'Grand Theft Auto' Sex Game Suit Draws Little Interest

Tod Hunter
NEW YORK — A class action suit brought by lawyers representing videogame buyers offended by a sex game concealed on "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" — a game that was only accessible by modifying the game with third-party software — has brought only 2,676 claims out of a reported 6 million games sold.

Any buyer upset about the hidden sex in the violent game can file a claim under a settlement the lawyers struck with the game’s makers, Rockstar Games and its corporate parent, Take-Two Interactive. Payments range from $5-$35 or a new version of the game depending on proof of purchase submitted.

The lawyers who brought the class action have asked for more than $1.3 million in compensation.

The sex game, called "Hot Coffee," was undeveloped and not part of the completed game, but information about how to access it was posted on the Internet, leading to interest from consumers and lawmakers. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) called for a federal investigation into how users of the game could access "graphic pornographic and violent content" from the Internet.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board rerated the game “adults only,” a designation that means the game should be played only by people 18 and older, from its original “mature” — 17 and older — rating. With the new rating, major retailers including Kmart and Wal-Mart stopped carrying the game.

Take-Two Interactive also settled a complaint by the Federal Trade Commission and released a version without the hidden scenes that carried the mature rating.

The "mature" game includes characters who are prostitutes, and lets players kill policemen and pedestrians and steal the pedestrians' money.

“For some reason sex is seen as more harmful to kids than violence,” said Craig A. Anderson, a professor of psychology at Iowa State University who has studied the effects of playing video games on children, adolescents and college students since the mid-1980s.

“The irony is that in terms of the research literature on harmful effects of various forms of media, television, movies, video games, the research is very, very clear,” Anderson said. “There are significant short-term and long-term effects of violent content.”