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GTA V pulled from Target Australia for depictions of violence against women

After pressure from an online petition, Target Australia agrees to stop selling Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V.

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Michelle Starr
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Rockstar Games

Department store Target Australia will no longer sell Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto V, the retailer announced Wednesday. The move comes in response to "community pressure" in the form of a Change.org petition that condemned the video game's depictions of violence against women.

The petition -- which at time of writing had collected over 42,000 signatures -- was created by three women who are survivors of sexual violence.

"We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence," the petition reads. "To see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm."

"This game spreads the idea that certain women exist as scapegoats for male violence. It shows hatred and contempt for women in the sex industry and puts them at greater risk. ... Games like this are grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women."

GTA V was released in September last year for Sony's PlayStation 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 and reached an astounding $1 billion in retail sales only three day after its launch. Last month, the game was released for the PS4 and Xbox One with a new first-person mode.

The video game, which has an R18+ rating in Australia, allows players a number of interactions with prostitutes, who will restore health in the form of sex acts. Prostitutes in the game can also be violently beaten and killed, which allows the player to recover their money from her corpse.

"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 Target General Manager Corporate Affairs Jim Cooper. "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."

Rockstar parent company Take Two expressed that it was "disappointed" in Target's move.

"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," said Take Two chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick in a statement.

"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."

Target is not the first store to remove the game from its shelves. Last month, New Zealand's largest retailer, The Warehouse Group, agreed to stop selling the game under pressure from sex worker advocacy group Stop Demand.

"GTA has always been a deeply misogynistic, hyper-masculine game that reduces women largely to strippers and prostitutes," Stop Demand founder Denise Ritchie said. "However, the new first person interactive mode released globally last week significantly ratchets up gamers' experiences."

Target Australia said that it would continue to sell other R18+ material.

"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," Cooper said. "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."

Update December 4 1.23 pm AEDT: Kmart Australia has reportedly followed suit. The department store confirmed to Kotaku Australia that it, too, would no longer be selling GTA V, or any GTA title at all, effective immediately. Kmart and Target are both owned by the same parent company, Wesfarmers.

Update December 4 2.19 pm AEDT: Added comment from Take Two CEO and chairman Strauss Zelnick.

(Via Kotaku Australia)