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Friday, July 22, 2005

Good Lord!

Did you know that video games that have an "M" (Mature) or "AO" (Adults Only) rating are probably inappropriate for your little son or daughter? I mean, golly gee willickers, you'd think that thar E-S-Arr-Bee would tell us that in big giant freakin' letters, right? Especially over that "horrible" game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas"! Goodness, that "Hot Coffee" sex mod has gotten everyone atwitter, yes?

So much so that, because of the scandal surrounding that game, the publisher was forced to re-brand the game from a "Mature" rating to "Adults Only", which meant that all sorts of retailers were falling over themselves to yank that game from the shelves lest the ire of the media or politicians were to fall upon them.

Before I go on, a little background about the whole ordeal.

Grand Theft Auto, as a series, is a video game that lets you take on the life of a criminal. Lets not even pretend its anything else but that - the title alone gives you a pretty big clue what the nature of its content will be. Naturally, you can do all the things a criminal does - kill people, peddle drugs, pick up hookers, steal cars, all sorts of things that criminals do on a regular basis.

This past fall saw the release of "Grand Theft Auto : San Andreas", which was like the other games in the series, only set in a different locale and with minor cosmetic changes. Naturally, it did phenomenally well in sales - surprising no-one, given its previous successes. Things only started to get ugly for the developer, Rockstar Games, and the publisher, Take-Two Interactive, with the release of the PC version of the game and the subsequent discovery of a hidden "mini-game" called "Hot Coffee".

The "game" (if you can even call this that) was unlocked when the player successfully wooed one of the game's interactive females enough on enough dates to be invited into their homes for "coffee". By "coffee", the players find that out to mean "sex" - a tired, cliche Hollywood line. The player could then engage in The Act, and have the characters interact in different ways. Completely immature and insipid - ingredients for a free-for-all player frenzy across all manners of message boards and forums.

Rockstar Games, after being confronted about this by some of the press and remaining silent for a while, finally released a carefully-worded statement saying that the "Hot Coffee" mini-game was actually the work of a bunch of hackers - the content never existed in the game before the coders released a "mod", or modification, for the game. Some people took this as an article of faith, others thought something was up. Turns out, the latter was right.

Reports began to surface that the console versions of the game let the players do the exact same thing the PC version did, and all they needed was a cheat-code device like an Action Replay and a long string of cheat codes, and they could pull off the same antics. This lands Rockstar into a lot of hot water - it is absolutely impossible for a cheat-code device to introduce new content onto an unmodifiable DVD disc (like the ones a Playstation or XBox use), and therefore the "Hackers did it!" explanation didn't hold water.

So now we have this frenzy of media attention, with the likes of Hillary Clinton (alarms should be going off in your head if you hear she gets involved in something) and anti-video game crusader Mega Attorney Man Jack Thompson calling for the government to get involved and regulate the video game industry, with Clinton going so far as to suggest it be done in the same way as alcohol and cigarettes. Yes, because we TOTALLY need to let irresponsible parents abdicate responsibility for their children back to the government - they're just there to provide fodder for the tax collectors in later years, if I may indulge in a bit of snide commentary here. Jack Thompson, meanwhile, is on a real-big-freaking roll with this, going so far as to call the WAY more tame "Sims 2" as something "worse than Hot Coffee". Take Two's stock took a beating on Wall Street, and now they have to re-release an "M" rated version of the game with the "Hot Coffee" coding taken out (like it should have been done in the first place).

I know it has been said before, but I just have to say this too - why the hell are parents letting their kids drop $50 on this garbage? I mean, are they really that blind to think that an "M" rated game is something appropriate for a twelve year old kid? This faux outrage I see from parents and politicians is just another naked (pardon the pun) cover-up of the fact that they are so damned ignorant of what their kids are buying, watching, and playing stuff that is clearly inappropriate for them. Frankly, I wish more retailers started carding these kids and demanding ID to prove that they are of a reasonable age to be in possession of adult-oriented material like Grand Theft Auto. I'd even go as far as to support some severe penalties on parents for not doing their job and making sure their kids don't buy crap and then act on it. It would be just ducky by me - I'm nearly 21 years of age, and I know the consequences of acting on anything I learn from a video game full well.

I'm also disappointed in the likes of Rockstar, as I used to have the impression that they knew what it takes to make (again, adult-oriented) entertainment without stooping to juvenile antics and equally juvenile excuse-making. Frankly, I doubt I'd ever want to buy a product from them again - it smacks of immaturity to have left that "Hot Coffee" code in there in the first place, and then lie about it afterwards when they get caught. They think that all of us are completely stupid, and they're going to find out that some of us aren't going to follow them off that particular cliff any more.

When you don't hold someone responsible (in this case, Rockstar and irresponsible parents) for letting dumb things happen, everyone else has to put up with the stink that erupts thereafter. It shouldn't be that way, and these people know it. I can only hope that they act on it.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Rappin' about Terrorism

I couldn't believe my eyes when I read this story about a TSA baggage screener who was fired for, get this, rapping about terrorism. In a positive manner.

This guy's lyrics include everything from rapping about kidnapping and murder, overthrowing the government, and flying planes into buildings (sassy!). Naturally, he is quick to move to the tired line of how it was all about marketing and how he was fired because he was an Arab and this other tired horse manure that we hear so much about. His lame excuse about how he keeps his music and his job separate might have worked if he wasn't in a job where he was responsible, in part, for the safety and security of airline travelers.

What floors me the most was how unapologetic he was about it - the article ends with a quote from him essentially saying that, while it was unfair of Americans to label "all" Arabs as terrorists (no, just the ones that support it, sparky), he was going to play along with his "character" of a suicidal Arab. Classic, stereotypical "dumb rapper" jive - its almost as if Hollywood wrote it itself.