Are you responsible for what remains hidden?

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has explicit sex scenes in the code… If you hack it

So here’s an interesting situation. The developers, Rockstar North, put these scenes into the code of the game, but then they decided not to use them. The code is sitting hidden away, and completely inaccessible to anyone playing it normally. However, a chap has programmed a mod that allows access to the unused scenes.

Now there is a problem with the rating: do you rate the game on what it does, or what it could potentially do? In the US it is rated M, meaning you have to be aged 17 or over to buy it, but adult content would be rated more highly. The game doesn’t actually feature any of the footage but should the developers be responsible for things that are hidden away from public view?

I can see the developer’s defence: it’s a bit like saying that because many painters work from a unclothed figure up when they paint then if a person is given access to an X-ray machine they could see the naked original sketches so the picture must be pornographic.

Does this mean that if I call variables in one of my game by offensive words then they would only be suitable for older viewers in case someone mods the game to display the variables on-screen? (I don’t, in case anyone could be bothered to check.) There have been countless mods for PC games to re-skin the characters as being naked. I guess the difference is that the code already existed in GTA, but the fact remains that it is the action of the individual that allows these scenes to be witnessed. Surely the fact that people choose for themselves to see these things would imply that they have knowledge of the content that they are unlocking and therefore they take responsibility for their own actions?

Maybe those scenes shouldn’t have been in there in the first place, but you can’t blame Rockstar North for having untidy code, I can think of a certain operating system manufacturer who would be in a great deal of trouble if you’re going to start doing that! Let’s face it, the unplugged security holes in Windoze have probably resulted in far more children being exposed to porn through Adware than will ever see the explicit content on GTA. To me this sounds like a combination of a nanny state and a lack of comprehension of the realities of coding. Sometimes my games have whole functions that I cut out because I change my mind mid-way through, but I leave them in the code in case I change my mind. Rockstar North probably did the same, so are they to blame if someone finds it?

Then again, I wouldn’t put it past them to have released details of the existence of the scenes deliberately to drum up some controversy…

6 thoughts on “Are you responsible for what remains hidden?”

  1. Hmm, and how does this compare to a movie that had explicit scenes cut by censors but then releases as a “Director’s Cut” that includes those scenes?

    Personally, I am no fan of censorship and not much of a fan of ratings. GTA is an adult content game no matter which way you skin it but I have no problem with informed parents judging it suitable for their (informed) kids. I don’t like ratings but an honest description of content is reasonable.

    Now, to the specific question at hand: I would considered guns and violence to be more questionable than nudity and sex – I think America has its ratings system completely backwards here. I would be more concerned if a game that had nudity and sex (which I think is OK) was hacked to expose guns and violence and the outward description didn’t include the latter…

  2. Wouldn’t running the crack breach the EULA? In which case, aren’t the developers absolved of responsibility?

  3. SeanC, yes, it does seem very odd the way that the American ratings system is organised.

    SeanH, you would think so, yes, but the material is technically part of the product that was supplied… It’s a very grey area.

  4. I think that if your smart enought to access hidden code than you probably know all about sex so i don’t think anyone’s being scarred here. And I also agree that the amount of violence in that game is way worse than any sex scene they could have put in there.

  5. No? Really? That wouldn’t be what this entire post is all about would it?

    Anyway, I agree with the others that the violence in GTA worries me more than any amount of graphically displayed sex could. Although Becca, the mod is availible for download, so in theory any little kid could download it and view the scenes.

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