GTA should have been rated AO?

Worthplaying (via Evil Avatar) has an article up claiming that Grand Theft Auto San Andreas should have received an AO rating (the death knell for any video game’s financial success) because hidden, explicit, scenes have come to light. (On a side note, I thought that was a hoax? Or at best, a complex hack on the PC version. Whatever). Anyway, this legislator seems to think the video game industry and the ESRB are in kahoots. I’ll just let the quotes speak for themselves:

“Whether it is JFK: Reloaded, Manhunt, 25 to Life, or now Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the video game industry continues to demonstrate a sense of arrogance towards public opinion and a lack of responsibility in protecting our children,” said Speaker pro Tem Yee.

And

“The ESRB and the video game industry cannot police themselves and this is yet another example of why we need legislation to limit these types of games to children,” said Speaker pro Tem Yee.

I’m currently renting GTA:SA. This is my first foray into the Grand Theft World. Sheesh, this game is violent. But that’s not my point.

First off, I can’t believe the nerve of these “representatives”. Give us some credit, Mr. Yee. We’re grown adults that know right from wrong. We’re not little kids that need Mommy Government to tell us how to make right decisions. “Lack of responsibility protecting our children”? Sorry, Mr. Speaker Yee, the video game industry is not responsible for the protection of my children. I am. After five minutes of GTA:SA it was abundantly clear that this game was not intended for children. Parents should familiarize themselves with the entertainment their kids partake of. If I would have walked in on my kid playing this game, it would have immediately been removed from the Xbox and returned to the store, no questions asked. It’s violent, vulgar, and lacks any redeeming quality. It certainly would not be in my kids’ hands. I, along with my wife, are responsible for the protection of my children. I would never let my kids play an GTA-esque game until they were at least fifteen or sixteen years old. I don’t care how much whining they did about how “their friends all play it” and I don’t “get it”. I don’t think young kids are ready for this kind of imagery. If my kids want to play a game I think is questionable, I’ll make them play it with me. If they’re comfortable with that, then we can make an informed decision together. But I will never buy my kids games like this until their old enough to distinguish video game violence from the real thing.

So thanks, Speaker Yee, but no thanks. You don’t have to bring the heat down on the video game industry on behalf of us parents. We’re quite capable of taking care of our kids and we’ll be the deciding what is good for the kids and what isn’t. Maybe you can go pass some laws reducing taxes or something.

Update: This was picked up by games.slashdot. Also check out this piece on Gamespot (Thanks, Troy). Rockstar seems confident but it could be smoke and mirrors:

We also feel confident that the investigation will uphold the original rating of the game, as the work of the mod community is beyond the scope of either publishers or the ESRB.

If this “extra” content was included on the original disc, they’ve got no leg to stand on.

Normally the comments at Slashdot are usually so fraught with bickering and flaming that they’re not worth the time, but the thread going there is actually civil. Worth a read. The overriding theme I pick up is that Americans love their violence but get squeamish with their sex. I personally feel that violence and sex don’t occupy the same level of “content”, i.e. sex > violence on the “be careful meter”. Kids are much more influenced by the former. It elicits more of an emotional response than violence does.

One good point was made here with this comment. If Rockstar knowingly hid content from the rating board, they did parents a disservice. Everyone is calling on parents to monitor their children’s entertainment (which is exactly my point) but they are making decisions on mis-information. Regardless, five minutes of the game will convince any parent this game should not be in the hands of young teens.

Comments

  1. San Andreas: Mature
    Manhunt: Adults Only
    25 to Life: Mature
    JFK: Rating Pending (Since release? Have they applied?)

    Seems to me that the ESRB and games industry has done an amazing job of policing itself.

  2. Gamepolitics did a bit on this as well.

    Short version of my response there: making the ESRB responsible for policing all variants of a game, even including after-market adjustments … would be a nightmare. You would have to fairly include any user created content, including models, skins and mods.

    In other words, Counter-Strike would have been an AO rated game as well. As would every version of Quake and Unreal Tournament. And Lara Croft. And probably Neverwinter Nights. I haven’t seen the pr0n mod for NWN, but I’m sure it’s out there.

    Knee-jerk reactions against technology they don’t understand in defense of problems that dont’ exist. The real problem is the lack of communication between parents, their kids and the game industry in general. But that’s not as sexy as “BURN THE WITCH!”

  3. Following such crazy logic as “rate something as it could possibly be used post-retail” means every VHS cassette would be rated NC-17. After all, you can record porn over any Disney movie.

  4. Just like NC-17 in the movies, AO has become associated with intentionally pornographic images, and the M rating has become the catch all. Unless you do naked bodies, there will be no AO rating.

    If Rockstar did include the explicit sexual content and did not take measures to remove it, then I see no reason why it does not deserve the AO. If it’s a user hack, that’s another thing altogether, but from what I can determine, this is legit content inside the game code. And, I am guessing, intentionally left in (but hidden) to slip by the AO rating and get more “outrageous” coverage of the game.

    Of course, AO gets GTA:SA off the main shelves, and might retard sales just a bit. You would think that all the attention that this series has gotten that a) the loss of sales would not be that huge, and (b) every parent should have heard of it by now.

    As for Yee, wasn’t he behind an anti-gaming law in California that never made it very far?

  5. Update: The ESRB is investigating to see if Rockstar should have disclosed this content in the code.

    http://www.gamespot.com/news/2005/07/08/news_6128759.html

  6. Bobster says:

    I can’t leave a long msg here as I am in a hurry. I have to go out and stop the pre-teenage kids from beating up on my wife and raping my daughter.

    They would not be doing these things if they had not recently played GTA:SA. I know GTA:SA is responsible because I saw an article that said so.

    Gotta’ go save my family from the video thugs!

  7. Bobster says:

    I wish I had a firearm to keep them off my family. Of course I don’t have one because I read an article that said it was a bad idea.

  8. /.’d …You’ve reached the bigtime, Tony.

    Excellent post.

  9. “Kids are much more influenced by the former. It elicits more of an emotional response than violence does.”

    Maybe that’s because our media is so saturated with violence, or the appearance of violence, that we become accustomed and desensitized to it at a younger age. It seems to me there are far more stringent rules on sex than on violence – take Jackson showing a boob accidentally as an example, who are we protecting there? The half of the population that doesn’t have boobs? You’d think we would want to educate them as early as possible about procreation and so on, rather than letting our children see violence, which is a breakdown of emotional control and not a natural function.

  10. I think Tony’s point is that you don’t want kids to become sexed up at an early age. Remember that sex in itself can become another form of violence when exacted as rape. We do want to educate our children about it as early as possible, but the problem is that before that can be done they need to develop to a point where they can comprehend sex.

  11. It’s somewhat naive of the legistlature to assume that “video gaming” is analogous “kids games.” There’s always been a mental association between “play” and “children,” of course, but a good portion of video game content is clearly meant for adults.

    To governmentally regulate video game sales is to place it in the same category as alcohol, cigarettes, pornography, and gambling. It’s sad to me that so many people think of games that way.

    It also saddens me that needless violence sells so well. But that’s largely perpetuated by the games themselves.

  12. im 13 and im not influenced by this game at all i think that the whole rating thing is just stupid, kids aged 10 and over i think are smart enough to know not to do whatever the video game says!!

  13. we need tooooooooooo no the code now in need it

  14. cant thay thay make a button cheat i no u guy think i am getting anoing but bare with me but that need to maKE A BUTTON CHEAT FOR THE HOT COFFEE SEX MIN GAME PLZ PPL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. why – Son, you make baby Jesus cry. Please look elsewhere for your “button cheat for hot-coffee”.

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