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Federal Government Cranks Up The Hot Coffee Heat

by Rainier on July 25, 2005 @ 5:30 p.m. PDT

With an onverwhelming 355-21 vote, the House passed a resolution asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Rockstar and Take Two to see if they intentionally deceived the ESRB over hidden, sexually explicit scenes in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

"If that company purposely hid that information or material to make a sham of the ratings, it is nothing less than deceptive advertising, and should be punished, in this case severely," said Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., last week also asked the FTC to investigate Rockstar. She said the company had "gamed the ratings system" by concealing sex scenes in the game that can be unlocked by computer programs available on the Internet.

Video games usually have layers of content, and sometimes there are hidden areas that can be unlocked with special codes or modifications. A program known as "Hot Coffee" allows players to download the "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" modifications, or "mods," that reveal the dormant scenes.

The game was released last October with an "M," or mature, rating, for players 17 and older. In the wake of a wave of negative publicity about the hidden scenes, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, an industry group responsible for rating games, changed the "M" rating to an "AO" rating, for adults only.

Take Two Interactive initially said the scenes were not part of the retail version of the game, but were created by third parties. Later the company admitted the scenes were contained in its version, but only after it was discovered these scenes were also included in the PS2 version.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp., Best Buy Co. and Circuit City Stores Inc. have pulled the game — last year's top-seller among console games — from their shelves following the rating change.

In the meantime Rockstar Games has halted producing the alterable version of the game and is working on clean version that will qualify for the regular "M" rating.

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