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FTC and Rockstar Settle Hot Coffee Dispute 295

Posted by Zonk
from the angryness dept.
kukyfrope writes "The FTC and Rockstar/Take-Two have reached a settlement surrounding the 'Hot Coffee' mod for GTA: San Andreas that will serve to prevent future incidents. The FTC has stated that Rockstar and Take-Two must disclose all content to the ESRB when rating games, or face an $11,000 fine per violation if undisclosed content is discovered. 'Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system. We allege that Take-Two and Rockstar's actions undermined the industry's own rating system and deceived consumers,' commented Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection."
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FTC and Rockstar Settle Hot Coffee Dispute

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  • Wow, that's not even a slap on the wrist! I would budget 30 Hot Coffee type mods in the next GTA if I were Rockstar.
    • No you don't understand. You see, the guys at the FTC were angry because they have never experienced a hot coffee scene themselves. So, Rockstar hired a few hot coffee girls at $11,000 per "item" and sent them over. A few hours later everything is fine.
  • Wow, $11,000 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Nos. (179609) <andrewNO@SPAMthekerrs.ca> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:07PM (#15496684) Homepage
    I wonder how many extra sales Rockstar generated because of the whole Hot Coffee thing. Probably enough to conver that fine several times over. Doesn't seem like much of a deterrant to me.
    • >> Doesn't seem like much of a deterrant to me.

      $11,000 is pretty cheap for that kind of advertising. I'd advise a Hot Grits mod for the next GTA title.
    • Re:Wow, $11,000 (Score:3, Informative)

      by art-boy (639905)
      Actually according to TFA:
      According to Take-Two, the publisher has already incurred a loss of $24.5 million due to the "Hot Coffee" scandal, subsequent re-rating of San Andreas, and removal of the game from most retailers' shelves (until it was replaced with the M-rated version).
    • And you want them to be deterred? Why?

    • I wonder how many extra sales Rockstar generated because of the whole Hot Coffee thing. Probably enough to conver that fine several times over.

      Actually, I would venture to say that they lost a lot of money on this whole Hot Coffee thing. While yes, it did generate publicity, it also caused many stores to pull the game off the shelf. As far as I was aware, after the Hot Coffee thing popped up, Software Etc--or are they called Electronics Boutique--no longer stocked the game. That is a HUGE hit to sale
  • ...what a total slap on the wrist. Not that I am saying Rockstar should be fined or anything, but they did make out like a bandit there.

    • Re:Wow... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by SatanicPuppy (611928) * <Satanicpuppy&gmail,com> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:14PM (#15496756) Journal
      I think it's pretty much a fair judgement. Sure the content was there, but they didn't have any intention of making it widely available. Additionally, even though it was made available, no one accidentally stumbled across it...you had to download a patch, install it, and then play through the game to that point.

      Beyond that, the game was rated M, which is the rating for 17+, which is the same age range as NC-17 which is the adult film category in the states.

      It's hard to see, given all those factors, how it would be possible for them to crack down hard on the game. The superbowl thing was different, because they slipped some (arguably) adult content into an all-ages broadcast.
      • Beyond that, the game was rated M, which is the rating for 17+, which is the same age range as NC-17 which is the adult film category in the states.

        Which is the entire issue. If it's 17+, and someone sells it to a minor, fine the seller, just like cigarettes.

        I mean, WTF else does someone want? Oh, right, the govn't to provide full time parenting for them, so they don't have to do it themselves.

        • Well, technically, and I don't agree with this, but there is a higher level of game content that there is for movie content (which sucks hard. I've never felt my mind sprain from playing a video game, but there are some movies I wish to god I could unwatch.), so they could say, "If this content was known, this would have been rated AO OMGTHINKOFTHECHILDREN"...And beyond that, it's supposed to say underneath the rating the stuff that justifies the rating, like "Violence, Language, Boobies" or something, and
    • Re:Wow... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by pla (258480)
      ...what a total slap on the wrist.

      A slap on the wrist? For what??? Daring to not break the law?

      Get some perspective here, people! Rockstar did ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WRONG. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

      And even if you give two squirts of a rat's ass about what the goddamned Christian Wrong have to say on the matter - This "content" didn't even exist in the game, as released - It took out-of-game action on the part of the player to make the scene accessible.


      Time to get the FCC back to just spectrum alloca
  • by DrXym (126579) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:07PM (#15496688)
    featuring gay BDSM cards, can I get Vista rated M?
    • I'd pay $11,000 to see that! Er... the part _after_ the comma...
    • If I produce a mod for Solitaire featuring gay BDSM cards, can I get Vista rated M?

      No, because there's no gay BDSM content already in Solitaire, dumbass. The "Hot Coffee" mod didn't add "mature"-rated content, it just unlocked what was already there (as shipped by Rockstar).

      • "No, because there's no gay BDSM content already in Solitaire"

        That's just because you've not used the mod yet... ; )
      • Well dumbass (two can play at that game), there was no mature content in Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. They still got re-rated M with the ESRB because someone produced a mod that made your player naked. Explain that one.

        If a game for which there was no offensive content can be re-rated because of a 3rd party mod, then why not Solitaire? Alright, you might say but Solitaire isn't meant to modded. Does that mean that if I can mod a game that I can get it re-rated? A kiddy's painting program for example? Or th

        • Who's the dumbass here? If you actually read what happened about Oblivion you'd know that Oblivion only got rerated because of the gore. The ESRB did a piss-poor job rating Oblivion and since somebody brought to their attention a nude texture, they looked over the game and found it to contain too much gore to be rated Teen. Don't believe me? Read this: http://www.gamespot.com/news/6148897.html [gamespot.com]

          Yeah, they're still getting the nudity descriptor, but I think that was more of a thing to get people to shut up and
    • Only if you are unlocking gay bdsm material preexistant(although locked) in the Windows OS.

      I see this kind of like a loose Sarbanes-Oxley for Video Games: we're going to hold you accountable for disclosing information about your video game up front, and ignorance is not an excuse. Fortunately for Rockstar, they got the slap on the wrist this go because the law/court ruling didn't exist up until now.

      Someone at Rockstar left the material coded into the game. Now believe me, I've got nothing against seeing b
      • OK - go one further. Every byte of the .gif image files used to create this awful solitaire game will be copied from somewhere else in the solitaire executable. So in other words, the "patch" just takes data already in solitaire and moves it around - and naked pictures appear.

        The fact is, all of the "data" is already there (it's only numbers!). Really, we need to judge games on how they run during normal, unmodded play. Mods can do anything, and you can use data in any program for any purpose.

        Of course,
    • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:25PM (#15496858) Homepage
      If I produce a mod for Solitaire ... featuring gay BDSM cards, can I get Vista rated M?

      Only if you can demonstrate your mod merely unlocked the already existing gay BDSM content which was in Solitaire. Otherwise, it's you who distributed the M content and gets in trouble, now Microsoft.

      In this case, Rock Star shipped the game with that content present, but disabled. This mod only re-enabled the content, not provided it.

      So, if you discover such content in Windows and can release a mod for it, then, be our guest. :-P
    • by phorm (591458)
      How about if a virus ran around goatse'ing the solitaire deck. I wonder how many people would notice and/or complain.
  • Um... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by rsilvergun (571051) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:07PM (#15496696)
    should the FTC be allowed to levy fines on behalf of a private organization? Why the hell is the FTC even involved, wouldn't this be more a contract dispute? Far as I know, they don't get to regulate games, but maybe it all falls under the same decency laws everything else does.
    • They put the content in the game, then locked it away. The ESRB did not know about this, rated it lower than it should have, and then people bought it based on the ESRB's rating, thus buying it under false pretenses. The FTC stepped in and actually did something free-market: "you will abide by the rating system that you agreed to sell your product under." Punishing fraud is one of the most basic things the government is supposed to do.
      • So if fraud was involved shouldn't this have been resolved by the courts NOT the FTC? I understand your point that Rockstar agreed to have their products rated by the ESRB but I don't see how this involves the FTC since it appears as though, if anything, it is fraud but that is resolved in our court system.
  • by joe 155 (937621) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:10PM (#15496714) Journal
    I really loved the bit about "parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system"... yep, I can see it now...

    "yeah, son, you can play this game where you have to sell drugs, have sex with prostitutes, murder policemen and steal their cars... it's all ok; just so long as there is no unrealistic computer simulated sex in it"

    Why did anyone care about this. Not only was it not in the main game it was by far the least offensive thing in the list I just mentioned... I'd rather my children had sex than killed policemen
    • There's even a better argument, though; it's an independent, third-party, non-government-mandated/regulated ratings system. Why the hell should parents have the "right" to anything regarding it? It's paid for by publishers, not taxes.
      • There's even a better argument, though; it's an independent, third-party, non-government-mandated/regulated ratings system. Why the hell should parents have the "right" to anything regarding it? It's paid for by publishers, not taxes.

        Because if the parents can't rely on the ESRB rating, then the ESRB is worthless and we'll end up with government regulation, which is the last thing that the industry wants. That said, I still disagree with their priorities. Heinous acts and all sorts of violence are more

      • The position of the FTC is that Rockstar hid content in the game and the ESRB gave it an inaccurate rating which Rockstar put on the game packaging to mislead consumers. If such a thing happens, then the company in question is LYING to the purchaser. I wouldn't call this particular misrating a lie since it wasn't really hidden and it requires modding, but the principle is there.
      • it's an independent, third-party, non-government-mandated/regulated ratings system. Why the hell should parents have the "right" to anything regarding it?

        Well, there's this thing that we in the business call "False Advertising"...
    • Whoah, whoah, whoah! Don't try to fool me with your logic and reason. Look, joe_155, it's not that GTA would be okay as long as "there is no unrealistic computer simulated sex in it". Because, my friend, there was no unrealistic computer simulated sex in GTA. Don't you see? That's where the problem is. It's especially a problem if it's not in the game, because then the game cannot be incorrectly rated for content that's not even in the game, but might be if someone chooses to put it there. Is that cle
    • *clap* I agree completely. I played GTA 3 for about a week. My 8 year old caught me playing one night and he thought it was the coolest thing ever and begged me to play it. I pawned it off at one of those used game stores for $5 the next day. Screw all these laws and fines. Parents that actually give a shit and pay attention to what their kids are doing would yeild better results in my opinion. I really can't see a parent saying "Billy, you're so annoying today, go sit infront of the TV and kill some
    • I'd rather my children had sex than killed policemen

            I'd rather my children have sex with dead poli...uhh nevermind...
    • But that's your choice. Other people will have different uses and standards, stupid as they may seem to you (and stupid as yours may seem to them). The obvious solution is to give everyone good information and let each person make their own choices based on that information.

      Rockstar polluted the system by feeding it false info. Hopefully, they won't do it again. That's a Good Thing.
      • "Other people will have different uses and standards, stupid as they may seem to you (and stupid as yours may seem to them)"

        I don't want to meet these people who think that human reproduction is worse than murder... who would think like that?
  • by Kamel Jockey (409856) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:10PM (#15496717) Homepage

    Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system. We allege that Take-Two and Rockstar's actions undermined the industry's own rating system and deceived consumers

    This is crazy. It is not like GTA San Andreas was rated "E for Everyone" and then "unexpectedly" showed some adult-rated content to minors. Even with an "M" rating, how could any reasonable parent buy this game for their child and not thing something inappropriate would be there?

    • This is America. There are parents who think it's perfectly appropriate for their children to see graphic violence but that seeing an exposed nipple will permanently harm their children.

      One can only assume they don't breastfeed.

    • You're right, but only to a point. In this case, a parent could find a game with stealing, murder and drugs "appropriate" for their child but draw the line at sex - in fact, unfortunately, this is exactly the way many parents feel. The issue, therefore, is the rating and its attendant descriptors. For example, the ESRB could find the sexual content to fall within the parameters of an "M" rating but they'd still put a descriptor on the box indicating the presence of that content. That they didn't have th
  • $11 K ? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thePig (964303)
    $11 K per violation?
    this is absurd .. for complanies that make money in millions...
  • I'm still confused (Score:5, Insightful)

    by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:11PM (#15496730) Homepage
    Why was this even an issue? Rockstar didn't ship this content as active, a third party mod had to be used to get to it. They did not ship that content with intent to be seen, and if the code wasn't there by default to enable that section, it can hardly be their fault if players go out of the way to activate it.
    • by Pope (17780)
      Doesn't matter, IMO, the content shouldn't have been in a final shipping product in the first place.
      • by grasshoppa (657393) <skennedy AT tpno-co DOT org> on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:38PM (#15496974) Homepage
        Doesn't matter, IMO, the content shouldn't have been in a final shipping product in the first place.

        Maybe not, but there is no functional difference between the content not being shipped with it and being shipped but turned off.
        • Maybe not, but there is no functional difference between the content not being shipped with it and being shipped but turned off.

          Someone being able to turn the content on proves otherwise.
          • by DahGhostfacedFiddlah (470393) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:56PM (#15497149) Homepage
            Someone could have created a mod which created that scene rather than unlocking it. For the end-user, what the hell is the difference? They're just running hot-coffee-patch.exe.

            How culpable is a company for people modifying their software? If I take all of their textures and pick-and-choose-and-cut-and-paste until I have something that looks like a boobie, did the software "ship" with that boobie?
            • by Jerf (17166)
              If I take all of their textures and pick-and-choose-and-cut-and-paste until I have something that looks like a boobie, did the software "ship" with that boobie?

              Information theory to the rescue. In order to do that, your instructions will either be quite lengthy, or your search time will be long. Either way, the very instructions themselves constitute additional content; they are not themselves free of meaning or implication, as that would mean by definition they would have no effect.

              You're still adding the
          • by Scudsucker (17617)
            Someone being able to turn the content on proves otherwise.

            Not when you have to run a third party program, with no affiliation to Rockstar, it doesn't.
  • A victory? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Rapter09 (866502) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:12PM (#15496742)
    Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system
    I think that's a statement that could be construed as a victory for the ESRB, reinforcing that it wasn't the ESRBs fault that T2\RockStar didn't disclose the information. I think it's a good statement.
  • by Frobozz0 (247160) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:16PM (#15496780)
    "We allege that Take-Two and Rockstar's actions undermined the industry's own rating system and deceived consumers,' commented Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection."

    *sigh*

    No, actually it wasn't that big of a deal. Our priorities in this country baffle me sometimes. The rampant violence in this game wasn't bad in their eyes. Some rough sex and they draw the line? Come on, you had to mod the program just to see it!

    I hope enough people see through this charade.
    • by donutello (88309) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:36PM (#15496948) Homepage
      Rockstar games was and is free to include sex scenes in their video games - as they are free to include violence.

      What they can't do is deceive the rating board about the content. This is the Federal Trade Commission. Deceptive trade practices fall properly within their purview.

      That being said, $11,000 is a ridiculously small fine and takes into account the fact that this was inadvertent rather than intentional.
    • It isn't about the sex, it's about not giving truthfull information to the ratings people.
    • The problem isn't that there was content of this nature, it was that it was hidden from the review committee, which can be considered deceptive. If this were allowed, then all games could get through with an E and then actually have violent/pornographic/profane content "hidden" in the game, provide the user enter the secret code that "accidentally" found its way on to the Internet. This decision makes reasonable sense. It's not so much about the content in this particular instance, it's about the potenti
  • You can bet that companies are now going to pay more attention to inclusion of varies ... undocumented features.
  • by WidescreenFreak (830043) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:20PM (#15496817) Homepage Journal
    As indicated above, this is a slap on the wrists. Considering the Nazi-like ways that the FTC has handled "oscenity" issues in the past, like Howard Stern, this is mild! I wonder if this is more becuase they're covering their asses. Let's face facts. They got a ton of criticism because of the way that they handled this. That wasn't a Rockstar release. It was a third party hack. Lots of games have third party hacks that allow this. That doesn't mean that it was done with the approval of the game maker. If a programmer puts an inappropriate comment in a program that will never be displayed but someone gets offended when trying to illegally hack the code, should the company be sued?

    Antucally, this kind of ruling sets a precedence that almost makes it seem like a possible marketing tactic: Hey, if we don't announce this and someone finds out, we could make a huge increase in sales from the publicity and only pay an $11,000 fine! It's costs more to advertize in major gaming magazines!

    I will take exception with one this that was said (emphasis mine):

    Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system.

    Bullsh*t. Parents have the privilege to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system. Just like the movie rating system, these rating are not enacted by laws. They are not legal rights as the ESRB is not an institution that was empowered by a government act! Stop calling them "rights"!! Sorry,folks. Pet peeve, but there is a major difference between a right and a privilege ... at least for now.
    • Antucally

      Christ! If that's not an indication that I need to buy more Penguin Mints, I don't know what is. If anyone can translate that for me, I'd appreciate it. I think I meant to say "actually", but upon looking at that, I'm not quite sure. :)
    • Considering the Nazi-like ways that the FTC has handled "oscenity" issues in the past, like Howard Stern, this is mild! I wonder if this is more becuase they're covering their asses.

      Howard Stern ran into problems from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), this article describes the actions of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

      • As I said in my reply to myself, I'm in need of more late-afternoon caffeine. I realized small errors (cough) like that after I hit "Submit". Oh, well.

        But in reality they're not all that different when it comes to this kid of issue. Both are government agencies that are responsible for various aspect of in this case communication. One handles the regulation of media over the airwaves; the other handles in this case the regulation of over physical goods.

        I still think that this was a major CYA on th
      • > Howard Stern ran into problems from the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), this article describes the actions of the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).

        Still an oppressive regime either way.
    • are you against truth in advertising as well?
      • Exactly how was that false advertising? There was a segment in there that was never meant to be used that was exploited by code that was not authorized by Rockstar!

        Let's say that I make a family game that's rated "E" that if played as is has nothing offensive, but in the code are some comments with vulgarities in them. Some hacker makes an unauthorized mod that uncomments those comments. Now that vulgarity is available and can be displayed even though it was commented out. Yet I submitted my game to
    • How does this crap get modded up? This was the FTC, not the FCC that dealt with Howard Stern.

      Bullsh*t. Parents have the privilege to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system. Just like the movie rating system, these rating are not enacted by laws. They are not legal rights as the ESRB is not an institution that was empowered by a government act! Stop calling them "rights"!! Sorry,folks. Pet peeve, but there is a major difference between a right and a privilege ... at least for now.

      No. You are

      • So all those diet pill ads on tv work?

        My GOD - just imagine!
      • No. You are wrong. The right to not be deceived by false advertising is a right, not a privilege. If a product advertises a certain feature, it better well have it. In this case, the producers of the game made certain statements about their product, which led to the rating they received, which turned out to be false. The game did not comply with the standards for the advertised rating.

        I don't think they made any false statements at all. The game, as it was sold to people, deserved the rating it had. Tha

      • How does this crap get modded up? This was the FTC, not the FCC that dealt with Howard Stern.

        All right! All right! I already admitted that I goofed up on that one! Brother!

        No. You are wrong. The right to not be deceived by false advertising is a right, not a privilege. If a product advertises a certain feature, it better well have it. In this case, the producers of the game made certain statements about their product, which led to the rating they received, which turned out to be false. The game di
  • by Red Flayer (890720) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:22PM (#15496830) Journal
    ""Parents have the right to rely on the accuracy of the entertainment rating system," commented Lydia Parnes, Director of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection."

    After reading TFA, this is the most remarkable line in it. Props to submitter.

    Parents don't have the right to rely on ESRB ratings. They have the ability to do so -- and can if they want -- but that is not a right. If a parent decides the ESRB rating is untrustworthy, or that Take2 is untrustworthy, that is their right. It is their right to not purchase games they feel might not adhere to the voluntary ratings system. Parents have the rihght to choose what's best for their kids -- and if they don't have all the information, that's nobody's fault but their own.

    You know what? If parents have the right to rely on an independent, private body for game ratings, then I have the right to rely on Fox News (an independent, private body, right?) for fair and balanced news, the right to have all the information presented to me. So where's Fox's fine for not presenting fair and balanced news? Please, Ms. Parnes, why doesn't Fox or CNN or ABC or any news or entertainment media entity not get fined $11,000 every time they don't give us all the information?

    /rant

    • We've had limits on "caveat emptor" for quite a while now.

      Or is it all right for a food package to put "peanut free" on food that does contain peanuts? I'm not talking about a bag of peanuts either... Candy that nominally does not contain peanuts often is "contaminated" by nearby candy producing lines.

      The basic principle in America is that an advertiser is not allowed to outright lie to you. We can all certainly debate whether that's what Rockstar did here (I, personally, do not feel that anyone was willful
      • Or is it all right for a food package to put "peanut free" on food that does contain peanuts? I'm not talking about a bag of peanuts either... Candy that nominally does not contain peanuts often is "contaminated" by nearby candy producing lines.

        right, and in response, most every type of candy or bakery item now says "may contain peanuts" just to cover their asses. no, i don't have a point.

      • It goes like this: Many people in the country feel that exposure to sex harms their children. (I know, I know, but it's their belief and I don't tell people what to believe.) Thus, Rockstar did the equivalent of putting "peanut free" on a jar of peanuts and feeding it to someone who is allergic.

        no, you can not compare it. The scens was there, but disabled. You had to activly install a patch to view them. That is, you, as a consumer, had to deliberately want to view them. Which would mean that you dipped y

      • I understand that, but why is a federal agency fining Rockstar? This type of issue should be settled in a tort suit if at all. What law did Take2 break?

        The whole point of establishing the ESRB was to keep federal censorship from happening. Now we have a nebulous entity with governmental support in the role of censoring a form of media. Christ, if it were the government, it would at least be answerable to people in some form. Instead it's an organization that takes dubious care with its responsibilit
      • by RexRhino (769423) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @04:29PM (#15497420)
        But buyer beware is coming back, just in a different form! For example, lets take peanuts (And peanut allergies). People are so sue happy, that companies that don't make any products with any sort of peanut ingredient are labeling their product as having peanuts to cover their asses legally. It is way easier to put a disclaimer on a package saying "this might contain peanuts", than to try to garantee a product doesn't have peanuts and face legal repercussions. It is only a matter of time (and it has damn near almost heere already), that all packages, no-matter what the food or what the circumstance is, will contain warnings about peanuts.

        People alergic to peanuts must have thought they were smart for suing about traces of peanuts in food... but soon they won't be able to know what foods contain peanuts because every company and every food product is going to protect themselves with a peanut warning.

        Same with warning on prescription drugs. Prescriptions drugs now contain warners about "side effects" that include just about every possible symptom anyone can possibly have. It is easier to just give a rediciously long list of possible side effects, than to face the consequences of a law suit. The end result is that the "side effect" warnings of prescription drugs are completly useless. Virtually all the side effects listed for a prescription drug are listed just to cover the asses of the drug maker, and so it is impossible to get any realistic side effect information on a drug from a manufacturer.

        When I buy some non-drowsy cold medicine, I don't really know if I can drive a car after taking the medicine or not, because every drug manufacturer is so afraid of a legal action that they will say not to operate a motor vehicle or heavy machinary just to play it safe.

        Likewise, if you punish video game makers frivolously, they are just going to cover their ass by making everything Mature or Adult Only. Since the vast majority of video games are purchased by adults, and since kids that purchase video games most of the time purchase it with a parent present anyway, companies are just gonna make every single game Adult Only. Wall Mart might not stock AO games now, but if that is the only way they can sell Barbie Pony Adventure and Deer Hunter, they will eventually change their policy.

        The end result for the rating system will be the same. There is no foolproof way to make sure there will never be something interpreted as "offensive" or "adult" or "suggestive" by some board or agency or group. When all games have a panel of catch all warnings and disclaimers, it is going to be harder for parents to judge a game than it is now.
    • Parents don't have the right to rely on ESRB ratings. They have the ability to do so -- and can if they want -- but that is not a right. If a parent decides the ESRB rating is untrustworthy, or that Take2 is untrustworthy, that is their right. It is their right to not purchase games they feel might not adhere to the voluntary ratings system. Parents have the rihght to choose what's best for their kids -- and if they don't have all the information, that's nobody's fault but their own.

      The difference in this

      • The problem with that argument is that it assumes that the government has the right to censor, and didn't only because the industry agreed to self-censor.

        The truth of the matter is that the government's right to censor was never settled -- and this was a compromise that included little risk for either party, as compared to making the censorship debate get through Congress, the Executive, and to the SCOTUS. Therefore, the entire argument is invalid until that issue is settled. And I guarantee you which wa
        • Therefore, the entire argument is invalid until that issue is settled. And I guarantee you which way the chips would fall -- and it wouldn't be on the side of government censorship.

          If you can guarantee that, then I think there's some game industry lawyers who want to hire you. Also, it doesn't invalidate the argument, it is simply a fact that the government may be able to regulate the industry if there is enough of an outcry over things like this. I don't agree with it, but that doesn't mean it won't ha

    • I think you'll find the current administration of the FTC thinks that FOX news is fair and balanced. But they may have to use fines against the other networks to bring them into line.
    • There are false advertising laws on the books, so if the box says the game doesn't contain any AO style material, but it does in fact contain AO material, that seems likely to be a legal breach to which parents could seek legal redress, and in that sense they do have a right to rely on the game ratings. Further, it is in fact the FTC's job to regulate trade, and to address violations of the false advertising laws.

      It's a right in the same sense that you have a right to expect that UL approved appliances are
      • There are false advertising laws on the books, so if the box says the game doesn't contain any AO style material, but it does in fact contain AO material, that seems likely to be a legal breach to which parents could seek legal redress, and in that sense they do have a right to rely on the game ratings. Further, it is in fact the FTC's job to regulate trade, and to address violations of the false advertising laws.

        Sure, but then it's an issue for tort suit, not for agency regulation. Without getting into

  • by zuki (845560) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:23PM (#15496839) Journal
    This was totally outrageous! Just as much of a newsworthy item as Janet's 'wardrobe malfunction'!(I couldn't sleep for 3 months after watching that one)!

    It would be a crying shame that kids should be exposed to (Godless?) non-graphical but still titillating sex simulations.

    It might detract from their training shooting hundreds of thousands of opponents, so that they can further be brainwashed into becoming our next batch of cannon fodder to send to Iraq or wherever else our glorious leaders will be "Bringing Freedom" to in the coming years.

    The FTC is only performing its patriotic duty to keep kids in line for all the state-sanctioned killing they will have to do later on.

    Although, as Dr Strangelove once pointed out, reproductive duties might also have to become state-sanctioned and even encouraged when population needs to be replenished due to a 'red button malfunction' in the Oval Orifice.

    Z.
  • Take-Two must disclose all content to the ESRB when rating games

    Just to be sure, if I were Take Two, I'd hand them a hard-copy printout of every single line of code in the game. "You demanded everything. Well, here ya' go! Good luck going through all that."

    -Eric

    • by AHumbleOpinion (546848) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @03:52PM (#15497116) Homepage
      "Take-Two must disclose all content to the ESRB when rating games"

      Just to be sure, if I were Take Two,


      If you plan to someday run a company you will need to learn to think through a couple of rounds of moves and countermoves. ;-)

      I'd hand them a hard-copy printout of every single line of code in the game. "You demanded everything. Well, here ya' go! Good luck going through all that."

      And the ESRB responds: "With an attitude like that, no rating for you. Good luck talking to the buyer for Walmart."
      • Good luck talking to the buyer for Walmart

        I should BE so lucky as to not have to talk to those sharks. Talking with a buyer from Walmart is like negotiating with an 800 pound gorilla--an 800 pound gorilla who's holding a gun.

        -Eric

    • Just to be sure, if I were Take Two, I'd hand them a hard-copy printout of every single line of code in the game.

      And make sure it's all expressed in octal codes.
  • by jclast (888957) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @04:03PM (#15497215) Homepage

    How is it that Rockstar and Take2 can be fined for submitting their game to an optional software review board?

    Besides, why do we have both M and AO? The ages associated with both are 17 and 18. Drop one and leave the system alone.

    I wrote about this for eToychest [etoychest.org] earlier today, so I won't reiterate my take on the news here, but I will say this:

    Parents have access to a wealth of videogame related information. Reviews and screen captures abound on the Internet. It's time for parents to stand up and do their jobs as parents again. If you can't decide for yourself what your child should be doing, maybe you shouldn't be a parent.

    • It's easy to say that parents should do their job. But that's a cop out. Sure there is a lot of information about a lot of things on the internet. But there's no way to tell what the motivation of that information is. If I'm a gaming company then I'd have a website setup that claims to be a game review board. And I'd supply all the good information about all the games I sell. So that's biased information.

      The rating system is intended to be a unbiased review. I would say that its as unbiased as we'll
  • This isn't going to be very effective. What, will Rockstar give them a CD of every jpg image and polygon in the game? Will that be considered "full disclosure"?
  • The article wasn't quite clear on what "per item" meant. Does it mean per each type of violation occured, or per sold game in violation of each type. One doesn't add up to much, the other could add up to quite a lot.
  • by mer1in (962105) on Thursday June 08, 2006 @06:40PM (#15498417)
    GTA: San Andreas was rated M, for mature, indicating to someone who knows nothing of the franchise that there might be some mature content in there somewhere. Which, aside from Hot Coffee, there was a plethora of. If the purchaser went as far to turn the box over and read the back, they may have become aware of the ESRB's more in depth breakdown of the game, which along with "Blood & Gore" "Intense Violence" "Strong Language" and "Use of Drugs" included a "Strong Sexual Content" warning. If they went on to the read the description of the game by Rockstar, the words "Gangs" "Drugs & Corruption" "Dealers" and "Gangbangers" all in the first pargraph might have indicated to someone that this is not an apropriate game for children. Which without all that reading they could have denounced from the "17+" on both the front and back of the box. If a parent was still questioning the apropriatness of the game for their child, 5 mintues of research on the internet would have immediately removed any chance of their kids ever coming within 100 ft. of GTA again. Now yes, it is quite pheasable that older siblings, friends, careless sales clerks, etc. may have helped a few children obtain copies of the game, but the entire argument over the mod seems to be primarily about parents being misinformed. It seems pretty unlikely that had Rockstar disclosed the unnaccessible content to the ESRB that the game's rating would have really changed that much. It was an unrealistic sex mini game, which I think is declared quite adequately by "Strong Sexual Content." They may have even added a "This game includes virtual sex." warning, but it seems pretty obvious that none of these parents read the box anyways! And now everyone who's child went and willingly hacked their game to access this is outraged. I think the ESRB should be outraged that so many people pay absolutely no head to their warnings. If the game was rated AO, I'll bet just as many children would have been playing it. Because I can see informed parents saying: "Don't worry kids, its okay (hell, its even FUN) to kill police officers, kill your friends, sell, buy and use drugs & alcohol, shoot prostitutes, acquire weapons, terrorize civillians, steal cars, damage property, use racial slurs and live a life of reckless abandon, but it is NOT okay to have sex. ESPECIALLY with your girlfriend." Even if you argue that all the killing and swearing and drugs, etc. takes place in a fantasy world, so does the sex, and at that, only if you go out of your way to knowingly activate and engage in it. Kind of like the patch that revelaed the nudity uner the blurs in The Sims, except that game promoted living a good, happy, healthy life, so when people realized, it got the "Oh, its just a patch, not even part of the game!" treatment. But when parents realize exactly what this GTA game they bought their child is, and they think "Holy sh*t! What did I buy!" all that they can really fall back on is the "Well we are outraged that we didn't know about this code." Gimmie a break. I think it is these people's parenting strategy that needs to be revised, not the ESRB's rating system, or the code that Rockstar chooses to write. Take a little bit of interest in your children's life, and maybe things like this can be avoided all together.

The more cordial the buyer's secretary, the greater the odds that the competition already has the order.

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