My thoughts? Yup GTA is not for kids, it is clearly rated R18+ but I know that kids under that age are playing it. Why? Because mum and dad don’t keep an eye on what their kids are playing, or they simply don’t believe the ratings…or they have no problem with their kids running over or killing prostitutes in a video game. GTA also includes other adults concepts, swearing, sex, drug use, theft..(no surprise there) and more.
Should it be on the shelves at Kmart or Target? Not for me to say really, these stores can stock whatever legal adult content they like. These stores are clearly removing this game due to the fall-out in the media around this petition. No doubt they also sell adult books and R18+ DVD’s and other games that include many of the above themes, but those aren’t being “targetted” right now.
Violence Against Women In Gaming
The debate about violence and objectification of women and girls in video game content is an ongoing one. I would love to see more games where there is less overall violence against women or anyone for that matter, and where women and girls can also feel included in the game play. This particular petition against GTA focuses on the violence against women used in this game, they claim that game play includes getting a refund effectively if you murder prostitutes after paying for sex. Quote from the petition “This is Grand Theft Auto 5. This game means that after various sex acts, players are given options to kill women by punching her unconscious, killing with a machete, bat or guns to get their money returned.” (Edited: Not technically true according to players, as I’ve only seen game play video’s, I’ll leave it up to others to debate the accuracy of that statement) I agree, that if murdering women after sex advances game play does advance game play or rewards players it is a sickening concept.
I also don’t buy the argument, that I’ve seen in recent comments, that in many games killing men also contributes to game play so why not protest that also. We all know that there is a serious problem world wide with violence against women, and women being objectified, as I’m not an academic in the field of anthropology, so I won’t say anymore than that.
I believe eventually the market will eventually demand that developers are more inclusive to all humans. Men, Women, Children and all races. Video Game development has certainly seen some success stories with games that don’t rely on extreme violence or abuse, to gain players. The Portal series, Monument Valley and Minecraft all games that I encourage parents to play with their children.
Unfortunately there is a mainstream perception that gaming is all about “First Person Shooters” or “Flappy bird” style games. There are already some great games, mostly independent games that do cover other styles of narrative and story. Unfortunately many of those games simply don’t reach mainstream attention. Overwhelmingly the “shoot-em-up”, slasher zombie style war games are the most popular, due to the largest demographic who play video games, young men. Having said that, women are increasingly playing games, even if they are also playing games that are not considered “games” in the traditional (first person shooter) sense of the word. Commonsense Media has a great list of the 10 most violent video games for 2014 with alternative suggestions.
What Will This Removal Achieve?
Do I think that removing the games from the shelves of Kmart or Target will send a message to the developers to start to rethink the gratuitous violence particularly against women represented in games? It will definitely send a message, but more importantly, due to this story hitting main stream media, this story will certainly at least give parents a heads up that GTA is not for kids, which is in my mind a good thing! So many parents simply don’t know that there are R18+ Games, and for some reason don’t equate the game rating system with the ratings for movies that we have had for decades. If this drama does shake up parents enough for them to look a bit closer at what their 13year old is playing, its a good thing.
Will It Change Anything?
The bottom line is game developers are making a squillion dollars out of marketing to boys and men, and have carefully designed these games to appeal to them. There has to be a very good reason that they think that violence against women sells. Perhaps we need to go back further than the games.
GTA was rated R18+ so the argument about it influencing boys and normalising violence towards women makes as much sense as removing a movie rated R18+ from the same shelves. Quote from the petition: “Games like this are grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women. It is fuelling the epidemic of violence experienced by so many girls and women in Australia – and globally”. This game is not intended for young boys in the first place, if young boys are playing this game it’s because a parent is allowing it.
Parents need to get more involved in their children’s digital lives, in a positive way. Find games to play with your kids that you can all enjoy, and encourage your children to play all sorts of different games that encourage creativity, strategy and fun! Leave the serious violent games for when they are older and have a more balanced and mature view of the world. More ideas for family games here!
What are your thoughts, did you know about Grand Theft Auto before this story hit the news?