Crackdown Looms For Video Games

Former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko is seen in his hospital bed at University College Hospital in London Nov. 20, 2006. AP Photo

The video game industry's decision to give an adults-only rating to the best-selling "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" because of explicit sexual content could signal the start of a crackdown on raunchy games.

The rating change followed intense pressure from politicians and media watch groups. Retailers reacted swiftly — Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Best Buy Co. said Wednesday they would pull all copies from their store shelves nationwide. Circuit City Stores Inc., the nation's No. 2 consumer electronics chain, joined the list Thursday.

Rockstar Games, the producer of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," said it has stopped making the current version of the game, which includes graphic sex scenes that can be unlocked with an Internet download. The game was released in October with an "M" rating, for players 17 and older.

Sen. Hilary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, applauded the change but said she was disturbed the sexual content appeared on store shelves in the first place. She asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and called on the Entertainment Software Rating Board to do more to police game content.

"Apparently the sexual material was embedded in the game. The company admitted that," Clinton said. "The fact remains that the company gamed the ratings system."

CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reported Tuesday that "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" had come under increasing fire for its violent and sexually explicit content.

High school teacher Deb Perryman told Bowers that she had no idea what was actually in certain video games until she was asked to review them for a statewide task force.

"I was really shocked," she says. "They were even to me more graphic than the most graphic movie I've ever seen."

Rep. Joe Baca, D-Calif., said this week the video game industry needs a good dose of government oversight and renewed a call for a law requiring the FTC to determine if the video game industry's labeling practices are unfair or deceptive.

"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" was last year's top console game, selling more than 5.1 million copies in the U.S., according to market analyst NPD Group. Xbox and PC versions were released last month.

Rockstar's parent company, New York-based Take Two Interactive Software Inc., acknowledged for the first time that the sex scenes were built into the retail version of the game. Company officials previously suggested that a modification created by outsiders added the scenes.

"The editing and finalization of any game is a complicated task and it's not uncommon for unused and unfinished content to remain on the disc," Take-Two spokesman Jim Ankner told The Associated Press.
  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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