Target Australia Pulls GTA V Due To Depictions Of Violence Against Women

Target Australia has announced it will be pulling all copies of Grand Theft Auto V from stores after an online petition demanding that the retailer withdraw the game acquired over 41,000 signatures.

According to Target Australia's general manager corporate affairs Jim Cooper, it was this feedback that directly influenced the decision to remove Grand Theft Auto V.

"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," Mr Cooper said. "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 GTA 5 is in line with the majority view of our customers."

The petition was launched by a group of women who have suffered directly from sexual violence and abuse.

"We have firsthand experience of this kind of sexual violence," reads the petition. "It haunts us, and we've been trying to rebuild our lives ever since. Just knowing that women are being portrayed as deserving to be sexually used by men and potentially murdered for sport and pleasure — to see this violence that we lived through turned into a form of entertainments is sickening and causes us great pain and harm."

The fact that the petition focused on one single outlet, on one single game, resulted in a singular point of pressure that, for Target, was impossible to ignore.

Despite the fact that it will be removing the game from shelves, Target will continue to sell other R18+ rated content.

"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," explained Cooper.

"However, in the case of GTA 5, we have listened to the strong feedback from customers that this is not a product they want us to sell."

New Zealands's largest retailer, NZ Warehouse Group, previously removed all copies of Grand Theft Auto V from shelves. That decision was made after the Stop Demand Foundation approached the group. According to founder Denise Ritchie, the first person mode in the new, updated version of the game was the reason why her group decided to act.

"GTA has always been a deeply misogynistic, hyper-masculine game that reduces women largely to strippers and prostitutes," she said. "However, the new 1st person interactive mode released globally last week significantly ratchets up gamers’ experiences."

There is no mention in the petition regarding the first-person mode being a catalyst for the ban. However, in an interview with, one petition founder, Nicole, mentioned the first-person view specifically, claiming it had "upped the ante".

"You get to feel what it feels like to do this to somebody,” she said.

As a former sex worker and a victim of violence Nicole found Grand Theft Auto V desensitised people to violence against women.

"[T]his is about torturing and the ritualised murder of women," she told "It’s frightening that people are desensitised to it."

Grand Theft Auto V was initially classified in 2013, receiving an R18+ rating. It was re-rated in 2014 for the HD re-release, although this rating wasn't the result of in-game violence but rather the use of drugs within the game, which was deemed "high impact" by the Classification Board. The latest version of the game also received a high impact rating for its 'themes', but it received only a 'strong impact' for its violence. If Grand Theft Auto V was to be rated on its violence alone, there is a good chance the game would have been rated MA15+. It's worth noting that before the R18+ rating came into effect most Grand Theft Auto games managed to make it past the Classification Board at MA15+.

Reaction to the news was swift:

But there were also tweets from people who approved of the decision:

On Target Australia's Facebook page the debate was more heated with a 4000-strong comment thread.

A large number of petitions have emerged as a result of the decision, but the situation is fragmented. Some are playing it straight, like this one; others are petitioning Rockstar themselves to "not give in". Other petitions are claiming that Grand Theft Auto provides players with the choice to perform "equal opportunity violence". Some took a different tack, demanding that if Grand Theft Auto V was removed from stores, the book 50 Shades Of Grey should also be taken off-sale.

Grand Theft Auto V's publisher, Take-Two, expressed disappointment at the decision.

"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 Strauss Zelnick, Chairman and CEO of Take-Two Interactive Software. "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."


    Tin foil hat conspiracy time! (as in completely unfounded and wrong but don't let that stop anything)

    Target were selling it for $64 forcing price match outlets to sell it for nearly half price. Retailers start the petition that is focused solely on Target to stop it.

    Think about it! (please dont)

    Seriously though, as I've said elsewhere before, they've already made the bulk of their sales and it's incredibly weak to take this stand now after they've made most of the profit they were going to make.

      Hey, I'm sure EB and JB execs are dancing a jig right this very moment.

    I've spend way to much time writing and deleting this post this morning where I've now gotten to where I don't see the point anymore. It's crap like this that clouds the real issues. There are clearly serious problems with sexism and the way women are represented in the game, but going to far like this and making unbased claims ends up being a distraction and discredits the entire argument.

    This is just stupid. The whole situation. Stupid things done by emotional and stupid people.

    My brain hurts about whom to follow in this debate, plus no one has mentioned a potential gamergate backlash over target pulling this game off their shelves due to the issue of women, which means they will be targeting the women behind this. Man, my brain really hurts about this debate.

    That's 41k mis-informed customers that Target responded to. Oh well, guess I'm not shopping there any more.

    Desk chair activists all the way. So, I am sure there are plenty of movies in the store that won't get removed. Should we start a petition to get it back INTO Target?

    Now I just feel like opening joke petitions for random things that Target should ban. Anyone want to help me get the Australian Cotton Men's V Neck Tee in green colour banned? But only the one in green, the other colours are OK.

    *cough* @greenius *cough*

      Green is calming, maybe ban a red shirt.

        Green is the colour of envy. That is a harmful emotion that they should not be promoting, if men did not feel envy over other men who won the attention of women in their place, then they would not harbour such a resentment towards women that they would then be violent towards them.

        Ban the green shirt!

      Ooh yeah, I'll jump on that bandwagon. I hate that Green V Neck Tee so much.

      *shakes fist*

    so why do we have an R18+ rating again? and if the petition got 40k signatures (assumingly mostly older women) how is that in any way representative of the millions and millions of customer they get?

    And since when did an online petition mean anything anyway? haha

      I've been waiting for a comment like this, my sentiments exactly.

      The game is rated R18+, i.e. for adults. It's a free country and adults can buy whatever legal media they want. I've got young kids and there's NO WAY i would let them play this game, but i know lots of other parents who aren't involved in the gaming community and know nothing about the game and let their 14/15 year old kids play, and they're the type of people who would have signed the petition.

      40k people would be a drop in the ocean to their customer base. But the squeaky wheel gets the oil...

      SJW's are ruining the world.

      I don't think GTAV deserves to be removed going by previous games (waiting for PC), but just because a piece of media doesn't breach the guidelines of the censorship board doesn't mean it can't be destructive in some way or another.

      Anyway, don't worry so much, even if all the Australian retailers ban it we can still import it if it's not illegal

    Hear about this sort of shit all the time, people/companies not doing/saying things, or retracting something they already said/did for fear that it'll offend somebody. It's getting to be a bit of a joke now, it's gotta stop.

    it's not like it's real people IT'S A FREAKIN' GAME!

    The petition was started by a bunch of sex workers, who have been victims sexual violence, that i have no beef with but the chances are the perps are sick weirdos more so than gamers who were told to do stuff by a video game.

    But the #1 fact they fail to tell you is that, violence outside of missions is 100% completely optional, you don't have to smack a prostitute with a baseball bat, you don't have to drive a tank down a mall turning pedestrians into squishy speedbumps. You can go through the entire game and not kill a innocent pedestrian.

    I have lost respect for Target, yeah i get it was their decision to pull the game but it now sets up a precedent where any small group can get their own way. Will target pulling the game affect me playing any GTA, Hell no and for anyone with an IQ above a puddle of stagnant water, it shouldn't for them as well.

      Yes the precedence is scary. What's next, Big W, KMart, Myer, David Jones, JB, Harvey Norman and other big retailer's pull the game too? Does it eventually degrade to the point where they revoke the R18 rating and games like GTA don't make it into the country?

      All Target had to do was come out and state the facts - the game does not promote violence against sex workers/women, assaulting women/pedestrians is optional; as-in not required or promoted, the game is appropriately classified R18 and is for adults.

      [quote]You can go through the entire game and not kill a innocent pedestrian.[/quote]

      I dunno, I have a hard time controlling the cars in the game.. it seems I always run over a few innocents

      On a more serious note, shall we assume every movie that has a scene of a woman being hit will be removed from sale too...?

    Ban Skyrim. The player is clearly rewarded for decapitating women. And it's in first person too, with a special animation!

    I saw the petition and it is was a mess. The explanation was so badly written and obviously took things way out of context to prove their ridiculously skewed point.

    They could have spent their efforts in much better ways, counselling, education, workshops etc, but instead to focus on a scapegoat, but to what end?

    I just don't understand what the point is of all this, you can still buy the game in EB, JB, Gametraders, Kmart, Dick Smith and countless other stores across Australia. What did they prove or change?

      as long as it stays with just target, and is quite likely overturned in the future because it really is a large slice of sales pie they are going to miss out on. If it makes its way to dick smith and big W I may find myself resigning from woolworths.

        Stick it to the man... and/or woman!

    Thinking I should start a petition that requests target remove all dresses and low cut tops from their stores, they are clearly there as a means to dress up and therefore objectify women and quite frankly this isn't acceptable. All female clothing lines should henceforth be replaced by the burqua and niquab, because lets face it, whatever issues you have with the garb, it certainly makes purchasing clothing much easier.
    Also I'm joking...about the burqua point...not the first point, which would be hilarious to see the outcome of

    Already posted in TAY, but this one's my favourite reactionary petition.

    Interestingly The Warehouse NZ stopped sales of nextgen GTAV a week after it launched. There was also comments from them saying it doesn't fit in with their family values....they use to sell alcohol FFS!

    I find the capability of picking up prostitutes in the game distasteful and would prefer it wasn’t in the game but tightly coupling that game mechanic with another separate game mechanic (killing npcs) within a sandbox world where the player has full autonomy is a bit of a reach as the narrative is constructed by the player. I have the choice to run around only targeting African-American npcs – but I would not say the game incites racial hatred.

    Very interesting discussion – The whole 3rd person to 1st person impact idea - only going to heat up as VR becomes a reality. Where will we stand when video games no longer look or feel like video games when played by an adult that rationally knows the difference?

    I am sympathetic to these women, I find it hard to disagree that GTA "has always been a deeply misogynistic, hyper-masculine game that reduces women largely to strippers and prostitutes"

    ...but even so - I am an adult and I am aware of this.

    I have always seen GTA as a fascinating reflection and a quite damning and satirising parody of our culture. Let’s see Rockstar change it up with a female lead next time.

    This is disappointing. People are the problem, not the game.

    Hang on everybody!! I'll make the call

    Last edited 04/12/14 9:59 am

    Meh bunch of uneducated moms. Saw the petition went up and all I can think of is parents buying the game when it is clearly written RESTRICTED 18+ and then saw their kids attacking woman in game. Or Maybe, they just youtube some video about it and suddenly went outraged how can kids play this game, but the point is, it is not for kids, it is an adult game for 18+

    I haven't played it yet so I don't know the details of missions. Is there a mission where you have to dump a prostitute in the laneway and set her on fire, or is this just some bs my wife (who also hasn't played it) heard on fb or tv?

      there is no such mission.

      Full disclosure though, this can be done in "free roam", but this would be of the players free will, nothing the game will direct them to do.

      Last edited 04/12/14 12:04 pm

        Thank you for clearing that up (i expected that to be the answer anyway).

    I wonder if they have a notice pinned up on the boards in the Bangladesh sweatshops where their workers, who are being paid 22cents/hour, can read about the fine moral standpoint their employers are taking.

      This is probably my favourite comment. Ahhh hypocrites make the world of capitalism turn.

    what needs to be done is for a list of all the dvds that are depicting women in a bad way and use that excuse to ban them for sale under the same stupid reason as GTA v. lets see what target says then when confronted with a list of movies and say hey hippocrites how can you ban one thing and then sell something a lot worse.......

      Why stop there? Why not list every music album or single that depicts violence against women? What about every novel, or at-least the rest of the video games?

      The whole thing's a joke.

    " [T]his is about torturing and the ritualised murder of women,”

    Clearly, a complete lack of subject knowledge doesn't stop some people from talking.

    I hope Target stops selling female dolls now, because what's stopping someone buying one of them and making a YouTube video of themselves brutally hacking it apart?

    Violence against women is wrong! Violence against men... who gives a shite.

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