Rockstar Games: Hot Coffee = Hot Water [UPDATED]
Someone emailed to ask my opinion on the whole Grand Theft Auto: SA thing (in which a hidden mini-game with explicit sexual content was found through a third party mod).
The "Hot Coffee" mod saw players taking their girlfriend home and then having sex with her in a mini-game that, while present on the game DVD, only came to light after a PC modification unlocked the code. The data was subsequently found to be resident on the PS2 and Xbox discs and could be unlocked on PS2 using Datel's Action Replay cheat-finder product.
Quick take; Rockstar Games is the worst thing to happen to the video game business. At first they denied they put the hidden content in, blaming it on hackers, but later it became apparent that wasn't the case.
This isn't just a matter of having to change a rating on a game - The ESRB wants the rating changed from M (mature, 17 and over) to A/O (Adults Only, meaning video game porn). And while you can argue until the cows come home that the ESRB, politicians and the media are overreacting because there are games with head-shot kills and incredible violence and they're worried about some characters in GTA humping, the long story short is, Rockstar Games fucked up. Not only does the rating have to be changed, meaning the game has to be pulled from shelves (Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Best Buy are all pulling) and sent back, but a lot of stores aren't going to carry the newly rated version. I can see where some video game chains don't want to carry something labeled as porn (also, there are financial ramifications).
If the mod/mini game was a publicity stunt by RG, it's biting them in the ass BIG TIME. And it's giving a huge black eye to the gaming industry, which doesn't have a good eye to spare, really.
I do think politicians should stay out of the gaming business and let parents determine what their kids can and can't play. It's part and parcel of the nanny state of liberalism, coupled with the prurient state of conservatism, that leads to ratings and enforcement of those ratings via retailers. It shouldn't be up to Joe Lieberman or Gary the EB Games clerk what our children can purchase. That's a parenting decision that shouldn't be legislated.
And does anyone else think this is like changing the rating of a movie after everyone's already seen it? "Oh, I'm sorry. That movie should have been rated NC 17. Wipe your mind and come see it again!" The rating change is probably a futile answer to a complex problem.
Hilary Clinton: "There is no doubting the fact that the widespread availability of sexually explicit and graphically violent video games makes the challenge of parenting much harder.."
How? How does it make it harder? Don't give me that "takes a village" crap, either. The challenge of parenting includes boundaries, guidelines and oh, not buying things for your kids that you don't want them to have, not letting play those games in your house and monitoring what they do/watch/listen to at their friend's houses if that kind of thing worries you so much. It also involves teaching your kids that just people who die on tv or in video games...wait for it...don't die in real life! It's fake! And here's a challengve: Instead of being so shocked that your kid is robbing pixelated taxi drivers and humping cartoon hos that you run to Congress to enact a law to forbid it, you TAKE THE GAME AWAY FROM HIM. How hard is that? And if it offends you so much that he's playing at someone else's house, don't let him go there. It's as simple as saying NO, something a lot of parents these days have forgotten how to do.
But back to Rockstar Games: The fact that they denied this easter egg of a treat was their doing is wrong on their part. Maybe they thought that when the content was discovered (which they knew it would be) it would bring publicity (no such thing as bad publicity!) to their product, thus boosting any lagging sales. But what they didn't think about was how this would affect the stores that carry their products and the gaming industry as a whole.
I think the problem lies with the fact that the general consensus among the non-game playing public is still that video games are for kids, are something only children play. They see a game with violence or nudity and they gasp in unison as they imagine nine year old kids killing soldiers and watching Lara Croft's jiggling breasts. The people who are horrified over M rated games need to look at some stats and see who the biggest game players are. (see, also: Think of the Childrens)
And if Hilary is so upset that violent and sexual video games have "fallen into the hands of young people across the country" maybe she and her cronies should be addressing the parents of those young kids. Someone is buying the games, and they are being played in someone's house. Don't blame the industry, blame a lack of supervision, blame lenient parents, blame lazy parents who don't take the time to see what's entertaining their children.
Or, perhaps we can look at some of the parents and congratulate them for teaching their kids the difference between reality and some pixels on a screen.
Either way, Rockstar Games has fucked over their own industry with this fiasco.
Rockstar CEO Paul Eibeler: "We are deeply concerned that the publicity surrounding these unauthorized modifications has caused the game to be misrepresented to the public and has detracted from the creative merits of this award winning product."
Bullshit. You're sorry that it's going to cost you. Like this person says: They should have released two versions or deleted the mod - and NEVER called it a hack. And honestly, as much as I love video games and play my share of violent titles, I think GTA is BORING. With or without adult situations.
[Wrote this in a real hurry, will probably edit, clarify, proofread later. I meant for this to run about four sentences, tops.]
Update: I should mention that I don't think the rating system itself should be abandoned - it pretty much protects retailers against litigious parents who send their children off by themselves to the store with a wad of cash and then act horrified when they come home with something violent.
Also, Penny Arcade had something on this yesterday I wanted to link to, but their site is wonky this morning.
Much more at Somebody Bitchslap Rockstar
Update: IT WAS TEH HAX0RZ!