Is ‘Hot Coffee’ Sex Less Worrying than GTA Itself?

News that Rockstar, makers of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas have issued a patch to prevent access to the sexually explicit ‘game within a game’, leaves me scratching my head.

For one thing, the game within a game is only accessible to those who have deliberately downloaded a special modification from the Internet that unlocks the hidden scenes. As a result, the modification was voluntary, leading to the likelihood that this could become the least downloaded patch ever. [Image: less cleavage please, we’re British. A screenshot from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. Source: Rockstar.]

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Rockstar has offered the patch to anyone whose game has been exposed to the ‘Hot Coffee’ modification. It doesn’t look like the huge inventory of games that are already lining resellers’ shelves will have the patch added in advance – you will have to download the patch (assuming you have previously downloaded the mod) after you have bought the game. Sounds nuts.

Besides, as I said on my blog a few months back when there was a furore over the fact that Hollywood was gearing up to launch pornographic titles on Sony’s PlayStation Portable games console, it’s not the fact that you can get sex on your game console that is the real issue. It’s the violence.

Numerous studies have found violent games damaging, and if you take all of the studies together, as Craig A. Anderson, Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology at Iowa State University puts it: "Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behaviour, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behaviour… High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behaviour (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery)."

I’m not suggesting that violent video games should be banned – they are already subject to classification by the British Board of Film Classification (bbfc) over here, just like videos and DVDs. But I do find it bizarre that anyone should get quite so upset about sex in games when violence is, in a very real sense, ‘the name of the game’.

I can understand the surprise and dismay that Rockstar should have left the ‘game within a game’ in the final version, even though it could not be played without the special modification. But with the relatively easy access to pornography these days on video, DVD and online, I would have thought that it is the violence in video games that we should be looking seriously at, not a one-off modification that sees a pixelated video game character engaging in a little one on one.

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