ESRB modifies rating for “GTA: San Andreas.”

I think this is a first. The folks at the Entertainment Software Rating Board have revoked the Mature 17+ rating they originally gave Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and slapped it with the rarely seen Adults Only 18+ thanks to the “Hot Coffee” mod that was released on the Internet. Publishers Take-Two released this press release announcing the change in rating and plans for Rockstar Games to develop a new version that will block the Hot Coffee mod from being used on their software.

“Take-Two and Rockstar Games have always worked to keep mature-themed video game content out of the hands of children and we will continue to work closely with the ESRB and community leaders to improve and better promote a reliable rating system to help consumers make informed choices about which video games are appropriate for each individual,” said Paul Eibeler, Take-Two’s President and Chief Executive Officer. “The ESRB’s decision to re-rate a game based on an unauthorized third party modification presents a new challenge for parents, the interactive entertainment industry and anyone who distributes or consumes digital content. Rockstar Games is pleased that the investigation is now settled and they look forward to returning their focus to making innovative and groundbreaking video games for a mature audience.”

The scenes depicted in the “hot coffee” modification are not playable in the retail version of the game unless the user downloads and/or installs unauthorized software that alters the content of the original retail version of the title, representing a violation of Take-Two and Rockstar’s end user license agreement (EULA) and intellectual property rights. “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,” said Mr. Eibeler. Take-Two is exploring its legal options as it relates to companies that profited from creating and distributing tools for altering the content of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

This is interesting particularly because part of the debate deals with whether the Hot Coffee mod actually added anything to the game or merely unlocked code that was already present in the game, but not utilized. The guys who created the mod claim the sex mini-game was already present and all they did was unlock it whereas Rockstar continues to claim it’s entirely the work of the modders themselves. A claim that seems to be proven false as Gamespot says its in the PS2 version as well.

To prove or disprove rumors that the PS2 San Andreas contains a sexually graphic minigame, GameSpot decided to test the cheat codes circulating around the Web on a sealed, first-edition copy of San Andreas. After acquiring the “Uncensored Hot Coffee” codes from the respected tech-blog Kotaku, we entered them into an easily obtainable Action Replay Max cheat device. After entering the “Enable all Girlfriends” cheat, we began the game and then gave CJ maximum sex appeal, via a cheat from GameFAQs that requires no external code.

After saving, our test editor had Carl visit the house of his nearest girlfriend, Denise in Los Santos. Carl then took Denise on a series of dates to the nearest bar. After a few complications—including being busted for two-timing by another of CJ’s girlfriends—we completed a fourth date with Denise, after which she invited us into her house for “coffee.”

The next screen proved that the PlayStation 2 edition of the game does indeed include a sexually graphic minigame, which plays almost exactly the same as the Hot Coffee mod. It begins inside a bedroom with Denise, wearing only a pink thong and a cutoff T-shirt bearing the Rockstar logo, performing simulated fellatio on CJ, who is fully clothed in jeans and a “wife beater”-style tank top.

Unlike the PC version of the game, the PS2 version is hard coded into a DVD and thusly can’t be added to by modders so if the mini-game is present it had to be part of the original game. So far Rockstar hasn’t commented on the reports about the mini-game showing up in the console version and appear to be continuing to insist it’s all due to the modder’s efforts. GTA has already generated a lot of heat and this controversy has only added fuel to the fire with politicians of all stripes jumping on the video-games-are-evil-and-must-be-regulated bandwagon. Or at least those folks who have aspirations for the White House come 2008 such as Hillary Clinton who has joined the chorus calling for such regulation.

Not stopping there, Clinton said she would soon author a bill to create a federal law that would “put some teeth into video game ratings.” Reminiscent of a California bill introduced by Assemblyman Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and similar measures in several other states, the legislation will “prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors” and make such action a federal offense. Clinton said the penalty for violating the law would be a mandatory $5,000 fine.

“No wonder these games are falling into the hands of our children and no wonder so many parents feel everyday like they are fighting this battle with their hands tied behind their backs,” Clinton said. “We need to do better. We need to do everything we can to make sure that parents have a line of defense against violent and graphic video games and other content that go against the values they are trying to instill in their children.”

I won’t go into my opinions on how I don’t need the government to do my parenting for me and others shouldn’t either as I’ve made them clear before. I also won’t point out that this will largely be an ineffectual bit of feel-good legislation that’ll do next to nothing in keeping such games out of the hands of teenagers as the majority of kids get said games from their parents. I will say that both parties seem to be short stroking this issue for all its worth without really knowing what the hell they’re talking about.

It’s simply stunning to me that so many politicians are just this side of having their heads explode over the fact that GTA is not only violent, but probably has a sex mini-game locked away in it that you can get to by installing a third-party bit of software when there is another violent game that not only has a sex mini-game in it that you don’t have to do anything special to access and also features frontal nudity. Namely Sony’s own God of War. It also carries a Mature 17+ rating. Granted the nudity is limited to tits and the sex mini-game doesn’t actually show the main character having sex, but rather a vase on a stand next to the bed that ends up being knocked off onto the floor if you succeed in pleasing the ladies, but there’s not a single naked tit in all of GTA:SA and I’ve seen stuff on Skinimax that’s more hardcore than the sex scenes in the Hot Coffee mod.

Now someone please explain to me why it’s OK for a violent game where you play a character who runs around graphically killing loads of mythical beings and creatures while having sex with literally half naked women to get a Mature 17+ rating, but another violent game where the sex mini-game, if it’s actually part of the game in the first place, is locked off and has to be accessed using a hack deserves to have its rating bumped to Adults Only 18+? Not that I want to see God of War have its rating raised, but of the two titles it seems like it would be the more deserving of an AO 18+ rating. The one thing that is clear, as I mentioned previously, is that the idiots in Washington don’t have a clue about video games or the people who play them and are trying to get all the mileage they can out of something they believe to be a hot topic with the general populace at the moment. That’s a bad atmosphere to have legislation develop in.

Think about Clinton’s proposed law: She wants to make it so that selling a mature or higher rated game to a minor is a federal offense with a $5,000 fine. Last I checked it’s not a federal offense to sell a ticket for an R rated movie or sell music that has a parental advisory warning on it to a minor. Books don’t even have a rating system. It’s not even a federal offense to sell alcohol or tobacco to a minor. Here in Michigan selling alcohol to a minor is a misdemeanor with a fine of $1,000. Does Clinton really think that GTA: San Andreas is more dangerous than selling alcohol to a minor? Whether she believes it or not doesn’t change the fact that she’s getting a lot of press over her proposal. Who cares if it’s good legislation or makes sense as long as it increases your chances of getting elected?

17 thoughts on “ESRB modifies rating for “GTA: San Andreas.”

  1. Since it was obvious that Rockstar had originally coded the mini-game right from the start, and that the mod only unlocked it, I’m suprised that they pussy-footed around denying it for so long. If they had done a press release right away informing people that although they had included the code, they had deactivated it with no idea that it would be hacked, I’m sure they could have negated a lot of the hysterics.

    And you Americans are lucky, as hysterical as it is and is gonna get over there, at least they can’t ban it from sale completely (as has been done here to several other games already). No freedom of expression down under.

  2. For what it’s worth, I actually got carded at a Best Buy (by a girl almost certainly younger than I) when I bought God of War.  Store policy might’ve been to card anyone who looked under 30 for that game; back when I worked at a movie theater some controversial films had that caveat as corporate policy.

  3. Okay, my bullshit-o-meter is flipping off the charts with this one…

    It never ceases to amaze me how quickly the U.S. government will claim the moral high ground on something as trivial as videogames when more pertinent, serious issues are still on the streets that require ALOT more attention than this crap. I WOULD tell you many of those, but I have the feeling that the message window only gives me about 10 pages tops, so I better not go there.

    *Sigh* It’s times like this that im glad I live in Canada, where you can STILL say whats on your mind without being labeled as an idiot, heathen or a traitor raspberry

  4. Oh, by the way, I’ve played the hot coffee mod for GTA:SA, and I’ve got to say that giving it an adult only rating just for THAT is like putting a “warning, adult content, sexual themes, etc” on the cover of a fuckin porno movie – useless, trivial, and overall unnoticed. If you dont want your kids to be exposed to that kinda stuff, be a goddamned parent already!

    ITS GRAND THEFT AUTO! WHAT DID THEY EXPECT? FLOWERS AND RAINBOWS?!?

  5. ITS GRAND THEFT AUTO! WHAT DID THEY EXPECT? FLOWERS AND RAINBOWS?!?

    Great, now when someone finds a way to unlock the “Flowers and Rainbows” code we’ll have you to thank.

    wink

  6. This is all censorship for the sake of censorship. If I can learn to roll a joint in the public school system & see real tits on a regular basis to the point of not caring by the time I reach high school…. I don’t think this rating system is right at all. After all I’m certain I could locate a 14 year old or two that could tell the CMM more about sex and life than they know now. regulating the media can’t help that. MTV isnt putting this in thier heads..

    This isn’t the fifties.. you cant keep your children naive until they’re 18/19 anymore.

    God damned Clinton trying to show that shes ‘moral’ this bitch wants the white house and know that unless she can put a fucking halo around her head she aint got a prayer.

  7. What the fuck is wrong with yall. I want to know the fucking hot coffee codes for the damn San Andreas you stupid ass bitches.

          Now are you fucking happy Bitch.
            This is a bunch of bullshiht.

  8. Les, you might think i am a dumbass but I am a whole lot smarter than you think. I still want to know the freking hot coffe mode cheat for San Andreas. Know can someone please tell me that damn code.  Please!!!!

  9. Surely if you’re as smart as you believe yourself to be you don’t need anyone to tell you the code, but would have found it using that amazing intellect you posses. Seriously, it’s only been reported on hundreds of websites so even a simple Google search should turn up what you’re after.

  10. Les you are one big dickhead.
      I want the hot coffe code for PS2 San Andreas, OK.
     
          I am a smart guy but, every site looked on did not have it for PS2.  You dumb son of a *****.

  11. Look you sorry excuse for an aas-clown, you have to be a major fucking screwup if you can’t a single website that has instructions on how to get to the single most scandalous game mod of all time. Everybody except you has already figured this shit out.

    To top it all off, you’re such a dumbass that you think you’ll get what you want from me by bring a prick about it and calling me names. It’s laughable that you think I give a shit what you want. Go crawl back under whatever rock you were hiding under and stop playing with yourself so much and then perhaps this won’t be such an obsession for you.

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