Target’s Grand Theft Morality

GTAV

The game stereotypes stoners! I’m off to change.org!

If you’re even remotely interested in either video games or moral decency, there’s a chance you’ve heard, at some stage this week, that the retailers Target and KMart have decided to stop selling copies of Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V from here out.)

They’ve cited the violence against women that the game portrays as their justification, which in itself is hard to argue against. Sure there’s the actual auto theft, the mowing down of a host of innocent civilians (female and male), the heists and the glorification of all violence (and let’s face it, it’s fucking fun), but lets go with the violence against women thing. It was White Ribbon day last week y’know!

The move was apparently started by an online petition by domestic violence victims, who seemingly didn’t realise the game has already been out for a year and is part of a franchise that has never changed its mentality about violence – AND HAS BEEN COMING OUT SINCE 1998.

In GTA V you certainly don’t face any reprimand for your sexist indecency or murders in general, you can die and respawn, or get arrested and respawn again with a little less money (hooray for the justice system!), and then you’re back out on the streets neglecting your duty to be a good citizen.

I have one main problem with this, and that is that it reeks of nothing more than opportunistic publicity, and both sides are falling for it.

First and foremost – this petition was started on the 29th of November THIS YEAR. This is not a long running campaign, and given how strongly the people who started it say they feel, it’s absolutely astounding that they haven’t taken the opportunity to start their online campaign any time since the game’s release last year. Awareness of the game and what it’s all about has been high for a very long time.

Then there’s the fact that many of the ‘outraged’ people signing this petition have probably never played the game in their lives, and probably don’t even have children to buy it for – they just find something they’ve never seen and never knew about entirely objectionable so they get to weigh in on the debate – but that’s part of the problem with online petitions in general.

The petition’s primary concern is the message being sent to young boys – but the game has an R18+ content rating, which would make it inaccessible to children unless the parents decide to get it for them. This is so simple a point it shouldn’t need to be said.

WORST OF ALL – Target and Kmart get to swoop in and act like they’re the moral heroes of the commercial landscape in this scenario, simply by pandering to people who are already in their audience.

I’m pretty old now, and I’ve been buying video games for a freaking long time. You kids remember the Sega Master System? That’s right. Wonder Boy, Alex Kidd and shit. I don’t think I’ve EVER, in my life, bought a video game from Target. Even back when there weren’t really that many options, I’d get a game at the Gamesmen or even HARVEY FREAKING NORMAN before I went to one of those places.

That was back then – these days? Apart from one rare instance at Kmart, no – I would never buy a game at one of these places, nor would anyone I know who regularly buys and plays games. When there’s EB Games, JB Hi-Fi, and now the online services like Steam and even the PlayStation Store, why would you?

Target and Kmart are generally 10-20% more expensive (at least) on all consoles. I’m sure there are variances in that but lets face it, when it comes to gaming you wouldn’t imagine that these two stores have 15% of the market share combined. A PS4 at Target at the moment costs $549 with a controller and nothing else. EB Games offers the console, controller and 4 games for $599. Given that Target’s cheapest, new-ish games for PS4 cost $40-50 each, I know which deal I’d take.

The only people who would buy video games and consoles at Target are Mums. This isn’t a gripe, it’s a fact of life. Mums are Target’s target audience, and they’re probably not going to buy the game anyway.

When you consider that Target don’t sell many games in the first place, do you think they were really concerned when the online petition started all of 4 days ago? No. What it was for them was not a chance to do the right thing, but an opportunity for exposure and advertising as a ‘moral’ company RIGHT ON THE CUSP OF CHRISTMAS MADNESS.

This decision wasn’t made based on human emotion or even under some perceived ‘pressure’, this was a calculated boardroom decision and subsequent media campaign that has worked so beautifully a Monty Burns finger pyramid couldn’t do it justice.

see?

see?

The problem isn’t just the mums, though – it’s the gamers as well. YOU’VE ALREADY BOUGHT THE GAME, YOU DON’T SHOP AT TARGET, SO STOP GIVING THEM MORE EXPOSURE TO THEIR AUDIENCE BY COMPLAINING ABOUT THE GAME. You are giving companies like Target exactly what they want – a bucketload of free promotion, and you’re making yourself look like a bunch of anti-authoritarian idiots in the eyes of conservative parents shaping the next generation.

We’re all being played. Even reading the declaration of victory at the online petition (which still hasn’t reached its target yet), these advocates are claiming that the fact it’s plastered all over the media is a great win for them, and that it obviously has nothing to do with Target’s well-ensured publicity for their own press release. I feel sorry for them, they’ve been taken advantage of for commercial gain.

Now they’re taking on Big W and Woolworths – WOW! Two more powerhouses of the computer game industry, who’ll get the chance to look high and mighty without having to really do anything.

So dear petitioners, if you really feel strongly, and really want to affect change, take on the likes of EB Games and JB Hi-Fi and see how they feel about it. If you’re going to waste our time and your own being exploited for free advertising then you should just shut up now. Thanks.

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