The gaming world was last week rocked to the very foundations of discarded pizza boxes on which it rests with the revelation that kiddie-friendly driving tuition hit Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas may contain explicit scenes of sexual depravity hitherto unseen outside the Big Brother house.
The shocking truth was discovered by Dutch modder Patrick Wildenborg. His "Hot Coffee" mod reportedly unlocks the game's "censor flag", thereby allowing access to the XXX material. That's to say, Wildenborg claims the material was already written into the game, and that he just unlocked it.
According to the Boston Globe, Wildenborg asserts: "All the material that is used during the sex scenes of the 'Hot Coffee' mod are on the official San Andreas release."
Wildenborg continues: "If the censor flag is set, all the sexually explicit scenes are blocked from the normal flow of events. That makes a difference in a game scene when the hero visits his girlfriend's house for a cup of coffee. In the censored version, the game shows the exterior of the house while suggestive sound effects are heard. If, however, the censor flag is cleared, all the explicit scenes are tied into the normal gameplay."
Phwoaar! Naturally, while nicking cars and shooting people has gained games such as Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas a modest M (Mature 17+) rating, the alleged rumpy-pumpy may earn the game a AO (Adult Only) classification - if the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) decides GTA is just too steamy for impressionable young minds.
That's unlikely, said ESRB prez Patricia Vance, because she agrees with GTA producer Take 2's assertion that "Hot Coffee" is a mod and "not an inherent feature of the game". She added: "He [Wildenborg] actually had to change underlying code. It's not a cheat. It's not an Easter egg."
This applies even if the smut was on the disc when it left the factory, said Vance. "Game developers have been known to deactivate parts of their code without removing them from the finished products," she explained. "Oftentimes changes are made toward the end of development, and they program workarounds." In summary: if Take 2 didn't intend the porn to be "playable content", then "the company may not be at fault when ambitious modders discover it".
Mercifully, though, Vance conceded: "I think it certainly raises issues about what's considered playable content," although she would not be drawn as to whether games manufacturers should be obliged to disclose all content on a disc. ®