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Yee Blasts ESRB For  Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas  Rating

Yee Blasts ESRB For Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Rating

July 7, 2005 | By Simon Carless

Leland Yee (D-San Francisco), California's Speaker pro tem, has issued a press release sharply criticizing the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) for for failing to appropriately rate Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. This follows the revelation of a 'mod' for the game which unlocks allegedly already-present, unfinished 'dating game' functionality in the title that includes sex mini-games with nude in-game characters.

"Once again, ESRB has failed our parents," commented Yee. "This particular game has been known to include extremely heinous acts of violence, and now it has been uncovered that the game also includes explicit sexual scenes that are inappropriate for our children. I have urged the ESRB on numerous occasions to rate this game AO based on its blatantly graphic nature."

It's unclear how the ESRB would have ever known about this unfinished functionality, however - the mod for GTA: SA cannot be unlocked on normal console versions of the title, since it requires changing the actual contents of game files. It is possible to enable this apparently incomplete, scrapped functionality on the PC version, and on hard drive-based versions of the Xbox SKU of the title, according to online reports.

Though it seems reasonably clear that developers Rockstar North did not ever intend this functionality to be seen by the gaming public, suggestions that this entire subsection of the game (including the explicit content) has simply been hacked in by enterprising third-parties has been dismissed by 'Hot Coffee Mod' author PatrickW.

The authors of the mod have commented in online messageboard postings: "The nude [character] models [used in the dating subsection] were in the [Rockstar] gamefiles already", and suggest that this functionality is built, but not hooked in, for all versions of GTA: SA, suggesting: "Rockstar built all this stuff in the game, but decided to disable it in their final release for unknown reasons." This point has not yet been confirmed or denied by Rockstar, according to Yee.

Nonetheless, Yee, who continues to push through a bill requiring greater state control over violent video games in California, is continuing to push his point, criticizing the ESRB's position as a game-industry body that he considers to be funded by video game publishers: the ESRB is a non-profit, self-regulatory body established in 1994 by the video game trade body the ESA.

Yee's final comment is strident: "Clearly the ESRB has a conflict of interest in rating these games, plain and simple, parents cannot trust the ESRB to rate games appropriately or the industry to look out for our children's best interests."

The ESRB has continued to evolve in recent months in response to attacks such as this, however, and most recently instituted an E10+ rating to help cater to younger consumers.

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