t is you”, tweeted another hater to her.
Ironically, these abusers claim this game does not perpetuate violence, and yet they continue to send women horrific violent threats online.
This a classic example of the “blanket statement.” The words and actions of few disgruntled trolls don’t amount to the whole of the gaming community. Death or rape threats are never a laughing matter, even in jest, and those that do threaten to do something of that sort should be handled properly, but just because some have done so, the majority shouldn’t be punished.
And therein lies the rub, it’s not the majority of gamers sending death/rape threats to or harassing others. It’s, as I said before, a handful of immature trolls doing the bulk of that.
However, it’s because of their actions that the general, mostly non-gaming public’s perception of gamers and violent video games is the way it is. Unfortunately, there’s not much that can be done about it due to mainstream media’s microcosm methodology. Most likely, those affected will either cry wolf or ignore it.
The best way to approach a situation like this is to simply abide by logic (Tough, because it is the Internet…anonymity is the bane of all its users) and explore various avenues in which to arrive at a compromise that appeases both parties.
It’s a tough road, but one the games industry and gaming community must ultimately take.
I feel that I’ve said enough on GTA 5 and this whole debacle. It’s your turn. What are your thoughts on the situation? Also, what are your thoughts…on my thoughts? Agree? Disagree? Anything to add?
Please let me know in the comments section below. As always, stay tuned to GamerHeadlines.com for the latest in video game and technology news.
Now if you’ll excuse me for a bit, I’m off to play some GTA 5.