Video Game Law Blog

September 21, 2005

We reported a while ago about a grandmother in New York who sued Rockstar Games and Take Two Interactive Software Inc. over the hidden sexual content in GTA San Andreas. A similar class action lawsuit has now been launched in Illinois. The plaintiff claims that when she bought San Andreas for her teen-age children it was rated 'M"? by the ESRB. However, she claims that Rockstar and Take Two did not inform the ESRB about the hidden sexual content, and therefore deceived the ESRB into giving the game an 'M"? rating. Because Rockstar and Take Two failed to disclose the sexual content to consumers and provided misleading and deceptive information that San Andreas was an 'M"? game, she (and others) suffered economic loss by buying the game (when presumably she would not have purchased it had it been rated 'AO"?).

The complaint states that all persons in the United States who purchased a retail copy of GTA San Andreas that contained an 'M"? rating are eligible to join the class. This is interesting "? shouldn't the class be those who bought an 'M"? rated game but would not have bought that game if it had been rated 'AO"?? That is, presumably only certain buyers were 'misled"? into buying the game on the basis of its 'M"? rating. Surely the many adult purchasers who bought the game for themselves, and who would have done so regardless of the rating, were not misled.  That being said, consumer protection or trade practices legislation (at least in Canada) does not usually require proof of damage on behalf of the consumer.

And, as always, the question arises as to why it is acceptable to buy children a game in which the main character can shoot police officers, steal cars, commit drive-bys and home invasions, act as a pimp, etc., but the existence of locked, not overly graphic sexual content suddenly makes the game unacceptable. This is not to say that Rockstar didn't make a big mistake, and that the game doesn't deserve an 'AO"? rating, but it does say something interesting about current societal values.

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