Is it Hot Coffee all over again?
Not exactly, but...
The National Institute on Media and the Family held a press conference today during which NIMF president Dr. David Walsh issued a so-called Nationwide Parental Alert. NIMF took the action in order to warn parents of graphic sexual content in a free online game being used to promote the upcoming movie Running Scared.
The only other time NIMF has taken such a step was in response to last year's Hot Coffee revelations. Today's NIMF release reads in part:
"Parents need to be aware of explicit pornography in an online game easily accessible to children readily available on the Internet. 'It is clear to everyone that this content shouldn't be accessible to children,' said Dr. David Walsh. 'New Line Cinema, should be ashamed that it thought it could get away with this tactic, without being held accountable.'"
GamePolitics and other news outlets reported on the game, which features player-controlled oral sex, last week.
In large part, NIMF's July, 2005 parental alert moved Hot Coffee from a web-only item to a mainstream news story that continues to have repercussions for the video game business. The Running Scared online game, of course, has no connection to the ESA, ESRB or any major video game publisher, and a NIMF spokesman told GP the organization is aware of that.
Still, the game industry may take at least part of the bad publicity hit should Walsh's alert resonate with the media, parents and politicians the way Hot Coffee did. Not fair, of course, but the average soccer mom is only going to hear "video game sex" and probably won't grasp the distinction.