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Grand Theft Auto menaces family values

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Senator Hillary Clinton has jumped nimbly on the Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas rumpy-pumpy outrage bandwagon by demanding an investigation into the game's torrid sex scenes as unlocked by Dutch modder Patrick Wildenborg.

To recap, Wildenborg's "Hot Coffee" mod apparently disables the game's "censor flag", thereby allowing access to hidden XXX material. As Wildenborg exlained: "If the censor flag is set, all the sexually explicit scenes are blocked from the normal flow of events. That makes a difference in a game scene when the hero visits his girlfriend's house for a cup of coffee. In the censored version, the game shows the exterior of the house while suggestive sound effects are heard. If, however, the censor flag is cleared, all the explicit scenes are tied into the normal gameplay."

So, horror of horrors, kids indulging in a bit of harmless thievery and carnage may be exposed to the beast with two backs. Who cares? Well, the problem is that GTA is rated "M" for mature - that's 17 years and older across the Pond. Throw in a bit of smut and you might be looking at an AO (Adult Only) classification - bad news for the game's manufacturers because it hits them where it hurts, and that's not in the graphically exposed and dangling cojones.

Despite the kerfuffle, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) doesn't think there's an issue here. ESRB prez Patricia Vance agreed with GTA producer Take 2's assertion that "Hot Coffee" is a mod and "not an inherent feature of the game". She added: "He [Wildenborg] actually had to change underlying code. It's not a cheat. It's not an Easter egg."

Vance concluded: "Game developers have been known to deactivate parts of their code without removing them from the finished products. Oftentimes* changes are made toward the end of development, and they program workarounds." In summary: if Take 2 didn't intend the porn to be "playable content", then "the company may not be at fault when ambitious modders discover it".

And that would have been an end to the matter were it not for the outraged intervention of Mrs Clinton, who has written to the Federal Trade Commission demanding to know "the source of this content" and whether the industry "erred in giving the game a rating of M, or mature, for players 17 years and older".

According to the New York Times, Clinton claims that "50 per cent of boys between 7 and 14 were able to buy M-rated video games", or at least that's what the National Institute on Media and the Family says. The NYT notes Clinton's intervention comes at a time "when many Democrats were trying to figure out ways their party can match Republicans on the issue of family values".

Well, here's a suggestion for the Democrats as to how they can help defend family values: don't accept oral sexual favours from White House interns while you're supposed to be running the country - and keep your cigars firmly to yourself.

Indeed, we suspect that Clinton's indignation may have something to do with the fact that an as-yet-unconfirmed mod called "Lewinsky" allows GTA gamers to blast their way into the Oval Office using semi-automatic rifles and then receive the kind attentions of a plump and shameless hussy called Monika who groans: "Oh yeah, you the man! Yeah, give it to me Bill!" while chewing on a big, fat... cigar. ®

Bootnote

*Thanks to all those readers who wrote in last week to express dismay at Vance's use of the deliciously archaic "oftentimes". Actually, we quite like it, and will henceforthwith use it at any available opportunity.

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