Grandma’s ratings rant ridiculous

Kevin Wilson: PNT managing editor

It’s been a few weeks since the revelation that the video game “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” has an explicit sex scene that can be unlocked using third-party software.
Currently, the company that makes the game, Rockstar Games, is facing litigation. Though no decisions have been made in the case, I think I can already pick out some losers. Take Rockstar Games, which has pulled the mature-rated title (rated “M”) off the shelves and re-rated it as an adults-only title (“AO”). Or take the taxpayer, which will have to pay money for Congress looking into this matter.

However, I think the biggest loser in this case is sensibility, more particularly the part that is derived from personal responsibility.

A grandmother is in the process of suing Rockstar Games. It seems that she had purchased the game, then rated “M,” for her 14-year-old grandson, and then took it away when she heard about the sex scene.

The case she is making is that she would not have purchased an “Adults Only” game for her grandson, and Rockstar Games essentially deceived her into buying it under the “M” rating.

It makes perfect sense, until you look at the Entertainment Software Ratings Board’s Web site. The ESRB’s site states that:
• A game rated M “contains content that may be suitable for persons ages 17 and older.”
• A game rated AO “contains content that should only be played by persons 18 years and older.”

The content differences, available as the site, are significant. But there seems to be a double standard in this case. No doubt that Rockstar Games erred by keeping the sex scene in, even though it requires extra effort to unlock.

Had the grandmother followed the industry’s ratings system in the first place, which only requires looking at the front of the game box, she would have never purchased her 14-year-old grandson a product intended for 17-year-olds.

It reminds me of the plot of the film “South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut.” The film was about children watching an R-rated movie filled with obscene language and the outrage that ensued over children watching such filth. The movie itself was full of obscene language, and life ended up imitating art.

The underlying message in the movie, and also in this case, was that no parent took responsibility for letting their child see an R-rated movie.

This isn’t to say that Rockstar and other entertainment companies don’t have to take on responsibility. They do, and that responsibility exists in the video game ratings and the v-chips that most people don’t bother to use on their television sets.

Truth told, there is more violence in entertainment now, and there is more sex. But there are also more protections. When we sue for the former without putting any faith in the latter, we deceive ourselves in a way that no video game maker can.