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News for July, 2005

Friday, July 29, 2005
Australia takes action over Hot Coffee
Posted by Luke at 16:37. Category: General

Australia's Office of Film and Literature Classification have revoked GTA: San Andreas's current rating as a result of the Hot Coffee modification. Originally the game had the classification MA15+, therefore it could only be sold to those over the age of 15.

The game is now banned in Australia from being sold, rented or advertised. The board have stated that any existing stocks of the game should be removed from shelves immediately.

The board also advised to parents that caution is required if they choose to allow their children to continue playing the game, and that care should be taken particularly if they potentially have access to Hot Coffee.

All this has happened only days after the re-rating of the game in the United States after the uproar caused by US politicians and Jack Thompson. Many US stores have already refused to sell the game as a result of it's re-rating to Adult Only.

Rockstar Games are still working on producing a version without the content regarded as offensive. The issue has been taken more liberally on the internet however, many people stating that re-rating a game that simulates crime due to a modification makes little sense.


Thursday, July 28, 2005
Granny slams GTA
Posted by adamcs at 01:41. Category: General


Granny's response to Hot Coffee

On Tuesday we reported that the FTC have launched an investigation into advertising claims made for GTA San Andreas, now it has emerged that a granny is filing a lawsuit in the southern district of New York after she bought the "M" rated game for her teenage grandson.

"The plaintiff, Florence Cohen, claims in her lawsuit that she purchased the game for her teenage grandson in or about late 2004 when the game was rated "M" for mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board and was damaged when it came to light that sexually explicit scenes believed to be inaccessible by players were left in the game by developers. The lawsuit makes claims of unfair business practices, consumer deception and false advertising against Take-Two Interactive and Rockstar Games."

We'll keep you updated, as always. Thanks to the guys at Gamers.com for the news.


Tuesday, July 26, 2005
"Federal Trade Commission Inquiry"
Posted by adamcs at 20:56. Category: General

Sounds fancy, hmm? Take-2 have announced that staff from the FTC's division of advertising practices have launched an investigation into advertising claims made for GTA San Andreas.

Rockstar Games and Take Two Interactive regret that consumers may have been exposed to content that was not intended to be accessible in the playable version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The Company has taken significant steps to remedy this situation, including halting production of the current version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and has begun working on a version of the game that will not contain the elements used to enable the "hot coffee" modification. Going forward, the Company will refine the process by which it edits games and will enhance the protection of its game code to prevent such future modifications.

Take-Two Interactive recognizes and takes seriously its responsibility to ensure that its games are rated and marketed appropriately. The Company will continue to support and promote the ESRB rating system to help keep mature-themed video game content out of the hands of children.

Related Link: Take-2 Interactive Press Release


ESRB Attempts to Shut Down Modding, Modding Strikes Back
Posted by illspirit at 00:46. Category: General

After recent statments from the ESRB stating they wish to see modding for all games stopped, some of us decided it would be a good idea to defend ourselves from the whole "modders are evil" myth they are perpetuating. Namely that we somehow made something so shocking and offensive with Hot Coffee that it undermines their whole rating system, even though they've rated at least a half dozen titles as M which are just as (if not more) explicit than anything in San Andreas; modded or otherwise.

Click here to read some of the letters we have sent out, or click here to read a press release type thing some of us in the community came up with.


Saturday, July 23, 2005
ESRB Ratings System Explained
Posted by illspirit at 20:45. Category: General

After the last two weeks of controversy and confusion regarding the rating and contents of video games, lots of you have been left asking the question "how do the ratings work?" Well, it's really not an easy question to answer, as it most likely involves esoteric astrology rituals unknown to most and/or super computers running advanced chaos mathematics algorithms to randomly generate ratings. At any rate, I've put together a brief guide to help clear things up.

We'll start towards the middle of the spectrum at the Teen rating, since everything below it pretty much consists of brightly colored talking animals and ninety billion Tetris clones. As highlighted and attacked recently by everyone's favorite anti-game crusader, The Sims 2 is a life simulator game which involves making babies. Since it's rated Teen, all the baby making antics and other nudity are tastefully covered up with with a comical pixel blur. A blur which can be easily disabled (pictured left) by entering a quick code in the command console (intProp censorGridSize 0) to unlock all the hot naked sex. However, since the sims lack, erm, reproductive organs, it's apparently perfectly safe for kids to make 'em dry hump each other all day. An as an added bonus, it can help parents teach kids where babies come from without that awkward "birds and bees" nonsense. Sweet!

So, if naked Barbie-esque people screwing like bunnies isn't enough to get a Mature rating, what is? Simple. You just add some skimpy clothes to them first. For those with the attention span of a fruit fly or politician, Vice City had several missions involving a porn studio, and cut scenes showing the making of the porn, as pictured right. Sure, the M rating had much more to do with the stacks of joyful violence and carnage than it did the porn missions, but either way dressing the actors in swimsuits was enough to raise the rating. The Sims 2 only reached the level of "sexual themes", while Vice City scored a "strong sexual content" warning on its label despite showing less skin than The Sims 2. Of course sims don't have any parts to show, but the characters in VC don't even show the places where parts should be, so, yea.

Now that we've established adding clothes to sex scenes can bump a rating up from Teen to M, how does one achieve the dreaded Adults Only sticker? By adding even more clothes! Yep, I know it sounds quite insane, but just look at this picture from an unmodified "Hot Coffee" scene:

As you can clearly see, the dude is wearing a tank top, pants, and even shoes. Shoes of all things! Not only is he wearing 80% more clothes than the sex scenes in Vice City (and 100% more than the sims), but the girls are too. And aside from just having more clothes on, the content was locked away in a manner which required modding on a PC or memory hacking on a console to view. Seeing as The Sims has demonstrated that having sex and (arguable) nudity is perfectly fine in a Teen rated game as long as it is hidden by a censorship scheme which is easily defeated by any seven year old using an in-game cheat, then having it completely inaccessible outside of modding in San Andreas can't be a legitimate reason for an AO rating. And if naked dry humping is Teen for The Sims, scantily-clothed dry humping is M for Vice City, and fully clothed dry humping is AO for San Andreas, then there is only one logical conclusion to be drawn: clothes are fucking evil and should all be burned, banned, and burned again!

That said, the only thing more shocking the industry could do is a game about Eskimos. Even the mere mention of it here will surely result in my eternal damnation, so I dare not post a single picture of the inside of the igloo. Why, I bet they're wearing big furry parkas with hoods(!) in there while rubbing their naughty little noses together. If such a game was ever created, it would without a doubt bring forth the Apocalypse.

Oh, and if any Eskimos are offended, don't blame me, blame the clothes haters. Igloos and those wacky albino pandas rock!


Friday, July 22, 2005
Wacko Jacko
Posted by Tsuroki at 21:29. Category: General

NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT: It seems that good ol' Jack is on a power trip. After sniffing the crotch of victory in his crusade against Grand Theft Auto, he's now set his sights on a new target: the Sims. Ho. This is gold.

Jeff Brown, vice president of corporate communications at EA, in response to the accusations, told GameSpot, "This is nonsense. We've reviewed 100 percent of the content. There is no content inappropriate for a teen audience. Players never see a nude sim. If someone with an extreme amount of expertise and time were to remove the pixels, they would see that the sims have no genitals. They appear like Ken and Barbie."

Thompson doesn't buy it. "The sex and the nudity are in the game. That's the point. The blur is an admission that even the 'Ken and Barbie' features should not be displayed. The blur can be disarmed. This is no different than what is in San Andreas, although worse."

LOLZkthx. Come on Jack. Seriously. You're making an ass of yourself - stop it. Even I'm starting to feel sorry for you.

Source:
Gamespot Article


Next time, I think I'll have tea.
Posted by Tsuroki at 20:27. Category: General

Hope you all enjoyed the fairly relaxed featurette I posted earlier today, because it seems that the proverbial shit is continuing to hit the proverbial fan. I still can't believe that this Hot Coffee fiasco has gotten so out of hand, drawing the attention of worldwide press, spelling trouble for the gaming community, becoming a platform for politicians, and losing investors tons of money.

All this because some anal politicians from the south think that goofy poontang scenes, unlocked via a user-made modification and code-hacking hardware (in Grand Theft Auto, of all games) is corrupting some ten year old whose parents are too damn lazy to do their job. The game isn't made for Little Jimmy! How many times do I need to repeat myself?! ...gargh... But I digress. Here's the update.

Games Industry.biz reported today that Take Two may find themselves under further investigation from both the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

First off, the FTC is looking into the accusation that Rockstar Games was underhanded when dealing with marketing San Andreas, and falsely advertised the game as being rated Mature, when it secretly contained Adult Only content hidden underneath layers of code. Yeah. I'm not sure how this works either, considering the game was rated Mature by the ESRB and, in turn, that's how the game was advertised. Heh. Go figure.

Secondly, the SEC is looking at a chance of possible inside trading within Take Two, as a number of Take Two insiders were rapidly selling off shares in company stock last week as the ESRB promised to launch an investigation into Hot Coffee. According to a security analysist with the Bank of America, there is still much at risk for Take Two, and a class action lawsuit is inevitable.

"Several TTWO insiders, including Chief Operating Officer Gary Lewis sold common shares recently," he noted. "Lewis sold 20,000 shares on July 13th and filed to sell 40,000 shares on July 19th. The SEC could choose to investigate these sales. It remains unclear as to when the ESRB investigation began."

The article continues with commentary on the future of the GTA franchise, questions Rockstar as to why they would even bother making a sex minigame in the first place, and reminds us all that the ESRB has been "tarnished" as a result of this incident.

In light of this, the ESRB plans to introduce tougher standards for its ratings, which will demand more detail from publishers so that all content shipped on the disc, regardless of how accessible it is, can be considered in creating the rating for a game.

I think I speak for everyone when I say this:

Oh crap.

Source:
Games Industry Article


Hangover? Drink some coffee.
Posted by Tsuroki at 08:46. Category: General

Boy howdy! It's a make it or break it time for the GTA community as we anxiously wait to see what's going to happen next. Will the patching of the game's code cripple the thriving modification community? As a result of the Hot Coffee controversy, what's going to happen to future installments of the Grand Theft Auto franchise? Nobody knows for sure just yet, but you can be fairly certain that we're all a bit twitchy at the moment. (Maybe it's all the coffee. Har har. Bad joke. Har har.)

Taking a break from my long-winded rants and disgruntled reports, here's a relatively quick rundown of a few Hot Coffee-related postings from around the web. (Also, I'm bored, and tired, and fed up with this stuffy suit-and-tie deal that's been going on lately - so I wanted to post something a little bit nonchalant.)



1. Hot Coffee modification no longer available.
"As a sign of support towards RockStar, The Hot Coffee Mod is no longer available. I've removed this download out of free will. - PatrickW." The mod is no longer available for download, and Patrick is no longer supporting it, mmmkay?




2. San Andreas - Gone for Good?
"But retailers, including Wal-Mart and Best Buy, said yesterday that they were not certain they would carry a cleaned-up version of the game." A New York Times article reports on the position taken by some North American retail heavyweights, and the trouble it could cause for the GTA franchise.




3. Step Three, we believe, consists of bullshit.
""It was TEH HAXORZ!" ... "Wait, isn't this content also available on the PS2 and XBox?"" You've probably seen it, but what the hell, here it is again. The duo responsible for the most influential gaming-related webcomic on the interweb finally step forward with their response to Hot Coffee, Rockstar's foxtrot around the issue, and the ESRB rating system. (edit: link fixed. Thanks steve.)


4. Take Two admits the content wasn't made by modders.
"Rockstar's parent, Take Two Interactive, also admitted for the first time Wednesday that the sex scenes had been built into the retail game -- not just the PC version but also those written for Xbox and PlayStation2 consoles." CNN reports on Take-Two's final statement regarding the Hot Coffee controversy, as well as reactions from watchdog groups who have been keeping tabs on the ordeal.


5. IGN interviews Rockstar over the Hot Coffee fiasco.
"We are obviously aware of the mod community, but the skill, expertise and knowledge of Grand Theft Auto code required to create this mod surprised all of us. These elements were never meant to be found." IGN finally gets to go 1-on-1 with Rockstar Games regarding the Hot Coffee controversy. "Never meant to be found" pops up repeatedly in this interview. When questioned about the change in their official statements (from "extensive modification from hackers" to "unlocked content originally in the game"), Rockstar claims that their original statement still holds true - that significant alterations to the code is required in order to unlock the Hot Coffee sequences.


6. I just wanted a video game, not eternal damnation in hell.
"Instead, I was shocked to learn that Denise wasn't talking about a delicious beverage made from roasted beans, but what she was really talking about was SEXUAL INTERCOURSE." Maddox weighs in, in his usual fashion, on the whole Hot Coffee thing. "I want to shoot people in the face, bang prostitutes, traffic drugs, steal cars, and terrorize police officers without this filthy smut in my game."


7. Videogames are Evil.
"It's only a game." The Neistat Brothers provide an informative video on how to install the Hot Coffee mod, as well as a fun alternative for those of you who are unable to get your hands on the modification.




8. Hot Coffee: Developers Sound Off
"While the ESRB's AO-rating may seem harsh (prior to Take-Two reviewing and releasing an M-rated, Decaf version of the game), it is far better than, through inaction, abdicating responsibility and inviting greater governmental scrutiny and control. In other words, either the ESRB does something about it, or Hillary does." The Developers Sound Off article is a collection of opinions and responses from game developers, regarding both their position on Rockstar and the ESRB. If you're a member of the 1Up community, you can (as always) respond to the article.


9. ESRB is the suck!
""Now that it has been confirmed that Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc., failed to disclose to the ESRB the pornographic content of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the National Institute on Media and the Family recommends the creation of a video game rating system fully independent of the video game industry," added Dr. Walsh." The National Institute on Media and the Family has used the Hot Coffee controversy as justification for the demand that an independent group be formed to replace the ESRB. My guess is that they want to replace it with a group that begins with "National Institute" and ends with "Media and the Family".


10. Fargo and the adventures of MoralValuesMan.
""Look here," he explained, vaulting into a stolen Jaguar convertible with his blue cape billowing behind him. "Murder, theft, violence -- we're still all within the M-rating guidelines. Hop in!" He started up the car. "In fact, some of that would only qualify as 'Comic Mischief.' Did you see the look on that one guy's face?"" Fargo, of Gamespy, guides us through his satirical narrative commentary on the Hot Coffee modification.


11. Hilary Clinton's Commentary
"So many parents already feel like they are fighting a battle against violence and sexually explicit material with their hands tied behind their backs. We need companies to be responsible and we need rating systems that work." I think I'll just leave it at this - the game isn't made for kids. Get it through your heads, people.




Well, there you have it. An assortment of goodies relating to the Hot Coffee fiasco - everything from the perfectly sensible and mundane to outlandish and funny. If you manage to find any more interesting articles or content on the 'net related to the Hot Coffee mod, give us (or me) a shout on the forums.


UK rating to remain unchanged
Posted by adamcs at 00:37. Category: General

There appears to be some confusion regarding the UK rating of GTA San Andreas. Many suggested that the recent re-rating from M to AO in the US would lead to a re-rating in the UK, but Roger Bennett, director general of ELSPA, has confirmed that the game will retain its 18+ rating for the foreseeable future. However, this may change. Bennett said his organisation will "wait to hear what Rockstar's investigation throws up".

Source: Games Radar

In other news, Hilarity Hillary Clinton has released a statement expressing her thoughts on the recent re-rating, for anybody that cares.

Also, be sure to check this out - absolutely tremendous.


Wednesday, July 20, 2005
ESRB reach a decision
Posted by adamcs at 20:29. Category: General

Take-2 have announced the conclusion of the ESRB investigation concerning the hidden sex scenes in GTA San Andreas. The rating on all platforms was changed from "Mature 17+" (M) to "Adults Only 18+."

Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO) announced today that the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has changed the rating of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas on all platforms from "Mature 17+" (M) to "Adults Only 18+" (AO) because of the so-called "hot coffee mod," an unauthorized third party modification that alters the retail version of the game. Take-Two cooperated fully with the ESRB's investigation.

Rockstar Games will be making available shortly a downloadable software patch to render Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for PC impervious to the "hot coffee" modification. Rockstar encourages parent groups and political leaders to assist with distribution of the patch to prevent the content of the modification from spreading further.

Linkage.

And just incase you've been living under a rock, here is a short summary of the whole fiasco.

Related Link: VideoGamesAreEvil.com


Saturday, July 16, 2005
Assemblyman Yee, World Champion of Oxymorons
Posted by illspirit at 01:56. Category: General

Gamespot reported today on yet more saber rattling from every gamer's new favorite California State Assemblyman, Leland Yee. In a rather odd turn of events (though not altogether new in the world of politics), Mr. Yee found time to make a statement which totally contradicts itself. Brace yourself for this one, as the "logic" involved could cause whiplash.

"If, in fact, as Rockstar claims, these sexually explicit minigames were never in their games whatsoever, then I would assume that these hackers have violated the copyright of Rockstar games, of Grand Theft Auto, and that Rockstar should, in fact, take every action that they can to sue every single penny of those individuals who would violate their copyright," Yee said. "I haven't seen any of that at all, and that's why I'm suspicious of Rockstar's position of innocence."

So, let me get this straight, if nothing in the Hot Coffee mod was in any way made by Rockstar, they should sue us for violating the copyright on something that they never even made to begin with? Let alone something which never even existed to be copyrighted or, well, copied? If that's the case, does this mean I can sue every penny out of Microsoft because they violated my non-existent copyright on the program Windows which I never created? Someone tell me which judge won't laugh this type of litigation out of court and sign me up! And while you're at it, tell the SCO Group too, as they seem to be having some trouble suing the Linux community for somehow stealing code which doesn't seem to exist...

And for that matter, maybe Rockstar should sue everyone for every mod made dating back to the first GTA in 97'? Perhaps they could even sue us for the user made tools which R*Toronto/NY used to produce GTA: London!

*yawn*

In other Hot Coffee related news, the whole intraweb is abuzz at the revelation of ARMax codes which unlock the scenes on the PS2 version. Word on the e-street is that this means Rockstar was caught in a lie. Well, if you review what they said, it was basically that the scenes are not in the game, which they are not with a copy of the game right out of the box. They also said the scenes were "the work of a determined group of hackers" and "cannot be created without intentional and significant technical modifications and reverse-engineering of the game's source code", which is also true. Even with years of experience modding the GTA3D engine, and extensive knowledge of the file formats contained therein, it still took a lot of effort to get Hot Coffee working in-game. If anything, Rockstar just talked in a big legal-speak circle of plausible deniability.

At the end of the day, whether or not any of the code existed in game is a moot point, as it cannot be accessed in the retail game as-is. Re-rating or outright banning San Andreas based on the potential "misuse" of game assets by means of modification is a very slippery slope indeed. If the litigation and/or legislation in this case is successful, what's to stop someone else from coming along and suing someone else because their product could be modified by the user to do something harmful? Should it be okay to sue a lumber comapny because their wood could be carved into a dangerous pointy stick which could poke a kid's eye out? Where does one draw the line on such nonsense?

Sure, the critics will argue until they're blue in the face that "it was already hidden in the game!!". Well, obviously, these people haven't a bloody clue on how game mods work. If one was so inclined, a mod containing anything from cannibalism to necrophilia could be created by swapping a few filenames around or changing a few bytes here and there in a script, all using the assets available in the game. Hell, any game that has the same degree of edibility as GTA could provide just as easy a platform for obscene and disturbing mods using the stuff that comes with it.

If anyone reading this happens to be a voting constituent in Leland Yee or Senator Clinton's respective districts and doesn't want to see the GTA series banned or locked behind the doors of an obscure porn shop due to an AO rating, please, let them know. And if you are in any way involved in the mod scene (for GTA, or, any game, really), please, inform them just how easy it is for us to do all sorts of wild and crazy things to games which the developers never intended. If they don't listen to reason, offer to provide a proof-of-concept via a mod where the player can feast on dead priests while burning Bibles or something equally as blasphemous. But, by all means, be polite, civil, and courteous. Whether or not we agree with their knee-jerk politics, they are just doing their job. Or at least they think they are. At any rate, keep in mind that they technically do work for their citizens, so if you don't want them wasting your tax dollars on a bizarre and misguided witch hunt, tell them. After all, shouldn't they be more concerned with, oh, I don't know, the war, or maybe even the economy?


Friday, July 15, 2005
Jack Thompson is oozing again. Eww.
Posted by Tsuroki at 08:17. Category: General

If it smells like cheap hairspray and hails from Florida, chances are it's Jack Thompson. And guess what? IT IS! Straight from the beaches of Miami comes everyone's favourite anti-gaming attorney - you know the one. You've probably seen him on television, prattling on about how videogames are responsible for kids grabbing their daddy's rifle and heading out to play cap-the-cop. He's delusional, he's obsessive, he has a chip on his shoulder the size of Texas - and now he's back, to join up with Hilary Clinton and the other raging politicians who have deemed Hot Coffee the "last straw" for Rockstar Games.

Mr Thompson has sent out yet another one of his priceless letters, this time to the Entertainment Software Association, demanding that they "Dump Doug" - that is, Douglas Lowenstein, president of the ESA and founder of the Electronic Entertainment Expo. He accuses Doug of being a bully, a failure as a leader with his pitiful in his reaction to the Hot Coffee controversy, and holds him ultimately responsible for the eventual collapse of the videogame industry.

From what I can pick up in the letter, this is supposed to be some sort of spiteful prequel to the press conference led by Senator Clinton later in the day. It's akin to a "lolz, //3 r g0nna pwn j00 n00bs"-type note that immature twelve year olds send to one another prior to a Counter-Strike match.

In the letter - which is addressed to the ESA as a whole - Thompson compares Mr Lowenstein to Adolf Hitler, proclaiming that his stupidity in knowledge of the first amendment is similar to that of Hitler's when he attempted to invade Russia in the winter.

"When Hitler invaded Russia, opening up an Eastern offensive on the eve of winter, Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill noted that "Hitler must have been rather loosely educated, not having learned the lesson of Napoleon's autumn advance on Moscow ."

Your Doug Lowenstein is similarly "loosely educated" about the United States Constitution. I have never, in my eighteen years of public interest law practice against the excesses of the entertainment industry, run into an individual more devoid of even an elementary understanding of the meaning and scope of the First Amendment."

Ouch! Thompson also manages to throw in a few more low blows, including the following little gems:

"Doug Lowenstein travels with his own private make-up artist. Did you all know that? Obscuring personal and industry warts is a full time job for this man."

"Doug never met a pixilated prostitute he didn't like, and I'm sure James Madison would be impressed."

I love it when Jack sends out his letters - they're always chalked fill of comparisons and metaphors, buzzwords and catchy slogans. I almost have a feeling that he may have once attempted a career in journalism, only for it to come to a screeching halt because nobody could stand his bullshit, or his freakishly bad hair.

Of course, this wouldn't be a Thompson letter without the rudimentary references to such tragedies as Columbine, or the reminder that videogames are intended to train children in becoming diehard killing machines.

"The evening in January 2000 that I appeared on NBC Nightly News to talk about the link between violent games and Columbine, Tom Brokaw asked then Governor Bush about that link and what he as President would do about it?

George Bush simply said "Parents just have to be better parents." He should trying telling that to my clients in Paducah whose three daughters were gunned down by 14-year-old video gamer Michael Carneal, who trained on Doom to become a more efficient killer. What did they, as parents, Mr. President, do wrong? Was sending their kids to school their mistake?"

(Actually, no, I believe he was referring to the parents of Michael Carneal, Mr. Smartass.)

Seeing as Thompson is always bitching about videogames being virtual-reality training simulations targeted at children, I assume his gripe with the Hot Coffee modification is that (in his eyes) it trains children to become porn stars.

*ahem* That's right, mom & dad - LITTLE JIMMY IS USING THE HOT COFFEE MOD TO TEACH HIMSELF THE FINE ARTS OF LADY-PLEASING, IN ORDER TO ONE DAY BECOME THE NEXT LEXINGTON STEELE!

(Also, Super Mario Bros 3 teaches kids that throwing animals at brick walls, getting high on green leafs, getting stoned, and suddenly growing twice your normal size from eating magic mushrooms is perfectly normal. Why Thompson has yet to file a complaint against Nintendo for trying to turn America's youth into a mass army of potheads is beyond me.)

...

Seriously though, back to the letter, you have to play a round of Where's Waldo? to locate a decent bit of reasoning for this crockpot of steamy horse dung. It seems the entire letter can be summarized in the two paragraphs stashed in the middle of this barrage of Lowenstein-bashing:

"The inept fashion in which ESA has "managed" the "Hot Coffee" mod scandal swirling around your industry and Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has given Senator Rodham Clinton a reason and a mandate to act.

She has filled the leadership void caused by Doug Lowenstein. For a month Doug Lowenstein and his ESA pretended that there was no mod, that there was no scandal, that there was no need for any action whatsoever by ESA. How wrong he was. Today proves it."

Ah, so that's what it is. Jack thinks Doug sucks at his job, and he's kissing Hilary's ass for stepping into a controversy nobody else cares about. Fair enough.

All in all, the letter is just a low-blow attack against the ESA and it's president, an attempt from Thompson to get his kicks in before the public turns the other way and resumes their regular routine of not giving half a damn. Jack Thompson is continuing his loudmouth escapades, using the Hot Coffee mod as his personal soapbox to once again demand some sort of uprising against the gaming industry.

I give him a week, tops, before he falls back into the shadows and goes back to waiting for another ambulance to chase down. 1Up has also posted an article regarding the dynamic duo from a political perspective - is Thompson planning on keeping his lips firmly planted on Hilary's ass all the way to the white house?

Now, if you're interested Senator Clinton's "release the hounds" call for an investigation, Jordan over at PlanetGrandTheftAuto has posted his rundown of last night's NBC coverage. I have one major gripe with it (the NBC coverage and Clinton's statement), and that'd be this:

GRAND THEFT AUTO ISN'T MADE FOR CHILDREN. It seems some people are forgetting that the game is rated MATURE, which means 17+. Parents are responsible for making intelligent, sensible decisions on what their kids should (and should not) be playing. Nobody knows their kids better than they do. It's not the ESRB's responsibility - they are there as a GUIDE to assist parents in making these choices.

Also, apparently we were mentioned at the end of the NBC segment when viewers were told that gamers needed to come here to download a "piece of software" that enabled the Hot Coffee modification.

First of all, it's GTAGarage that you should go to, not here.

Second, I'm a bit shocked that they actually mentioned our website. When we were sub-sub-linked the other day by Slashdot, we had a huge traffic increase pushing the visitor count to above 4000. Traffic, as it currently stands, hasn't been this low for weeks.

This leads me to only one conclusion: Nobody is watching NBC.

Update: It turns out that NBC didn't mention the url to our website at the end of their segment. I was previously informed that "they showed gtasanandreas.net on nbc and msnbc", but it turns out that this was a bit misleading - it was merely a blurred screenshot of our site. My apologies.

In other news, bigfoot has been spotted in northern Canada. Thanks to Jordan for informing me.



Related links, sources, and whatnot:
Jack Thompson's Website
Letter from Jack Thompson to ESA - Courtesy IGN
Platform for Election? - Courtesy 1Up
Entertainment Software Association
PlanetGrandTheftAuto


Thursday, July 14, 2005
It's Hilary!
Posted by Tsuroki at 03:28. Category: General

A statement distributed by the Senator's office this afternoon sets the scene, stating that "following recent reports revealing that the video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has graphic pornographic content which may be unlocked by following instructions on the Internet, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will hold a press conference to discuss legislative solutions to keep inappropriate video game content out of the hands of young people." The statement makes no mention of asking the FTC to step in, but sources tell GameSpot that this request will be the centerpiece of the Senator's plea tomorrow.
- Gamespot

It seems that Hilary Clinton is now taking her turn at poking Rockstar Games in the eye with a sharp stick regarding the Hot Coffee modification. It's essentially the same bit that we've been hearing for the past week (Hot Coffee = pixel-porn, Rockstar Games is evil, etc etc), so I'm not going to bother getting into the finicky details of the report. Personally, I think things are being blown way out of proportion - but considering that American media thrives on this sort of drama, it's understandable.

Related Links:
GameSpot article (Thanks to Jordan for the heads up.)


Monday, July 11, 2005
Wow. That IS big.
Posted by Tsuroki at 21:08. Category: General

The long haul from humble beginnings to mega-media controversy. It's something I never thought I'd see when I joined up as an editor here at the GTA Network, yet here it is - big bold headlines around the world blasting Rockstar Games and GTA over a rather minor fan-made modification. However, all is not sour here in the world of Grand Theft Auto fandom.

Today, the New York Times published their report covering the drama surrounding the Hot Coffee mod, and even though it's a few days behind the initial reports, it's nevertheless a great read - quite possibly the most fair and balanced one I've read thus far from the press.

In taking on the Grand Theft Auto series, Mr. Yee was going after a well-known target. "This particular game has been known to include extremely heinous acts of violence," his statement said, "and now it has been uncovered that the game also includes explicit sexual scenes that are inappropriate for our children."

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is not intended for younger children. It is rated M, or mature, for players 17 years and older. The national electronics store chains sell M-rated games, but tend to avoid adult-only titles.

While I usually offer some sort of quip or rundown of the articles I report on, I think in this case you should just go ahead and read it yourself. Unlike some of the other reports that have been surfacing around the net lately, the one published by the New York Times gives us a nice look at both sides of the proverbial fence, without catering too much to either side.

Whether the publishers will be held responsible if they wrote, and then hid, the sexually graphic scenes is not clear. The sexually explicit scenes do not appear with a few keystrokes, as happens with software "Easter eggs" - typically names, messages or games hidden in programs. The graphic episodes in Grand Theft Auto cannot be rendered unless a user downloads the Hot Coffee code or a similar program.

Finally, someone acknowledging the fact that you have to make a conscious effort to download the modification (and then install it) to even access the minigame! Not to mention that you then have to go into the game and spend time heading to the appropriate area to be able to play the minigame. Heck, it's easier for a ten year old to mistakingly browse onto the (other, not-so-political) White House website.

Thanks on behalf of myself to Steve Lohr for reminding the rest of the world of the basics; Grand Theft Auto isn't for kids, Rockstar wasn't responsible for the modification, and the content isn't available in any non-modified version of the game. I'm sure that the rest of the community feels the same way.

Related Links:
New York Times
NY Times Article (You need to be registered to view it.)


Saturday, July 09, 2005
1Up Steps Up, NIMF Press Release
Posted by Tsuroki at 19:39. Category: General

1Up, the internet gaming portal and community for the Ziff Davis Media group, has joined in the media blitz covering the Hot Coffee mod controversy. 1Up gives us the generic lowdown on the Gamespot news bulletin, but they also managed to contact Rockstar Games regarding the ESRB investigation. According to the 1Up article, Rockstar Games is complying fully with the investigation while holding fast to the original M rating given to San Andreas.

"We can confirm the ESRB is conducting an investigation and that we will be complying fully with their enquiries. We thoroughly support the work of the ESRB, and believe that it has an exemplary record of rating games and promoting understanding of video game content,"
- Rockstar Games Spokesperson

1Up also noted that The National Institute on Media and the Family has submitted a press release regarding San Andreas. The press release, however, seems to be little more than a half-baked attempt at using the Hot Coffee mod as a scapegoat to get another jab in against Rockstar Games and the GTA franchise. The document fully acknowledges that the game is not intended for minors (hence the Mature rating, obviously)...

Yet their concern is about the children.

Or, rather, the all-too-impressionable 17 year olds who may be corrupted from watching these scenes of pixelated booty calls, as the rating already advises against youth under the age of seventeen from playing the game. Late-night HBO specials and Oz reruns are fine, but god forbid we see some clothed sprites doing the nasty.

"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" never belonged in the hands of kids," said psychologist Dr. Walsh. "We are taking the unusual step of alerting parents to the pornography available through this game to any child or teen who is Internet savvy. This gives greater urgency to our message to parents: Become MediaWise: Watch What Your Kids Watch."

(If the slogans don't suit your fancy, don't worry - I'm certain more activist groups will be chiming in soon enough to offer up their bounties of reassuring catch phrases, slogans, acronyms and the likes.)

1Up will continue to give coverage on the growing case in the weeks to come. If you're a registered member of 1Up, you can also add your comments to the article.

"In the video game world, the M-rating assigned to violent and sexually explicit video games is akin to a film's R-rating. You don't see people throwing a fit when an R-rated movie shows off a little flesh, and in this case, the sexual content doesn't actually include nudity, only suggestive actions."
- 1Up Article

Amen to that.

Related Links:
1Up Article, Comment on the Article @ 1Up
National Institute on Media and the Family - Press Release
ESRB Website, ESRB Rating System


Another SA Tracker!
Posted by Tsuroki at 18:28. Category: General

Just a quick update for y'all. A couple days ago we told you about a San Andreas stats uploader from The GTA Place. Another stats tracker has caught my attention recently, mostly due to it's simplicity - you can find it here. Although it's less detailed than the one we mentioned earlier, it still gives enough information to make it useful.

To get an idea of what the tracker looks like, here's a sample from the tracker's creator.


Friday, July 08, 2005
PlanetGTA Interview with Young Maylay
Posted by Tsuroki at 21:03. Category: General

Young Maylay
Young Maylay

A couple of days ago, Jordan Liles (PlanetGrandTheftAuto) featured an interview/Q&A session with CJ voice actor Young Maylay. And unless you've been living under a rock for an indiscriminate amount of time, you've probably already read it. But if you're one of the sappy folks who still haven't, check it out.

Some tasty excerpts:

Has Rockstar approached you about doing voicework for Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City Stories for the PSP, or did they record lines for it with you back when you were doing San Andreas?
I dont know nothing about Liberty City Stories.

Did Rockstar have you make any sound effects or anything other than words with your voice, just for fun?
R* Let me put Young MayLay on CJ. They gave me a lot of freedom.

Related links:
Interview with Young Maylay
Young Maylay's site
Interview thread @ PlanetGrandTheftAuto's forums


Hot Coffee mod stirs up further legal troubles - Investigation launched
Posted by Tsuroki at 20:24. Category: General

Leland Yee
California State Assembly member Leland Yee

Earlier today we reported on a complaint issued by California State Assembly member Leland Yee regarding the Hot Coffee mod released a while ago here on GTANet. Although we regarded the complaint with some skepticism, it seems the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) is taking it seriously. They have just launched an investigation into whether or not Take2Games violated ESRB policy by not fully disclosing the questionable content which was found in the deep nethers of the game's code.

ESRB president Patricia Vance said her organization has "opened an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the 'Hot Coffee' modification." "Hot Coffee" refers to the mod which, when installed on a PC with San Andreas on it, unlocks several minigames which prompts players to have the game's hero engage in X-rated acts.

According to ESRB president Patricia Vance, this attack on San Andreas is more about Yee's ongoing crusade against the ESRB, and this latest claim is just another baseless accusation trying to undermine the ESRB's reliability and integrity.

"Assemblyman Yee has been on a crusade for years to undermine the integrity of the ESRB, and in so doing, generate support for his legislative agenda. His latest attempt to win political points is to claim, without any legitimate basis, that a game rated for ages 17 and older with explicit content descriptors prominently displayed on every box has been inappropriately rated," Vance said.

Best of luck to the ESRB. I'm certain that they'll come to the same conclusion that we have - that Rockstar Games and Take2 have done absolutely nothing wrong, and neither did they. Hot Coffee was a fan-created modification, not a malicious attempt from Scottish software developers trying to taint the minds of impressionable American... uh, 20-some year olds. (Remember, folks, this game IS rated M, not T.)

Thanks to Jordan from partnersite PlanetGrandTheftAuto for bringing this update to our attention.

Related links:
Neoseeker Article
Gamespot Article
Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), Entertainment Software Association (ESA)
SA:PC Hot Coffee mod


Those wacky politicians are at it again...
Posted by illspirit at 08:56. Category: General

In a rather comedic turn of events, California State Assembly member Leland Yee has issued a statement condemning the ESRB for "failing to appropriately rate Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas". If you haven't read (or guessed) already, yes, this has to do with ye olde Hot Coffee mod for the PC version of San An. In his press release (which you can read here, Mr. Yee had the following to say:

Once again, ESRB has failed our parents. This particular game has been known to include extremely heinous acts of violence, and now it has been uncovered that the game also includes explicit sexual scenes that are inappropriate for our children. I have urged the ESRB on numerous occasions to rate this game AO based on its blatantly graphic nature.

So, by his logic, I suppose the ESRB not only has to rate games by the content they contain, but also psychically by the potential content that could be modified by the users well after the game has shipped? If that's the case, then maybe all PC games should be burned in massive Fahrenheit 451-esque fires seeing as most of them can (and are) edited by users to include extra sex and violence? In fact, why stop there? Surely all digital media is within a handful of manipulated bytes from being hardcore porn! Or, like I said to Mr. Yee in the friendly e-mail I just sent his way....

While I applaud your concern for keeping mature-rated entertainment out of the hands of children, legislating what would effectively be a total ban on a game based on content created by users is akin to banning the printing press because some miscreant may or may not produce something obscene with it.

*sigh*

Props to IGN for spotting this.


Saturday, July 02, 2005
BUST THAT CRAZY SH*T Replay Contest (for San Andreas PC)
Posted by Tsuroki at 09:54. Category: General

Craziest Sh*t

Think you're the craziest, most diehard, most inane, most completely badass driver to ever hit the streets of San Andreas? Prove it. Put your skills on the line and show Rockstar what you've got. That's right, folks, Rockstar Games is ready to hand out some more prizes to those who can prove themselves worthy.

Using the replay feature of the PC edition of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas - we want to see the craziest sh*t you can get into. The wildest stunt jumps, the most intense chase and action sequences, bizarre interactions with the locals, and just all around extraordinary, jaw-dropping moments - whether on foot, underwater, in mid-air, in a car, truck, plane, boat... - or all of the above.

The rules are simple - make the most outstanding 30 second replay in one of any 3 locations: Los Santos (including Red County), San Fierro (including Whetstone and Flint County) or Las Venturas (including Tierra Robada and Bone County).

For each locale, one winner will receive a grand prize that consists of:

  • An Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT video card
  • A bountiful prize pack of limited-edition San Andreas goods (or, as I call it, PARAPHERNALIA!!!11)
  • And a custom-made, gold-dipped, West Coast style car-plate winners' trophy etched with your name.

Hot-diggity-damn. There is a catch, though - this entire shebang is only open to US residents. Sorry, peeps. Looks like the rest of us non-American-type-folk are out of luck.

For further contest details, and to submit your replay, head on over to the official contest webpage.

NOW GO FORTH AND SPREAD MAYHEM!



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