Guest Author - Lisa Shea
Anyone who has seen Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas knows it's for adults. It involves gang members who hit each other with baseball bats and shoot each other. Still, legislators are in an uproar.
The issue here is with "hidden code". As any programmer knows, you tend to have a lot of code in a project that isn't really used. Either you put it in and change your mind, or you do it as a test and never get around to removing it. In the case of Grand Theft Auto- San Andreas, the people who programmed it obviously has a penchant for sex and violence. So the extra code they put into it was code that let you have simulated sex.
Now let's be clear here - there is NO way this code could ever be activated during normal gameplay. It was put in there by developers solely for the developers enjoyment. Those developers are, obviously, adults. If their idea of a good time is to sit around playing with virtual females, well, that's their choice.
What has many legislators in an uproar is that a hacker has found a way to alter the PC version of the San Andreas code so that end users can get to that program. It's NOT the way the PC program ships. You have to download a hack. If you're going to be downloading porn from the internet, it really doesn't matter what you are downloading. You can download naked pictures by the thousands. You can download porn interactive programs by the score-load.
So really, if someone deliberately downloads hack software onto their computer for the purpose of doing pornographic activities, it really doesn't matter what the core program is. You could download porn photos and view them in Photoshop. It doesn't make Photoshop "bad". You can download lurid tales and read them in Word, but it doesn't make Word "bad".
It's also well worth pointing out that anybody who gets San Andreas for an under-age teen is simply not paying attention to what they are doing. This game is about people bashing people in the head with baseball bats, about bloody scenes involving chainsaws. You can be a pimp, selling off whores. You can use whores and then beat them up to take their money back. It is pretty horrifying to me that legislators are complaining "Oh but look! They have a naked female now! We can't let teens see a naked female!" Good God, it's fine to let teens be violent to such an incredible degree, but they can't see a nude female?? Just what are our priorities here?
I would MUCH rather that teens get over this whole obsession with naked bodies. Take them to art shows. Take them to museums. Let them understand that human bodies are normal, that skin is normal, and that sex is a normal part of life between two consenting adults. But also tell them that violence is NOT normal, that bashing people in the head with a baseball bat is NOT normal, that driving over people with cars, blasting at them with machine guns, and throwing flaming cocktails at them is not a way to 'get revenge'.
If legislators want to "make things better" for teens, then they should give up on the sex. Every teen I know is either having sex or interested in sex. What we DON'T want to be drumming into teens heads is violence. And, to be honest, the game SAYS it is mature. If any sane parent does not understand that "mature" means "not for 13 year olds", I honestly believe that it's not the game label that's at fault here. Some parents feed their kids vodka too, and beat them with sticks. No kids should be buying mature titles. If a parent wants to force-feed inappropriate material to their kids, what is a legislator going to do? Will putting "adults only" on the box really make that parent say "Oh, jeez, I suppose a game about pimps, gang-banging and raw street violence might not be good for my pre-teen"?