A brief digression for an interesting story... The Guardian reported yesterday that the city of Los Angeles is suing the makers of the computer game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, for including a hidden sub-game (which needs to be unlocked by special cheat codes) involving some semi-explicit sex scenes. The company, Take Two Interactive Software, first claimed that the game had been added by hackers, but have now acknowledged that it was written into the basic code of the game to begin with.
The case will focus on the failure of the company to mention the extent of the sexual content when marketing the game. However, the real reason for the procedure would seem to be the controversy caused by the inclusion of the sexual scenes at all, after several high-profile politicians, including Hilary Clinton, complained.
What is astonishing about all of this is the ferocity of the anti-sex complaints in a game that surely must be one of the most violent ever made. It already has a "mature audiences only" certificate: players are expected to run drug deals, pimp out prostitutes and carry out drive by shootings. And these are just the missions; in between, the player is free to wander the streets as he or she (probably mostly he) wishes, attacking and killing random passers-by with a variety of weapons, from baseball bats and knives to uzis and flamethrowers. You can shoot someone, wait for the ambulance to appear, then kill the paramedics and steal the ambulance.
My point is not to criticise the game (I enjoyed playing it immensely), but rather to point out how ludicrous it is for people to complain about a little, hard-to-find soft porn in that context. As one blogger noted at the time the controversy first broke, around six months ago, anyone not old enough for that should probably not, on balance, be playing the rest of the game. It does seem amazing that, in a game absolutely full of some pretty graphic interactive violence, it is the perhaps the only part of the game that asks the player to do something that is not deeply illegal (not to mention immoral) in the real world that has caused all the controversy.