Thursday, July 28, 2005

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

If you follow gaming news, or political maneuvering to score points with constituents, then you've probably heard about the controversy surrounding Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The makers of the game included hidden sex scenes that could only be unlocked using hacking tools or add-on modifications. Let's ignore for a moment that the sex scenes show clothed game characters and do not show any genitalia or nudity. Hillary Clinton is up in arms about this issue, calling for the FTC to investigate the game's manufacturer and publisher. The U.S. House of Representatives even passed a resolution making the same request of the FTC. People are shocked (shocked!) that this sort of content found its way into a game that allows players to shoot anyone (bad guys, good guys, random pedestrians), steal cars, blow up cars and buildings, and wreak havoc in an urban environment on a massive scale. All of that violence is OK, even to the parents who bought it for their teenage and pre-teen children. But throw a little secret sex into the mix, and NOW we're all upset?!

I bought the game last week, after the "Hot Coffee" mod news broke (that's the software patch that lets you see the sex scenes) and word got out that the game's rating would be changed from M to AO and that the game might disappear from store shelves. I'd already planned to buy it, since I loved GTAIII and GTA: Vice City, so I wanted to make sure I could get a copy of the game. I'll be honest: it's an awesome game. I love the GTA series for the way they create a fully realistic world, if a bit cartoonish, inside your computer. The missions are no less violent than the missions in previous games. Last night I had to rob a National Guard outpost, which required me to shoot several soldiers in the middle of the theft. Other missions have involved drive-by shootings, home invasion, and gang fights. If you want to play the game but don't want to take on the missions, you can just drive around, try out all of the vehicles, check out the buildings and perform other tasks like working out at a gym to make your character stronger. It's such a complicated game that I could be playing it for months. I don't even care about the sex scenes; if I want to watch something like that, I know of many other ways to obtain it. I don't think it's right that Rockstar Games included this content, albeit locked away. I think on some level they were looking for this publicity. But I would never let anyone under 14 or 15 play the game. It's just too violent. The game itself is designed for you to cause trouble and break the law, and I don't think an 11-year-old child is mature enough to understand what they're doing. What really upsets me is the politicians jockeying for votes and exploiting this issue. Violent video games have been around for years, and they're going to be around for a long time. They're not the problem. The problem is the parents who succumb to the pressure from their young children and buy them games that are not appropriate for their age. A little more discipline in the home would go a long way.

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