Recently, the video games industry has been subject of more scrutiny than ever before. Pressure is mounting which threatens innovation within and surrounding the industry, yet 'rogue' games developer Rockstar Games, the catalyst for much of the negative opinion, continues to thumb it's nose at public opinion.

The website devoted to the upcoming next installment in the controversial game series Grand Theft Auto contains a thinly veiled attack on Rockstar/Take2 Interactive's biggest critic, anti-pornography anti-violence campaigner Jack Thompson. 'Fake' email messages on the site from 'JT' infer that the Miami based lawyer surfs the internet for porn and also encourage readers to visit a fake website (reportedly funded by Rockstar) which encourages deviance and the name of which provides an acronym which spells out some rather extreme obscenity. Additionally, the site provides an fake audio advertisement in which 'Jack' is discovered naked in a young lad's bedroom. Unnecessary, offensive, and inclusions which make one wonder to what lengths Rockstar are prepared to go to generate interest and sales on the strength of controversy. And it makes ME wonder just how much damage to the rest of the video games industry will occur before Rockstar are brought 'down'!

Recently, the Entertainment Software Rating Board has informed all games publishers that they are required to audit all their titles for offensive content, including that contained in hidden 'Easter Eggs' within the games and content in code which is not playable unless 'cheat codes' are used. The requirement is extended to titles released within the past 12 months as well as to titles included in current and upcoming catalogues. Alarmingly, the ESRB is also casting its eye toward the games modding community, which provides much of the innovation in the development of gaming on PC.

Should that attention end up with restriction placed on the provision for users to create modifications to games, we run the risk of PC games being provided without the modding tools included, and a situation where innovation and creativity are stifled. Yet Rockstar continue to blatantly thumb their nose at public opinion!

Shame on you!

Should one opportunistic company be allowed to continue to create havoc the way it has been lately? I think not. Rockstar's attitude is childish and outrageously petulant. They have created much of the controversy that threatens the video gaming industry and they continue to feed it. Yes please. Can we have tighter controls? But for goodness sake can we have tighter controls that target 'rogues' such as this company, rather than controls which unfairly place restrictions on creativity and innovation?

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I had to read, then re-read your post in order to see that (as I hoped) you aren't really as much surpsised that Rockstar Games is trying to capitalize on notoriety as you are disgusted by it.
I was somewhat younger when Madonna first burst onto the scene, and the more I watched her, the more I realized that she wasn't the slovenly, ungodly whore she pretended to be; in fact she was extremely shrewd in generating notorious controversy and then banking on it. I learned that controversy sells. Musicians do it all the time, even going back to the early "satanic" rock bands who pretended to be worshippers of Satan in order to generate the kind of controversy that sold records. Looks like Rockstar Games has simply read that page real good.

Unfortunately the only effective way to neutralize such tactics, which is to ignore them, Rockstar knows won't likely happen. The more news, and the more outrage, they can generate, the more they will profit, because there is some twisted part of most of us that loves to side with the "rebel", not to mention those who'll buy the games just to see what all the hubub is about.
I don't really care for games of that ilk, but I do agree that there looms on the horizon the kind of clamping down that might negatively affect creativity in games of all genres. There is an aspect of that idea which I personally think is good (as far as toning down some of the crassness), but overall, I don't like it much either.

On the other hand, I am all for any legislation that would force EA Sports to include a truly decent play editor in the Madden football games!

Glad you read it carefully, Toulinwoek, rather than simply giving it the knee-jerk reaction many people would.

Yes, that is certainly the concern. The move by ESRB to require developers/publishers to audit their catalogues for hidden 'goodies' that would impact on the title's rating is fair enough. The suggestion that game mods will be more closely looked at is a concerning one. Rockstar/Take2 have played their part in creating the controversy. If they want to produce titles that get an 'Adult' rating and are aimed at an Adult market, then fine. But this blatant display of contempt on a promotional website is churlish in the extreme. They've 'elevated' themselves from outrageous to completely unacceptable with this move, and display contempt not only for society's standards but for others in the games development community as well.

yes, the requirement that mods cannot introduce adult or violent content (which is effectively what they're saying) effectively means that modding capabilities will have to be either removed or extremely limited.

Take a game like Morrowind. Nothing adult in it, nor extreme gore and violence (except for a red haze when you're hurt sometimes there's not even any blood).
But modders have added nudity, prostitution, severed limbs, etc. etc.
Under these new rules that game would have to be classes as R simply because it is there is the theoretical capability (which in this case was acted upon outside of and without approval from the game publisher) to add content which changes the mode of the game to something it was never intended to be.

While I may not agree with Rockstar/Take2 and don't like their games, I do understand why they do what they do.
They feel (correctly so) that they're being villified and kick the responsible persons where it hurts in the only way they can, by mocking them.

Maybe that's actually a good thing as they might well get their day in court (or the court of public opinion) to expose the nanny culture in the ESRB and how they're effectively trying to restrict games to politically correct Barbie meets her mother adventures.

See, that's the thing. It's not about Jack Thompson the man. If Rockstar disagrees with his principles, then they should refute his principles, not antagonize the man.
Even if there is something unsavory about him, that in itself doesn't make him wrong about this issue. His intelligence and dignity are not in question here, it's the principle on which he stands. I personally don't agree with the principle in this case, but that has nothing to do with the man himself.
This is the same schlock lawyers pull, discrediting the person in order to cast doubt on the truth. Truth and right are true and right, regardles of the supposed character of the person telling or doing.
If after thousands of years we have not yet learned to look past the person and seek after the truth and what is real and matters, then we remain miserable as a species. No, I'm not saying we should just take anything anyone says with an assumption of absolute truth, but wisdom is knowing where to draw the line, and Rockstar has crossed way over it.

This is surely a fascinating topic.

At GamePolitics we've covered both Rockstar and Mr. Thompson extensively. In fact, we are credited with moving the Hot Coffee story from the blogosphere to the mainstream.

There is a certain reluctance among gamers and game industry types to publicly criticize Rockstar, so I find Catweazle's candor refreshing.

I would be very interested in hearing privately from any game industry folks regarding this, as I think it remains the untold story of the Hot Coffee scandal - the position that Rockstar/Take-two has put the rest of the industry in.

I'd like to write about this topic, and will keep your name private, if that is your wish.

I can be reached at:

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