Thursday, July 21, 2005

Rockstar Doused with Hot Coffee

By now, just about everyone on the internet has heard about the infamous "Hot Coffee" mod that lets you play an interactive sex scene in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and how it's since been determined that despite developer Rockstar's pleas to the contrary, the code for this sex game was left in the original PS2 version.

In short, Rockstar has found itself pwned. Hard. And fast. The unfortunate thing is, so has the games industry.

I won't rehash the explicit details of the mini-game itself, nor the manner in which to access it. Suffice it to say, you have to go out of your way and devote the better part of an afternoon just to play a few minutes worth of pixelated nudity that's half-assed at best, so to speak. So why all the hub-bub about this from the hallowed halls of the Senate? Why, we must protect the children of course! Anything less is downright un-American! We must support the right for free violence for all, but nudity?!? Holy crap, stop that now!

I mock the rather Puritanical values of our nation, but the repressed nature of the Religious Right in America isn't going anywhere. Personally, I don't think it's really grown or shrunk since the glory days of Oliver Cromwell's people landed here, but it's voice has always been both shrill and frequently used. They may very well be in the minority of the populace, but you would never know it from how vocal they are. I'm all for people believing what they want, but the second they become more interested in living my life instead of theirs, they anger me to no end.

All of this is a round-about way of saying Rockstar displayed the sort of hubris and wanton stupidity others hold up as an example of "What Never To Do" in their respective business fields. By leaving this in game, whether intentionally or by accident, they opened the flood gate for the sort of political and activist probing the games industry does not ever need. The entire argument boils down to the fact that games in general are not static content such as movies and television shows and as a result anyone with a bit of tech savvy can modify them to their heart's content.

Where that blurs the line between what is "acceptable" and what is a "violation of the hearts/minds of children everywhere OH NOS!1!" is what the developer created and what the end user adds to it. Any modification creator worth their salt can alter game code like Neo could change the world of the Matrix in the blink of an eye. There is little to no challenge there, and by leaving questionable code in a powder keg of a game like Grand Theft Auto is to invite the kind of mayhem that has now erupted.

It’s a shame that fools like Rockstar and Running With Scissors have become the de facto poster children of the games industry in the eyes of Washington. Or course, when have politicians ever concerned themselves with learning facts when the "seriousness of the charge" looks so much sexier headlining the New York Times?

To its eternal credit, the games industry is giving Rockstar the grand spanking it deserves. GTA: SA has been pulled from every shelf in the land with the intent of relabeling it as Adults Only until Rockstar releases a patch that locks the code out from the PC version. The PS2 and Xbox versions are pretty much guaranteed to be AO only until Rockstar goes back and re-releases the games without the code, possibly at great cost to them. No one ever said stupidity came cheap, and hopefully Rockstar will learn something from this.

If history has proven anything though, they’ll just do something even dumber next time. Idiots.

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