Public Not Bothered By Secret Video Game Hanky-Panky

Dennis Faas's picture

Lawyers may have kicked up a stink over explicit scenes in a previous edition of Grand Theft Auto (GTA), but the game-playing public doesn't seem particularly concerned. This week, lawyers revealed that just 2,676 people filed claims; that may sound like a large number, but it's a tiny proportion of the 21.5 million people who'd bought the game at last count -- particularly as the settlement pretty much guaranteed free money for anyone who could be bothered feigning offence.

It's all particularly interesting news given the popularity of this most recent release of GTA, Grand Theft Auto 4.  Although GTA4 doesn't include the hijinx of San Andreas, gamers will snicker the first time they pick up a "lady of the night".  In other words, little has really changed.  (Source:

In GTA: San Andreas, released in 2004, there's a scene in which the main character takes his girlfriend back home 'for coffee'. In the official release, the player doesn't see what happens next and simply hears some suggestive sounds.

However, independent tech-heads released an unofficial patch that allowed the player to see exactly what happened next, in fine detail.

The people releasing this modification didn't create any new material: the graphic scenes were hidden away in the official release. It's not clear whether the designers intended for people to work out how to view them (similar to an 'easter egg'), if they were meant to stay hidden and be an in-house joke, or if they were originally planned to be included and left in by mistake after management gave the thumbs down.

Whatever the explanation, once word got out, the game had to be reclassified with an Adults Only rating. This meant many stores refused to continue stocking it until they received new copies which had the offending scenes completely removed.

As always, where there's controversy, there's a lawsuit. Some disgruntled buyers claimed to be shocked that such graphic material was buried away in the game. Eventually the lawyers came to an agreement with Rockstar (producers of GTA) for a class action settlement.

That means anyone who felt they had a case could simply file a claim and get compensation without having to go through an individual trial. Each valid claim would earn a payment of between $5 and $35, plus a free copy of the cleaned-up re-release if needed.

The big argument now is what happens with legal fees. The lawyers think that, having agreed they did wrong, Rockstar should stump up the $1.3 million costs. Rockstar claim that's unreasonable given that the actual compensation they are paying out is likely to be around $30,000. (Source:

In a purely technical sense, Rockstar did screw-up by including material (albeit hidden) which didn't meet the restrictions for the original Mature rating the game received. But it's pretty implausible that people buying a game promoted for its graphic violence should be so outraged by sexual content.

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