Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTAV) is an R18+ ‘game’ for Playstation, Xbox and a multitude of other game consoles. The game’s (heavily simplified) central focus is to commit heists and a range of other felonies while evading law enforcement. The game is extremely graphic in its violence. It is also full of profanity.
Perhaps most disturbing for me is the content of the first-person sexual encounters and the subsequent violence it offers players. You can see some of it here, but I warn you, once you’ve seen it you cannot ‘unsee’ it.
(Warning, this is definitely NSFW. It is explicit and profane). It encourages players to have sexual involvement with women before violently killing them. Prompts such as “you’re not going to let her take your money” promote horrific sexual violence.
I cannot understand how ANYONE, whether over 18 or not, can find this type of depraved content ‘entertaining’ or appropriate. Despite my moral outrage, the game is phenomenally popular. It has been around for just over a year now, and brought in over $1billion in sales in its first three days on the market!
Perhaps most concerning of all … it’s extremely popular with kids. I regularly talk with children and parents who tell me that their six and eight year-old children are playing this game – AND THEY SEE NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT!
In recent days, a petition on Change.org has urged Target, one of Australia’s largest retailers, to stop stocking the game. Target, part of the Wesfarmers group (which also owns Coles, Kmart, Bunnings, and Officeworks), has been the recipient of the petition, at least in part because of their presence in nearly every major shopping centre in the country. Additionally, Target prides itself on being a family company, caring for local communities, and possessing a strong ethical sourcing policy.
The petition states, “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.” And it is true that such games are linked with violent behaviour, a loss of empathy and an unwillingness to help others (among other things).
With the help of Collective Shout, the petition has garnered over 44,000 signatures (including mine) asking them to put women and ethics before profits. As a result of the petition, Target has released a statement confirming they will stop selling GTAV. Kmart today followed suit.
Pressure is now being applied to Big W, Woolworths and others to take the lead from Target and Kmart and pay more attention to community standards, safety and respect ahead of their profits.
This is a significant win, and a great cause for celebration. As a father of six daughters, and a family and parenting researcher, author, and speaker, THANK YOU TARGET AND KMART! Hopefully, other stores will follow suit, and show the same level of corporate responsibility, leadership and ethics by removing games like this from sale.
Now, a few comments for parents:
Please, please, please be aware of what your children are playing and DO NOT let them play these games. It is your responsibility to raise them ‘right’, and if you are letting your six or 10 or 15 year old play these games, I would argue strongly that they are not being raised ‘right’. When we raise our children ‘right’, we teach them morality, character and kindness. We teach them respect, empathy and to be law-abiding. Games such as this are antithetical to being raised ‘right’.
Be aware of what your children play. Watch it with them. Monitor their activity. When you see something inappropriate, communicate clear expectations to your children, including giving them a good understanding of why those limits exist.
Parents who fail to do this, and who allow their kids to play these games, are abrogating their responsibilities as parents. Full stop.
To those who are over 18 and want to play:
- The choice to play is yours. I don’t understand why you would invite this amoral content into your life, nor do I comprehend how it can be considered entertainment. But if you think you can play it behind closed doors without it impacting on your attitudes, empathy and compassion, so be it.
- The choice to take my family shopping in a store like Target (whose primary demographic is ‘families’) should be one I can confidently make without being assaulted with games such as this on display.
- You might not like what this petition has done. But remember, unfortunately too many parents don’t really pay attention to ratings, or blogs about games. They will often be unaware of why a game like GTAV is harmful to children. In fact, because GTAV has been around so long, they may not think twice about buying it for their child (despite the rating) should their little guy start pestering and hankering for it or similar games.
There are so many reasons our children (and our society) can do without games like GTAV. Thank you Target and Kmart, for recognising this, and responding so positively.