'SIMS' controversy: Altered version of game includes nudity
Fresh from the fallout over some sex scenes hidden in a violent video game, an anti-game crusader is pressuring Electronic Arts to take action against those who modify another game, ``The Sims 2,'' so that it can display naked characters.
Last week, a culture war erupted over ``Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas,'' a violent game that hackers modified to play graphic sexual scenes. The game industry's ratings board, the Entertainment Software Ratings Board, canceled the ``mature'' 17-and-up rating on the game and restricted it to ``adults only.''
The game publisher, Take-Two Interactive Software in New York, is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission over the incident. The company had said the sex scenes were hidden on its disks, but hackers found them and exposed the scenes by creating programs, or ``mods,'' that could display the scenes. In making its ruling, the game-rating board suggested that publishers should take action against third-party modders who alter game content.
On the heels of that ruling, Jack Thompson, a Florida attorney who has tangled often with the makers of video games, has written a letter to EA and a number of politicians alleging that teen-rated ``The Sims 2'' game should be the next on the list to be re-rated as an ``adults only'' game. That's because the game can be ``modded'' to show naked characters. Normally, the game blurs, or pixelates, the images of characters when they change their clothes, take showers or go to the bathroom in the simulation of ordinary life.
``This is nonsense,'' said Jeff Brown, spokesman for EA. ``Reasonable people understand there is nothing improper in the game.''
He added, ``Reasonable people recognize what mods are. A consumer who chooses to use a mod does so without any kind of agreement with the company. There is no nudity. There is nothing improper or vulgar in `The Sims 2.' ''
Thompson alleges that the mod for making the characters fully naked is available for downloading over the Internet and that EA is doing nothing to curtail the availability of the mod.
``EA makes it easy, through mods, to add the body parts,'' he said. ``And EA is not taking action against people for messing with its software. They need to get their game back.''
Brown said that EA normally encourages fans to create their own mods to make the games more fun. He says the blurring of the game characters is a ``comedic device'' and that the unmodified animations of the game characters themselves are not anatomically correct and that they resemble store mannequins in that respect.
``Reasonable people understand the San Jose Mercury News is not responsible for vulgar things that people doodle into the margins of the paper,'' Brown said.
In a conference call with analysts Tuesday, EA CEO Larry Probst said the game-ratings system is working fine despite the recent brouhaha.