July 19, 2005

Parents Group Urges Recall of Video Game ‘GTA’

SAN FRANCISCO -- A media watchdog group said on Tuesday it has demanded Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. unit Rockstar Games recall "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," the blockbuster title at the center of a swarm over a hack that helps players unlock a sexually explicit mini-game.

The move added the Parents Television Council's voice to a growing chorus of critics of the game -- one of the most popular ever sold and one of the most controversial for what critics see as its gratuitous violence.

For the past few weeks, the video game industry has been buzzing over a software modification for the game that allows players to have their characters engage in sex acts at the house of a "girlfriend."

The game modification, dubbed "hot coffee," can be downloaded from the Internet.

Critics have called for a change in the game's rating, from "M" (Mature 17+) to "AO" (Adult Only). Such a move could crimp sales at large retail outlets.

Just last week, U.S. Senators Hillary Rodham Clinton and Joseph Lieberman stepped into the controversy.

Lieberman demanded that the company allow for an independent analysis of its code, while Clinton has promised to introduce legislation that would curb the sale of violent video games to minors.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board -- the group responsible for video games ratings -- has also launched a probe into the "hot coffee" modification.

"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" got its "M" rating for blood and gore, intense violence, strong language, strong sexual content and drug use.

Take-Two's Rockstar Games has said "hot coffee" is an unauthorized modification created by individuals in the gaming community. It is cooperating with the ESRB investigation.

Patrick Wildenborg, a Netherlands-based programer identified as the lead author of the hack, said on his Web site that content in the modification -- including the animation and dialogue -- was available on the original game disk.

He noted, however, that the material is completely inaccessible in an unmodified version of the game.

It "is most probably just leftover material from a gameplay idea that didn't make the final release. I would really like to stress that this material is only accessible after willfully applying the 'hot coffee' mod (or something similar) to the game," he said on his site.

Wildenborg could not be immediately reached for comment.

(Additional reporting by Lucas van Grinsven in Amsterdam)


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