40 Hours of Television

The class is over, but the discussion continues. Does the media shape reality, or does reality shape the media? Art can imitate life...and life can imitate art. "40 Hours of TV" will explore the media and its impact on us all.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The GTA: San Andreas controversy, pt. II

In an amazingly fast turn-around, the ESRB has re-rated Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to "Adults Only" from "Mature." The reason for the change was the discovery that a "mod" (in game-speak it's software that makes changes to a game) that unlocked a mini-game that showed polygon figures engaged in a sexual act. But you have to install the mod in order to see the computer sex. You wouldn't see it if you had just installed and played the game.

I'm going to play devil's advocate for a moment. Why was GTA: San Andreas singled out? Rockstar Games, the developer, has a reputation for creating edgy (and controversial) video games meant for adults, not children.

There are several installments of the Grand Theft Auto series. With the release of GTA: III, players were able to take the role of a young street thug and guide him through various criminal acts. It was an open-ended game, meaning the player had the ability to do whatever they wanted in the game. You could be as violent as you wanted -- or not.

Now, in GTA:III, players can pick up a...well, whore, and, if low on health, a few seconds alone with the companion restores the player's health. You don't actually see what is going on, but if you're playing, you know. And when you're done, why, the game allows you to bash the whore's head in with a bat and take her money. You don't have to do that, obviously, but the game lets you. And it is rated "M", rightly so.

Now, to the devil's advocate position: GTA:III and GTA: Vice City featured white protagonists; GTA: San Andreas features black protagonists. Yet it was only GTA: San Andreas recalled and re-rated as "AO" (adults only). And an "AO" rating is the mark of death for a game developer. Most retail stores will not carry an "AO" rated title. It's like a movie getting an "X" rating.

So, the title featuring black characters doing basically the same things as the white characters in the previous installments of Grand Theft Auto is rated "AO" for something that wasn't even a part of the game without installing a patch.

Rockstar also developed a game called Manhunt. The premise: you play a killer sent on a mission to murder street scum and then film the extremely gruesome murders for a snuff movie. Did I mention the murders are graphic? That game received an "M" rating.

So...is the controversy surrounding GTA: San Andreas racially motivated? Any thoughts?


Blogger The Jerz said...

It's only a video game. Three words Leisure Suit Larry. That was the original controversial game. I turned out okay. Parents need to take some responsibility.

8:29 PM  
Anonymous insanehippie said...

I think Maddox once again wrote about this better than anyone else could. http://www.thebestpageintheuniverse.net/c.cgi?u=ticket_to_hell

As usual, Maddox's writing is on the money.

"What pisses me off more than anything is that I paid for a game rated for 17 year olds, or possibly 17 and 1/2 year olds, tops. What I got was a game rated for 18 year olds instead."

9:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I should've coded in the link.
Maddox: Ticket to Hell

9:34 PM  
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12:49 AM  
Blogger Neuro said...

I think "the jerz" hit on a valuable point that a lot of ppl are forgetting about. Parents do not pay attention to what their kids are playing. Hell they even go out and buy the games themselves for the little brats. Totally unaware of the content. They don't care because it shuts the kid up and gets him/her off their back. This change of rating is a pathetic way to attempt to right something that tons of avocate groups have thought to be wrong for a long time. I think the pressure got too much and the rating group caved.
I personally see no need for a game like this and the violence involved. Don't get me wrong, I play the war games and the Halo type games but there is a line between obvious fantasy and very very close ties to reality. I think this game is a little too close to reality and that is what scares a lot of ppl. Again, don't get me wrong, the war games can be too. Is there a real need to have the violence burned into the minds of the youth? I really don't think so. I don't believe in censorship but there is a fine line. Those that step up to or over the line have to expect this type of reaction.


4:02 AM  
Blogger The Venting Housewife said...

just passing through B.E and had to comment, is it bad that I am a mom of 2 and love this game. Seriously and i finished it, yes without cheats. I found it a good stress reliever lol! I don't think people should give a crap, sometimes parents have to be the parent and if they don't want the kid to play then its there job to not get it for the kid. Don't make it the responsibility of playstation to watch out for what your kid might watch.

5:18 AM  
Anonymous Paddy said...

Saw the movie clip... its funny, and as they mentioned on some other website - its nothing worse than you'd get on Sex and the City.

The game has a mature rating so wtf is the big deal?

5:40 AM  
Anonymous ender said...

i think one of the issues is that the company claimed you had to install the mod to see that movie. but this turned out to be untrue - there are now claims that the movie has actually been unlocked through game play on xbox, and i believe, on ps2.

that said, i don't really get the panicked hype either. it might be the race. it might be a growing panic over the gta games in general that people decided this little movie meant it was time to take a stand.

honestly, people should just frickin' chill. i wouldn't want my ten year old playing those games pretty much regardless. if i had a sixteen year old, well, it would depend on the kid. and there'd be some obligatory discussions over the content of the game - not nagging, but we'd actually talk about it.

it all boils down to parenting -- parents need to take some frickin' responsibility. there's always going to be something out there that you don't want your kids to see. but you know what, if you actually talk with them and parent them, you can work thru that crap.

7:05 AM  
Blogger Steve said...

I think you're overanalyzing the situation. While it's never completely out of sight, I doubt that race played much of a role in this decision.

However, I think the decision is a dangerous precedent to set. The mod should be rated AO, not the game. There's probably hundreds of games out there with similar content just waiting to be hacked.

On the other hand, there is a beneficial effect here. This game made an example of the modding community. Myself, I'm tired of modders who try to change online games (like Halo 2 to give themselves unfair advantages. Some negative publicity on this issue might force game companies to do something about their communities being hijacked.

Games are for Children

3:29 PM  
Anonymous insanehippie said...

I know this situation first hand, I work at Best Buy, which has now pulled ALL versions of GTA-SA from my store and the website. Anyone who tries to purchase a Mature game gets ID checked (a little box appears on the register screen).

I sometimes would see parents looking for the GTA games for their kids. I showed the parents the rating system, I don't think many of them had ever noticed it before. Once they read the reasons behind the game's rating, they put it back on the shelf. I love the game rating system, but I do NOT want government getting in the way.

GTA-SA is a very violent game but you must be mature enough to take responsibilty for your own actions. GTA should have been a 18+ game to begin with. I don't see the point of having a Mature 17+ rating and the AO 18+ rating and differing between the two. You're either mature enough for the game or you should stick with Pokemon and Super Mario Brothers.

I should've bought GTASA before it was removed. Now it will be near impossible to get, pre-ban or after the AO rating. It's a good stress reliever.

12:05 AM  
Blogger Susan L. Prince said...

These "hot" games fly off the shelves the day of release. I figure it's a moot point because it has already been purchased by most who wanted the thing anyway. We can't go back and ID people now.

6:08 AM  
Blogger Scott C. Smith said...

Apparently, the game The Sims 2 has sexual content that can be unlocked with a patch. It's supposed to be just as sexually graphic as GTA: San Andreas. But there hasn't been a call to pull it from the shelves. Why might that be the case?

12:30 PM  
Blogger onscreen said...

I don't think it has anything to do with race, it's just that Rockstar is the company that loves to push the envelope. It's like they are the icon for everything thats bad in the world, so it seems like the best place to star attacking.

I personally think the Dutch Computer Geek that wrote the patch should be sued by Rockstar for potential loss of revenue....

5:51 PM  

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