Earlier today, fellow Fool Rick Munarriz wrote about the brouhaha over the recent discovery of hidden, explicit sex scenes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the latest hot game from Take-Two Interactive
The trouble began when a user-engineered modification called "Hot Coffee" surfaced on the Internet. It allowed players of the PC and console versions of the game to access content created by the original programmers but hidden in the final product. Originally, the game's protagonist discreetly met his girlfriend for "coffee," accompanied by suggestive noises and music. The mod unlocks an eyebrow-raising "minigame" requiring, um, well-coordinated button-pressing.
The game has been re-rated from "Mature" to "Adults Only." Parents and legislators are incensed, and the company is scrambling to issue a "cleaned-up" version as the nation's biggest retailers yank the game from their shelves. Does this spell doom for Take-Two, or even the Grand Theft Auto franchise? Hardly.
Grand Theft Auto has been controversial since its earliest days as a cartoony, two-dimensional computer game. Its violence, mayhem, and envelope-pushing sexual content -- hire a hooker, and see your car rock suggestively, to regain lost health points -- became the foundation for Take Two's edgy Rockstar Games brand. Teenagers, especially the teen boys these games target, love to feel like they're rebelling against authority. If they don't have to leave the couch to do so, well, that's even better. Rockstar and Take-Two rake in millions by letting players get away with things that would get them arrested in real life.
Being subject to the public scorn of The Man is about the only way Take-Two could possibly have made this game more desirable to its target audience. So what if Wal-Mart
There's another aspect to the controversy I just don't understand. What makes this game obscene now, simply because wily geeks uncovered the programmers' dirty little joke? In a game where players can graphically murder random pedestrians and blow up police cars with a bazooka, does the sight of two crudely geometric characters in flagrante delicto really make things that much worse?
Sure, I've got issues with the way Rockstar and Take-Two market their games to kids, but the ultimate responsibility lies with the parents who let their children play games like GTA. If parents really want to scare their kids away from Grand Theft Auto, they should start playing it themselves. Nothing makes a game, album, or movie less cool, more quickly, than knowing your mom and dad think it's, like, totally awesome.
Motley Fool editor Nathan Alderman apparently lacks the gene for video game skill. At the time of publication, he held no financial position in any company mentioned in this article.