There's no such thing as an official Grand Theft Auto game until there's been a bit of controversy leading to its removal from at least one set of store shelves. It's a right of passage for the GTA series, if you will, and GTA V -- an excellent game, we might add -- just earned its place among the franchise's previous titles by ruffling feathers in Australia, leading to its ousting from Target stores.
At issue this time around is the "game's depictions of violence against women." Jim Cooper, general manager of corporate affairs for Target, explained to The Guardian that customers have voiced a "significant level of concern about the game's content." At the same time, he's heard from people on the other end of the spectrum.
Females characters have limited roles in GTA V, and most of them aren't very flattering.
"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 V is in line with the majority view of our customers," Cooper said.
Separate reports say Target Australia received a petition with nearly 40,000 signatures demanding the game be removed. According to the petition, the game gives players plenty of "incentive is to commit sexual violence against women, then abuse or kill them to proceed or get 'health' points."
That's a bit of an exaggeration, though that's not to say GTA V shines a particularly bright light on women -- it often portrays them as prostitutes, strippers, and dim-witted girlfriends. However, of all the tasks you must perform to advance in the game, including graphic torture, sexually assaulting and killing women aren't among them. Yes, you can sleep with a prostitute and put a bullet in her head if you wish, but it's no more necessary than pummeling a random male to death with your bare hands, which you can also do and be financially rewarded for if he had cash on him. It's all part of the open world setting you're thrust into.
Not every moment in GTA V is violent or demeaning to women, like watching the sunset over the ocean.
"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, CEO of GTA V's publisher Take-Two Interactive, according to IGN.
"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."
It's worth mentioning that the petition and subsequent removal of GTA V from Target isn't a political play, as is often the case when the topic of violence in games comes up. The women who initiated the petition are survivors of sexual violence, which is an unfortunately big problem in Australia.
IGN says statistics show that on average, a woman is killed every week in Australia as the result of sexual violence, and one in three women have suffered physical and/or sexual violence by someone they know.