Hot Coffee, the ESRB, and Government Video Game Regulation
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So, here we are, for the most part looking back on the controversy that was “Hot Coffee.” Rockstar Games left some code in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas that should not have been there, the US Government got involved, and there was considerable lobbying and pressure placed on the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) to change the rating of GTA:SA from Mature to Adults Only.
Rockstar and Take Two Interactive, its parent, are feeling the pinch of having GTA:SA removed from the shelves at major retailers.
Sounds like it’s all done, right?
It’s not over yet. In fact, this may be just the beginning. There is an air of change.
Since the ESRB changed the rating from Mature to Adults Only, the ESRB has somewhat of a consistency problem. GTA:SA was well known for its graphic content, be it the violence, the foul language, or the sexual innuendo. This was expected by the public, and some even questioned the necessity of it all. However, the combination of violence, foul language, and sexual innuendo present in GTA:SA was enough for the ESRB to initially determine that people aged 17 and up should be able to handle the game. In fact, the ESRB’s own definition of the Mature rating is:
“Titles rated M (Mature) have content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older. Titles in this category may contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, and/or strong language.”
Sounds like a good fit, no? GTA:SA fits the bill of those quite nicely. So do lots of other games. Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, for example, are rated Mature for the “blood and gore,” as well as “intense violence.” Half-Life gets the M rating for animated blood and violence. Also, so far, it seems consistent. Violence, blood, and gore, whether animated or not, is going to cause a game to get an M rating.
What’s interesting is the definition of Adults Only:
“Titles rated AO (Adults Only) have content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older. Titles in this category may include prolonged scenes of intense violence and/or graphic sexual content and nudity.”
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