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Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Modders Speak Out

As much as I'm trying to put the ESRB decision behind me, it would seem very unfair for me not to highlight this statement from the GTA mod community about the affair:

At the root of this rather knee-jerk reaction lies the argument that Rockstar Games somehow "hid" pornographic content from the ESRB with the intentions of it being "unlocked" later after avoiding an Adults Only rating. While it may be true that portions of the Hot Coffee mod were created from assets found in the retail version of the game, to say that Rockstar knowingly hid and sold pornography is absurd. For starters, most (if not all) of the allegedly "obscene" animation assets found in the mod can be seen elsewhere in the course of regular game play during less "graphic" sequences. Secondly, the audio assets used in the mod exist in the retail game during the default censored "Coffee" scenes. As such, it would stand to reason that these parts of the game were already seen by the ESRB, and the game was labeled as having "strong sexual content" accordingly.

The primary difference between the retail version of the game and that of the modded version is that the above content has simply been rearranged and intensified by the consumers. By using the logic that this content was illegally "hidden", one could just as easily claim that any R rated movie has covertly crossed the limits of decency because the end-user could very well pause their DVD player on a scene containing nudity, thus exceeding the length of such scenes by which the MPAA decides whether a film is to be classified as R or NC-17. The same could be said of even a PG-13 rated movie which contains brief nudity.

Please, read the whole thing. It goes on to point out more concerning the nature of mods and games than I've read on anything else in this debate, and highlights the very precarious, overreaching and scurrious nature of the ESRB ruling very well.

I know everyone loves to hate Rockstar, but there was so much more to this than one company. I know a lot of people are trying to ignore the aspect of mods in the case, but I think it's about time to stop that behavior - it's what got us here in the first place. The heart of this debate never should have been what Rockstar did or did not leave on the disc - but what is fair use of the contents, what should constitue the ESRB rating and how much responsibility do we expect on the behalf of developers and publishers once their game enters the wild.

Nobody wants to see mods go away, except for maybe the rabid anti-game types who are currently basking in their latest win.

Years have gone by with mods as a fundamental part of PC gaming, and even more recently console gaming as well. To date, the mod community themselves have done more policing on illegal behavior than anyone else ... and that's pretty much the way it should be.

Because the problem with the ESRB's resolution of the Hot Coffee mod was not hidden content, but that they decided to take governance on the Internet itself. The "broad distribution" of the mod was a key factor in their decision ... and that distribution is nothing less than an online community which is large, vibrant, creative, beneficial to the game community and very little danger to parents ... and certainly not the domain of the ESRB.

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