Vol. 3, Issue 18, July 26, 2005
Religious Scene Stirs Up Controversy over Grand Theft Auto
A tempest has erupted in the video-game industry after the publisher of America's most popular series, "Grand Theft Auto", acknowledged that its latest installment includes embedded religious content that allegedly was never meant to be seen by players.
"Grand Theft Auto" is one of the most popular game franchises in the world and when the 'San Andreas' episode came out in October, it quickly sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. It was later revealed that, with a minor software modification, users of the game are able to direct their characters to the house of a 'girlfriend' to engage in explicit Bible study discussions.
"These characters enter into detailed discussions, largely centered on the Acts of the Apostles," said Bryan Tobias, a spokesperson for Americans for the Preservation of Secular Video Games (APSVG). "The content is completely inappropriate and frankly insensitive to users who may not be prepared to enter into a detailed discussion of Christianity."
The outrage grew quickly as parents and other groups accused the company of trying to pervert the games rating system. Under the current system, games which advocate specific religious ideologies receive explicit warning labels that generally limit sales dramatically.
"We thought we'd seen the worst of it when Capcom tried to slip all that Kabbalah stuff into "Resident Evil 4," said Tobias. "But Rockstar Games really has a lot of explaining to do here. Nearly the entire gospel of Luke is in this game. For shame!"
Rockstar Games, the company that produced "Grand Theft Auto," at first accused hackers of somehow polluting the title. This week, however, it admitted that the Bible study scenes have been within the games since they were first shipped.
"You know, this game is really intense," said Lamont Parsons, a spokesperson for Rockstar. "At some point the developers thought offering a point of spiritual reference would help to anchor the narrative with, you know, all the shooting and carjacking and hookers and stuff."
Users who managed to access the hidden scene were generally quite shaken.
"I was not ready to think about the impact of the gospel in Judea and Samaria when I was playing this game," said Brandon Meyer, a user who was put off by the "Hot Coffee" Bible study scene. "It totally killed the buzz. How can you think about stealing cars and stuff when you're going through all this stuff about God? Man, what a letdown."
The owner of Rockstar Games, meanwhile, Take-Two Interactive, said that it expected net sales to drop by about $50 million in the current quarter.
"I wish it was $50 billion," said Tobias. "Sullying the purely sensory experience of a quality video game with religiosity is antithetical to the American way. God has no place in a good shoot-em-up. Someday, I hope people understand that."