Rupert Goodwins' Diary

Tuesday 26/7/2005Oh, blimey, Rockstar. What have you done?

Tuesday 26/7/2005

Oh, blimey, Rockstar. What have you done? A full Senate investigation into the way you hid some raunchy scenes in 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas', and American politicians foaming at the mouth over filth being peddled to children.

For those who haven’t been following the story, it’s pretty tame stuff. Rockstar Games have a very lucrative franchise with a very violent game series called Grand Theft Auto, in which you get to be a thug shooting, stealing and beating your way across some lawless American city. A gamer found a way to modify the current product so that you can make characters shag each other and perform other ‘sexually explicit acts’, the details of which I’ll leave to your fertile imagination. This caused no problems in Europe, where people on the whole see blowing someone’s head off with a shotgun as more objectionable than blowing… well, you get the picture. But in the US, a country so inexplicably prudish about sex that a momentary flash of nipple on TV created a week-long crisis, the so-called 'Hot Coffee' mod has provoked even shriller outraged cries for still more prudishness.

This is, of course, highly ridiculous. Not that this ever stopped a politician, especially when there’s a chance to roll around in the cowpats of high moral righteousness and throw a bit of dung at those horrible video game people who are corrupting our youth and destroying the fabric of society (etc.). No matter that everyone who owns a copy of GTA has got access to the Internet, where gigabytes of highly detailed pornography are but a URL away. No matter that anyone who types in the mod details will be, at worst, amused by the pixellated antics. Something Must Be Done.

Now, whether this is a joke gone wrong, a calculated bit of post-launch publicity or merely an oversight by Rockstar Games, the effects are not going to be good for the games industry. Nobody in that business wants more government interference, regulation or tighter classifications: they waste a lot of time and effort without any proof that they do much good. People who want to be responsible in what they let their kids watch and play will form their own view on content irrespective of the labelling; people who don’t care, don’t care. But if Something Must Be Done, then Done it will be.

It just goes to show. Even virtual sex has its consequences.