FTC probes 'Grand Theft Auto' maker

/ Source: The Associated Press

The Federal Trade Commission is investigating a videogame software company and its game-publishing arm following an uproar over animated sex scenes programmed into "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," Take-Two Interactive Software Inc. confirmed Tuesday.

"Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" was originally marketed as a violent action game, full of shoot-outs, carjackings, street beatings and drug use.  It had been rated "M" for mature and was recommended for gamers 17 and older.  But lurid, animated sex scenes found in the game by a Dutch hacker — and later acknowledged by Rockstar Games to be the work of its programmers — earned the game an "AO," or adults-only rating.

That development meant the game was yanked from the shelves of major U.S. retailers.

The FTC announced Tuesday it's developing a new publication to help consumers "use rating symbols on video games to decide whether a particular game is suitable before they buy or rent it," according to a news release. Agency spokeswoman Mary Engle would neither confirm nor deny the investigation.

The Entertainment Software Rating Board's game rating system needs a little decoding, the FTC determined.  "It does have abbreviations and I think there's always going to be a balance with providing consumers with enough information and overloading the consumer with information," Engle said.

A game rated "T" for teen may contain "violence," while a game rated "M" for mature may contain "intense violence," Engle said, but further explanation about the difference between the two may not be evident on the game packaging.  "We're trying to explain what those terms mean," Engle said.

On the Entertainment Software Rating Board's Web site, "blood and gore" is described as content containing "depictions of blood or the mutilation of body parts." The FTC's Web site appears to simply restate such descriptions.

But Engle said the FTC's guidance on game ratings would be sent out to various parent and consumer groups.

Federal involvement comes on the heels of Monday's 355-21 House vote, passing a resolution calling for the investigation of Rockstar Games and Take-Two Interactive over the game that has caused turmoil in the industry.