Having failed to have Bill Gates arrested last week, Miami attorney and self-described "antigame crusader" Jack Thompson has turned to another unlikely target: The Sims 2. This time Thompson claims to have "discovered the video game industry's latest dirty little secret," a blockbuster revelation that he says will eclipse the Hot Coffee scandal.
As it turns out, the blockbuster is more like a peashooter.
Thompson claims that The Sims 2 contains "full frontal nudity, including nipples, penises, labia, and pubic hair." He adds that "The nudity placed there by the publisher/maker, Electronic Arts, is accessed by the use of a simple code that removes what is called 'the blur' which obscures the genital areas. In other words, the game was released to the public by the manufacturer knowing that the full frontal nudity was resident on the game and would be accessed by use of a simple code widely provided on the Internet...In fact, one of the most popular sites providing the code to remove 'the genitalia blur' is none other than www.about.com, owned and operated exclusively by the New York Times."
Even Will Wright, beloved designer of The Sims series, comes in for a jab from Thompson, who mentions Will's publicly expressed delight that The Sims can be modified. Thompson also demands that the ESRB order EA to recall all copies of The Sims 2 worldwide. His reasoning? "The ESRB cannot say one thing as to Take-Two and another to Electronic Arts."
Lord knows, GamePolitics has had its issues with the ESRB, but Thompson is way, way off base here. Yes, there are cheats that remove the blur. The cheats have been around nearly as long as The Sims 2 has been on the market. There were similar cheats for The Sims, which was released in 2000.
As for the "dirty little secret," Thompson's contention that EA included anatomically correct Sims on the game disc is just plain wrong. Sim bodies are featureless. If Thompson would have checked the file descriptions for the utilities that remove the blur, he would have seen notations like this one at FilePlanet: "5 nude skins. 4 standard and one pale color...Won't replace the standard featureless nudes in Sims2, so you'll have to make new characters to make them work."
If Thompson spent a few minutes at About.com, the site he mentioned, the antigame crusader might have seen this description of the nude patch for The Sims: "...Nude Patch removes the blur you see when the Sims take off their clothes...Sims are not anatomically correct, and parents should be cautious about using the patch if children use the game."
EA VP Jeff Brown addressed the nudity issue in an interview with GameSpot on Friday.
"This is nonsense," he said. "We've reviewed 100 percent of the content. There is no content inappropriate for a teen audience. Players never see a nude sim. If someone with an extreme amount of expertise and time were to remove the pixels, they would see that the sims have no genitals. They appear like Ken and Barbie."
In reply, Thompson reiterated his incorrect position to GameSpot. "The sex and the nudity are in the game. That's the point. The blur is an admission that even the 'Ken and Barbie' features should not be displayed. The blur can be disarmed. This is no different than what is in San Andreas, although worse."
Excuse me? The Ken and Barbie features are not "features" at all. They are smooth. And, if it's "no different than what is in San Andreas," how can it be worse?
Later Friday GameSpot added to its story, saying, "Thompson this afternoon updated his earlier statement, saying he is aware certain mods only remove 'the blur,' but adds that 'Electronic Arts has done nothing about this.' Thompson's new conclusion: EA is 'cooperating, gleefully, with the mod community to turn Sims 2 into a porn offering.'
This case is nothing like the recent Hot Coffee situation. In that case Rockstar intentionally created the sex mini-game, which had all of the characteristics of an animated porno movie. Rockstar burned it onto the disc for the October release of San Andreas on the PS2, and Take-Two distributed it. And then they did it all over again in June for the PC and Xbox versions. When it was discovered, those two companies clammed up, as guilty parties often do.
In this case there are certainly user-created patches that remove the blur. There are other patches that add body parts. None of these were created by EA. It's also significant that EA isn't hiding, like Rockstar and Take-Two did. EA is being up front and standing its ground tenaciously. And now Thompson wants EA to stop the modders by enforcing copyright. What about the thousands of fun, non-offensive items and skins that Sims users have created? Would all of that creative energy be shut down for the sake of Thompson's one-man crusade?
If so, where does it end?
Why not round up all of the cameras in the world? After all, naked pictures might be taken. Collect all of the paper, so nude models can't be sketched. Let's also rip out the phone wires. Someone could make an obscene call. Come get our PC's because they might be used to surf to the seedier corners of cyberspace.
Thompson's attack against The Sims 2 is not only wrong, it's dangerous. Thankfully, the First Amendment will protect us.