Retro: GD Interviewed in the Dallas Morning News

gtasa11.jpgThe “Hot Coffee” and GTA: SA news story has bubbled and boiled over and finally, with some help from a newspaper reporter, GamerDad comments on it.
Heard about Hot Coffee? It’s a mod that allows people to “unlock” hidden content in their copy of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. That hidden content is . . . sex. The Dallas Morning News called me up for comment. Here’s the interview from 2005!


I apologize. I barely paid attention to it. I’m tired of defending Rockstar Games. I love Grand Theft Auto, I own all of them, but I and my reviewers here at GamerDad have noted that this is the king of offensive and potentially damaging software available. We don’t believe in censorship, but we often wish Rockstar would simply use a little restraint. Maybe take the hooker killing out (such a silly thing to focus on) for example, just to throw a tiny bone to the politicians. Just to put on the appearance that you’re a good corporate citizen.

Instead it appears Rockstar may have lied when they claimed that “Hot Coffee” was something modders and hackers added to the game. The problem is that the solid state nature of the PS2 DVDs makes it impossible, or at least unlikely, for hackers to add content like this. That means Rockstar knew the content was there, or some coder put it in there on a lark, as a joke, or for their own reasons and now Rockstar is in trouble. So Take Two has announced an exchange and the ESRB has changed the Rating to AO (Adults Only) and stock prices will suffer, Hilary Clinton is using this as a pre-Presidential “look at me!” bid, and countless newspapers are writing ill-informed editorials railing against our corrupt and prurient medium while everyone is ignoring that the sex Hot Coffee adds to the game hardly makes the game much worse than the rampant violence already does.

GamerDad gave GTA: San Andreas a deserved ADULT Seal. So we see no reason to change our rating.

What’s being missed is the difficulty. Activating this stuff in the game requires a determined person (or child). It isn’t easy and it requires third party equipment like GameShark to do. No child left unattended and innocent is going to “stumble” onto this stuff. And, I might add, a determined child with Internet access and no supervision can uncover MUCH worse things on the Internet with far less effort.

This is a serious issue (especially if Rockstar put the code in there) but the controversy has done more, I think, to introduce this mod to children – than it has done to protect children from it. Believe me, before the story broke most kids had no idea this content was there and the game was released last October (or so). Now every kid knows about it and is probably trying to make it work. Kids are like that.

In a way I think Hilary Clinton and the other lawmakers jumping on this bandwagon are overstating the danger. Comparing video games to alcohol and cigarettes is ludicrous. Also, seeks to augment, not replace, the ESRB. GTA:SA was given our ADULT SEAL rating when we reviewed it. Not because of any hidden sex in the game, we gave it our ADULT SEAL simply because of the violence. I’d also like to add that it’s a terrific game, provided you’re old enough to handle the content.

GamerDad has contributed to an article that should appear in the Dallas Morning News tomorrow or this weekend. We did a short Q&A. I’m publishing it here for our readers.

DMN “How do you feel about this as a parent?”

GamerDad I don’t believe media should be censored and since GTA:SA is already infamous for being inappropriate for children, I don’t think this makes much of a difference. The game is already Rated 17+ (M-Mature). Now it’s rated AO (Adults Only which is 18+) – that’s exactly one year difference!

DMN “You’ve told me you don’t allow your kids to play games like this”

GamerDad My kids play games like Eye Toy, Donkey Konga, and old arcade games or Super Mario. Oh, and games featuring Dora the Explorer. They can play Grand Theft Auto when they’re adults.

DMN “Have your feelings changed with the new rating?”

GamerDad No. But it’s interesting that a game that features mayhem, murder, manslaughter, and actively portraying a criminal is suddenly worse if you add sex to the mix. GamerDad rated Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas as ADULT simply because of the violence, now that we know about Hot Coffee … we’ll keep it with the ADULT SEAL.

DMN “Are you considering returning or exchanging your game for one without the code?”

GamerDad No, but that’s largely because if the relative difficulty in getting the mod to work and because my kids are little. Parents with teens should curtail access to the and/or exchange it. But the bottom line here is that kids ALREADY shouldn’t have access to the game. It was Rated M-Mature and all AO means is you can’t buy it at certain chains. Oh and one year difference. Anyway, the bottom line here is that your kid shouldn’t have access to the game before we knew they’d be able to see simulated  sex.

DMN “How easily could this issue come up with other games?”

GamerDad Again we aren’t sure who is responsible but every parent needs to know about mods (short for Modifications). They can be created and applied to ANY PC game. This includes Nude codes for the T-Teen rated Sims 2 to “skins” that make Quake players look like Presidential Candidates. It’s a scary Internet out there, parents need to hold their kid’s hands when crossing the street.

DMN “What’s the best way parents can make sure they’re not inadvertantly buying something inappropriate for their kids?”

GamerDad Visit Seriously, we review games more completely than a review body like the ESRB can. We didn’t detect the Hot Coffee mod when we reviewed GTA:SA but that’s only because it’s very well hidden. But in general parents need to remember that GTA was an M-Rated game to begin with. That makes it the equivalent of the MPAA’s R rating. The Hot Coffee sex scenes are pretty tame for an R-Rated movie, don’t you think?

DMN “How big an issue is this anyway?”

GamerDad It’s a small issue but it’s serious enough to pay attention to. Sadly it’s being exploited for political gain. The bottom line is that we don’t know yet if Rockstar put the content in there (in which case Rockstar should be fined by the ESRB) or if Hackers came up with a way to add this content (if this is the case, then it’s a completely different issue). But there’s nothing in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that is worse than the things any enterprising youngster, if left unsupervised, can find on the Internet. The danger isn’t a videogame; the danger is not paying attention to what your kids are up to.

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