Sexually explicit content in violent video game prompts mom to sue

Steve Gonzalez Sep. 21, 2005, 7:12am

Claiming her teen-age children were exposed to sexually explicit content in a popular video game, a concerned mother filed a class action lawsuit in St. Clair County Court against the promoters of "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (GTA)."

Brenda Stanhouse claims at the time she bought the game--in which police-shooting characters are heroes--it was rated “M” for mature by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB).

An “M” rating signifies that the game contains some mature content, but no sexually explicit content that would merit an adults-only “AO” rating.

Stanhouse, represented by John Steward and Lance Harke of Nester and Constance in Belleville, filed suit against the video games developers and marketers on Sept 8. It was the 28th class action lawsuit of the year in St. Clair County.

She is asking the court to maintain her case as a class action and appoint her as the class representative. No class member is seeking damages in excess of $75,000.

“All persons in the United States who purchased at retail, GTA that contained an “M” rating” are eligible to join the class, the complaint states.

Stanhouse claims that prior to marketing GTA, the defendants, Take-Two Interactive Software and Rockstar Games, submitted the game to the ESRB for review and rating, but allegedly did not inform them that GTA contained embedded sexually explicit content, which could easily be accessed by children.

“Had ESRB known of the embedded sexually explicit content, GTA would have received an “AO” rating,” the complaint states.

Stanhouse also claims that when she purchased the game she was unaware of the sexually explicit content of the game.

According to the complaint, in July of 2005, an investigation by the ESRB revealed that it had been deceived into bestowing the “M” rating on GTA. The rating was revoked and replaced with an "AO," which prompted many national retailers to pull GTA from their shelves.

Stanhouse claims when she learned of the new rating she took the game away from her children.

She claims the defendants failed to disclose to consumers material facts about the sexually explicit content of GTA and provided misleading and deceptive information that GTA was an “M” rated game, rather than an “AO.”

“The unlawful method, act or practice has caused economic loss and damage to plaintiff, and, upon information and belief, has caused similar injury to millions of other persons who purchased the deceptively rated game,” Stanhouse’s complaint states.

“Defendants, as a result of their unfair and deceptive marketing of GTA, profited at the expense of Stanhouse and the class.”

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