Should you care about sex in video games?

The Hot Coffee scandal is back in the news and this time, lawyers are wondering why no one cares. Don Reisinger answers their questions.

The New York Times featured a story today that discusses the ongoing legal battle over the "Hot Coffee" scandal. For those of you who may have forgotten, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas featured a hidden scene where the star of the game was engaging in a form of sexual activity with another on-screen character.

After parenting groups expressed shock that developers could throw such a "disgusting" act in a video game, the ESA was forced to change its rating to Adults Only and Rockstar Games was brought under fire for having so-called pornographic material in a video game.

But as the Times is reporting, it seems the only people that care are the lawyers. According to the report, "Lawyers who sued the makers of the video game...profess to be shocked, simply shocked, that few people who bought the game were offended by sex scenes buried in its software."

Since the lawsuit was brought against the company, only 2,676 claims were filed and the lawyers have expressed displeasure over such a low number.

"Am I disappointed? Sure," said Seth R. Lesser, lead lawyer for the plaintiffs. "We can't guess as to why now, several years later, people care or don't care. The merits of the case were clear."

But were they? Was San Andreas really "sold as something it wasn't" and gamers were really upset to find out that sexual content made its way into a game even though they couldn't find it unless they had third-party software and some advanced knowledge of game development?

I certainly don't think so. Look, I don't see any problem with the scene and even if it was readily available, I wouldn't care. Call me a socially liberal loon or naive, but why should we care about sex in video games?

I'm not going to say that sex should be present in video games or that it's even necessary, but if it's in a mature-rated title, who cares?

I'm a firm believer that video games are on the same level with movies in terms of pure entertainment and I don't see why developers should be treated like criminals when they put a digital sex scene into a game, while it's big news that Jennifer Aniston will be showing her derriere in her latest film.

Have you ever seen Unfaithful? What about Sex and the City? Those two films glorify sex and make it an integral part of the plot. And yet, when a sexual act is being performed by two animated characters in a video game that's obviously made for adults, we should be outraged? I just don't get it.

Invariably, these anti-video game hacks will make the argument that kids will be playing these games and the last thing we need is to show them (or worse) allow them to engage in sexual acts in the game. I can't argue with that point -- sex is best kept away from children -- but why should that rule apply to all games?

The video game industry instituted a ratings system for two reasons: to placate lawmakers and to help parents know what kind of content is suitable for children. Now that it's in place, developers should have every opportunity to make a game that fits into the age demographic they're trying to target.

If Nintendo wants to make another Mario game for children, go for it. If EA wants to sell sports games to teenagers, have at it. And if Rockstar wants to create a game that would be a rated-R title at the theaters for the adult gamers, it should have every right to do so. And believe it or not, sex is a major part of an adult's life and to say that it can't be included in a mature-rated game -- one that's designed for people 17 and older -- is ludicrous.

It's not that I want to see sex in every game -- in most circumstances, I don't think it's necessary -- but I have serious issues with the double standard that continues to develop in this industry. If movies can show graphic sexual acts and merit an R-rating, why can't video games do the same? In fact, I would venture to say that sexual acts in video games aren't nearly as bad as human beings performing the same act.

So when the lawyers lament the fact that no one cares about sex in a video game, I can't help but ask them why they do. What makes it so bad? Sex in a game that's created for adults is no different than sex in an R-rated movie.

Sex, drugs, violence, prostitution, and other human vices should be kept from children as much as possible. But in the end, we shouldn't attack the developer for creating a game for adults that a child happens to play, nor should we attack major movie studios if a child sneaks into an R-rated film.

The double standard needs to stop and we need to accept the fact that as games become more sophisticated, so too will the storylines. And as long as a game is made for adults, we shouldn't be censoring developers.

Sex, drugs, and violence are a part of life. I think it's time we stop being shocked when they sneak their way into mature-rated games and realize that in some way, they sneak into our lives in one way or another anyway.

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About the author

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.

 

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