Friday, July 29, 2005

Parental controls

Okay folks ... time for a little editorial. The best thing about my having this little part of cyberspace real estate is that when push comes to shove, I can vent. The subject of my rant today? Hot coffee and frivilous lawsuits ... and no, this has nothing to do with McDonald's.

In case you missed the news, an 85 year old grandmother has filed a suit in New York against Take Two Interactive and its Rockstar subsidiary over the game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. According to the lawsuit, the woman claims that Take-Two engaged in "false, misleading and deceptive practices" because she bought the game for her 14 year old grandson without knowing the game contained hidden scenes of an explicit sexual nature.

The content in question stems from the now infamous "Hot Coffee" mod for the PC version of the game. In GTA:SA, Rockstar had originally planned to have a mini-game which ended up with the main character, CJ, going through a series of events before ending up having sex with a girl in the game. Rockstar eventually decided not to include the content in the final version of the game. However, due to the nature of the game production, pieces of the programming code for the mission were left in the game. Before I go any further, let me say that this is actually a common practice in the video game industry. When the PC version of the game Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver came out from Eidos, fans were surprised to find buried in the coding a series of audio files that apparently were recorded for a different ending. The thing is, because of the thousands upon thousands of lines of code required in programming a game, and because of how those lines reference one another, many times it's simply easier to "break" the coding to render some function(s) unusable. Of course, as the saying goes, "Nothing is foolproof to a sufficiently talented fool." Hackers immediately found the broken code in the PC version of GTA:SA and created the "Hot Coffee" mod to rebuild the broken mission.

Now, like Frankenstein's Monster, the Hot Coffee mod has a life of its own and is rampaging through the political world. Politicians who have nothing better to do are jumping on the video game bashing bandwagon. Why? Because apparently somewhere along the way, some people forgot that it's actually the PARENTS' job to raise their kids. Instead, these politicians want to garner support by trying to act like white knights riding in to rescue children from the evils of the world. And THAT is a load of bullshit.

Here's the deal ... using this case as an example. This woman, an 85 year old adult, KNOWINGLY bought her 14 year old grandson a copy of a game titled GRAND THEFT AUTO!!! A game which has as clear as day on the back of the box an ESRB rating that clearly states:

Let's break that down for a sec:
  • Mature 17+ - This is like a movie getting an R rating from the MPAA. The product is suggested for people ages SEVENTEEN AND UP!! Most retail outlets won't even SELL these games to minors WITHOUT the consent of a parent or guardian.

  • The big black "M" - See above

  • Blood and Gore - You KILL people ... and in very violent ways

  • Intense Violence - Umm ... You kill MORE people ... and in very violent ways

  • Strong Language - Remember George Carlin's "Seven Dirty Words"? Yeah, they're all here, along with a few extras.

  • Strong Sexual Content - Do I NEED to spell this out for you? If so, here: S-E-X

  • Use of Drugs - People buy, sell, and use drugs in this game

Is there ANYTHING in that which would make and SANE person think this is okay content for a 14 year old? NO!! And by the same token, is any of this really ANY different than ANY R rated movie that hits the big screen? NO!! So why in the HELL does the video game industry seem to have a big bullseye on it?

Even Electronic Arts isn't safe from the idiocy of lawsuit happy populace. A Florida lawyer is looking into sueing EA over the popular Sims 2 game. Why? Because some gamers decided to create custom skins and hacks for their Sims to get the characters to run around in the buff, or engage in "sexual activities". WHO THE HELL CARES? When does the supposed responsibility of the game company end? If someone modifies a product after it's been sold, whose fault is it? If I bought a car, customized it in ways that make it no longer street legal, and then got a ticket ... could I sue the car manufacturer since it was originally THEIR product?

All this boils down to is a politically charged witch hunt. From Communists to comic books to covens of witches ... people just don't seem to be content without having something to build a new Inquisition around. I'm reminded of a line uttered by Tommy Lee Jones in Men In Black ... and I'll close with it and step off my soapbox for now:
"A 'PERSON' is smart. 'PEOPLE' are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it."


Jenn said...

You know I share the same opinion. I think it's complete and utter bullshit that she bought the damn kid the game and then gets all mad when it turns from really bad to REALLY REALLY bad. Who's to say her grandkid is even smart enough to figure out the mod? Heh.

The little brat prolly conned his grandmother into buying it anyhow. Cos you know if he had halfway decent parents, they'd tell him no.

Kath said...

OH YA, I couldn't agree more. When will consumers as a group take responsibility for their choices?? GOOD ONE DAVID!! btw How big is your soapbox??

Randy said...

Maybe they can counter-sue the grandmother for frivilous lawsuit and horendous parenting.

Well-written article though, you should post links around.