Thursday, June 26, 2008

No Ice? You Mean I Gotta Drink This Coffee Hot?

In 2004 Rockstar Games released Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the latest entry in an already controversial series of video games. Criticism soon followed detailing the game’s supposed immorality, encouraging acts of real-life violence and ultimately bearing responsibility for the inevitable decline of civilization into a barren warzone. Okay, so maybe that was a tad hyperbolic, but anybody following the news at the time would have been lead to believe that this game would single handedly bring about the end of the world.

And so it followed that the greatest assault on the minds of America’s youth, video games, would continue to be the whipping boy for the elder generation, much as heavy metal before that, and Dungeons and Dragons before that, and Elvis before that, and comic books before that, and movies before that, and books before that, and I’m sure if you did some research, stone tablets before that.

The point is that mass hysteria over emerging media is as American as bearing false witness and before long ill-informed parents were frothing at the mouth over the “murder simulators” that their children had been playing, unbeknownst to them.

No article about Grand Theft Auto would be complete without bringing up Jack Thompson, a Florida lawyer who had previously made a name for himself for working to have 2 Live Crew’s ‘As Nasty as they Wanna Be’ banned from being sold on grounds of obscenity. Jack had been working tirelessly since that time to speak out against media that he considered damaging or obscene and video games soon became a target of his, specifically the GTA series which he felt constituted a true threat to American society due to the deleterious effect it could have on the developing brains of America’s youth.

In June of 2005, however, the spotlight would focus on San Andreas with unparalleled brightness. Whereas previously the game had been derided for the content it offered, a mod was released that brought to light some code left behind in the final game, inaccessible through normal means. This code started the “Hot Coffee” controversy.

For those unfamiliar with the story, here’s the gist of it. A mod was created for the PC version of San Andreas that allowed users to play some sex-themed mini games that had been removed from the final release of the product. Although the mini games themselves were not part of San Andreas, they had apparently been considered at one point and the code for these games was left behind. Through use of a third party utility, PC users could ‘unlock’ these games and play what were essentially interactive sex scenes.

The points to bear in mind are that these games were absolutely not playable without modifying the game code.

A) The game had to be hacked in order to make these scenes playable
B) A user had to know where to download this hack.
C) The user then had to install this hack

The average parent was unaware of this, however, and the media portrayed the ‘controversy’ as if these sex games were freely available for all to play. Hysteria overtook the nation and before long senators were discussing the game, protestors were lining up outside Rockstar’s headquarters, and a class action lawsuit was brought up against Take-2 (the publisher of Grand Theft Auto).

This suit was initially brought forward by Florence Cohen, an 85 year old grandmother who had unwittingly purchased Grand Theft Auto for her 14 year old grandson, unaware of the content within. I present here an image of the cover of San Andreas. It’s easy to see how one could look at this cover, with the rating of M for Mature and various pictures of gun-toting hoodlums performing drive-bys and not realize that perhaps its content was inappropriate for younger gamers.

But, because America is a victim culture, our hearts went out to this poor, hapless woman who may very well have caused her precious grandchild to grow up to be a cop killer, the jury found in her favor and Take-2 was ordered to pay back a sum of $5-35 to any consumer who returned the game to them due to offense taken.

And herein is why I am writing this article. As of today, June 26, 2008, a grand total of 2,676 people have come forward to demand their money. Let me repeat that: After all the hysteria surrounding this game TWO THOUSAND SIX HUNDRED SEVENTY SIX PEOPLE have come forward to claim damages from this case.

Yet again America shows its true colors, where the verbal minority manages to claim a stranglehold on media coverage of an event, only to discover later that they do not represent the will of the people. Once more the appearance is given worldwide that this country is a bunch of whining hysterical extremists whereas, in truth, we can be a pretty reasoned and rational people, given the chance.

It’s a shame that this latest revelation will not make the front pages the way the initial firestorm did. Nobody cares about rationalism in the press. It’s much more EXCITING to lead with stories highlighting terror, hysteria and panic.

Thank god Grand Theft Auto 4 is out, at least we have something to be truly worried about in this world.

TechnoratiTechnorati: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


danielle said...

Oh, grandmas!! If it wasn't for them, from who could we finangle the illicit games, clothes and sherry of our teenagerhood?

America not only talks the talk, they shout the shout! But the legs don't follow. If people actually gave a fig about violence and suffering (the non-digital kind), you would look around there and see a much different culture.

E said...

Bah. Sympathy and empathy are for the boring. Give me a flaming motorcycle leaping over an exploding petroleum facility and I'm a happy guy.