Thursday, July 28, 2005

Mountains out of Molehills

So an 85 year old grandma is suing RockStar games because she bought Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas for her 14-year-old grandson, and didn't know that there was practically inaccessible simulated poly-sex locked up in the game code.

Apparently, she's not concerned with the drug dealing, carjacking, cop shooting, pedestrian crushing, and generally hyperviolent behavior that goes on in the game. She's okay buying that for her grandson. She's okay buying him games that are clearly marked as being for mature audiences only.

But she is upset at Rockstar Games because she bought a game that has risqué scenes that can only be accessed by a tortuous set of actions that would never happen in normal play - actions which you would basically have to know the end result of (namely, the poly-sex scenes) and go looking for in order to enact them. No one sees this content without going to great, specific pains to see it.

(And consider this: the sex in GTA is practically the only consensual act in the game, the only nonviolent act, the only loving act, and hell, the only legal act in the game! If children have impressionable minds, wouldn't you rather them play the Hot Coffee mod, where they do legal things to make another person feel good, rather than the normal course of the game, where they do highly illegal, dangerous, and homicidal things? Which example of the two would you rather have your child follow? One could reasonably view the Hot Coffee mod as a patch that adds a little nonviolent gameplay to the game.)

But here's the interesting thing: in all the stories I've seen on the topic, I can't discern whether or not the kid actually saw the Hot Coffee mod content. Indeed, it sounds like the game got taken away from the kid before he could see it. If the kid never saw it, what is her claim to any damages in this case? Is this a frivolous lawsuit?

It seems to me that Americans need to buck up and take responsibility for being parents. Games with mature content are clearly marked as mature. Right on the front of the package. If you're too dumb or too busy to check the rating of a game before you buy it, it's your own fault if your 14-year-old kid gets exposed to mature content. It's no different than renting him Debbie Does Dallas without looking at the movie's rating first. Just because it's a game instead of a movie does not absolve you of your parental responsibility.

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