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Hot Coffee mod
Hot coffee.png
A screenshot of the GTA: San Andreas with the Hot Coffee mod
Developer(s) Rockstar Games
Publisher(s) Patrick Wildenborg
Designer(s) Rockstar Games
Series Grand Theft Auto
Platform(s) PC
Release date(s) See Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Rating(s) ESRB: AO (Adults Only)
Media Download

The Hot Coffee minigame controversy concerns a normally inaccessible minigame in the 2004 video game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, developed by Rockstar North. Public awareness of the existence of the minigame arrived with the release of the Hot Coffee mod, created for the version released in 2005 for Windows-based computers. This mod enables access to the minigame.

The minigame portrays sexual intercourse between the main character and his in-game girlfriend. The name of the mod is derived from the girlfriend's offer for the main character to come into her home for "coffee"—a euphemism for sex.

Although the "Hot Coffee" minigame was completely disabled and its existence was only highlighted after the mod's release for the PC version in June 9, 2005,[1] the assets for the minigame were also discovered in both the PlayStation 2 and Xbox versions of the game, and people found ways to enable the minigame via console video game hacking tools. By the middle of July 2005, the minigame's discovery attracted considerable controversy from lawmakers and politicians, prompting the game to be re-rated as an adult game, and pulled from some shelves. An updated version of San Andreas has since been released with the minigame removed completely, allowing the game to regain its original rating. A patch for the original version of the game, which disables the minigame and crashes the game if one attempts to access it, has also been released.[2]

Contents

Minigame overview and Hot Coffee mod

During the course of the main plot of the game, the player (as main character Carl "CJ" Johnson) may date up to six girlfriends, carrying out various "date missions" in order to improve his relationship with a particular girl. Once Carl has become particularly close to a girlfriend, she may end a successful date by inviting him into her house for "coffee," from which Carl may choose to accept or decline. Improving relationships with girlfriends through successful dates and other related activities will eventually reward CJ with new items (vehicles and special wardrobes), along with pre-existing gameplay benefits (e.g. dating a nurse grants the character free visits to the hospital, without losing his weapons, after dying).

In the unmodified version of San Andreas, the player sees an exterior view of the girlfriend's house while hearing the muffled voices of Carl and his girlfriend as they engage in sexual intercourse. However, the Hot Coffee modification replaces this with a minigame which allows the player to actually enter the girlfriend's bedroom and control Carl's actions during sex. None of the six possible sex scenes involve any nudity (except when using the unrelated "Nude Girlfriends" mod), and there are animation problems with the girlfriends' partly clothed textures and bedrooms.

Rockstar Games, the publisher of the Grand Theft Auto series, initially denied allegations that the minigame was "hidden" in the video game, stating that the Hot Coffee modification (which they claim violated the game's End User Licence Agreement) is the result of "hackers" making "significant technical modifications to and reverse engineering" the game's code.[3] However, this claim was undermined when a hacker known as N.A.V.A.I.D G, on July 12, 2005, released an "Action Replay Power Save" for the Xbox console, and codes for the PlayStation 2 Action Replay game enhancer that allowed the scenes to be accessed in each of the console versions. These new methods of accessing "Hot Coffee" demonstrated that the controversial content was, indeed, built into the console versions as well.

The creator of the original PC mod, Patrick Wildenborg (under the Internet alias "PatrickW"), a 38-year-old modder from the Netherlands, rejects Rockstar's claim that the mod required significant technical effort, pointing out that he only changed a single bit in the installed game's "main.scm" file, and that there is absolutely no new content that he actually created—every piece of the required code was already in-game, just not available to the player.[4] The PC mod itself is actually just an edited copy of the game script files with the bit changed. The mod was also made possible on the console versions, by changing the bit inside a user's savegame or by using a third-party modding device. Mods for the Grand Theft Auto series are nothing new. The mod community has flourished for years creating additions to the map, new cars, and even a mod for multi-player gameplay. All of this is possible because Rockstar left the scripts open for mod makers to edit in order to have user created content. Take-Two has stated that the mod constitutes a violation of the End User License Agreement,[5] even though modification of the main.scm file is common within the mod community.

The possibility of enabling the minigame by changing a single bit of code shows that the sexual intercourse content is part of the game's original data, and not new content inserted into the game by the mod. However, it is not possible to access the sexual content simply by playing the game as intended by the developers, because it was fully disabled and the bit cannot be changed by normal gameplay.[6] The oral sex animations are however clearly visible in the background of an early mission, "Cleaning the Hood", even in the re-released game.[7] This may explain why the mini-game was not simply removed when the decision was made to cut it from the game: its assets were in use elsewhere.[8]

Controversy

The revelation of the minigame sparked a fair amount of controversy around GTA:SA, with some politicians firing harsh words at both the game's developer and the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the organization which establishes content ratings for video games in North America. It has also rekindled the debate over the influence of video games in general with new protests against several other games such as Killer7, The Sims 2, and Bully. The affair was nicknamed "Hot Coffeegate" at its height.

Jack Thompson was one of the first to criticize the game for its recently found content. Thompson believes that violent media are one of the main sources linked to violent crime in America. Thompson has lashed out against Rockstar Games on several occasions for previous games they have developed.

U.S. Senator Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray by suggesting new regulations be put on video games sales.[9] The ESRB is also conducting an investigation into whether the game's publisher lied about the game's content in an attempt to avoid the Adults Only 18+ rating. Also, Congress passed a resolution to have the Federal Trade Commission investigate whether Rockstar intentionally undermined the ESRB by having the content in the game.[10]

In New York, a class action lawsuit was filed by Florence Cohen, an 85-year-old grandmother who purchased the game for her 14-year-old grandson (according to the old rating of M, the game is typically considered inappropriate for this age). Cohen's lawsuit claimed that Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive, the publisher of the game, are guilty of deception, false advertising, fraud and abuse. The accusation of deception is based on the change from M-rated to AO, meaning according to the lawsuit that the original rating was a deceptive practice.[11]

There was also a protest that occurred at Rockstar's headquarters. A protest group known as the Peaceholics organized a protest on August 4, 2005. The group organized against San Andreas as well as the upcoming game Bully, the latter, which they wanted cancelled because of fears that the content could inspire children to become bullies themselves. The protesters had signs that read "Put the Cuffs On Rockstar Games", "Prosecute Rockstar Games; they are felons", "Hey hey, ho ho, Rockstar Games has got to go".[12][13]

Response

Product re-rating

On July 20, 2005, the ESRB announced that it was changing the rating of GTA:SA from Mature (M) to Adults Only 18+ (AO).[14] Rockstar stated that it would discontinue manufacturing the current version of the game, and produce a new version that would not include the content that is unlocked by the Hot Coffee mod. In the fourth quarter of 2005, Rockstar released this "clean" version with the "Hot Coffee" scenes removed (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas 1.01), allowing the game to be rerated to a Mature 17+ rating.[15]

On July 29, 2005, as a result of the newly-discovered scenes, the OFLC revoked the game's "MA15+" classification (the highest currently available for computer games in Australia), and changed the game's status to "RC" (Refused Classification) meaning that the original version could no longer be sold in Australia. The patched version was given an "MA15+" classification on September 12, 2005.[16]

On August 10, 2005, Rockstar Games officially released a patch for San Andreas.[17] Nicknamed the "Cold Coffee Patch" by some, the patch fixed many performance issues and bugs. However, the patch also disabled the controversial "Hot Coffee" scenes, even if the "Hot Coffee" mod was reinstalled.

There was little reaction in Europe. However, most European nations had already classified the game as "adult only" for its violent content, so no further action was necessary with or without the mod. Furthermore, unlike the United States, many European nations operate the same regime for video games as they do to films, thus it is a criminal offense to sell adult-only games to minors. For example, the UK version of GTA:SA as with all previous incarnations of the series all the way back to the original GTA, was rated as 18 by the BBFC. There may also be more general cultural factors in the differing responses to the incident. Similarly, news of the mod did not make any impact at all in Japan, where the game was released by Capcom.

Product withdrawal and recall

The day after the rating change, several North American chain stores, and IEMA retailers, which accounted for every major retailer in the United States and approximately 85% of the game's market in the country, removed the PC and console versions of the game from their store shelves, either restickering the box with the new rating, or returning it to Take-Two Interactive. These included major chains such as GameStop, Sears, Hudson's Bay Company, Zellers, Hollywood Video, Blockbuster, Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, and Electronics Boutique. Rockstar gave some retailers ESRB "Adults Only" rating stickers to put on their copies of GTA:SA, should they decide to keep selling the original product.

eBay removed copies of GTA:SA that had been reported by the eBay community. eBay claimed that GTA:SA violated the terms of the eBay seller policy and could not be sold unless it was located in the Everything Else > Mature Audiences section. This section requires a credit card to validate the age of the eBay user.

On August 24, 2005, Rockstar announced a mandatory recall for all games still owned by the general public. Consumers who had already purchased the game were allowed to keep it in certain areas, but with the patch installed, although players cannot be forced to return (or destroy) existing copies. Given the higher value of the "uncensored" versions, it is doubtful that many gamers will return their copies voluntarily.

Version 2.0 of GTA:SA, which omitted the sexual minigame content, was designed by Rockstar to crash if the game data files were modified. This made it necessary for players to use a previous version if they wished to install multiplayer game modifications such as San Andreas Multiplayer or Multi Theft Auto and other game modifications that include new scripts or vehicles. Certain pirated or illegally distributed versions of the original game may also be made available on the Internet or from illegal retail outlets. Downgraders are also available to unpatch and revert the game version and support the Hot Coffee minigame again.

This limitation later was overcome[18] by two members of the unofficial Grand Theft Auto modding community, who discovered a method of creating modifications which would work with version 2.0. Users of version 2.0 might still need to use previous versions or use a downgrader in order to install a mod not created with the new method.

Federal and legal action

In December 2005, Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh introduced the Family Entertainment Protection Act, which calls for a federal mandate enforcement of the ESRB ratings system in order to protect children from inappropriate content.

On January 26, 2006, the city of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit against Take-Two Interactive, the game's publisher, accusing the company of failing to disclose the game's sexual content.

Rockstar has allegedly vowed legal action against any subsequent sources that reveal how to access this part of the game, mainly cheat device code sites.

On June 8, 2006, Rockstar, Take-Two and the FTC settled. They are required to "clearly and prominently disclose on product packaging and in any promotion or advertisement for electronic games, content relevant to the rating, unless that content had been disclosed sufficiently in prior submissions to the rating authority." Should the companies violate the settlement they are liable for $11,000 in civil penalties.[19]

Civil class actions

In 2006 attorneys brought several class actions alleging Take-Two committed consumer fraud. In December 2007, a settlement of the litigation was reached.[20] In 2008, Ted Frank filed an objection to the settlement on the grounds that the settlement sought $1 million for attorneys' fees, but the total payout to class members was less than $27,000.[21][22] A court hearing was already scheduled on June 25, 2008. Frank previously told GamePolitics that the lawsuits were meritless and extortionate.[23]

As part of the settlement, Take-Two will pay a $873,000 cy-près award to the National Parent-Teacher Association and the ESRB.[21][22]

As of June 25, 2008, less than 2,700 claimants responded to the settlement, for which the plaintiff's attorneys expressed disappointment.[24] Frank expressed that this was further proof that the case had no merit.

As of September 1, 2009, Take Two agreed to settle a securities class action suit related to the controversy over the game and over backdating allegations for just over $20 million.[25]

References

  1. ^ "Hot Coffee mod developer's mod listing". PatrickW's modding website. http://patrickw.gtagames.nl/mods.html. Retrieved July 5, 2006.  
  2. ^ "No More Hot Coffee". Rockstar Games. http://www.nomorehotcoffee.com/. Retrieved 2005.  
  3. ^ "'Grand Theft' maker blames hackers for sex scenes". Reuters. http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20050714/us_nm/media_grandtheftauto_dc_2. Retrieved 13 July 2005.  
  4. ^ "Hot Coffee mod developer's statement". PatrickW's modding website. http://patrickw.gtagames.nl/. Retrieved 13 June 2005.  
  5. ^ Take-Two Games - Investor Relations General Information
  6. ^ "Confirmed: Sex minigame in PS2 San Andreas". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/news/2005/07/15/news_6129301.html. Retrieved 15 July 2005.  
  7. ^ "Norwegian article proving the sex animations are used in the game". Nettavisen. http://pub.tv2.no/nettavisen/it/article432538.ece. Retrieved 14 June 2006.  
  8. ^ "My Take On "Hot Coffee"". Rom's Rants. http://www.romsteady.net/blog/2005/07/my-take-on-hot-coffee.html. Retrieved 14 June 2006.  
  9. ^ "Clinton calls for federal game regulation". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/news/2005/07/14/news_6129040.html. Retrieved 14 July 2005.  
  10. ^ "Take-Two sued, confirms FTC investigation". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/ps2/action/gta4/news_6129836.html. Retrieved 27 July 2005.  
  11. ^ "Grandma Sues Rockstar Over San Andreas". TeamXbox. http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/8839/Grandma-Sues-Rockstar-Over-San-Andreas/. Retrieved 27 July 2005.  
  12. ^ "March against Bully". Joystiq. http://www.joystiq.com/entry/1234000070053157/. Retrieved 4 August 2005.  
  13. ^ "Group Releases Rockstar Demands". Joystiq. http://kotaku.com/gaming/rockstar/group-releases-rockstar-demands-115751.php. Retrieved 4 August 2005.  
  14. ^ "San Andreas rated AO, Take-Two suspends production". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/news/6129500.html. Retrieved July 1, 2006.  
  15. ^ "FTC Hot Coffee ruling scalds, but doesn't burn Take-Two". GameSpot. http://www.gamespot.com/news/6152490.html. Retrieved July 1, 2006.  
  16. ^ The Classification Board and Classification Review Board
  17. ^ "No More Hot Coffee". Rockstar Games patch website. http://www.nomorehotcoffee.com/. Retrieved 14 June 2006.  
  18. ^ , http://www.gtamodding.com/index.php?title=GTA:_San_Andreas_v2.0_-_Modding_The_GTA3.IMG, retrieved April 2009  
  19. ^ Adams, David (2006-06-08). "Rockstar, FTC Settle Over Hot Coffee". IGN. http://ps2.ign.com/articles/711/711788p1.html. Retrieved 2006-06-16.  
  20. ^ "GTA Settlement". http://www.gtasettlement.com/.  
  21. ^ a b "Did Lawyers Inflate Fees in Hot Coffee Class Action Suit?". Gamepolitics.com. 2008-05-27. http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/05/27/did-lawyers-inflate-fees-hot-coffee-class-action-suit.  
  22. ^ a b "Grand Theft Auto: Class Action Settlement - $26,505 for the unrepresented class, $1 million fee request". Overlawyered. 2008-05-26. http://overlawyered.com/2008/05/grand-theft-auto-class-action-settlement-26505-for-the-unrepresented-class-1-million-fee-request/.  
  23. ^ "Overlawyered Disses Hot Coffee Class Action Settlement". Gamepolitics.com. 2008-04-29. http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/04/29/overlawyered-blog-doesnt-think-much-of-hot-coffee-class-action-settlement.  
  24. ^ Matt Martin (2008-06-25). "Lawyers shocked at lack of Hot Coffee claimants". gamesindustry.biz. http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/lawyers-shocked-at-lack-of-hot-coffee-claimants. Retrieved 2008-06-26.  
  25. ^ "Take-Two Interactive Software, Inc. Announces Settlement of Securities Class Action". Thomson Reuters. 2009-09-01. http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS220177+01-Sep-2009+BW20090901. Retrieved 2009-09-01.  

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