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July 21, 2005 1:02 AM   Subscribe

The ESRB changes GTA: San Andreas rating from "M" (Mature) to "AO" (Adults Only). This following a brief media blitz surrounding the "Hot Coffee" mod, a fan-made workaround that allows players to access what amounts to a "dry humping" minigame in the code which was not made directly available in the game. In the PC version, the mod adds nude models. [more inside]
posted by Target Practice (111 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Target Practice posts "because a third party created a workaround that lets you play this minigame, with nude models added by the third party."

The CNN report I saw mentioned that all the code was already present à la Easter Egg. Is that wrong?
posted by Gyan at 1:05 AM on July 21, 2005


Head-shot civilians with a sniper rifle all you want, but don't you dare engage in sexual activity outside of marriage.
posted by nightchrome at 1:06 AM on July 21, 2005


Let's go over that again. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is being given the AO rating - essentially the gaming equivalent of a porn rating - because a third party created a workaround that lets you play this minigame, with nude models added by the third party.

I'm no fan of GTA, but this is utterly ridiculous. Maybe Rockstar should have removed the minigame entirely from the code, but we are in any event talking about a sexually-explicit scene created by someone other than the game's developers. Are they also going to impose the AO rating on the next Lara Croft game because somebody might create another Nude Raider patch?

The impetus for all this, of course, is the absurd notion still ingrained into the public mind that video games are "just for children". It's obvious people like Hillary Clinton and Joseph Lieberman believe so. This only makes the whole issue more ridiculous, though: With all the violence and gore and sexuality in GTA, it was this that somehow pushed it over to the edge into the realm of "unsuitable for children"? Gimme a break.

Gyan: My understanding is that the nudity is added by the modders, and is only in the PC version. I don't think CNN knows enough to make a distinction. But if I'm wrong, I'll gladly correct it.
posted by Target Practice at 1:10 AM on July 21, 2005


And frankly, even if the nudity WAS hardcoded, it doesn't change the fact that we're talking about (1) a part of the game only accessible by third-party editing and (2) That the whole issue seems a bit moot when we're talking about a game intended to be played by people "17 or older" (which is what "M" means).
posted by Target Practice at 1:13 AM on July 21, 2005


The "Hot Coffee" mini-game was already present in the game code, in all three versions - PC , PS2, and Xbox. This has been proven by it being in the PS2, as the mini-game is unlocked by a very short GameShark code - As shown by GameSpot. It was locked away, and couldn't be accessed without third-party tools, but it existed in the gamecode nonetheless, and was part of the game you can purchase off the shelf today.

Would the game have gotten an "AO" rating if reviewed by the ESRB had they seen the "Hot Coffee" mini-game? Of course. Instead of removing it from the game, though, Rockstar left it in, and they only reason they could possibly have to do that is so it would be discovered, creating a meda stir, etc. Game sales getting a little sluggish a few months after the release? Get on IRC as an anoymous game "hacker", tell people about it, create a new controversy to push a few million more copies out the door.

Of course, they probably weren't planning on having to recall the game due to the public outcry, er, media frenzy induced by a few politicians and lawyers trying to make a bigger name for themselves.
posted by SkelPaff at 1:15 AM on July 21, 2005


...Or it was too much trouble to take it out.
...Or it was added for fun by some of the programmers without the company's knowledge.
...Or someone was just lazy.

I don't really feel like defending Rockstar on this count, because I don't like them in the first place. I'm just saying the whole thing is ridiculous.

...and SkelPaff, I know it's in the Xbox/PS2 versions. My point is that, as far as I know (and I haven't seen it), the XBox/PS2 versions basically have clothed characters dry-humping.

Incidentally, I wonder if anybody here remembers a similar debacle surrounding Leisure Suit Larry 7. It wasn't actually in the game, as I recall, but there were some animations (originating at Sierra) going around involving Larry having sex with some of the game's female characters.
posted by Target Practice at 1:21 AM on July 21, 2005


SkelPaff, I'm loving the idea of a sneaky 'easter egg' slow-sales antidote returning to bite them in the ass. Nice theory.
posted by dabitch at 1:28 AM on July 21, 2005


This is the game where you play a gang banger, perform illegal activities too varied and numerous to list, can do "pimp missions" where you have to get your ho to the john in a timely fashion, where you can and do rob, steal, and kill anything that moves, and there is an uproar because of a sex minigame?

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, over.
posted by Justinian at 1:30 AM on July 21, 2005


Oh yes, as an aside... this post was far too long for the front page. Everything after the first paragraph should have been a "more inside".
posted by Justinian at 1:31 AM on July 21, 2005


Leaving uncompleted/excised features in shipping games is very, very common. If you work to finish something and discover that it can't be completed due to time constraints, ratings, or otherwise, it's much much easier to leave the data in the game but make it inaccessible. The existence of the game in the PS2 version just proves that they didn't have the time and effort needed to delete it properly.

However, I am a bit confused by its existence in the xbox and pc versions. These versions came out several months after the original, and they presumably had plenty of time to reorganize data while they were cleaning things up and doing bug checking. It's really pretty lazy for rockstar to install something to disk and take up space on people's computers that isnt even available. That said, many other developers do this, a recent example would be Knights of the Old Republic 2, which had half an hour or so of unattainable voiceovers in the data files.

I'm not sure if this is a dangerous precedent or not. It's essentially the same as rating the movie based on deleted scenes. This will lead to developers being much more careful in removing deleted material, which will probably just waste development time in the long run.
posted by JZig at 1:41 AM on July 21, 2005


[more inside] is your friend, Target Practice.

Here's the Gamespot article that confirms that the minigame exists in the PS2 version

Here are the codes you'll need to access that content in the PS2 version, if you're into that sort of thing.

Here's the Wikipedia entry for the Hot Coffee Mod.

Here's all the titles the ESRB has rated AO (Adults Only). It's a short list and with good reason...big chains like Walmart refuse to carry AO titles, just like they refuse to carry NC-17 movies. You lose a store like Walmart, sales for your game plummet. I'm not sure if this holds true for a series as massive as the GTA series, but it certainly would lead less well-known titles to an early demise.
posted by unsupervised at 1:55 AM on July 21, 2005


I'm just looking at the whole debacle from a business perspective - skipping over the whole "parents should be more responsible", "where do the kids get the money to buy the damn game to begin with", "headshots okay, but no tits", and "freedom of speech" arguments that invariably crop up every time something like this happens, and going straight to the bottom line.

It was just plain stupid of Rockstar to leave the code in there. Sure, a developer might be able to slip a few tweaks here and there into the code, but this is a whole freaking mini-game. If they had it in there initially and pulled it because they knew it'd generate an AO rating, why'd they port it to the PC? There's only a few plausible answers, and none of them look good.

And let's not forget they publicly denied it was in there when directly asked. After all, they just got done with an SEC investigation, now they're just begging for a shareholder lawsuit. They've already had to change their earnings forecast because of this, so if it was all a publicity stunt, it's all gone horribly wrong. It just so turns out there is such a thing as bad publicity, whodathunkit?

The game industry already has enough trouble with its own Free Speech issues. It doesn't need companies trying to sneak code past their own review boards, that they fund. It makes Take 2 look bad, It makes the ESRB look bad, it makes the whole industry look bad, and it does nothing but give more ammunition to the reactionary element out there who still think video games are for innocent 10-15 year olds (who, using their parents' Internet connection, download tons of porn anyway, not needing to get their rocks off with a video game).

...

My fear right now is that this whole incident is going to be the straw that breaks the camel's back; even if the government doesn't intercede this time, I'm expecting to see game companies to begin some serious self-censorship (remember Nintendo's "no blood" rule back on the Super Nintendo in the 90's?), for the major retailers to stop stocking controversial M-rated games (Wal-Mart sales alone can make or break a company, and they can and will start calling the shots after this, just like they do for music), and basically for the whole industry to play goody-goody for the next few years, or until the country shifts back to the left again, or until the media gets distracted and finds something new to hype.
posted by SkelPaff at 1:55 AM on July 21, 2005


What Jzig said. The data sets in these games are immense, and the deadlines often intense. I can understand not all the unused data getting identified and shaved down. This over-reaction is stupid.

Additionally, I suspect PR/Management was genuinely unaware that old code had been found in the game, rather than outright lying when they blamed the 3rd party.

The over-reaction is still stupid.
Changing the ESRB rating is also stupid. the ESRB should have had the guts to say the M classification suits this content. Now people are going to think this was pornography hidden in a kids game, when it was never a kid's game, and there is no pornography.
posted by -harlequin- at 1:56 AM on July 21, 2005


First the SimCopter scandal, now this! This makes me yearn for the golden age of home entertainment, when kids used to have real sex with one another.

This instructional video shows just how easy it is for kids to install the naked boobies on a PC.
posted by eatitlive at 2:00 AM on July 21, 2005


But if I'm wrong, I'll gladly correct it.

As mentioned, you are wrong about the content only being provided by modders. All the nudity is in the game, this mod is equivalent to a key to "unlock" it.

Thing is, this doesn't matter now. The media blitz surrounding the GTA series, combined with the fact that it's already been on sale for quite a while, only means that it will sell more copies. If a 13 year-old can figure out how to run the mod, they sure as hell can figure out how to buy it from a place other than Wal-Mart.

On preview:

HOLY SHIT, NICE USE OF AJAX, MATT!!!!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 2:03 AM on July 21, 2005


If they had it in there initially and pulled it because they knew it'd generate an AO rating, why'd they port it to the PC? There's only a few plausible answers, and none of them look good.

Why do you think the minigame had to have special attention to be ported, instead of just coming along for the ride? I'm under the impression that gameplay mechanics code is platform independant, and can generally be directly ported without much tweaking, it's graphics handling code and stuff like that which needs more oversight and/or rewriting. It doesn't strike me as implausible that inaccessible sections get ported with accessible sections with no-one noticing, or caring, or having the time to alter these things.

I think it's plausible that it's just old content. I think it's also plausible that this is Rockstar's idea of a good easter egg. I tend to think the former however, because they would have known they would never get away with denying an easter egg - the proof is in every copy of the game they sell.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:06 AM on July 21, 2005


Do any major chains even carry AO-rated games? This is crazy.
posted by jimmy at 2:07 AM on July 21, 2005


Bah more controversial marketing, damn cares about the damn game it's so long and boring it appeals only to those who didn't change grow a bit since GTA.

Oh wait that's the main GTA audience !

/rant , still the same ol shit
posted by elpapacito at 2:18 AM on July 21, 2005


Jimmy: I don't think so - this could potentially break a few store policies, as it's a hot product and already in their system and on their shelves. Perhaps that's enough that stores will be reluctant to send back their stock.

I wonder if no-AO stores who continue to sell the game (and I'm sure there will be some) will fail to put an AO sticker over the ESRB rating on the box, or bite the bullet and publically eat their policy. If they don't do the sticker thing, they could be open to consumer rights laws due to false labelling.

By capitulating like this, the ESRB may have created a headache for stores everywhere, which isn't what they're supposed to be doing.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:20 AM on July 21, 2005


Hey, we needed some good discrediting of video game ratings anywho. If more kids are buying AO games, more parents ignore the warnings.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:24 AM on July 21, 2005


Unused, or unfinished stuff gets left in games all the time. I'm assuming this minigame just got cut at the last minute. Probably by the publisher, during final submissions. Towards the end, the preference is to change as little as possible, to minimise the possibility of creating new bugs, or waking dormant ones. Game development pipelines can be pretty hairy, and removing assets could well be non-trivial.
posted by inpHilltr8r at 2:38 AM on July 21, 2005


The pipelines may or may not have been hairy and the assets non-trivial. But Rockstar relies so heavily on their rebellious corporate image to market games -- of course they intended for these scenes to be discovered.

Rockstar's brand of pop nihilism is the equivalent of suburban ghetto rap, so extremely calculated that the final product turns out to be comically overdone. (Not to mention hugely overpriced.) Can you just imagine the production meetings for the sex scenes?
"Should we have the guy shoot his load on her face or on her ass?"

"Let's get Marketing's opinion on this, so we can find out how that tested with the 15-to-18-year-olds."

"Word."
posted by eatitlive at 3:15 AM on July 21, 2005


You owe me a new keyboard, eatitlive.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:19 AM on July 21, 2005


They should make a big ass marketting ploy out of this: release an M version, wait 4 months, release a really good AO version. 98% of the AO version is just ripped off from the M version, so its cheap to make, but it also has very cool new bits which fans would enjoy a lot. No doubt, the fan base who would buy the AO version would go places besides WallMart, but WallMart could just keep selling the M version.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:43 AM on July 21, 2005


What would you have the ESRB do instead? They aren't the videogame equivalent of the EFF, they aren't there to fight the power. What's the incentive to insist on keeping the M rating? They take heavy fire all the time from politicians and parents' groups, and there's already serious legislative action happening on these sorts of issues, both on the state and federal level.

Better the ESRB tighten things up a bit than play tough and encourage the politicians. If they did nothing, it would send the message that developers could skirt the ratings system by "forgetting" to remove content and making sure someone out there figures out how to unlock it. And then you can be sure we'd see legislation requiring developers to disclose every bit of code in every product. Let the ESA tackle the policy argument. Not ESRB's job.
posted by schoolgirl report at 4:40 AM on July 21, 2005


I cannot believe that a game that lets you fly around with a jetpack wielding a giant purple dildo would cross the lines of taste and believability like this.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:43 AM on July 21, 2005


unsupervised wrote "You lose a store like Walmart, sales for your game plummet."
Do they? Can you point me at some numbers to support that statement? I ask because I find the idea of buying videogames from a supermarket laughable. Perhaps I'm giving the general public credit that they don't deserve.
posted by mleonard at 4:50 AM on July 21, 2005


Of course here in puritanical Australia, there is no such thing as an "AO" rating for video games. This means it will be unclassified and withdrawn from sale, in which case the outlook for Rockstar isn't so good, because the only way people will be able to get it at all is illegally.
posted by Jimbob at 4:51 AM on July 21, 2005


I think American age restrictions make no sense anyway but since people can't shake the rules for a moment and look at each case in a broader context, maybe it will be crashing and burning. Surely they've already sold a large part of what they will sell anyway, since the PS2 version has been out since late 2004 (however the PC and Xbox versions were released only about a month ago)? I don't think it will hit them so hard, especially as lots of people who play this game ARE over 18 anyway.

I mean, in the UK you can have sex at 16 but can't look at porn til you are 18... it's about time the whole classification system is overhauled.
posted by Acey at 5:06 AM on July 21, 2005


This means it will be unclassified and withdrawn from sale, in which case the outlook for Rockstar isn't so good

I'll bet this controversy was manufactured well enough to take this into account. The added naughty publicity in the US and UK will more than make up for the loss of the smallish Australian market. Unfortunately for Australian gamers.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:06 AM on July 21, 2005


This controversy is absurdly stupid. A few peach colored pixels that can only be seen with a 3rd party tool.

I've seen Amish porn that was racier.

Live Preview makes me feel slightly drunk.
posted by mosch at 5:07 AM on July 21, 2005


unsupervised wrote "You lose a store like Walmart, sales for your game plummet."
Do they? Can you point me at some numbers to support that statement? I ask because I find the idea of buying videogames from a supermarket laughable. Perhaps I'm giving the general public credit that they don't deserve.
posted by mleonard at 7:50 AM EST on July 21 [!]


NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - More people buy video games at Wal-Mart than any other store in the country, but according to a new Piper Jaffray retail survey, they're paying more than they have to.

The idea of Wal-Mart as a "supermarket" is also laughable.
posted by trey at 5:08 AM on July 21, 2005


Good.

There is no excuse for what Rockstar did. I am not claiming that the ERSB rating system is good*, but I am saying "Come on, you live in America and know the basic rules for ratings."

YES, blowing someone's head off is considered "ok for teens if the parent says so" -- also known as rated R for movies or M for games.

But sex acts of any kind, and that's out of bounds. Even simulated ones. I mean, come on, after Janet Jackson we really need to discuss this?

Seriously, just remove the animation models and this never, ever happens. It isn't because someone hacked the game to make a virtual character appear nude -- the animation of the minigame is what did Rockstar in.

If they want to make adult entertainment, then let them. And get an AO rating, too.

* My third commercial title, Star Trek Conquest Online, received an "animated violence" rating because we drew a few red lines on screen between chess-like pieces to show attacking and defense. When I learned of this, I think they heard me at Activision HQ (and I was 1000 miles away.)
posted by andreaazure at 5:26 AM on July 21, 2005


Considering the porn you can see on the Web by lying about your age, this whole controversy is laughable, if you find hypocrisy amusing. I'm glad politicians now feel better about themselves, but the real issue here is, or should be, responsible parenting.
posted by alumshubby at 5:30 AM on July 21, 2005


Good link, but I couldn't find the figures I asked for. Wal-Mart could sell the most games in the US yet still account for only a tiny percentage of worldwide sales.
I've not been to the States, so I don't know whether the word supermarket means something different over there. Are you quibbling over the definition?
posted by mleonard at 5:33 AM on July 21, 2005


Incidentally, anyone who's interested in seeing the XXX hott polygon action for themselves can do so here. Hilarious.
posted by purplemonkie at 5:37 AM on July 21, 2005


Excessive violent content with a hidden sexy center? It's like an anti-family Mallomar! -- Lewis Black

And I can't think of anything else snarky to say... too distracted by live preview...
posted by strikhedonia at 6:03 AM on July 21, 2005


mleonard: A supermarket in the US is a grocery store. Wal-Mart "supercenters" are divided evenly between grocery store and mega-mart-sell-anything-store. There is a large electronics department, large clothing departments, sporting goods, etc. Many people do all of their shopping at Wal-Mart (I'm not one of them).

I don't know what percentage of video game sales worldwide are accounted for by Wal-Mart. But the above article says that it is the leading video game retailer in the US. Ergo, a US company would be hurt if its largest retailer decided not to sell its product.
posted by trey at 6:06 AM on July 21, 2005


Leaving aside for a second the question of whether this additional material should make for an adult rating - or whether the game should have had that already for violence - the issue of this requiring a "workaround" is truly a red herring. Game vendors take legal responsibility for selling adult-rated games only to adults (despite whatever those adults may do with them, including give them to their kids). Would only adults be able to figure out how to access the content? Hardly. Case closed.

The real issue is, as many have pointed out, sex vs violence in the media, but that's something you'll have to take up with legions of parents who back this distinction.
posted by dreamsign at 6:13 AM on July 21, 2005


The game God of War for PS2 is rated M and has a sex mini-game in the 2nd level. It also has more nudity than I've ever seen in GTA:SA. (It's also a very good game aside from that.)
posted by drstupid at 6:17 AM on July 21, 2005


From what I understand (and correct me if I'm wrong here) rating it M means only 17 and up can buy the game, but slap an AO on it and suddenly it's only 18 and up?

Right. Because we all know there's such a world of difference in that one year. 17-year olds never, never see sex in real life, so they must also not see it in animated form, especially in a game that has very little point except to carjack, kill, steal and break things for cash.

I'd love to see some stats on the age range of the average gamer. I'm fairly convinced that the generation who grew up on Atari and Nintendo makes up a much larger percentage of the people purchasing games than the precious under-16s that must be protected from digital boobies at all costs.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:20 AM on July 21, 2005


Hillary's been a pretty good senator usually, but this is just stupid. What a waste of time. Is this some sort of ploy to appeal to the soccer moms? Cuz I don't see it working.
posted by fungible at 6:24 AM on July 21, 2005


I have a question: Does the esrb classify only US games? Or is this international? In the UK the game is already an 18, I don't know if there is a higher rating. As for it being banned in places like Aus, isn't that down to them?
posted by Acey at 6:51 AM on July 21, 2005


Sorry, by 'US games', I mean 'games in the US'.
posted by Acey at 6:52 AM on July 21, 2005


clf- The difference between M and AO is solely in distribution (e.g. Wal-Mart), not any practical thing actually grounded in reason. I'd be curious, though, whether it would actually impact the sales of this particular game- does Wal-Mart sell the same proportion of GTA as it does other games (sorry, we in NYC live sheltered lives)?

Everyone here who noted that this was orchestrated by Rockstar (or their corporate master)- gold star for you. How is this any different from any well-timed celebrity "scandal"? GTA was starting to fade from the public consciousness. This kind of marketing is waaaaaaay easier than developing and selling a new game.
posted by mkultra at 6:53 AM on July 21, 2005


Wal-mart accounts for 23% of US sales (in second place was Best Buy at 16% of the market). The US video game (PC + Console) software market is worth ~$7.3 billion. The world market is worth ~$18.5 billion. This means Wal-Mart in the US alone controls 9% of the world video game market. This is a very rough estimate due to the fickle nature of these statistics, differing dates, and data sources.
posted by zsazsa at 6:54 AM on July 21, 2005


What I love is that I hadn't heard of this until Chinless Joe and the Hilary started raising a huge stink about it. Now I need a gameshark to get more fun out of my GTA: SA.

Who says politicians never do anything for the little guy?
posted by fenriq at 6:56 AM on July 21, 2005


rating it M means only 17 and up can buy the game, but slap an AO on it and suddenly it's only 18 and up?

I don't think there are official laws, so policies vary. Some places don't bother to check ratings and sell (or rent) any game to anyone. This seems to be changing, in my experience.

If a game gets an AO rating, it means a lot of places (like Wal-Mart) won't carry the game at all. I don't know if game stores like EBGames carry AO games or not - there aren't very many of them. For example: 19 games rated AO by the ESRB (thanks unsupervised), 882 rated M, 2674 rated T, and 7450 rated Early Childhood through Everyone.
posted by drstupid at 7:02 AM on July 21, 2005


Much appreciated. I had no idea the figures were that significant. In my experience, it's next to impossible to find the videogame you want at ASDA or Toys-R-Us, even if you are willing to pay the outrageous prices. I buy everything online.
posted by mleonard at 7:05 AM on July 21, 2005


Head-shot civilians with a sniper rifle all you want, but don't you dare engage in sexual activity outside of marriage.

Wish I had a nickel for everytime my wife said that to me as I walk out the door.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 7:14 AM on July 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


Incidentally, anyone who's interested in seeing the XXX hott polygon action for themselves can do so here. Hilarious.

That is some unsexy sex. Especially in that the fellow apparently doesn't even undo his trousers.
posted by ITheCosmos at 7:16 AM on July 21, 2005


America: more violence, less nudity.
So much for "make love not war."
posted by caddis at 7:29 AM on July 21, 2005


Won't someone please think of the children!!!
live preview, niiiiiice!
posted by Edible Energy at 7:41 AM on July 21, 2005


As mentioned by many above, the irony is striking.. It's a-ok to kill innocents and policemen, but sex? PROTECT MY CHILDREN!
posted by eas98 at 7:53 AM on July 21, 2005


I thought you had to show an infant bukkake to get a shock reaction from anyone who has used the Internet. This is ridiculous coming from a game that has commercials for "Glory Hole Theme Park" and constant gimp references. One mission has you killing a gimp, stealing his outfit and dildo, and then delivering it to the girlfriend. Talk about shitty politics.
posted by geoff. at 8:11 AM on July 21, 2005


Why do I feel like this is a well placed PR stunt designed to boost sales? Like it's not enough the game is full of gratuitous violence, now we might be able to see a boob? An ANIMATED boob?

Dude, I am so there... can your mom drive us to the mall?
posted by sdrawkcab at 8:13 AM on July 21, 2005


And you're all missing the other event that will come out of all this... the industry is now going to have to start lobbying government officials just like the movies, recording industry, etc etc...

Up until now, having to fund campaigns has never been on the radars of most publishers and developers because they still see themselves as a "fringe" industry with roots in the backyard garage.

Two things you'll see out of this: 1) intensified scrutiny and a move towards more "acceptable" content (read, more guns, less suggestive sexuality) 2) Increased support of political campaigns leaving some developers as the good guys, and others the bad guys that need to be stopped.

More things change... welcome to big time business vid-biz.

Oh, and mleonard - If a game can't get approved for sale at Wal-Mart there are almost zero publishers that will produce the game... that's how important Wal-Mart is.
posted by AspectRatio at 8:44 AM on July 21, 2005


what's interesting to me about the whole debate regarding gta:sa is the clash of old versus new. particularly, the old, venerable practice of putting in easter eggs (even nigh-unreachable ones, but as gamespot demostrated with its gameshark codes, certainly not absolutely unreachable) and the new practice of "modding" games. (you can thank id games for popularizing the latter, starting with DOOM and especially with quake and its little language, quake c.)

we've come to a point, now, where modding is pretty common. it's particularly common in fps games and their cousins. it's a way to drum up interest in a game long after it's been released, which game companies like because the amount of time you can keep your game on a shelf in best buy (as an example) can be frighteningly short. and it's also nice to engage your fans a bit, which modding certainly does.
posted by moz at 8:56 AM on July 21, 2005


The game God of War for PS2 is rated M and has a sex mini-game in the 2nd level. It also has more nudity than I've ever seen in GTA:SA. (It's also a very good game aside from that.)

Yes but the camera pans away during the sex scene, so all that is shown is topless nudity, which in itself isn't enough to push the game over into a AO rating. My guess is that it's the back and forth movement that sent the rating up, the parallel in the movies is that you can show a couple naked in bed together and it'll get an R, but any movement back and forth and it'll get an NC-17.

Hillary's been a pretty good senator usually, but this is just stupid. What a waste of time. Is this some sort of ploy to appeal to the soccer moms? Cuz I don't see it working.

My theory... this has nothing to do with indecency or protecting children but is in fact a shake-down for campaign contributions. Remember in the early 90's how Tipper Gore used to be a heavy critic of music and Bill Clinton's criticism of rap music (Sister Souljah)... people predicted more restrictions on music once Clinton was elected but as even as music and MTV got raunchier Tipper Gore's "crusade" seemed to dissapear. The theory is that Democrats backed off the music industry because of campaign contributions by the industry and pro-Democrat campaigning by the music industry disguised as "Rock the Vote".
posted by bobo123 at 9:06 AM on July 21, 2005


I read about Hillary Clinton making a stink about this as well. Fuck the puritan bent that everyone's pushing for in this country. I didn't get it with Janet Jackson, I don't get it with this.

If, in high school, you sat down and wrote a story with all the actions that take place in the GTA:SA game, you'd be called in for counseling by the principal/police.
Why is evisceration healthy and ejaculation not?

The thing that gets my bile rising about this is that it's going to have ripple effects on the programming level. PC games have been lobotomized by the popularity of platform games, and this will lower the ceiling further on how much they should work on a game.

Why is it not adult-only to be able to pick up a hooker and fuck to regain health, but not do a dance-step game of sex?

Truly, methinks the ESRB protests too much.
posted by Busithoth at 9:14 AM on July 21, 2005


Having to shoot other characters in order to make progress in the game is fine. Having to shoot cops sometimes, with impunity (as long as you remember where the damn Pay'n'Spray is) is apparently OK as well. But people fucking? O my God, call the National Guard!

At least one country's lost its sense of priorities...
posted by clevershark at 9:26 AM on July 21, 2005


"the industry is now going to have to start lobbying government officials just like the movies, recording industry, etc etc..."
Perhaps that's by design AspectRatio . Mebbe someone went: "Hey, these guys aren't paying us off!"

"Hillary's been a pretty good senator usually,"
*spits out hot coffee onto keyboard* - wha?
Ok, well, I don't live there so...

:or until the country shifts back to the left again,"
SkelPaff - um, Clinton? Anyone remember Tipper Gore & the PMRC? Hello? Anyone? Bueller?

"Come on, you live in America and know the basic rules for ratings."
Sometimes you have to say "F U" to the Fed. ...of course, those Shay's boys did that and the Mass. Governor Bowdoin called out some mercenaries on 'em.

hmm... the more things change indeed.
posted by Smedleyman at 9:37 AM on July 21, 2005


bobo: My guess is that it's the back and forth movement that sent the rating up

I think that is probably it, and that GTA probably sold a hundred times more copies than God of War, so the pressure on the ESRB is greater.

And your point about campaign contributions is a good one too. I hope Rockstar, Take Two and all the others are paying attention when 2006 and 2008 roll around.
posted by drstupid at 9:44 AM on July 21, 2005


Yeah, killing's fine but sex is evil. Unless you're killing people while having sex and then I guess that's fine too. So long as your arousal comes from the killing and not the sex.

America has its priorities buggered up good when violence is sensationalized but sex is demonized.

I've been trying to find a transcript from The People vs. Larry Flynt where Flynt talks about getting a Pulitzer for showing someone murdering another person but you get a jail sentence for showing a graphic image of a man and woman engaging in sexual relations. And that is damned fudged up.
posted by fenriq at 9:59 AM on July 21, 2005


Screw Walmart -- I bet GTA sales go through the roof because of this.
posted by danb at 10:04 AM on July 21, 2005


I know people act like they don't understand why sexual content is so maligned next to violent content but I really don't think it is that hard to figure out.

Parent groups aren't all THAT dumb, they probably know, (mostly from being teenagers themselves), that teens are a lot more likely to have sex than kill people. And I really think the stats back them up on this. They wanna control sexual content more than violent content because it just isn't realistic to worry about the killing the vast majority of the time. And parents probably also know that in those sad cases that do end up being killers, there will probably be many more warning signs that are much more reliable than playing GTA.

You can fault them for being anti-teen sex, (but this isn't going to go very far in front of a mainstream audience), or for wanting an unrealistic level of control over it, but it isn't a stupid thing for them to concentrate on.
posted by SomeOneElse at 10:19 AM on July 21, 2005


I've seen back and forth movement in R-rated movies... (Vanilla Sky, for example)
posted by knave at 10:21 AM on July 21, 2005


I remember covering a story about B-17 Fortress-something or other. If you opened up one of the files with a Hex-editor it listed lots and lots and lots and lots of porn sites (including some beastiality porn sites) that had been on the developer's computer when he compiled the file.

Action that was taken? Zero.
posted by Navek Rednam at 10:30 AM on July 21, 2005


SkelPaff: It was just plain stupid of Rockstar to leave the code in there. Sure, a developer might be able to slip a few tweaks here and there into the code, but this is a whole freaking mini-game. If they had it in there initially and pulled it because they knew it'd generate an AO rating, why'd they port it to the PC?

I would have to guess you're not intimately involved in the software business. A project of the size and scope of GTA:SA isn't "ported" to anything. It's developed in parallel on all the target platforms at once. A considerable effort is expended just to develop the software tools used to build the different versions of the game. It's a complex affair, and the last thing anyone would want to do is to add the complexity of exceptions and differences (like removing a feature from one platform) late in the development process, which would trigger a time-consuming and expensive new round of testing.

None of which proves that this was a slip-up, of course. But it's extremely plausible.

clevershark: At least one country's lost its sense of priorities...

It has ever been so in the US of A. Americans live in mortal fear of the day their kids ask them an embarassing question. I think that's the real reason there's so much support for abstinence-only sex education; many American adults aren't grown-up enough to talk about sex with anyone, let alone their own kids.
posted by Western Infidels at 10:37 AM on July 21, 2005


How could this really be a slip-up? I understand that it's plausible that Rockstar could have removed the naughty bits at the last minute, had they been something that was truly intended for the final product, and not wanted to spend the QA cycle necessary to get rid of the code completely. But that presumes that they would ever have considered including the scene in the final version of the game. They never would have gotten an M with that scene in, and they couldn't sell to Wal-Mart with an AO, so clearly this was something that was never intended to be active when the game hit shelves.

Ditto essentially everyone's comments. The US needs to come to terms with sex and/or stop being so cozy with violence.
posted by gurple at 10:46 AM on July 21, 2005


GTA San Andreas, without any modification, right out of the box, lets you pick up hookers in your stolen car, drive to a remote location with them, have the vehicle bounce about a bit, wait until the whore gets out and starts to walk away, then kill her with a machine gun, then beat her already lifeless corpse into a bloody stain on the ground with a large purple dildo, and then take photos of it, and then - if you like - get back in your car and spread her, in the form of bright red skid marks, all over the hillside.

No need to ask me how I know.

Was the above not enough to warrant an Adults Only rating by itself?!
posted by dickasso at 10:58 AM on July 21, 2005


Hmm, a game first released 9 months ago, and whose initial sales cycle is probably slowing, returns to public attention by way of a sex scandal.

My money says this was a contingency marketing plan all along.
posted by mischief at 11:00 AM on July 21, 2005


You can fault them for being anti-teen sex, (but this isn't going to go very far in front of a mainstream audience), or for wanting an unrealistic level of control over it, but it isn't a stupid thing for them to concentrate on.

Uh, I think it's the exposure to the imagery that's so offensive. I also think that if you don't acknowledge that those sexual urges come from within, you're just deluded. If someone tried to recreate those sex acts because of the game, it'd be the last time they had sex for a long time. LEFT! RIGHT! UP! DOWN! UP! UP! UP!

I guess it's just another example of not being able to have an adult conversation in the United States.

on preview, dickasso, that's just a hooker. everyone knows that simultated violence and sex with them doesn't count a whit.
posted by Busithoth at 11:06 AM on July 21, 2005


I don't understand the uproar over this. There is NO WAY that parents should be letting their kids play this game anyway. It's a great game (loong, but fun), but with all the pimpin' and hoin' and killin' and shit, kids shouldn't play. I hate kids. I hate stupid parents who have to rely on Wal-Mart to keep the bad games away from them.
posted by graventy at 11:17 AM on July 21, 2005


I don't understand the uproar over this. There is NO WAY that parents should be letting their kids play this game anyway. It's a great game (loong, but fun), but with all the pimpin' and hoin' and killin' and shit, kids shouldn't play. I hate kids. I hate stupid parents who have to rely on Wal-Mart to keep the bad games away from them.
posted by graventy at 11:18 AM on July 21, 2005


Why didn't Rockstar just code in an option to turn the violence and sexual content down to whatever level the player wanted? There are times I don't play the game because there are kids playing around outside and I don't want them to hear my tv shouting swears.

But yeah, I'd put a few bucks on this being part of the marketing plan.
posted by fenriq at 11:21 AM on July 21, 2005


AspectRatio: the industry is now going to have to start lobbying government officials just like the movies, recording industry, etc etc...

Videogames have had a lobby for a while now, called the Electronic Software Association (formerly the Interactive Digital Software Association, whose website is still partially available). Some of the ESA's members are Time Warner, Vivendi, Microsoft, Sony, and Take-Two Interactive who own Rockstar.

The game industry brought in $7.3 billion last year, by ESA's numbers. Take-Two is publicly traded under the NASDAQ ticker symbol TTWO. This notion some gamers have that software publishers are outside of the typical constraints that affect the rest of the entertainment media industry is just as outdated as the notion that teenage boys are the only people playing games.
posted by eatitlive at 11:24 AM on July 21, 2005


SkelPaff writes "Sure, a developer might be able to slip a few tweaks here and there into the code, but this is a whole freaking mini-game. "

And MS shipped a flight simulator in Excel. I think this is a plublicity tactic but it wouldn't surprise me at all if it was a easter egg from a lone developer either.

There are probably a lot more games out there that would receive the AO rating if the developers bothered to submit them for review. Playboy has been releasing games for the PC for ages and few wouldn't get an AO rating.
posted by Mitheral at 11:27 AM on July 21, 2005


I'd have a hell of a lot more problem with my kids killing someone than if they had knocked up/gotten knocked up because they had sex.
Not that I'd like the latter. They should at least have protection. But c'mon.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:24 PM on July 21, 2005


Too bad the game has already sold 800 bagillion copies.
posted by AMWKE at 12:46 PM on July 21, 2005


I'd have a hell of a lot more problem with my kids killing someone than if they had knocked up/gotten knocked up because they had sex.

Damn right, Smedleyman. Since when is wacking someone more acceptable than wacking off?
posted by jrossi4r at 1:01 PM on July 21, 2005


See also.
posted by kafziel at 1:14 PM on July 21, 2005


I find hilarious irony in the fact that the events of GTA: San Andreas take place around 1990 and include a lot of music from rappers who were at odds with Parental Discretion Advisory labels.
posted by mikeh at 1:36 PM on July 21, 2005


eatitlive writes This notion some gamers have that software publishers are outside of the typical constraints that affect the rest of the entertainment media industry is just as outdated as the notion that teenage boys are the only people playing games.

The truth of the matter is that publishers, TTWO especially, have continued to operate outside of these constraints. And I would be surprised to learn that the chief officers of the company knew about this mod. Rather, it seems like an inside joke of some of the programmers... who absolultely act like they are outside of any constraints.

And btw... I'm not a gamer, but in the industry, and I see this attitude at many studios. I do imagine with current events, however, that this viewpoint will shift dramatically as corporate leadership will be forced to pay much closer attention to what is being put into the games.
posted by AspectRatio at 1:40 PM on July 21, 2005


SomeOneElse writes "Parent groups aren't all THAT dumb, they probably know, (mostly from being teenagers themselves), that teens are a lot more likely to have sex than kill people."

So one presumes also that according to you that desire to have sex is entirely due to what they see in one videogame, and has nothing to do with the raging hormones that are a hallmark of one's teenage years?
posted by clevershark at 1:58 PM on July 21, 2005


schoolgirl report:
What would you have the ESRB do instead? They aren't the videogame equivalent of the EFF, they aren't there to fight the power. What's the incentive to insist on keeping the M rating?

I would have them use their rating system correctly and consistantly instead of letting it flap in the inconsistant wind of media attention.


The appropriate rating would be "M" with a Sexual Themes warning. Mature Sexual Themes was defined as
"Contains provocative material: including depiction of the human body either animated or photographic-like formats."

If you compare the dry humping mini-game with the photographic lesbian sex scenes of actual AO titles, and then to the sexual content of M titles, it seems pretty clear that GTA is an M game.

Furthermore, the game rating should not even apply to Hot Coffee, because the consistant way the ratings systems deals with game experiences that are not out of the box, but instead require internet intervention, is the addition of the "Game Experience May Change During Online Play" warning.
It is not possible to play Hot Coffee without downloading stuff from the internet with the express purpose of changing the game experience. Therefore Hot Coffee is not "out of the box".

Changing the rating to AO lowers the ESRB credibility and undermines their entire purpose. That is their incentive to have a spine.

No one trusts the ratings of an agency that rates according to media attention and scandal, instead of actual content and the specifications of the rating system.

And rightly so. Such agencies are worse than worthless.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:12 PM on July 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


I hope someone has already pointed out how ridiculous it is for those Democratic senators to be upset over computer-generated porn when various members of the Bush administration (who happen to enjoy carnal knowlege of barnyard sows) are allowed to run rampant through the Whitehouse teaching our kids once again, it's ok to lie, just make sure to have powerful friends and lots of money.
posted by chibikeandy at 2:33 PM on July 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


mischief : "Hmm, a game first released 9 months ago, and whose initial sales cycle is probably slowing"

Only released for PC and XBox about a month and a bit ago.
posted by Bugbread at 2:39 PM on July 21, 2005


Hillary Clinton just made me vomit a little in my mouth.
posted by mosch at 2:40 PM on July 21, 2005


chibikeandy : "I hope someone has already pointed out how ridiculous it is for...Democratic...Bush administration..."

Yes. It has been pointed out.
posted by Bugbread at 2:40 PM on July 21, 2005


Frankly, if a kid is sophisticated enough to own the PC version and go through the hassle of finding and installing a mod, he's sophisticated enough to see some titty. This kind of thing is about as dangerous to society as finding porn in the woods.
posted by MegoSteve at 3:10 PM on July 21, 2005


I don' t think it is a working plan, or a great idea, or that teenagers don't have innate sexual urges, but seriously.

They go after this stuff for a reason, and no I don't think it is purely the extremity of the content or the images. I think it is because they are concerned with every drop in the bucket.

Yes, anybody that sophisticated can find their own porn, but my only argument is that there is a reason that people concentrate more on sexual content than violent content, and it isn't just irrationality. I don't see why you extrapolate that to meaning that they think that the content is solely responsible for sexual urges, any more than you can rationally blame the behavior of any human being on any one experience as trivial as a videogame.

Of course you find the idea of your kids killing more offensive than the idea of their having sex. But one of those things is by all statistical evidence FAR more likely than the other, to the point where it becomes more of a rational thing to be worried about!
posted by SomeOneElse at 4:05 PM on July 21, 2005


Someoneelse:

there is a reason that people concentrate more on sexual content than violent content, and it isn't just irrationality.

I'm under the impression that in some countries, people concentrate on violence more than sexual content, suggesting that it is not rational, or at best, cultural.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:05 PM on July 21, 2005


(That's not taking a position on whether any countries are right, simply noting that the discrepancy in priorities undermines the argument that sexual content is legitimately more worrisome than violence.)
posted by -harlequin- at 5:09 PM on July 21, 2005


I'd posit that a possible third choice is that it isn't that sex is more legitimately worrisome than violence, or that it isn't, but that some people may consider it as such.

That doesn't make much sense. Perhaps an example: If the weather forecast says "50% chance of rain", some people may view that as a high chance, and take an umbrella (better safe than sorry). Some may view that as a low chance, and not bother with an umbrella (just as likely to be sunny as rainy). Neither is particularly wrong, or illegitimate, they're just focussing on different sides of the situation.

In the same way, railing against sex instead of violence may not de facto mean that you're "OK with violence but opposed to sex" (as is usually posited in these discussions), nor would it, de facto, mean that you're doing so because focussing on sex instead of violence is definitely more rational, but the third choice: some cultures may see the "probable but less extreme" choice as more worthy of effort than the "improbable but worse" choice.
posted by Bugbread at 5:17 PM on July 21, 2005


I don't get how people have been trying to equate the harmfulness of violence vs. sex. It's not about that. It's about sex being easy to get into with no one visibly hurt, but on the inside all fucked up instead of cute and innocent as children ideally should be (especially when there's even a slight age difference). Especially very young children--they shouldn't be exposed to sexual (especially outright lascivious porn) themes until they are ready...Part of parenting is protecting the child from these elements, and the laws help with that. I don't see any problem with the laws getting backed by these politicians.

Now, i may not like kids much, but I like the idea of children who are innocent, instead of children who are perverts.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 5:49 PM on July 21, 2005


gorgor balabal, so its AOK for 19? but 18 year olds are perfect innocents?
caust thats all the rating changes.
posted by Iax at 6:36 PM on July 21, 2005


I don't really know, I mean, the dating mini-games were a giant pain in the ass. Bitch was always making me stop so she could shoot up some gang-bangers, or asking to go dance (ugh). If I'd've gotten a little pixellated boobage for a reward, I probably would have actually dated all the ladies.
posted by graventy at 6:40 PM on July 21, 2005


No kidding. "Deniece" is easily the most annoying, uninteresting bitch in the history of videogames. It took me a surprisingly short time before I just took the initiative of shooting her (or did I beat her to death with the flowers... I forget).
posted by clevershark at 7:49 PM on July 21, 2005


If you are a parent of a young child and you bought him or her a copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, you are not doing your job, regardless of whether there's sex in it. GTA: SA is so clearly not for children that I don't think any of the "protect the children" arguments hold water, any more than a sudden outcry over nudity in Playboy would.
posted by MegoSteve at 8:54 PM on July 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


"Only released for PC and XBox about a month and a bit ago."

Even better still.
posted by mischief at 9:16 PM on July 21, 2005


test.. wow. cool.
Live preview, my friends!
And despite the fact that there's a little box that's showing me in living colour that my comment has no real content, I'm going to hit post anyway.
posted by blacklite at 9:40 PM on July 21, 2005


Oh I'm not at all saying it is rational, I just don't think it is irrational. Heh. I mean that there is an argument for their position, and it isn't that they think that violence is worse than sex, just that sex is so much more likely. (So many people lament (incorrectly, imho) our society's inability to make basic value judgments every time this issue comes up that I wanted to take a stand I knew would get me flamed. I just think it is stupid and demeaning to say that these people think that sex is worse than murder. I can't say that nobody thinks that, because there's always a fringe lunatic, but that is really not what most people who are worried about content are after).
posted by SomeOneElse at 12:55 AM on July 22, 2005


Iax, no i meant the kids who live with the other kids and have an i.q. over 90 but as yet no well-defined libido.

(or something...i just can't be bothered anymore)
posted by gorgor_balabala at 1:46 AM on July 22, 2005


MegoSteve wrote "This kind of thing is about as dangerous to society as finding porn in the woods."

Heh. I remember finding porn in the woods. A little too young at the time to know what to make of it, but I knew I wasn't supposed to be seeing it, which made it memorable.

gorgor_balabala wrote "Iax, no i meant the kids who live with the other kids and have an i.q. over 90 but as yet no well-defined libido."

In other words, 18-year old buys the game and kid brother happens to see him play it and ends up scarred for life? Otherwise your comment didn't make a lot of sense. But yeah, if that happens you can't necessarily blame the parents, sometimes teens do things without thinking much about it, and sometimes small kids learn things from the older ones that they aren't really ready to learn yet. But that doesn't mean that we must excise all boobies from every game ever made to protect the precious youths. That just means that despite the best efforts of any parent, at some point the kids will learn about sex. (If not from the games or from the siblings, probably by watching commercials for beer or some skanky reality dating show on Fox.)

I think for the most part that the industries have done a good job of telling the kids which CD has the dirty words on it so they know which ones to ask for warning parents what to avoid (ratings, V-chip, etc.), but none of that works if the parents don't use the ratings. At some point parents need to step up and admit that there is fair and ample warning in place when games, movies, music, etc. contain content that might be objectionable, and actually act on that knowledge instead of screaming at the industry to fix a problem that shouldn't exist if the parents were doing their jobs - by which I mean reading the damn package warning label and rating before buying the game for little Johnny, and getting past the "If it's animated, it must be aimed at children" mentality.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:43 AM on July 22, 2005


oh no you cant buy it at a store! where else can you find it!??!?!?!?!!??!?
posted by Satapher at 11:11 AM on July 22, 2005


Otherwise your comment didn't make a lot of sense.

no, caution...the point made repeatedly in this thread (perhaps the main argument?): is that younger kids are quite capable of downloading mod & playing it themselves. and parents will have difficulty preventing this, after the entree has been made.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 1:14 PM on July 22, 2005


and that is why...the rating is getting upped--to help keep it out of the wrong hands.
posted by gorgor_balabala at 1:18 PM on July 22, 2005


no, caution...the point made repeatedly in this thread (perhaps the main argument?): is that younger kids are quite capable of downloading mod & playing it themselves. and parents will have difficulty preventing this, after the entree has been made.

if they can download a mod, they can download REAL PORN.
posted by Satapher at 8:04 PM on July 22, 2005


oh...yeah, true...
posted by gorgor_balabala at 8:47 PM on July 22, 2005


And the mod would need to applied to the REAL game, which has the ESRB of 18 years and over....

Someone should tell John Carmak of id Software to lookout, because I remember a mod for doom the original that had sexual content.
posted by Iax at 10:18 PM on July 22, 2005


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