Fans of GTA V will have seen off 2014 with a shock as it was announced that one of the most popular games of the 21st century had been banned from Australian stores.
Both the Target and Kmart stores made the controversial decision to pull the game from their shelves in December following a series of complaints from customers. Many claimed that the game was “sexually violent” and disrespectful towards women.
It’s been suggested that the complaints came from three women who set up a petition on www.change.org for Target to remove the game from their stores. The petition gained 40,000 signatures and Target have since said that the decision “was in line with the majority view of customers.”
While the game’s graphic content may seem enough to warrant a ban in Australia, it seems that the nation as a whole may be slightly more sensitive than its Commonwealth brothers. Looking back over at the catalogue of games that have been banned in the country, gaming fans in Britain or North America would probably laugh at the titles and their subsequent reasons.
Take, for example, the Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure game by Mark Ecko, which was released in 2006. The game, which featured themes of graffiti art, was refused classification on the grounds that it may “glorify street art” and may encourage tagging amongst Australia’s youth. It was something of a silly gaming concept in the first place, but its subsequent censorship was even worse.
Perhaps the latter is the most extreme case for Australia, which has also been known to ban Fallout 3 for “encouraging drug use” and Witcher 2 for “using sex as a prize.” However, there is a certain degree of hypocrisy to be gleaned from the nation as a whole – if it can be so strict about its themes on video games, why can it not be with online gambling?
Under the terms of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001, online gambling is legal within Australia, providing that online casinos are licensed. So for example, it would be far easier for a gaming fan to access Euro Palace online entertainment than it would for him or her to walk into a store and pick up a game that was rated R prior to its ban. It’s something of a laughable issue: if online gambling, by comparison, is only legal in three states in North America, why are Australia so lenient about it?
What it all boils down to is personal censorship. Just as parents can ensure that their children do not have access to these over 18s sites, so too should they decide whether or not they think these types of video games are appropriate for their family. Classification ratings are there for a reason, and the Australian government should be way of this and put the decision in the players’ hands.