Mr Alan Carpenter
Executive General Manager Corporate Affairs
11th Floor, Wesfarmers House
40 The Esplanade
Perth WA 6000
Dear Mr Carpenter
I am writing to you to express my disappointment in the Wesfarmers Group, specifically the actions of the brands Target and Kmart.
News broke on the 3rd of December that Target Australia would be removing from the sale a game called Grand Theft Auto V following a petition admonishing it as a game which encouraged players to commit acts of sexual violence toward women, and rewarded them for doing so. The next day, a press release from Kmart Australia confirmed that they would be taking the same action.
The petition itself is worded in emotional language, describing players being given “options to kill women by punching her [sic] unconscious, killing with a machete, bat or guns to get their money returned [after a sex act]”, as a misogynistic game which “literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women”, that it links sexual arousal and violence, and that is “grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women”. The petition also mentions a Youtube clip showing a player repeated engaging in in-game violence against women.
These allegations are serious, and if they were indeed correct allegations I would completely understand Target Australia and Kmart Australia’s decision to pull the game from shelves – I am disgusted by the idea of violence against women, or anyone, and a game based solely on senseless violent premises would be one I would be the first to vote with my feet against and not purchase.
However, it is clear from the content of the petition, as well as my own knowledge of the game, having played it myself over a year ago when it was released, that the signatories to the petition have little or no actual knowledge of the actual game’s content, or the classification laws of the country that we live in.
The game is what is referred as an “open-world” or “sandbox” game. This game gives players complete freedom over the actions that they take. This means that the player can commit violence against other people, both men and women. There is no increased “reward” for being violent against a woman, and in the context of the game, bystanders will come to aid of someone who has been attacked, and the players will be chased by the police and arrested for committing acts of violence. There is no encouragement at all, nor is there a requirement for players to commit acts of violence against women in game.
It’s also worth noting the mention of grooming another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women. The product in question is rated as R18+. As you would be aware, products with this rating are restricted to those over the age of 18. If the concern is that children are playing this game, as a society we need to better educate parents of what the rating system means in our country, especially in terms of video games, as children should not even be playing such games.
To put this into perspective, a children’s game, LEGO Marvel Superheroes, features similar “open-world” mechanics, where players can drive a LEGO car or walk the streets. In these sequences, players can run over or bash female LEGO mini-figures, which will then fall apart and provide the player with “pips” as a reward. As this game gives players exactly the same motivation and encouragement to commit acts of violence against women, will Wesfarmers companies also be removing this product from shelves? I would think not.
You also sell a number of R18+ rated movies and television series that prominently feature sexual violence against women as part of their plotlines. In some cases the perpetrators of these acts do so with no consequences. Will you also withdraw these products from sale?
It is clear from your response to the petition and specific references to the game’s content in press releases from Target Australia and Kmart Australia that you have no real knowledge of the game’s content. Your companies do not know their own product well enough to know that the content of the petition is an emotionally charged and manipulated description of the product. And that is disappointing and concerning to me.
I cannot in good faith bring my business to a company that does not know its own product.
I’ve given plenty of business to your group of companies over the years, from your Coles, Liquorland and 24 hour Kmart at Waratah, to your Bunning Warehouse at Kotara. I also seriously considered taking up insurance through your insurance arm.
While it probably means nothing to you as a company (what’s one person in the grand scheme of things, right?), I just wanted to tell you that you have lost a long-term, loyal customer.
I’m sad to tell you that, but in the end I need to protect the values that I hold dear – freedom of expression, the right of an adult to decide based on real evidence what is the best product for them, and the belief that a company should know a product it sells.