'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' Makers Sued Over Sexual Content

Lawsuit filed by Los Angeles' city attorney alleges that hidden sexual content violates California business code.

The makers of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" were sued on Thursday by Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo for allegedly hiding explicit sexual material in the popular video game. According to The Associated Press, Delgadillo filed a lawsuit against developer Rockstar Games and its parent company, Take-Two Interactive, for allegedly violating the state's business code by making misleading statements in marketing the game and engaging in unfair competition.

The game, which was released in October 2004, revealed a sexually explicit scene to players who downloaded a "Hot Coffee" mod (see " 'GTA' Sex Scandal Changing How Industry Looks At Modders"). The news of the hidden scenario unleashed criticism from politicians, including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who urged the Entertainment Software Rating Board to tighten up its rating standards.

The lawsuit from Delgadillo alleges that the companies violated state law by failing to disclose the presence of the sexual content and that the ESRB, which gave it a Mature rating, would have slapped a more restrictive Adults Only rating on the game if they knew about the explicit content.

When news broke of the hidden scene, the game's rating was upped to Adults Only and mass-market retailers pulled the title from shelves (see " 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' Gets 'Adults Only' Rating"), but only after it had already sold millions of copies. A re-rated version was later released.

The flap also coincided with the passage of a law in Michigan outlawing the sale of violent, explicit games to minors (see "Political Battles Against Video Games Heating Up Across The Nation"). Rockstar claimed the "San Andreas" mod could not be easily unlocked by the public, but it eventually supplied a software patch for the PC version.

"Greed and deception are part of the 'Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas' story — and in that respect its publishers are not much different from the characters in their story. Businesses have an obligation to truthfully disclose the content of their products — whether in the food we eat or the entertainment we consume," said Delgadillo, who estimated that the game sold more than 200,000 copies in Los Angeles alone, bringing in more than $1 million in proceeds.