(Headline shamelessly stolen from a Plastic.com thread)
Are you ready for a scandal? How about a really complicated, technology-based one with moral, business and political implications?
If you’re a games journalist, you had better be. The previously-discussed Grand Theft Auto modification now widely known as “hot coffee” has gotten new life in the press thanks to statements from the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF) and California Assemblyman Leland Yee. Their outcry has led to an investigation by the ESRB and has turned what was once a minor story only on enthusiast sites has now spread to the mainstream with coverage from sources ranging from the Associated Press and Reuters to The New York Times and everything in between.
The press attention has merited additional comment from the mod’s author, who says he merely unlocked the content, and from the usually reticent Rockstar Games, who says they can’t be held responsible for the actions of the mod community. (GameSpot seems to have scored a bit of a coup by getting a Rockstar spokesperson to directly deny that “the ‘Hot Coffee’ code was included in game discs manufactured by Rockstar or its agents.”)
Both enthusiast and mainstream outlets have had to be careful to differentiate “hot coffee” from both traditional mods (which add original content to the game) and from traditional Easter eggs (which unlock developer-created content through a special in-game method). For the most part, the stories I’ve seen so far have done an admirable job explaining these fine distinctions in an understandable way. The New York Times did a particularly good job explaining the situation.
This sort of media saturation is a sort of double-edged sword for groups like NIMF and people like Yee who are trying to condemn the mod. More coverage means more people know about their concerns, but it also means that more people, including children, seek out the very thing they’re concerned about. It’s a pattern that repeats itself over and over when moral crusaders cry foul on entertainment producers, and inevitably leads to greatly increased sales for the entertainment industry. There’s not much the media can do to prevent such effects of their coverage. Once the genie is out of the bottle, there’s little that news outlets can do to put it back in.
This story is only likely to grow in the coming days and weeks, and I for one will be watching with great interest the actions of the industry, the moral crusaders and, of course, the press.