Day 278: Grand Theft Auto and the Giant Purple Dildo

Day 278: Grand Theft Auto and the Giant Purple Dildo

Day 278: Grand Theft Auto and the Giant Purple Dildo

 

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Ten years ago, when I was deeply entrenched in the videogames business, I took a call in the early morning from one of the usual publicists.

“Dude, have you been playing the San Andreas code?”
“Yeah.”
“You’ve totally gotta try this thing out. I found this area in the game where you can break into a house, and there’s this giant purple dildo sitting on the dresser in someone’s bedroom.”
“Uh-huh.”
“Well you can pick it up and go beat the shit out of the little old lady sitting in the next room!”
“That’s pretty fucked up.”
“No no! It gets better! I went running around town killing random people with it, and the cops are all chasing me while I bludgeon everyone to death with this purple dildo! It’s fucking hilarious!”

So I fired up San Andreas, found the section of the game he was talking about, and sure enough – there was the purple dildo as described.

About an hour later, the publicist called me back.

“Dude, did you find the purple dildo?”
“Yeah.”
“Please please pleeeaase don’t tell anyone about it.”
“Seriously? I just assumed you told everyone.”
“No, I mean don’t write anything about it.”
“Why?”
“It didn’t get submitted to the OFLC, so if they find out there’s something in it that we didn’t tell them about, it’ll get pulled from shelves.”

The OFLC, for the uninitiated, is the Office of Film and Literature Classification, which was responsible for classifying all media in the country.

Videogame companies in Australia are terrified of antagonising the censors because any delays or games being banned mean a huge chunk being cut from their expected annual revenue.

Back then, and even now in the post R18+ era, any game that depicts sexual violence is banned – so the publicist’s fears weren’t completely ill-founded.

I was conflicted on what to do with this information. Back then, an R18+ classification didn’t exist in Australia, and the legal, moral and ethical issues surrounding it was a subject I wrote heavily about at the time. This needed to be a story – I just needed to figure out how.

All of my concerns were rendered moot when, two days later, news of the Hot Coffee mod broke. The rest, as they say, is history.

I’ve been sitting on this little anecdote for so long on the off chance I might eventually use it as the opening chapter of a book, but that isn’t likely to happen any time soon and the events that have transpired recently with the latest version of Grand Theft Auto are, I believe, quite relevant.

In case you haven’t heard, Grand Theft Auto V has been pulled from shelves in Target. Theyre calling it Targetgate. At the end of the day, it’s Target’s right and privilege to decide what they want to stock and which customers they want to cater for.

There has been some interesting commentary about the situation, particularly from Alex Kidman over at FatDuckTech on the use of factually misleading terms in the original petition to remove the game from shelves. It’s not an opinion; for anyone who’s played these games, they’re all statements of fact.

But there’s something else in the equation that I feel has been missed, and it’s the reason for my little anecdote about the Giant Purple Dildo.

Since the R18+ classification was made available to videogames in 2012, the conversation around the issue from gamers, the media and the industry all but died. They’d ‘won’, and that was that, I suppose

But there are other issues that were never adequately addressed: who enforces the classifications? How do we educate parents? How do these games get classified? What about downloadable games that are served outside our legal jurisdiction?

When a videogame company submits a game for classification, they have to submit a list that details all of the contentious issues – violence, nudity, language, etc – all of which the censors look over and assess. The contents of that list relies on the honesty system, but videogame companies all but treat it as discretionary: if every contentious issue and every possible option, nook and cranny had to be submitted for a game, it would never get released on time.

That’s why some videogame companies resort to deliberately misleading the censors about the contents of their games, usually through an omission. That’s what happened in the case of San Andreas and many other games that crossed my desk.

Knowing this is what videogame companies do, can you blame moral and political groups for being suspicious?

The industry has only itself to blame for this.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s