Wednesday, August 03, 2005

PTC Handcuffs Grand Theft Auto

I was a bit overwhelmed when this story first broke, but a message from my favorite right-wing mailing list brought it all rushing back. The PTC—short for Parents Television Council, a fanatical gang of tight-assed media scolds led by the humorless ultra-conservative L. Brent Bozell III (as if you could have a good sense of humor with that name)—spent much of their latest weekly missive crowing over the great victory they won on behalf of lazy parents everywhere against the scourge that is Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

For complete coverage of the whole fiasco, read Matt Paprocki's commentary over at Blogcritics.org. In a nutshell, Rockstar Games was forced to change the rating of this game to "Adults Only" because it's possible to download a code from the Internet which, when loaded into the game, activates a secret mission in which the player can make two characters have sex that is, shockingly, about as graphic as what you can dream up between Barbie and Ken—assuming that Ken keeps his pants on throughout. Seriously. If you're over 18 and want to see what all the fuss is about, click here to see a video of the infamous "Hot Coffee Mod."

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is milder than what passes for titillation in many R-rated movies. GTA: San Andreas originally carried an ESRB rating of M for "Mature," which means it is not suitable for children under 17—the exact same standard as an R-rated movie. Thanks to pressure from the PTC and born-again conservative Hillary Clinton, the game now carries an A, or "Adults Only," rating, which means it is only suitable for people 18 and older.

In addition to protecting the tender, unspoiled minds of America's 17-year-olds, this ratings change has one major effect: while many chain stores like Wal-Mart, Best Buy and Target carry M-rated games, they do not stock games with an A rating. The PTC's campaign against GTA is not actually about protecting children, it's about damaging the commercial viability of Rockstar Games and, ultimately, bringing us one step closer to their not-so-wet dream of a future in which all media are suitable for children 100% of the time.

As always with the PTC, the irony of their mission escapes them. While claiming to advocate on behalf of parents, their true goal is to cede the responsibilities of parenting to the government. I humbly submit that if a kid is able to go out and drop $49.99 on this video game without their parents' knowledge or consent, those parents aren't doing their job. And if a child is able to go on the Internet and download the "Hot Coffee Mod" without parental supervision, there's a damned good chance that they're looking at German fecalphilia porn, snuff films and Drudge Report as well.

Parents, do your job and stop screwing things up for the rest of us!
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