Hot Coffee sex probe spills over to Australia

Aussie ratings board opens ESRB-like investigation of its own; game's distributor is "cooperating," says group.

The investigation into the origin of computer code that enables players of the PC version of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas to unlock sexually explicit minigames has moved to Australia.

In a move that mirrors a similar probe set into motion last Friday by the US-based Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB), the Australian correlate, the Office of Film and Literature Classification (OFLC), has begun its own inquiry.

While the two probes differ insofar as who is being investigated--the game's publisher in the US and the game's distributor in Australia--both seek to determine the origin of what is commonly referred to as the "Hot Coffee" mod, which makes the minigames available for play.

According to OFLC regulations, when a distributor applies for classification of a computer game in Australia, it is required by law to provide the Board "with access to all content within the game as well as particulars of contentious material and the means to gain access to such material."

The OFLC hopes to determine if the minigames were present on the game disc given to the OFLC, but not disclosed. The Australian distributor of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is cooperating with the OFLC in this regard, the board has said.

The outcome of the current investigation in Australia could be dire if it's found that the sexually explicit content is on the game disc. The OFLC is compelled to revoke a game's classification if it is found to contain "undisclosed contentious material, whether activated through use of a code or otherwise."

Absent a rating, a game's prospects for distribution are severely limited, if not hampered completely. The OFLC Web site states that "most computer games, whether local or imported, have to be classified before they can be sold in Australia."

Down under, GTA: San Andreas is currently rated MA15+, which signifies "medium level animated violence, medium level coarse language."

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