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ESRB Revokes San Andreas Rating 913

Alex Blonski writes "In a stunning move, the ESRB has advised retailers to stop selling Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This report follows public pressure over the Hot Coffee debacle. Rockstar, the publishers of the game have given retailers the option of restickering the game with an 18+ rating or exchanging it for a new version with the controversial content removed. ESRB head Patricia Vance says 'After a thorough investigation, we have concluded that sexually explicit material exists in a fully rendered, unmodified form on the final discs of all three platform versions of the game (i.e., PC CD-ROM, Xbox and PS2). However, the material was programmed by Rockstar to be inaccessible to the player and they have stated that it was never intended to be made accessible. The material can only be accessed by downloading a software patch, created by an independent third party without Rockstar's permission, which is now freely available on the internet and through console accessories. Considering the existence of the undisclosed and highly pertinent content on the final discs, compounded by the broad distribution of the third party modification, the credibility and utility of the initial ESRB rating has been seriously undermined.'"
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ESRB Revokes San Andreas Rating

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:27PM (#13117339)
    This makes me want to kill the ESRB board, but I will do one better, I will run around naked in front of them. Well at least now we have a new scapegoat, the Doom one was getting old...
  • In other news... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DeathPenguin ( 449875 ) * on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:27PM (#13117342)
    In a move equally stunning to neglegent parents everywhere, Captain Obvious has advised that people stop paying attention to the ESRB and take a more proactive stance in monitoring the content that they're buying for their kids. He also advised that parents pay more attention to other aspects of games, such as violence and racial overtones, and not use sex alone as a deciding factor for whether or not to buy a game, movie, music CD, etc. Experts predict that people will ignore this advice and continue to rely on other people to raise their kids for them.
    • by spiricom ( 117567 )
      Being a relatively old fart (32), I have to ask: do any stores/regions in the USA actually card people buying an 18+ ESRB game? Since this is a self-imposed rating system (?), is there much enforcement?

      • Re:In other news... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by PaxTech ( 103481 )
        I bought it the night it came out at the local Gamestop, and quite a few underage kids were standing in line with their parents, since they apparently couldn't buy it alone. So I guess it gets enforced at some places at least.
      • A kid (clearly around 13) at EBGames in line in front of me tried to buy it (GTA:SA, long before Hot Coffee). The guy behind the desk asked for his ID. The kid said he didn't have one; the EB guy said that he couldn't buy the game. Simple as that! The kid walked away embarrassed, as he should be.
      • Re:In other news... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:50PM (#13117677) Homepage Journal
        Since this "tough on media violence/obscenity" rhetoric has been stepped up again, I've noticed at two stores a new policy of asking for a birthdate or age before selling both games and movies with an ESRB M/MPAA R rating. No carding yet, although I bet it happens if you look younger than 17 or the checkout staff is in a bad mood.

        It's annoying enough that I'm just buying my media online now.

        What bothers me is that irregardless of the fact that this game is effectively a murder/obscenity simulator that should never fall into the hands of children forcing Rockstar to recall/modify their game or be relabeled AO is effectively censorship, albeit one that takes advantage of economics rather than legal force to effect the views of the minority over the majority. Most stores refuse to carry AO titles and therefore artificially decrease the audience for the game, putting severe pressure on the manufacturer to cater to the distribution chain by watering down their content or simply shelve products that would have been successes but for the fact that they are offered only through adult-only resellers (a chilling effect on customers who simply want to enjoy a game released as the developer intended without having porn businesses appear on their credit card statements.)

    • by fbartho ( 840012 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:34PM (#13117445) Homepage
      I personally think its gotta get boring to have to keep repeating that mantra over and over again. You're a parent, its your job to raise your kids. Its ultimately your responsibility. All these social systems to supposedly protect your children are really there to protect your children if you don't do a good enough job in protecting them yourself. This means that broadcast TV had pressures to be family oriented, both because parents wanted to be able to watch things with their kids, but also because TV would be a convenient device that serves as an electronic nanny. As long as the runt is glued to the TV/Game Console, they can't fall down the stairs with scissors. The problem comes from the things we don't normally view as sharp/dangerous, that are corrupting our kids minds. Raising a kid is a full-time job, at times more than even 2 people can comfortably handle. There is risk in the real world, but every parent has to choose what is an acceptable risk level for kids. If they err on the side of danger, their kids may get hurt, and it will be their fault.
      • They also realized (Score:3, Interesting)

        by YrWrstNtmr ( 564987 )
        that without some outside controls, TV content would be dictated solely by the advertisers. And as the advertisers have shown themselves to be such a wonderful, responsible bunch in the quest for ever higher ratings and watercooler talk (read your eyeballs), the only option left to parents would be hardwiring the power switch to the off position. (Not necessarily a bad thing, but probably not what we really want)
    • by Ryan Stortz ( 598060 ) <ryan0rz@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:49PM (#13117657)
      I think the ESRB is doing a great job, and it'd be a shame if people started to ignore them. Compared to the MPAA and RIAA equivlents, it's amazing. The RIAA's simply is the "Explicit Content" sticker, where the MPAA's is the G/PG/PG-13/R/NC-17. Not until recently has the R rating included why it got the rating, and even then it's only flashed for half a second. I've yet to see the expanded warning label on a movie poster. I've really only seen it flashed in trailers and on the back of DVDs, which come out months later.

      Now, look at the ESRB's rating system. It has the same generalized ratings: EC/E/E10+/T/M/AO+. It also includes 32 content descriptors, ranging from Tobacco Reference to Comic Mischief to Edutainment. It's much more comprehensive than the others.

      What I'd really hate to see is Rockstar going the movie studio route and releasing a game as "UNRATED" rather than accept the dreaded "AO+" rating. It is a very unfortunate loophole, and hopefully the big boys won't carry unrated games.

      Also, I'd like to point out that this entire thing is 100% Rockstar's fault. They're required to send video footage to the ESRB that covers the overall gameplay of the game, as well as the game's most explicit scenes. The ESRB uses that footage to rate the game, if Rockstar didn't include it then the ESRB can't really be at fault.
      • Tobacco Reference? Tobacco Reference?!? How many of those earn a mature rating? Sheesh, what's the world coming to when tobacco is demonised as unsuitable for children to see?

        I've even heard that the BSA is trying to prevent scoutmasters from smoking near the boys. Because you wouldn't want a role model to be doing something as EEEEEEEEVIL as smoking.

        They can have my pipe when they pry it from my cold dead hands. Twits.

    • by Rei ( 128717 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @05:15PM (#13117963) Homepage
      Bah! Captain Obvious is one to talk, given that his video game ("Captain Obvious vs. the Braindead Senators") had a patch that enabled such a scene as well (in which, for the most part) Captain Obvious stood on the sidelines, watching and snidely pointing out the fundamentals every time one participant did something wrong).
  • by Werkhaus ( 549466 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:28PM (#13117346)
    People found to be naked under clothes.
  • by DF5JT ( 589002 ) <> on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:28PM (#13117359) Homepage

    'Nuff said.
  • priorities? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by huphtur ( 259961 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:29PM (#13117368)
    One can show pixel people gettin blown up by all kinds of pixel weapons, yet when there's one pixel nipple to be seen, the whole country goes up in arms about it?
    • Re:priorities? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by failure-man ( 870605 )
      Good question. Basically it all boils down to the larger issue of American culture fetishizing violence and demonizing sex.

      Why this happens . . . . who knows, but it does serve as more proof that Americans are, in general, completely out of their minds.

      (First person to post "GO BACK TO FRANCE!!!111one" will get beaten to death with a dildo.)
  • nice publicity (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lecithin ( 745575 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:29PM (#13117376)
    "However, the material was programmed by Rockstar to be inaccessible to the player and they have stated that it was never intended to be made accessible."

    Right. Sure.

    What would the reason be to put it in there then? Perhaps the publicity that they are getting now? My 8 y/o son would not have known about GTA except that it has been in the news lately. (Yep, an 8 y/o that watches the news)

    "Rockstar, the publishers of the game have given retailers the option of restickering the game with an 18+ rating or exchanging it for a new version with the controversial content removed."

    Well, I suspect that most will put a sticker on the game and continue to sell as usual. I also suspect that if a 15 y/o wants to buy one, they still will be able to do so.
    • Re:nice publicity (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Acy James Stapp ( 1005 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:40PM (#13117539)
      As a game developer, sometimes you write something and the suits say you can't put it in, so you just comment out the call to activate it. It's a lot easier than pulling all the source and assets out of the game. Time pressures abound and a thirty-second fix impresses the higher-ups a lot more than a two-day hunt to find and remove all of the offending assets.
    • Re:nice publicity (Score:5, Informative)

      by the_skywise ( 189793 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:43PM (#13117584)
      As an ex-game programmer, there's TONS of stuff we left in various games. Some intentional, some not so intentional.

      I can't speak for how GTA is setup, but in our case some of the stuff went out because of a lock down in the code/data. When *any* change would be considered a potential to introduce bugs it was safer to lock down *everything* and go as it was.
    • Re:nice publicity (Score:3, Insightful)

      by defile ( 1059 )

      What would the reason be to put it in there then? Perhaps the publicity that they are getting now?

      The game is rated "mature". If you can develop a relationship with a girlfriend, and you can also pick up scantily clad hookers and screw them so well that they squeal with delight, and you can also indiscriminately kill a row of people from afar, and also kill someone in vivid close up detail, work out at the gym and watch your muscles grow, or watch your character get fat at a burger joint to impress

  • Hmm.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by trmj ( 579410 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:29PM (#13117377) Journal
    I believe that Penny Arcade's [] news and comic today sum up this whole situation best.
  • The Video (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:29PM (#13117378)
    GTA San Andreas "Hot Coffee"

    Coral Cache of some of the content in question: /hotcoffee.wmv []

    Get it while it's hot?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:30PM (#13117381)
    because of the "nude Sims" patch floating around?
  • What if... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Psionicist ( 561330 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:30PM (#13117390)
    This is rediciulous. What if I release a patch that will just replace the textures of any game (say Windows Solitair, or some Harry Potter game) with hardcore porn? Assume the patch becomes widespread after the game has been released.

    Will this... organization... advise stores to stop sell this game too?
  • America (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:31PM (#13117395)

    As a British person (of 15 years of age), I pity you Americans. What the fuck is your problem with the human body? Why an 18+ when the 17+ was appropriate for the game, even with the minigame?

    • Re:America (Score:3, Insightful)

      by richdun ( 672214 )
      I, as an American, wonder too what sudden discovery we think happens during that year betwen turning 17 years old and turning 18 years old. It's almost as archaic as the drinking age - at 18, I can help pick the "leader of the free world" (yes, through some long arduous and equally archaic process, but still) yet I cannot consume an alcoholic beverage (legally).

      The bottom line to me though is still that ratings and such just point out our own moral stupidity - I know of very few under the age of 17 who ma
    • Re:America (Score:3, Interesting)


      Our politicians are stupid. You'd really think that they've got better things to worry about (like, say, doing things that will affect more than a few million people with a certain hobby), but that seems to not be the case. Let's just threaten to launch a Senate inquiry instead.

      You guys are still accepting immigrants, right? I think I'd rather be there in the UK than here. :)

    • Re:America (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RexRhino ( 769423 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:22PM (#13118791)
      Pity yourself. All video games in England need to go through the British Board of Film Censors, and some have already been banned (no video games have been banned in the United States, by the way). GTA:SA is ALREADY rated 18+ in England. British regulation is far more strict than in the United States.

      The difference is that in the U.S. censorship is still controversial, where as in the U.K. is happens without anyone taking a notice.
      • Re:America (Score:4, Insightful)

        by learn fast ( 824724 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @06:41PM (#13118959)
        A further difference is that the British rating is based on violence, and the new American rating is based on the sudden horrific discovery of sex mixed in with the violence.
      • Re:America (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @10:35PM (#13120620)
        The difference is that in the UK, games with an 18+ rating still sell, stores still stock them, there's no problem. A game company can make an 18+ game, and still make money.

        Censorship exists in the US, just in the guise of something else.
  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:31PM (#13117405)
    Clearly in that critical year you become mature enough to be allowed to consume renderings of fully clothed individuals in sexual positions.

    Seventeen year-olds just aren't ready for that kind of stuff yet. Their exposure to sexual situations should be limited to what they do with their boyfriends/girlfriends in the back seat of their parent's car when they're "at the movies."

    Oh, BTW, to all the parents out there... Your 8 year old probably says 'fuck' all the time when he knows you're not around, so you can get over yourself already.
    • Oh, BTW, to all the parents out there... Your 8 year old probably says 'fuck' all the time when he knows you're not around, so you can get over yourself already.

      Bwahahahahaha. This person speaks the truth. When I was 6 I found that magical word, and haven't stopped using it yet.

      Fuck, it feels good to say fuck.
    • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @05:16PM (#13117982)
      And thanks to internet, they can learn how to use it coorectly: []
    • Seventeen year-olds just aren't ready for that kind of stuff yet. Their exposure to sexual situations should be limited to what they do with their boyfriends/girlfriends in the back seat of their parent's car when they're "at the movies."

      Have you checked the teenage pregnancy rate lately? They AREN'T ready for that stuff.

      Oh, BTW, to all the parents out there... Your 8 year old probably says 'fuck' all the time when he knows you're not around, so you can get over yourself already.

      When people say thin

  • by EvilMagnus ( 32878 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:35PM (#13117456)
    I thought something like this might happen. It's asinine, but pretty predictable.

    Today's Penny Arcade [] news deals with this, where Tycho lays out the crucial difference between a "Mature" title and an "Adults Only" title : time.
    The ESRB is suggesting that they may change the rating of the game to Adults Only, a category that by their own definition should see a great deal more use in a retail environment. This is great. Look at the descriptions for these.

    MATURETitles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.

    Or, as the rest of our culture calls it, "Rated R." Check out AO.

    ADULTS ONLY Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.

    This can't seriously be their distinction. The scenes are longer? I played Resident Evil 4 nearly 26 hours, all told. I'm going to say that maybe nineteen hours of it was spent looking down the iron sights at humanoids. The reality is that once a person is 18, a violent videogame is fairly minor in the spectrum of "adult" content available to that person. Looking over my collection, if the duration of the violence is the distinguishing factor, I'm trying to figure out what purpose Mature serves other than to remove the stigma from otherwise "adult" content and grease the wheels at retail.
    Yup, that's it. Time. Pretty incredible.
  • by TopShelf ( 92521 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:36PM (#13117476) Homepage Journal
    From TFA:

    Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. (NASDAQ: TTWO - News) 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+"

    So basically, they've made the decision that 17 year-olds just shouldn't see this two-bit low-res porn hack, and stick with the carjacking, wanton murder, and other wholesome activites within GTA. 18 year-olds are qualified for the whole ball o' wax, though.

  • by Shky ( 703024 ) <> on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:39PM (#13117517) Homepage Journal
    This whole debacle is bad news. If retailers don't stop selling it, we're all in trouble. If the ESRB loses all credibility, the only thing stopping a full-on onslaught of legislative parenting will be gone. If the video game industry 'can't be trusted' to rule itself, the government will have to step in. Australia-like bans will be coming to a USA and Canada near you.
  • sex? (Score:5, Funny)

    by DanThe1Man ( 46872 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:43PM (#13117578)
    I can get sex in a patch now? Like Nicorette?

    That would save a lot of wrist strain.
  • by bahwi ( 43111 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:46PM (#13117626)
    This could spell out some big problems for coders when they take their easter eggs too far. Of course, what else is on the average programmers mind?
  • by ausoleil ( 322752 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:48PM (#13117648) Homepage
    The thing that amuses me the most about this whole episode is that senators and other publicity hounds never noticed the game when it was just violence, madness and mayhem, but shock of shocks, a character "gets a cup of coffee" and skin friction ensues, and the next thing you know, this is the worst thing that could ever possibly have happened to our kids!

    Me, I would prefer my kid watch a porn flick any day rather than "Natural Born Killers" or play a video game with tawdry pixels as opposed to trying to see how many crimes can be committed in order to get a high score.

    After all, who gets hurt by a good (consensual) boffing?

    Well, yeah, I know about sex and responsiblity. So spare me the usual screed. But if you do, pleas explain at the same time a way to "responsibly" carjack or murder someone.
  • by HockeyPuck ( 141947 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:50PM (#13117680)
    In other news...

    Hillary Clinton (who makes ~$162k []) has decided that it's in her best interest to waste her time (and our tax dollars). I'm sure that the FTC has better things to do than to investigate RockStar Entertainment... []

    • "Hillary Clinton (who makes ~$162k []) has decided that it's in her best interest to waste her time (and our tax dollars). I'm sure that the FTC has better things to do than to investigate RockStar Entertainment..."

      Perhaps the next version of GTA should instruct its gameplayers on how to turn a $1,000 investment in cattle futures into more than $100,000 in profit without any knowledge of that investment...or even to shoot a person in the head, put t
  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:50PM (#13117685) Homepage Journal

    The game allows you to...

    • Pull people out of their cars and drive away in them
    • Steal military weapons
    • Destroy property
    • Injure and kill completely innocent bystanders
    • Develop a criminal enterprise
    • Carry out the orders of corrupt police officers
    • Pick up prostitutes
    • Burn down a pot farm
    and so far it's been pretty smooth sailing, but once you can have vivid consensual sex, but only through extensive third party modification, everyone flips out?!
  • Wow (Score:4, Insightful)

    by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:51PM (#13117702)
    Am I the only one completely overwhelmed by the sheer idiocy of this situation?

    I mean ignoring the fact that violence is alright while sexual intercourse sparks a massive outrage.

    The content is UNPLAYABLE!!! It cannot be played! If you get a copy of the game can you just pop it in and see this naughty content?
    Because it's UNPLAYABLE!!

    Wait!! You mean you can download something off the internet that lets you play this naughty content **GASP** What an outrage!! That someone going onto the internet could gain access to pornographic content. It's completely unheard of. Clearly this is a matter of national importance that a game can be made pornographic with things downloaded off the internet!

    This whole situation is just a bizarre combination of sexual prudism combined with a complete lack of technical knowledge, I'm ashamed to be on the same continent where stuff this ignorent stupidity occurs.
  • by 88NoSoup4U88 ( 721233 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:52PM (#13117713)
    In other news, the ESRB are re-rating Doom 3, for possible hardcore anal [] scenes between zombies.
  • by Locke2005 ( 849178 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @04:52PM (#13117718)
    The SIMS has an ESRB rating of E-T (Everyone/Teens). However, there is a patch available for The SIMS that removes the dithering done when they are changing clothes, allowing one to see buck naked SIMS!. Doesn't this mean the ESRB should also revoke The SIMS "Everyone" rating?
  • by tokengeekgrrl ( 105602 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @05:14PM (#13117956)
    Think about it. GTA is the perfect medium by which to teach guys how to *really* pleasure a woman. As long as the gameplay makes you work for the woman's orgasm, meaning you're going to have to work those controls for more than 5 minutes guys, I say bring it on.

    GTA: Turning Geeks into Better Lovers

  • by Ann Elk ( 668880 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @05:16PM (#13117978)

    From his excellent site []:

    Me, I'm just amused by the thought of class action attorneys trolling for a named plaintiff parent who will testify that, while she was okay for her little Johnny to buy a game involving drug dealing, gambling, carjacking, cop-shooting, prostitution, throat-slashing, baseball-bat beatings, drive-by shootings, street-racing, gang wars, profanity-laced rap music, homosexual lovers' quarrels, blood and gore, and "Strong Sexual Content," she is shocked, shocked to learn that the game also includes an animation at about the level of a Ken doll rubbing up against an unclothed Barbie doll with X-rated sound effects, and is thus a victim of both consumer fraud and intense emotional distress, entitled to actual and punitive damages totalling $74,999 per identically-situated class member in the state.
  • by potpie ( 706881 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @05:23PM (#13118045) Journal
    Does this apply to boardgames too? Because I was able to draw naughty pictures all over a game of Monopoly... I'd like that game to be rated "Adults Only" now. Who can I contact at the ESRB?
  • by vhold ( 175219 ) on Wednesday July 20, 2005 @05:41PM (#13118269)
    A lot of people are running around in here wondering what is so important between M and AO as if there is no big reason for R* to care.

    Basically Wal-mart won't carry AO.

    Senate Testimony to that effect []
    In the case of video games (for example, Sony Playstation or Nintendo games) and computer software, we use the ESRB, Entertainment Software Rating Board, ratings (EC, E, T, M, and AO) as we make decisions about which products to carry. We do not carry software rated adults only (as rated by the ESRB). As a rule, we do not carry Parental Advisory stickered products.
    That is all.

I judge a religion as being good or bad based on whether its adherents become better people as a result of practicing it. - Joe Mullally, computer salesman