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Headlines Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Recieves Adults Only Rating

Descent

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http://www.gamespot.com/news/2005/07/20/news_6129500.html

GameStop said:
After percolating for weeks, the Hot Coffee controversy has finally boiled over. Today, Take-Two Interactive announced that as the result of an investigation by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), all versions of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas will now bear an AO for Adults Only rating for "Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content, [and] Use of Drugs." Previously, the game was rated M for Mature.

The rerating comes nearly a month after the first reports surfaced of the so-called "Hot Coffee" mod for the PC version of San Andreas. After being installed, the widely available mod lets users play a bonus sex minigame as a reward for completing the numerous "girlfriend" missions in San Andreas.

After video of the mod was widely circulated, such figures as ardent anti-game activist Jack Thompson and US Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) blasted the game. Clinton went as far as to publicly equate violent games with cigarettes and alcohol as a hazard to America's youth. In short order, the ESRB launched the aforementioned investigation, which looked into whether the mod was included in the original game or was made by a third party.

In response to the PC mod surfacing and gaining wide notice, Rockstar Games, the Take-Two subsidiary that develops and publishes San Andreas, issued a carefully worded statement in reference to the mod. "So far we have learned that the 'Hot Coffee' modification is the work of a determined group of hackers who have gone to significant trouble to alter scenes in the official version of the game," it read.

However, Rockstar's statement did little to extinguish the fires of controversy. Soon, reports began to surface that console versions of San Andreas contained code for the sex minigame. Late last week, GameSpot editors unlocked the code from a PlayStation 2 copy of San Andreas bought in October 2004, using an Action Replay Max device and a series of cheat codes. Since console games are written on unalterable DVDs and cheat codes cannot introduce new content, the fact the minigame was playable at all means it was included in the original PS2 San Andreas, albeit hidden.

The AO for Adults Only rating means that, according to the ESRB's official definition, the current version of the game now "should only be played by persons 18 years and older" and "may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity." This doesn't sound too far off from the ESRB definition for the M for Mature rating, which says games bearing it "have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language."

But while they sound similar on paper, the AO and M ratings have one very big difference in real life. Namely, most major chain stores, including the all-important retail behemoth Wal-Mart, will not carry AO-rated games. By contrast, M-rated games aren't even separated from games bearing the T for Teen, E10+ for Everyone 10 and older, and E for Everyone ratings. (Games rated EC for Early Childhood are usually educational in scope and are found in different sections.)

[UPDATE 2 and 3] It didn't take long for the effects of the rating to be felt. Late Wednesday, Target, and Best Buy issued press releases they were pulling all versions of San Andreas from shelves. Unconfirmed reports had GameStop following suit, and Wal-Mart told CNN/Money that it had issued orders to all stores to stop selling the game. "We do not sell games that are rated AO," Wal-Mart spokesperson Karen Burk told the site.

In its statement, Take-Two outlined its response to the commerce-limiting AO rating. "[Take-Two subsidiary] Rockstar Games has ceased manufacturing of the current version of the title and will begin working on a version of the game with enhanced security to prevent the 'hot coffee' modifications," it read. "This version will retain the original ESRB M-rating and is expected to be available during the Company's fourth fiscal quarter." The quarter in question runs from August to October 2005. The company will also release a patch for the currently available PC version of the game, which will lock out the sex minigames.

[UPDATE 4] Wednesday evening, the Interactive Entertainment Merchants Association (IEMA), the main game-retailer lobby, issued a statement in the middle of its annual convention. "Our members intend to immediately cease all sales of the game until existing inventory can either be re-stickered with an AO (Adults Only) rating, or exchanged for new versions of the game that has the hidden content removed and the original M (Mature 17+) rating intact," read the statement. "Though not a policy, IEMA members generally do not carry AO-rated games any differently than we do not carry X-rated videos or DVDs, thus it is likely that our members will be removing all copies of the current version and re-stocking with the updated version."

Take-Two braced Wall Street for the financial fallout of the ESRB and IEMA decisions. Its statement, which was released after markets closed, said the company was lowering guidance for its third fiscal quarter (which ends July 31, 2005) to $160-$170 million in net sales and a net loss per share of $0.40-$0.45. Take-Two also lowered its guidance for the fiscal year (which ends October 31) to $1.26-$1.31 billion in net sales and $1.05-$1.12 in diluted earnings per share. The news hammered Take-Two's stock, which was down $1.82 (6.72 percent) in after-hours trading as of press time.

While not good, today's news was not as bad as it could have been. Most industry watchers had expected a hefty fine from either the ESRB or possibly even the government. Some even speculated that the company would be forced to recall all copies of the game, at a catastrophic expense.

For its part, Take-Two stuck by its contention that the rerating was "due to unauthorized third party 'Hot Coffee' modification." The publisher reminded the public that "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."

Paul Eibeler, Take-Two's president and chief executive officer, also gave his personal thoughts on the matter in the statement. "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," he said.

"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," Eibler continued. "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."

[UPDATE 1] A Los Angeles Times story on the rating quoted Take-Two spokesman Jim Ankner as admitting that "there is sex content in the [San Andreas] disc. ... The editing and finalization of any game is a complicated task and it's not uncommon for unused and unfinished content to remain on the disc." However, a Rockstar Games spokesperson flatly told GameSpot that Ankner "was misquoted."

There was no misquoting Patricia Vance, president of the ESRB. In a sternly worded statement on the ESRB site, she said "we have concluded that sexually explicit material exists in a fully rendered, unmodified form on the final discs of all three platform versions of the game (i.e., PC CD-ROM, Xbox, and PS2)." She also had harsh words for Take-Two. "Considering the existence of the undisclosed and highly pertinent content on the final discs, compounded by the broad distribution of the third party modification, the credibility and utility of the initial ESRB rating has been seriously undermined," she said. "Going forward, the ESRB will now require all game publishers to submit any pertinent content shipped in final product even if is not intended to ever be accessed during game play, or remove it from the final disc."

Vance did concur with Rockstar's assertion that the sex minigames were "programmed by Rockstar to be inaccessible to the player and they have stated that it was never intended to be made accessible. The material can only be accessed by downloading a software patch, created by an independent third party without Rockstar's permission, which is now freely available on the Internet and through console accessories." A Rockstar spokesperson said the company was considering legal action against Action Replay, GameShark, and other makers of console cheat devices that allow access to the sex minigames.

By Tor Thorsen -- GameSpot
POSTED: 07/20/05 03:15 PM PST
What a disaster. But I gotta say, the lack of political outcry is assuring.

Discuss.
 

Brazen

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Stupid fucks out there got to screw it up for the rest of us!!

Good thing i already got it!
 
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That's funny, but this outcry is ridiculous, a six year old could access hardcore porn on the internet, but an obscure and animated sex scene in a video game causes such an outcry?
That's some fucked up shit. :thumbsdn:
 

Descent

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canadian_pov said:
That's funny, but this outcry is ridiculous, a six year old could access hardcore porn on the internet, but an obscure and animated sex scene in a video game causes such an outcry?
That's some fucked up shit. :thumbsdn:
CanadianPOV - In America, Senators like to blame things. It's too much work to go in depth, just hop aboard the "VIDEO GAMES/ROCK AND ROLL/COMIC BOOKS/DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS ARE CORRUPTING OUR YOUTH" bandwagon and use "GOVERNMENT SANCTIONED 'PSYCHOLOGISTS'" to do your homework for ya.
 

Boycott

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My little 5 year old sister plays GTA for the PS2 and she's damn good at it... She can be running around with 5 stars on her and blowing up tanks with rocket launchers and stuff... She knows almost every "Random Speech" off by heart... and runs into fast food places and shoots them up, then runs outside to shoot a few cops before flying away in a stolen helicopter...

But just one question surrounds this whole ordeal : Why didn't they do it to Vice City too? There were cheats for unlocking "Pedestrians walk around nude" ... and I believe in one part of the game Tommy goes into a strip joint (that is his) and receives "oral pleasures" from one of the strippers???

The difference between this and the hot coffee mod : This was actually supposed to be in the game - Hot coffee apparently was third party...

This is only the start of a new-age stock market crash... Now look what they've done! They've ruined the economy!
 
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I Hate The FCC said:
The question about this is not why but rather who cares?
Perhaps the multi-billion dollar video game industry cares. Perhaps the millions of people who own video game consoles care. Obviously, many parents care, and politicians care because caring will get them the votes of said parents.
 

Descent

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I Hate The FCC said:
The question about this is not why but rather who cares?
Anyone who hates scapegoating of any kind, i.e. me.


My little 5 year old sister plays GTA for the PS2 and she's damn good at it... She can be running around with 5 stars on her and blowing up tanks with rocket launchers and stuff... She knows almost every "Random Speech" off by heart... and runs into fast food places and shoots them up, then runs outside to shoot a few cops before flying away in a stolen helicopter...

But just one question surrounds this whole ordeal : Why didn't they do it to Vice City too? There were cheats for unlocking "Pedestrians walk around nude" ... and I believe in one part of the game Tommy goes into a strip joint (that is his) and receives "oral pleasures" from one of the strippers???

The difference between this and the hot coffee mod : This was actually supposed to be in the game - Hot coffee apparently was third party...

This is only the start of a new-age stock market crash... Now look what they've done! They've ruined the economy!
Yeah, I don't see anything wrong there. But when I was growing up, we had Mortal Kobmat and Doom and those recieved blame too.

I played both around 8 and I still don't find them that bad. They are actually quite comical, as is this.

On a side note, unused content in games has been around for YEARS. The Sonic titles on Genesis are notorious for this, there are unused enemies that people hack and install into the game. i.e. a gator bot in Sonic 2.

Hell, Sonic 2 even has a scrambled version of Hidden Palace Zone that didn't make it past the cutting block, but is fully functional in the leaked pirated beta on the net. And you can unlock that using a Game Genie or an Action Replay.

So how the fuck do they intend to scan every game for this crap? Can't we just stop the blame game and get to the chase?
 

Nailbomb

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canadian_pov said:
Perhaps the multi-billion dollar video game industry cares. Perhaps the millions of people who own video game consoles care. Obviously, many parents care, and politicians care because caring will get them the votes of said parents.
Don't forget about all the kids who shouldn't be playing it in the first place! I actually heard some kid today talking about how he'll be old enough to vote in '08, and he's not voting for Hillary (if she runs) simply because of this.
 

gurlgonewild

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GTA rocks, that's why we care!

I Hate The FCC said:
The question about this is not why but rather who cares?
:thumbsdn: to put it in perspective for you fcc, this is censorship. i thought you hated the fcc? you should care! :p
 
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Descent said:
On a side note, unused content in games has been around for YEARS. The Sonic titles on Genesis are notorious for this, there are unused enemies that people hack and install into the game. i.e. a gator bot in Sonic 2.

Hell, Sonic 2 even has a scrambled version of Hidden Palace Zone that didn't make it past the cutting block, but is fully functional in the leaked pirated beta on the net. And you can unlock that using a Game Genie or an Action Replay.

So how the fuck do they intend to scan every game for this crap? Can't we just stop the blame game and get to the chase?
Even Halo 2 has this stuff, you can't blame game designers for what isn't supposed to be played.

Also, just leave the fucking video game industry alone, they have enough problems right now without people going around slapping AO ratings on popular games.
 

Descent

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canadian_pov said:
Even Halo 2 has this stuff, you can't blame game designers for what isn't supposed to be played.

Also, just leave the fucking video game industry alone, they have enough problems right now without people going around slapping AO ratings on popular games.
Yeah, problems like releasing the same re-packaged crap over and over again! And people wonder why I love my DOS computer, Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, Nintendo 64, Sega Dreamcast, and my other old consoles!

THERE'S ACTUALLY UNIQUE TITLES ON THOSE THAT PLAY LIKE ALL-NEW GAMES!

I mean, I'm tired of all the same shit.
 

star99ers

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When was the last time you saw a game get an A Rating anyway? That was way back during the beginning of the N64 days.
 

Jung

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canadian_pov said:
you can't blame game designers for what isn't supposed to be played.
Yes you can. It was stupid of Rockstar to figure that people wouldn't find out; games are cracked, modded and otherwise altered all the time, a lot of times within hours or days of being released.
Also, just leave the fucking video game industry alone, they have enough problems right now without people going around slapping AO ratings on popular games.
Well maybe some decent parents want the rating system in place to actually do its job. There's a novel idea! If they just let SA keep it's rating because "it's a popular game," it defeats the purpose of the ESRB. Then what, we're back to square one with congress threatening to step in and regulate? Brilliant idea!

Rockstar screwed themselves, now they have to deal with it. Oh well...
Descent said:
So how the fuck do they intend to scan every game for this crap?
It's called QA, and it's the responsibility of all software development firms. Sure, it's fine to leave trivial things in, but leaving in something like this was stupid and irresponsible. They left in code that could possibly cause a scandal, then lied about it. I'm not the least bit sympathetic.
 
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Yeah, maybe some parents want the 'ratings' system to do it's job...like keep 8 year olds from playing games with MA17+ ratings on them. Rockstar screwed up, but all of this hype is about so much more than that. Why is it that we keep allowing the gov't and the media to convince us that we don't know how to raise our children?
I mean, really...GTA: San Andreas was ok for the kiddies before we found out about the pseudo-porn, even though the ESRB had tagged it with it's MA17+ rating, right? Even with all the robbing, stealing, cop-killing, car-jacking, prostitute-screwing, drug-dealing, gambling, strip-club-going, bank-robbing, dildo-whacking that was already going on? This is where we should all be saying WTF!?!?
If you're a parent and you're kids are playing an "adult" game, it's YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT. If you don't know what your kids are playing, it's YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT. C'mon America...pull your collective head out of your ass. We're all going to let Hillary Clinton & Co. convince us that we need yet another piece of legislation to govern our daily lives so that we don't have to think about the decisions we make, the actions we take, or the consequences they have.
Oh, and by way of credentials, I play the fucking game and have three kids, and they don't play the godamn thing because I don't let them.
Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it! :mfinger:
 
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FlipTheState said:
Yeah, maybe some parents want the 'ratings' system to do it's job...like keep 8 year olds from playing games with MA17+ ratings on them. Rockstar screwed up, but all of this hype is about so much more than that. Why is it that we keep allowing the gov't and the media to convince us that we don't know how to raise our children?
I mean, really...GTA: San Andreas was ok for the kiddies before we found out about the pseudo-porn, even though the ESRB had tagged it with it's MA17+ rating, right? Even with all the robbing, stealing, cop-killing, car-jacking, prostitute-screwing, drug-dealing, gambling, strip-club-going, bank-robbing, dildo-whacking that was already going on? This is where we should all be saying WTF!?!?

Fuck the ratings, video games don't kill people, people kill people. San Andreas shouldn't even have an M rating, IMO. My friend's brother is 12, and he fucking knows it isn't real. He isn't gonna go out and start stealing cars. Shit, there shouldn't even BE an "M" rating. There should be two ratings, above 12, and everyone. Teenagers aren't about to go on a bloody rampage based on what they see in a video game, if they are going to do this at all, (which is unlikely), you should be blaming the culture of violence as a whole. San Andreas is part of that culture, I suppose, but so is the war in Iraq, violence on TV, and other random things that promote this idea that it is good to use violence to achieve your aims.

FlipTheState said:
If you're a parent and you're kids are playing an "adult" game, it's YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT. If you don't know what your kids are playing, it's YOUR OWN DAMN FAULT. C'mon America...pull your collective head out of your ass. We're all going to let Hillary Clinton & Co. convince us that we need yet another piece of legislation to govern our daily lives so that we don't have to think about the decisions we make, the actions we take, or the consequences they have.
I semi-agree with you here, if your kids are playing an Ao game, then you should take responsibility for that, but I barely think the ESRB should exist.

FlipTheState said:
Oh, and by way of credentials, I play the fucking game and have three kids, and they don't play the godamn thing because I don't let them.
Whoop-de-fuckety-doo. So you do stuff you don't let your kids do. Join every other parent in America in underestimating the maturity of your children.

FlipTheState said:
Put THAT in your pipe and smoke it! :mfinger:
Maybe I will, it's just been decriminalized. ;)
 
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canadian_pov said:
Whoop-de-fuckety-doo. So you do stuff you don't let your kids do. Join every other parent in America in underestimating the maturity of your children.
Well, the oldest is 8 and I'm 29. So sue me if I'm ...umm...what was that you agreed with?....taking responsibility for raising my kids? If a kids is mature enough to handle it, then whatever. But my kids have a year or so to go before I allow then to indescriminately steal cars and pick up hookers...even if it's on a video game, y'know? If I'm responsible for the way they turn out, then at some point I have to act on that responsibility, no? There are other ways of determining a kid's level of maturity than by whether or not they can play GTA.

:gun: :mfinger: :)
 
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FlipTheState said:
Well, the oldest is 8 and I'm 29. So sue me if I'm ...umm...what was that you agreed with?....taking responsibility for raising my kids? If a kids is mature enough to handle it, then whatever. But my kids have a year or so to go before I allow then to indescriminately steal cars and pick up hookers...even if it's on a video game, y'know? If I'm responsible for the way they turn out, then at some point I have to act on that responsibility, no? There are other ways of determining a kid's level of maturity than by whether or not they can play GTA.

:gun: :mfinger: :)
Oh, never mind, 8 years old is probably too young to be playing these games, (as I said, I draw the line somewhere around 12-14).
 

Descent

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star99ers said:
When was the last time you saw a game get an A Rating anyway? That was way back during the beginning of the N64 days.
Thrill Kill - which was unreleased.

Although the uncensored version of Leisure Suit Larry - Magna Cum Laude did get an AO rating, it was sold over the interwebnetz.