A group of hardcore gamers who delight in tweaking Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto series feel they've been ill-treated by the Entertainment Software Rating Board.
The ESRB's July 20th press release announcing its findings in the Hot Coffee scandal reads, in part, "Going forward...the ESRB calls on the computer and video game industry to proactively protect their games from illegal modifications by third parties, particularly when they serve to undermine the accuracy of the rating."
Late yesterday GamePolitics was forwarded an e-mail sent to the ESRB by GTA mod maker illspirit, who is also an occasional visitor to this site. The e-mail was prefaced by these words:
I though you might be interested in this letter send by the administration of GTAgarage.com (which happens to be the centre of the GTA modding scene).
We waited until this morning to publish the information, as we sought confirmation on its legitimacy from Patrick Wildenborg, the now famous Dutch modder who revealed the existence of Hot Coffee to the world in early June. Since Patrick has provided that confirmation, here is the text of the e-mail:
*Sent:* Monday, July 25, 2005 10:39 AM
*Subject:* Fw: The ESRB has lied to us all
To whom it may concern,
We just fired this message off to Senator Clinton, Assemblymember Yee, and the rather excitable Jack Thompson. Your attacks on the customers you are supposed to protect are reprehensible to say the least. The gaming public knows very well you have rated more explicit games as "M" than what is contained in the allegedly obscene content (hot coffee) which you have admonished us over. Granted, your demonizing of the mod community may be only PR and politics, but we do not appreciate being a tertiary scapegoat for you to pass the already misplaced blame of irresponsible parents along to. So, please, find another patsy.
Just thought it would be fair to give you the heads up we never got.
the administration of gtagarage.com
----- Original Message -----
*To:* *"Recipient List Suppressed"*
*Sent:* Monday, July 25, 2005 9:36 AM
*Subject:* The ESRB has lied to us all
Dear Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Yee, and Mr. Thompson
In recent statements by the ESRB, they have accused the mod community of undermining their ratings by putting sexually explicit material into PC games, namely San Andreas, which was already rated "M". However, if you look into a game by the name of "Singles - Flirt up your Life", it becomes quite clear they are doing a good job of that all by themselves. This "M" rated game features full frontal nudity (and not androgynous "barbies" like The Sims) and characters engaging in interactive sexual scenes. Screenshots of this game can be seen over at IGN: http://media.pc.ign.com/media/667/667197/imgs_1.html
And for that matter, what of the game "Playboy: The Mansion", which is based on the skin magazine, and is also rated "M"?! Seeing as these game contains *far* more graphic depictions of sex than anything found in San Andreas, including the scenes involving nudity which we modded into the game (by default, "Hot Coffee" did contain fully clothed actors...), how exactly have we undermined their rating? If anything, what was left on the disc by Rockstar and modded into the game by us doesn't even come close to what the ESRB itself considers "M" material, let alone rising to their very own standards of "AO". To blame the mod community for this is not only hypocritical, but quite deceptive as well. Not to mention the fact that they've essentially had one title banned for containing "pornography", while they let more explicit games
get by them.
For the record, we feel that "M" is an appropriate rating for these games, as their contents are no worse than R-rated films which have long been considered "okay" for ages 17 and up. However, we do agree with you all that that the ESRB is a big joke. Especially now that they're attacking their own customers for content which they obviously don't seem to have a problem with. Why should we the consumers be persecuted for adding something to a game which the ESRB has already demonstrated as perfectly acceptable for titles in the "M" range? San Andreas originally carried a warning for "strong sexual content", and judging by heir previous ratings, we would insist that we released the "Hot Coffee" mod well within the ESRB's (apparently broken) guidelines.
the administration of gtagarage.com
EDITOR'S NOTE: GP has requested comment from the ESRB on the gtagarage letter.