Rockstar's Houser: Hot Coffee was “draining and upsetting”

Rockstar's VP says Hot Coffee wouldn't have mattered in a book or movie

In an interview with the Guardian, Rockstar vice president Dan Houser lamented the studio's legal trouble over Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' Hot Coffee. The sexual minigame was hidden inside the game's source code and when hackers unlocked the mode, the Federal Trade Commission came down on Rockstar hard.

"It was draining and upsetting - a tough time in the company," House told the Guardian. "The massive social decay that we were supposed to induce hasn't happened.”

“So in that regard, a lot of those debates that used to go on, they're not such a big deal now. We never felt that we were being attacked for the content, we were being attacked for the medium, which felt a little unfair. If all of this stuff had been put into a book or a movie, people wouldn't have blinked an eye. And there are far bigger issues to worry about in society than this."

Rockstar parent company Take-Two was forced to settle a class-action lawsuit for $20 million over the Hot Coffee debacle.

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Latest comments (7)

Matt Martin Editor, GamesIndustry.biz5 years ago
I thought Rockstar was being attacked for leaving it in the game, denying it was there, blaming hackers and then getting caught lying. Not so much the content, but the actions of the company. Which then reflected on the video game business as a whole.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Matt Martin on 22nd November 2012 7:51am

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Tamir Ibrahim Programmer, Splash Damage5 years ago
A rubbish sex game would change a game from Mature to Adult Only. Is that what you are disagreeing with? Just like porn is Adult Only rated and not Mature rated, or is that also what you disagree with? It's not just the fact that it was sex, but a quite explicit sex game. more akin to porn than a classy sex scene in a film. If a game was to try and include a tactfully done sex scene then the reaction to that would be interesting. Anyway technically Mature is for 17+ so I'd hardly call that children.

Also I have to disagree with what Dan Houser is saying and agree with Matt, I'm even surprised by his comments to be honest. If people had gone to watch se7en in the cinema and then been greeted with 10 minutes of undeclared porn in the middle of the film I'm pretty sure they also would have been in legal trouble.
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Simon Arnet5 years ago
I think it's the strange issue that for some reason as others have stated blood and gore is fine for adults but when you add in sex it becomes a taboo. If your letting your kid play an M rated game, frankly your a bad parent. I guess I can understand Halo or Black Ops but those are probably only mature to attract the mature audience that is the larger gamer base these days. Either way, Rock Star handled it's self poorly in PR.
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Christopher McCraken CEO/Production Director, Double Cluepon Software5 years ago
ESRB: search for every bible game (Some bible stories make Hot Coffee look like a kids coloring book...) and notice the rating.

The ESRB is a sick joke. Always has been. While I realize they are a necessary evil, the bottom line here amounts to two very important things:

1) Rockstar did not do themselves any favors when you look at the sequence of events leading up to the debacle.
2) 95% of American Parents (and I am an American, and I have two daughters) are lazy, use game consoles and televisions as babysitters, and get upset when the auto parenting systems they think are in place fail them.

Parents have a moral, ethical and legal responsibility to parent their children. That means, researching the things their children are exposed to. On the surface of it, no sane parent should be buying GTA for a child under 16 or 17 in the first place. Even then, if your kid is the source of calls from school over behavior, maybe you shouldn't buy them games where you kill people as a primary mechanic. Find me an 11 year old that has $60.00 on his own free and clear, as well as a car to get to a retailer to get said game.

Frank Zappa made all of these same arguments. Rockstar was wrong in the way they handled this. Hell, I can even admit that Hot Coffee was ill conceived in the first place. Rockstar is not Illusion Soft. HC did not even belong in the game at all. But let me close with: the ESRB is a load of cow pies, and the loudest whiner about Hot Coffee (Jack Thompson) is now a disbarred attorney; a disgraced, soulless individual who, by comparison makes a tapeworm look more appealing.

The issue is complex, Rockstar recovered. But in no way has the situation in this country been resolved. Any time some kid does something stupid, the parents are almost always quick to blame a game developer. Until we get these people to start looking in the mirror, this will remain an issue for decades to come. If you don't believe me...

The same arguments they make about games, were made about The Three Stooges.
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Sam Maxted Journalist / Community / Support 5 years ago
2) 95% of American Parents (and I am an American, and I have two daughters) are lazy, use game consoles and televisions as babysitters, and get upset when the auto parenting systems they think are in place fail them.
Unfortunately, this isn't a uniquely American thing...
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I can't blame Rockstar for anything involving Hot Coffee. It really wasn't their fault. If only the FTC and others knew (or cared) about how many games go through the ESRB rating system with content that's left in the game's source code that'll never see the light of day by the ESRB or most gamers, and how removing such coding can actually cost unnecessary time and money to remove it, which is why the extra content is often left alone. Those who spoke out against Rockstar also don't seem to understand that most gamers aren't hackers. Most gamers would never unlock the Hot Coffee mode and cannot be unlock through normal usage of the game. I also think that the only content that the FTC or the ESRB should ever be concerned is what the intended user is meant to see, not what they aren't meant to see. What happened to Rockstar is what happens when certain mediums of entertainment are not looked at subjectively and instead are measured on the same status as everything else.
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David Radd Senior Editor, IndustryGamers5 years ago
Matt Martin hit the nail on the head - regardless of how the way the content was accessed, Rockstar made a huge miscalculation on blaming the content on hackers, and when it was confirmed to be on the disc it basically confirmed all of the worst fears that legislators had about the game, regardless of whether or not that's fair. I believe that the only way that the industry ducked government regulation (at least in the U.S.) was the fact that the ESRB re-rated the game from M to AO. If Rockstar had said nothing at the time it wouldn't have been as bad, but the fact that they denied that the content existed then got caught red handed was a PR disaster and gave the whole industry a black eye.
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