“A little bit of torture never hurt anybody” some say.
So, what could possibly be more entertaining than torturing people? Or more fun than committing sexually violent acts against women and then viciously assaulting or murdering them?
Apparently not much if you are one of the programmers at Take-Two makers of the Grand Theft Auto series of video games.
The latest instalment of the series is a newly updated Grand Theft Auto V and has all the usual fun of stealing cars, shooting people, dealing drugs and assaulting pedestrians, plus some newer more controversial features.
After an online petition secured nearly 50,000 signatures the decision was made by Target and K Mart to not carry the game in their stores due to its graphic content. This decision has sparked outrage amongst many in the gaming community and many others who oppose censorship.
I for one applaud the decision taken by Target and K Mart and wonder why Woolworths has not followed suit.
I should point out that I am not someone who endorses censorship as a rule. A look at my musical collection would tell any casual observer that I’m not the conservative type, so too would my collection of movies, some which have been banned in Australian cinemas due to their violence.
However more importantly I spent over a decade in the video games distribution industry personally ensuring that some of the most violent video games the world had seen at the time made into the likes of K Mart, Myer, Big W etc.
However there is a line when it comes to what is acceptable and what is not and many say that the line has been crossed with Grand Theft Auto V. Below is a clip of a torture scene from the game and you can make up your own mind.
Whether gamers like it or not retailers can stock whatever they like and if they think it offends a part of the community they have the right to yank something from the shelves, something we saw recently with the Big W blue bogan singlet debacle.
Yes the game in question carries an R 18+ rating and is therefore restricted in whom it is sold to but that does not mean it should automatically be carried, neither does the game’s popularity. Target and K Mart also stock magazines, however I don’t see an abundance of Penthouse in the stores despite it being popular. I have also yet to notice an adult section In the DVD section of these retailers. That is the choice they make.
Anyone claiming the R rating means it won’t get into the hands of children can put their head back in the sand that it is usually buried in. Children will undoubtedly make up a significant part of the games audience.
Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick has released a statement regarding the ban of Grand Theft Auto V from Target and K Mart.
“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. 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.”
For me it is not the violence that is the issue it is the interactive aspect that I have the problem with, meaning players are not merely spectators of the torture and sexual violence against women, they become active participants in it and a rewarded for their actions.
I wonder if Zelnick includes the creators of the rather disturbing rape hack that allows players to virtually rape other players online.
While Zelnick’s statement touches on interactivity it fails to recognise that the things he makes comparisons with such as books, television and movies are not interactive in remotely the same way his games are. Watching a torture scene is different to actually participating in it and choosing the methods of torture, just like watching a game of football is different to actually playing one.
It is not just that you are rewarded for torturing someone, or for murdering a prostitute after you’ve had sex with her, in the highly competitive world of gaming it means you are punished for choosing not to do it as you won’t accumulate points or accumulate your character’s health status as much as if you decided not to murder a prostitute or two.
Defenders of the game claim the game is realistic and these things happen in real life. While that may be true there are many other disturbing things that happen in real life that are not glorified in games.
However it is the lame defence of
“If you don’t like it don’t buy it”
that bewilders me. Whilst that may seem like a statement of the obvious it is not quite so simple.
I believe in all sorts of freedoms, but I don’t think the idea of if you don’t like it don’t play it or buy it works in every instance.
Take child pornography for example. I don’t think you will have too many people defending the rights of perverts to access child pornography or simulated child abuse by claiming if you don’t like it you don’t have to buy it.
That is because there is a line being crossed and while child pornography may be way over on the wrong side of the line, it’s a side of the line that in my mind it shares with interactive torture and sexual violence against women.
Good on Target and K Mart for standing up for their principles and ignoring the almighty dollar.
Some things are more important.