No clues about what major story I'm about to talk about (it's not some new coffee tasting game on the DS either). Rename July 'hot coffee month'. Now there seems to have been some clear resolution on the scandal it's a good time to sit down and reflect upon the ESRB's ruling to re-classify GTA: San Andreas as Adults Only and perhaps discuss the ramifications for an industry under siege.
In short - nothing. A few US politicians jumped on an obvious neo-con vote winner bandwagon, a crazed ambulance-chasing lawyer declared holy war on the games industry, defaming the head of the ESA on the way and, most importantly, the brand value of GTA has increased immeasurably.
Scandal they said. I say damp squib more like. The games industry does scandal like Debbie Does Dallas: disappointingly embarrassing.
If you haven't seen the 'hot coffee' mod for GTA, it's a pointless, pixelated nonsense. It's just not sexy at all. To have declared war on the industry over such a scene, whilst ignoring the bludgeoning and full frontal nudity in the fantastic God of War, highlights the moralists' hypocrisy, (and the fact that they are acting on poor advice). But they won't care - GTA was re-rated. In the eyes of misinformed and concerned parents across the US, Hilary got the job done. They can sleep safer now.
And Rockstar won't care either. In fact, they'll be delighted. More and more people will buy GTA now because of its increased profile. Teenage boys will desire it because of the renewed kudos. There are even ultra-cynical rumours flying around that Rockstar deliberately put the sex mini-game in GTA: SA in the hope it would spark just this kind of controversy.
Whatever the truth, having sat down and thought about the whole sorry saga, my gaming soul feels tainted. Not because I have been exposed to some horrible, hardcore sex mini-game and thus had my fragile little mind corrupted forever, but because the game industry appears amateurish, unprofessional and good only for sexually frustrated spotty teenage boys.
It's no good the industry shouting back at Jack Thompson and Hilary Clinton. Idiotic and sensational scaremongering often does little long term damage, and serves only to satisfy the short-term goals of power hungry politicians. It's like the industry is digging itself a rather large hole from which there is little hope of reprieve.
Instead, the industry should perhaps try something fairly radical: honesty. Rockstar shouldn't have said the sex-scene was created by an illegal hack (They didn't say this exactly, but their statements clearly shifted the blame towards the hacker) which altered the game's source code, because everyone knew they that wasn't entirely true. They should have said the mini-game was included in the retail version of all copies of the game from the start. They should have admitted that they put it in there. Now, not only does the industry look like it's trying to trick parents with hidden explicit mini-games, but the industry is lying about it as well, or at least bending the truth.
Here's another snippet of advice. Don't include bits of games that won't be playable. It's not hard, and it covers your back. Keep the bits you're not sure about in-house, perhaps on personal code you play in the safety of your own home, if that's what turns you on.
In 2005, over thirty years since the first videogame exploded onto an unsuspecting public, gaming seems further away from being taken seriously than at any time in its short history. My hot coffee will eventually cool and the industry will chug along. Jack Thompson will continue his crusade, and I'll be surprised to hear a gaming peep out of Mrs Clinton from now on. But as a pioneer, Rockstar need to grow up. Making great games for adults is fine - and rest assured GTA: SA is a great game. Just don't include crap sex-mini games while you're at it.