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House backs federal investigation of Rockstar Games

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Just when you thought the Hot Coffee scandal couldn't get any hotter, the heat is getting turned way up--by the federal government, no less.

Just after 7:00pm on Capitol Hill today, the House of Representatives voted 355 to 21 to support a Federal Trade Commission inquiry into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. The purpose of the probe will be to determine if Take-Two Interactive and its publishing subsidiary Rockstar Games deceived the voluntary Entertainment Software Ratings Board when it submitted Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Today's vote advanced House Resolution 376, introduced by Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI). In Upton's words, he is "leading the congressional effort to determine if a best-selling video game maker intentionally deceived the industry's ratings board to avoid an 'Adults-Only' rating."

In a statement, Upton recently said he was "outraged by the brazenness of Rockstar Games in their effort to do an end-run around the ratings system... Rockstar Games' deceit has severely undermined the integrity of the ratings system."

The game initially received a rating of M for Mature but has since been slapped with a rating of AO for Adults Only, becoming one of only a handful of games to bear the retailer-scorned label. Rockstar is in the process of manufacturing new game discs that have the hidden sex minigame removed. Those versions of the game will be rated M.

The vote, coming on the eve of a five-week recess in Congress, means that Rockstar could now come under scrutiny by the federal government. It also raises the possibility that there could be a penalty imposed if an investigation finds that the publisher committed fraud in obtaining the M rating for San Andreas.

[UPDATE] According to attorney Jack Thompson, an outspoken critic of Rockstar Games, the resolution does not have the binding effect of law; it simply expresses the overwhelming sentiment of the House of Representatives that the Federal Trade Commission should investigate the matter fully.

As for where the House resolution might lead, Thompson told GameSpot that from his perspective, additional action inside the beltway was likely: "I have spoken with leaders on the Hill on all this, and you can look for Congressional hearings on this in the fall."

GameSpot will have more details on the investigation as further information is made available.

By Curt Feldman -- GameSpot.


You might have noticed I continue to link to coverage of this "sex scandal" while most folks are bored of hearing of it. But it's just so ridiculous it pisses me off. Oh, it was okay to promote and sell to teenagers as long as it only exemplified drug running, carjacking, police evasion and slaughter, blowing up buildings, running down pedestrians, murder, carnage, gambling and overall general mayhem.

But oh my gawd, since there's a "love" scene (not even accessible except by cheat code), let's make em change the rating, cause stores to pull from shelves, stocks plummet, and now let the government investigate them out of business.

Is it just me, or does something seem wrong here? I'm kinda pissed at the pure stupidity not only of Sen. Clinton (whom I personally blame - just a publicity stunt in hopes of re-election) and our government - which never surprise me at their pure ignorance - but of the citizens and lobby groups pushing for this. Oh, noooow the parents are worried! It's just ridiculous!!!

You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

Sex vs Death and Destruction

I'm an old hippie at heart.

Make Love, not War is what I say!

Now Being Sued

The Associated Press has pumped out an article detailing a lawsuit filed by an 85 year old grand-mother who didn't know it had hidden sexual scenes when she bought it. She said the other anti-social behaviors were okay for her 14 year old grandson to adapt, but she couldn't have him learning how to pick up and make it with women.

Naw, just kidding, it didn't say that ...exactly...

Here it is:

A woman upset that she bought the video game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" for her 14-year-old grandson without knowing it contained hidden, sexually explicit scenes sued the manufacturer Wednesday on behalf of consumers nationwide.

Florence Cohen, 85, of New York, said in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan that the game's manufacturer, Rockstar Games, and its parent company, New York-based Take Two Interactive Software Inc., engaged in false, misleading and deceptive practices.

She sought unspecified damages on behalf of herself and all consumers nationwide, saying the company should give up its profits from the game for what amounted to false advertising, consumer deception and unfair business practices.

Cohen said in the suit that she bought the game in late 2004 for her grandson when it was rated "M" for mature, for players 17 and older. According to the suit, she directed that it be taken away from her grandson, which was done.

The game was released in October with an "M" rating. After a storm of negative publicity about the hidden scenes, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, an industry group responsible for rating games, changed the rating to "AO" for adults only.

Laurence D. Paskowitz, the lawyer who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Cohen, said no parent would knowingly buy an adult-only video game for their children.

"They should really make sure this doesn't happen again," he said. "The least this company can do is offer refunds."

Hidden areas in video games that can be unlocked with special codes or modifications are not uncommon.

Take Two Interactive initially said the scenes were not part of the retail version of the game but later admitted they were.

A message left for a company spokesman was not immediately returned. On Tuesday, Take-Two announced that it had been notified by the Federal Trade Commission's Division of Advertising Practices that it was conducting an inquiry into the game's advertising claims.

The company said it planned to cooperate fully with the probe.
"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'," it said in a statement.

The company said it had halted production of the game in the controversial form and was working on a version of the game without the hidden sexual content.

"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," it said.

Earlier this week, the House voted 355-21 for a resolution asking the FTC to investigate the company. Last week, Sen. Clinton , D-N.Y., asked the FTC to investigate Rockstar, saying the company had "gamed the ratings system" by concealing sex scenes in the game that can be unlocked by computer programs available on the Internet.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Best Buy Co. and Circuit City Stores Inc. have pulled the game - last year's top-seller among console games - from their shelves following the rating change.

You talk the talk, but do you waddle the waddle?

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