Sunday, July 17, 2005
The Grand Theft Auto (G.T.A.) game series, based on the underworld, pushes social limits on violence and sexual content in the video gaming industry. The newer Grand Theft Auto 3 release sparked controversy when it came to light the plot was based on an unnamed character’s mission to destroy and slaughter his way to the top of the local crime scene. Since that release, further games were developed: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.
Thursday, according to a report filed by Gamespot, congresswoman Hillary Clinton called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to “take immediate action to determine the source of graphic pornographic and violent content appearing on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas video game.” Clinton also wanted the FTC to determine if an “AO” rating would be more suitable for the game than current “M” rating.
Clinton said she would work quickly to create a bill for a federal law that would “put some teeth into video game ratings.” The federal legislation by Clinton would follow similar state initiatives. California assemblymen Leland Yee introduced a bill in his state, as did Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The purpose of the state and federal bills would be to “prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to minors.” The passage and enactment of the proposed bill by Clinton would make it a federal offence to sell video game content to persons under the age of the games’s rating.
Like many Grand Theft Auto gamers, the Entertainment Software Rating Board(ESRB) is cautious over Clinton legislative proposal. Patricia Vance, the president of ESRB, issued this statement: “We urge all parties not to rush to judgment until all of the relevant facts, some of which are highly technical and complicated, have been established. Any second guessing at this point would be premature and inappropriate as this investigation continues.” Vance said amongst the ESRB’s top interests were to protect children, to educate parents, and make sure parents make good decisions on what video games their children be allowed to play.
Jack Thompson, the subject of beefs with Grand Theft Auto in the past, is a Republican attorney from Miami. Thompson sent out an email to major gaming outlets (Gamespot for example). The letter at first stated “I, as a lifelong Republican, am going to thank Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton,” and offered admiration for Clinton’s campaign against violence and sexual content in video games. The email then went on to criticize Doug Lowenstein, who helps manage ESRB and is the president of the Entertainment Software Association. Thompson wrote, “Doug Lowenstein could have prevented what is going to happen today, but he preferred to shoot the messengers.” Thompson also mentioned the Columbine High School massacre, and claimed it was the fault of the developers of games (specifically id Software, the maker of Doom). He claims the U.S. Constitution first amendment right to freedom of speech in no way protects the gaming industry from censorship.
Lowenstein issued the following statement regarding the current video game/Hot Coffee issue: “Retailers should not sell Mature games to minors, parents should watch what their kids watch, and parents should and can rely on the ESRB ratings to make the right choices for their families. We hope that… Senator Clinton will abandon the bill and work cooperatively with industry and others to ensure that parents take advantage of the effective tools on the market to regulate the games their kids play.”
Although some of the statements mentioned are related to video games in general and not so much GTA, a majority of all of this recently publicity did indeed start with the Hot Coffee mod for Grand Theft Auto. ESRB has never been pressured any harder in the past than they are now, and Rockstar still denies that they put the sex scenes in the game; although it has been recently demonstrated that Action Max-Replay (a cheat/feature-unlocking system for the Sony PlayStation 2) allows the user to play the “mini sex games” – the exact same thing the Hot Coffee mod unlocks for the PC version of GTA San Andreas.