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GTA Sex Game Leads to ESRB Fracas 732

At first, it was nothing more than a rumour. A "sex mini-game" in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, left in the code for the PC version and unlocked by inquisitive players. Then, as more and more information became available it seemed as though the sex game might be real. This revelation has lead to California Speaker pro-tem Yee blasting the ESRB for their apparent slip-up in examining all the content in the game. The ESRB has responded by pledging a "thorough and objective investigation" of the claims to get to the bottom of the situation. Commentary is available from Joystiq, GamesAreFun, and Buttonmashing.
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GTA Sex Game Leads to ESRB Fracas

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  • Re:Better Quesiton (Score:4, Interesting)

    by The Other White Boy ( 626206 ) <theotherwhiteboy AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:23PM (#13016342)
    doom clone with word? someone fill me in, i have 40 minutes to kill at work on a windows/office pc. =D
  • Easter egg! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by egoriot ( 853407 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:24PM (#13016354)
    If the game had to be modified to unlock this, how is this different from nudie mods? Do vulgar variable names left in debugging information also constitute offensive material?

    Either way, one hell of an Easter egg!

  • by sesshomaru ( 173381 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:35PM (#13016451) Journal
    The current attacks on the gaming rating system is having its desired effect, censorship. Not yet of the big titles, Rockstar will still fight for its number one selling franchise. But smaller games? Forget it. Unless it is considered a hot property starring $.50, you can bet it will be pulled!

    Because of people like Leland Yee, the American version of Sonic Gems will be significantly different than the Japanese version:

    Sonic Gems Collection US = no Streets of Rage []

    According to GameSpot, who spoke to Sega regarding this topic, the Streets of Rage games will definitely not be in the US version of Sonic Gems Collection. Ready for the reason? Chances are it's going to piss you off.

    It's because Sega would have had to change the game's ESRB rating from an "E" to a "T" to accommodate the inclusion of the somewhat violent titles, and Sega opted to go for the "E" rating instead.

    So, Leland Yee can sit back and laugh, haw haw.

    I know my girlfriend's 10 year old daughter wouldn't be very interested in Streets of Rage, and I seriously don't think it is going to "affect" her if it were in a game. (Oh look, the little cartoon people are beating each other up, heaven forfend!) This particular case affects mostly people like me, older gamers who really want to play old Genesis games that we may have missed the first time around (I never got Streets of Rage III or Bonanza Brothers.) More broadly, it will effect games that aren't guaranteed sellers and cause the whole market to become more homogenized (while still being just as offensive to those of you who hate the ultra-violent games that are a license to print money.)

  • Re:This is bull (Score:3, Interesting)

    by crimoid ( 27373 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:45PM (#13016547)
    "was disabled/taken out of the game"

    Those are very different actions. Turning something off is one thing - removing it entirely is another.

    I don't care about this issue at all but if ratings are to be taken literally then Rockstar should have completely removed the content (not disabled it) if they didn't want an AO rating.
  • by toad3k ( 882007 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:45PM (#13016550)
    The ESRB is a response to kneejerk politicians. Furthermore, the formation of the ESRB was like an admission of guilt. It is an officially accountable target for any critic of videogames. It will never matter what they do.

    I just got the game for the pc, and every time I play it I have to wonder how many things I would have enjoyed were taken out because of this promise of doom is held over the head of any company that tries to create an AO rated game.

    I'm tired of it, I'm an adult and I want to play adult games. End of story.
  • just my $0.02 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by master0ne ( 655374 ) <> on Friday July 08, 2005 @04:55PM (#13016634)
    the mod creators website [] had all the info thats under debate...

    All the contents of this mod was already available on the original disks. Therefor the scriptcode, the models, the animations and the dialogs by the original voice-actors were all created by RockStar. The only thing I had to do to enable the mini-games was toggling a single bit in the main.scm file. (Offcoarse it was not easy to find the correct bit). The Nude models that are used as a bonus in the Quick action version of the mod, were also already present on the original disk.

    that is if you beleave him...(i see no reason not to, if it were a full mod, install files would need to be much bigger imho)
  • AO rating (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Valdrax ( 32670 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:05PM (#13016710)
    Explicit sex earns and Adult Only rating in the ESRB system which means that the game can't be sold in areas where minors can get it. This means Wal-mart amongst other places. The fact is that most M titles end up in the hands of kids much like R rated movies do, but NC-17 rated movies and AO games don't for good reason.

    I can't believe they'd even code the feature. Did someone really think that they might be able to get that accepted in a retail game? Yeesh -- this isn't Japan.
  • by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:12PM (#13016758)
    You see, unlike books and movies, there is limited radio bandwidth available for video games to be broadcast. This means that the government must step in to regulate this limited resource. Especially since it is being broadcast directly into people's homes.

    WHAT??? Video games aren't broadcast into people's home through limited bandwidth? THEN WHY THE FUCK DOESN'T THE GOVERNMENT MIND IT'S OWN FUCKIN' BUISNESS? The next thing you know the government will be telling people they can't smoke in bars, they can go to jail for not wearing a seatbelt, and are not allowed to burn the flag, or tell a "naughty" joke in the workplace!
  • Larry (Score:3, Interesting)

    by antiaktiv ( 848995 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:29PM (#13016889)
    Anyone remember the first Larry game, where you died if you forgot to put on a condom? And got beaten if you forgot to take it off? That sure was a responsible game.
  • Re:This is bull (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @05:45PM (#13017031)
    Where does that stupid stereotype comes from, anyway? All the nerds I know already had sex since their teenage days. At our Linux company there was only one guy who wasn't married nor engaged, and he got laid almost every night we went to local bars. The anime guys have plenty of anime girls to choose from, in the local clubs the fangirls are majority. I never ever met a *single* male nerd who had any trouble with women. And yet, everytime someone mentions "girlfriend" or "sex" in /., the same old "nerds can't relate with girls" joke reappears.
  • New warning label (Score:5, Interesting)

    by blueg3 ( 192743 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @06:01PM (#13017149)
    Clearly they should be required to put a new warning label on the game:

    "Caution: Altering this game may affect game play."

    I know it doesn't seem to be altering the game, per se, and it's using built-in but inaccessable content, but really. If using some third-party hack to access game content needs to be rated, why not using some third-party hack to retexture everyone so they're naked? Should all games then get an "M" rating? If this were part of accessible game content, I could see the problem.
  • by IdleTime ( 561841 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @06:04PM (#13017177) Journal
    Ain't that the truth?
    I was watching "48 hours" the other day. A program about real homicide investigations, they showed the corpses laying around with brain-mass splattered around after a gun shot wound to the head, yet they blurred the tits.... Go figure!

    And your eye-roll cracked me up....
  • SIMCOPTER SEX SCENE (Score:2, Interesting)

    by floormasn56 ( 886278 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @06:06PM (#13017196)
    Does any one remember this? they had to recall a bunch games for that
  • A simple point (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Drakai ( 828042 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @06:37PM (#13017424)
    Whether or not this is ok can be determined through an exageration. GAMEZMAKERX produces a Game, 'A Funny Story'. It is all about a kid going to school, flirting with his girlfriend, playing a sports minigame and taking a few quizes/test. They submit 'A Funny Story' to ESRB and recieve a Rating of 'E' and get a nice large distribution. Yay! One week after release, a hack is discovered. It turns out that GAMEZMAKERX had originally planned the game to be dirty. 'XXX-Fuzzy' was all about a punk getting laid, cheating on exams and then shooting up his school after expulsion. All of the content was there and to unlock it required a simple mod. The likely scenarios are: 1) They knew the content was there and they totally leaked to mod. 2) They thought it was all removed. But certain programmers kept in in there to be subversive. In either case GAMEZMAKERX is boned. There can be no question that they have thoroughly violated the public trust. Claiming that a young player could not accidentally uncover the mod is not good enough. In all likely the kid will be exposed to the content just to be 'in' with his friends. That's life. That's the extreme. But notheless, it implies that Rockstar is responsible for the content on the disc they produce. In reality, we have a standout gaming company Rockstar that makes no joke about the kind of games they are about. GTA all the way, baby. '4 life, homie!' This mod simply cannot harm the reputation this game has already earned. This mod could impact the venue of future sales but I assumed Rockstar was already working on GTA:5. At least, they better be :) So what is the actual punishment? How heavily do you fine a company for so slight and negligible a shift. Not much, imo. A slap on the wrist to remind game producers that they need to be honest with themselves, the government and their customers. I am not going to dig up my GTA:SA to see this mod so it ticks me off that I missed out on it. Stupid Rockstar, I love you guys.
  • by hchaput ( 544841 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @07:26PM (#13017718)
    So, the big deal is not that there is sex in GTA. You can make a game with sex, and you can sell it. Nobody is stopping you.

    The big deal is this: Parents are trying to raise their kids responsibly by monitoring their media... their TV, their movies, their music, and their games. They don't necessarily want to stop their kids from listening to an album, or playing a game. They just want to know what the heck their kids are getting into. Just a little help, like a rating system, and a way to stop kids from getting particularly graphic content. You may not like it, but that's what parents want.

    Like all other media, parents want laws to force game manufacturers to label their games, and game sellers to restrict sales to minors. The game industry has argued in response that we don't need laws because "we can police ourselves" via the ESRB.

    Well, the ESRB blew it big time, although apparently through no fault of their own. This GTA hack is a glaring example of the failure of self-policing. The ESRB was set up to stop parents from demanding media control laws. Now the ESRB has failed in their mission, and parents are going to start demanding those laws. So the ESRB is furiously trying to protect its reputation.

    I work at a large game company (not Take-Two/Rockstar). We are required to reveal all hacks, easter eggs, hidden features, etc. to both first-party (MS, Sony, Nintendo) and the ESRB. There can be no content on the disk that is not reported to these folks, or there a serious consequences. (I'm told they're serious. I don't know what they are.) If Take-Two did not reveal that this content was on the disk, they have defrauded the ESRB. That's bad news for Take-Two and their cash cow. If this content is on the Xbox or PS2 media, they defrauded MS or Sony, who are now liable for the explicit content. That's really bad news.

    That's why this is a big deal.

    Side Note: This is not censorship. Nobody is banning any games. Adults can buy whatever games they want. Restricting sales of adult games to kids is no more censorship than restricting sales of porn or booze. The censorship argument is a Take-Two argument to whip up support for anything-goes game development so that they can continue to make piles of money selling porn to kids.
  • Re:This is bull (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:03PM (#13017943)
    As Jack Nicholson said in 1972, "The morality of the ratings system is: if you suck on a tit your an X. If you hack it off with a sword you're an R."
    The sad part is it's true....
  • Here is Yee's Email (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:05PM (#13017964)
    Let the world (or more important Yee) know how you feel on these issues and email him from this page strict=AD12&subject=AB+319+(Chan):+Phthalates+and+ bisphenol-A+in+childrens+products./ []
  • by Drakai ( 828042 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:48PM (#13018145)
    You hit the nail on the head with this post.

    Some people may not want to see it but the bottom line is that this was bad for business.

    Personally, I would like the chance to buy a AO game. And, again personally, I'd rather get it from my local video game store. But I do not think it likely that EB Games carries AO games or ever will for that matter.

    But that doesn't mean I am going to be happy about Take Two 'sneaking one in'. Nor do I advocate lowering the standards of content ratings.

    So all said and done, there really needs to be a better way for me to get access to AO games ;P
  • by Caiwyn ( 120510 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @08:59PM (#13018190)
    My kingdom for a mod point. Could you be more wrong?

    The *real* reason why sex is abhorred and violence is glorified is because we're a bunch of puritans in comparison to the rest of the world.

    No, the reason why sex is given a higher rating than violence is actually much simpler. Ask yourself these two simple questions:

    1. How many times have you watched graphic sexual content (pornagraphy, whatever) and wanted to have sex yourself during or after viewing it?

    2. Now how many times have you watched a gunfight and then wanted to go kill someone?

    If the goal of the ratings system is to set age-based limits, then I have to agree with the ratings boards that graphic sexuality is less desirable for my children to see than graphic violence.
  • Re:This is bull (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:27PM (#13018307)
    I'm 27 years old and have never had sex before. I've never been on a date either. Around the age of 19 I accepted that a meaningful romantic relationship just wasn't in the cards for me. But It doesn't even bother me anymore.

    In my teenage years the amount of effort I was willing to put into establishing and maintaining a relationship was 0. It never mattered to me enough to even bother with, and it still doesn't. If a girl had ever shown interest and initiative I probably would have done something, and in hindsight I may have been presented with just such an opportunity on more than one occasion and just failed to recognize it for what it was.

    I would say the joke works because it's true for a large enough percentage.
  • by MisaDaBinksX4evah ( 889652 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @09:30PM (#13018321)
    Sorry, but your doomsday scenario is full of shit.

    To elaborate:

    People want my money. I want to give people my money for their shit. People are willing to give me their shit for my money. I get the shit from the people and the people get my money. The government can go fuck itself. Everybody's happy.

    Is that clear?
  • Re:Better Quesiton (Score:2, Interesting)

    by HazukiRyo ( 721883 ) on Friday July 08, 2005 @10:52PM (#13018636)
    Either way, Does this asshat REALLY expect the ESRB to go through this trouble to find easter eggs (for lack of a better term) like this and rate THEM as well? People had to go through A LOT of trouble in order to get their games to have these scenes in it, you can hardly hold the ratings board accountable for people doing things like this. This guy is absolutely ridiculous. The ESRB doesn't actually play the games they rate. The developer/publisher/whatever generally provides a video of the most "objectionable" content, and the ESRB people rate the game based on the video. If this minigame was on the disc, whether it's easily accessible or not, Rockstar should have made the ESRB aware of it. If developers are allowed to leave things like this out of what they show the ESRB, then the whole rating system simply breaks down.
  • Re:This is bull (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 09, 2005 @03:20AM (#13019489)
    It is a weird USA thing. Being an "undateable geek" myself, I find foreign girls (or even girls whose parents are foreign) tend to be much "friendlier" than most of the culturally American girls.
  • Re:This is bull (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bob_the_ninja_pirate ( 797082 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @04:15AM (#13019601)
    "Grand Theft Auto was given a rating of M. Based on that rating, the only people that should be playing this game are people who are already mature adults."
    Just an afterthought here- would a "mature adult" even play this game? :/
  • by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Saturday July 09, 2005 @07:21AM (#13019872) Journal
    Depends on how you parse the sentence. I interpret it as:

    prolonged scenes of (intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity)

    So an all-sex game (like a porn flick) would garner an AO, whereas a Violent game with a brief scene of sex/nudity (any modern R shoot-em-up) would be M.

    Of course, to parse it as

    (prolonged scenes of intense violence) and/or (graphic sexual content and nudity)

    Would certainly qualify this as AO. Still, even in the HotCoffee version, there was no penis and no footage of penetration, unless you count the shading artifacts. Sounds like the good parts of R rated movies from the 80s.
  • Re:Better Quesiton (Score:2, Interesting)

    by bedroll ( 806612 ) on Monday July 11, 2005 @05:31PM (#13036911) Journal
    Merit a change in the rating... I don't think so.

    I'm much more inclined to think that if the hidden subject matter was extraordinarily different from the game content that it would merit a lawsuit. With the press this game is getting, and the press it's always gotten, I'm pretty sure there'll be some sort of lawsuit in Rockstar's future. The thing is that they should be able to claim that the rating indicated sexual content. Surely the argument will be that it did not indicate pornography, which some may take this as. (I don't have the game, but I *had* to go see the video to see what the fuss was about. Hilarious. A fifth grader's dream.)

    I would potentially be in favor of a lawsuit against Rockstar if this were completely different subject matter than is claimed on the box. I mean, if this mini-game were in Mario Bros, and it had an E rating, then this being found in the game would be distrubing. Thing is, no one ever claimed that GTA was a children's game, and the content of the mini-game is sexual but hardly X-rated. There's nothing in that that couldn't be in an R-rated movie, and it wouldn't be blurry polygons in the movie.

"It takes all sorts of in & out-door schooling to get adapted to my kind of fooling" - R. Frost