26 July 2005

Waiter, there’s sex in my violence!

Let’s have a quick fact check here:

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is rated M by the ESRB, meaning it is rated as unsuitable for anyone under the age of 17. The rating label notes “Strong Sexual Content”.

The game features a mission where you rescue a prostitute who is being raped and murdered by two johns. It allows you to have sex with bikini-wearing prostitutes in your car, accompanied by bouncing suspension, steamed-up windows and explicit sound effects. You can also kill the prostitutes with a chainsaw afterwards, if you so wish. Or, you can wander into a strip club, watch the dancers on stage, then go into the back room and pay money for a private lap dance, depicted in 3D polygons.

None of that was a problem for the ESRB when they issued an M rating. However, if you modify the game you can make it show a scene where two adult characters have fully clothed, completely consensual sex, with no money changing hands, no exploitation, and no violence.

That’s apparently a horrendously damaging image, which means the game should have been rated for people _1 year older_—because the difference between an AO rating and an M rating is that AO is for 18 and older, whereas M is for 17 and older.

As a sidenote, 17 year olds in America can have actual sex with real human beings in 43 states in the nation; I’m assuming they can legally do it with the lights on, perhaps even after taking their clothes off.

One of the previous installments of GTA featured a length lesbian S&M scene. Meanwhile, the (reportedly awful) game BMX XXX features topless women riding BMX bikes while their breasts jiggle, and full nudity; it’s rated M. No problems there.

So those are the facts. Now the House of Representatives has voted, almost unanimously, for the FTC to investigate whether Rockstar Games deceitfully misled the ESRB in order to corrupt America’s 17 year olds, rather than only those 18 and up.

Well, that’s money well spent. Thank goodness we don’t have any more important problems that need attention.

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