What's Wrong with This Country? Feature - The Next Level

What's Wrong with This Country?

Only in the world of GTA are we allowed to kill hookers, but can't shag 'em.

Article by Ross Fisher (Email)
August 23rd 2005, 03:11AM

If your daily web browsing takes you anywhere near a news website that discusses videogames, then you should already know about Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series of videogames. What may not have hit your choice news agency is the now infamous "hot coffee" content in the newest GTA, San Andreas. The long and short is that buried deep within the game, accessible only by a third-party hack or cheat device is a gameplay mode where after several wine-and-dine dates with your in-game "girlfriend" she'll invite you in for coffee.

What we're really talking about is best summed up by Rodney Walker, spokesman for Grand Theft Auto's developer Rockstar, "We liken it to a painter who paints a painting and then paints over it," he said. "The thing that happened with the Hot Coffee mod was that it allowed people who downloaded it to scratch the painting to get to the original, earlier draft."

Yes, that kind of coffee.

What follows is more awkward and rudimentary than the marionette puppet sex scene in last year's TEAM AMERICA movie. No genital is visible, and the main character (CJ) remains fully clothed. Children armed with Barbie dolls and GI Joes have created crasser scenes of sexual diversion.

And you know what… something is wrong with our country. And it's not violent videogames. As others have pointed out, as the violence in all forms of media has increased in the last decade, violence among teens has actually decreased. But, that's not what I'm going to talk about today...

I want to know why in our society, a game with 120 hours of violence and crime is ok for teens 17 and up, but a crude sex scene is so morally outrageous that it requires a $90 million dollar FCC/FTC investigation and multiple lawsuits? Why can violence hide behind the 1st amendment, but sex is horrific that those charged with defending the Constitution suddenly disappear?


PVP Online. Scott Kurtz.

There is something wrong with a society that 'tisk-tisk's violence in a videogame, but screams and threats over an act of sex between two consenting adults. Yes, consenting. What baffles me is how outraged the Hillary Clinton's of the world get over the "hot coffee" in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas when it's probably the only non-violent part of the game.

If anything it's an interesting moment in the game from a feminist point of view: Where for most of the game CJ is shown as a force that overpowers police officers, pedestrians, and thugs once he's invited in for coffee he is suddenly at the bidding of a woman. In the gameplay of the "hot coffee" mode CJ is challenged by a woman to satisfy not his own lusts of gun play and car jacking but her libido. The whole point of the mini-game is to make the woman happy.

Are people worried that impressionable teens will follow the example and have sex? Hell, I don't think many of today's sexually active teens spend as much energy as CJ does to get "hot coffee." Even if you add up all of the so-called copycat crimes GTA is said to have spawned you still only have a handful. By such numbers we could solve the underage sex problem in America right now by giving every kid a copy of GTA:SA and a bottle of Lubriderm.

What angers me is that it took a non-violent act between two consenting (and even hetero) partners to enrage the "moral" center of this country. We're talking of course about a game series where you can run around town with a chainsaw cutting innocent pedestrian's heads off. Then when they're down you can dip the still running chainsaw into their midsections and watch blood splatter everywhere. (It even splashes onto the camera and drips down the TV screen.)

We're talking about a game where you can have unprotected sex with a hooker at the drop of a hat, with no consequences and then beat said hooker to death to get your money back. You can then lie in wait for the ambulance coming to cart her away and kill the emergency medical workers before they get a chance to help her. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a game where car jacking isn't a felony, but a manner of public transportation.

This is not a game that any minor should be playing! This is something that the industry needs to be more honest about...oh wait every time someone mentions GTA the first thing an industry representative says is, "It's not meant for kids." On the front of the package is one of these labels.

MATURE. Titles rated M (Mature) 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.

There is no one in the industry who will tell you that M rated games should be purchased by children. Yet many will try to tell why they believe that the government (be it state or federal) should not get involved in enforcing the ratings. Often they argue that parents should be more involved. However, apparently there hasn't been enough warning to grandparents to prevent them from buying the game for their 14yr old grandchildren. So maybe it's time the industry took a proactive step and gave the game (even without "hot coffee") an AO rating?

ADULTS ONLY. Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

What is the big difference? More "prolonged" scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity? As Tycho from Penny-Arcade said,

"This can't seriously be their distinction. The scenes are longer? I played Resident Evil 4 nearly 26 hours, all told. I'm going to say that maybe nineteen hours of it was spent looking down the iron sights at humanoids. The reality is that once a person is 18, a violent videogame is fairly minor in the spectrum of "adult" content available to that person. Looking over my collection, if the duration of the violence is the distinguishing factor, I'm trying to figure out what purpose Mature serves other than to remove the stigma from otherwise "adult" content and grease the wheels at retail." [Emphasis added.]

Truthfully it is a failing of the industry itself that there are no channels/systems setup for Adult Only games. If I can go into Powell's and buy a copy of Playboy while kids browse the comic book racks and read Harry Potter without the world coming to an end; then surely my fellow adult gamers should be able to do the same with Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

There, I was honest. Now it's time for people like Hillary Clinton to do the same. Every new medium is blamed for social ills, just as new immigrants are blamed for economic ills. It's an old trick, but the sooner politicians realize that the videogame industry is not the comic book industry of the late 1940's, the sooner they can stop wasting taxpayer's money.

This is not an industry that is small and unorganized. Millions of people play videogames, most of them over 21, and even worse for politicians most of them are affluent. The ESA and the ESRB rating board are a unified front that will protect videogames from the needless and barbaric censorship that stifled comic books and movies for decades.

Of course politicians and parent groups are all over the game's creators anyway for something that they never advertised or supported. What's wrong with our country that makes an act of sex, something we've all done (or will do), so much more detestable than an act of violence (which few have done)?

It makes me sad that so many rather bright people are letting themselves get angry over a poorly animated sex scene in a videogame that requires more effort to see than most sexually active teenagers have ever put forth in all their hormonal escapades. That it took this act of consensual sex to get politicians and parents so riled up about this videogame is even sadder.

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