Video Game Maker Bows to 'Human Rights' Complaints

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:04 PM EDT

( - The Anti-Defamation League said the maker of a much-criticized video game is "showing sensitivity" by removing offensive references to Haitians and Cubans from future versions of the game.

ADL on Tuesday thanked Take-Two Interactive Software Inc., the maker of "Grand Theft Auto: Vice City," for responding so quickly to concerns about the game's use of inflammatory language and stereotypes of minorities.

"Take-Two Interactive Software has done the responsible thing by showing sensitivity and by removing all of the offensive language from future versions of the game," said Abraham Foxman, ADL national director.

"We welcome their decision to take corrective action in this case, and are pleased with their immediate response to our concerns."

In a statement issued Tuesday, Rockstar Games, a wholly owned subsidiary of Take-Two Interactive, offered its "sincerest apologies" to the Haitian people and the Haitian government for any offense that the video game may have caused them.

At one point in the game, players are encouraged to "Kill all the Haitians."

But in its statement, Rockstar Games also said some of the criticism may have been blown out of proportion.

"As its name implies, 'Grand Theft Auto: Vice City' is a virtual crime world, in which characters are involved in criminal activities, including fictional gang warfare between rival groups," Rockstar said.

"In creating the game, it was not our intention to target or offend any group or persons or to incite hatred or violence against such groups persons."

ADL said it contacted Take-Two Interactive Software after fielding complaints that the language used in the game was "dehumanizing to real people and could have a profound impact on its players."

The ADL, which bills itself as the world's leading organization dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism, hatred, prejudice and bigotry, wasn't the only group to complain about Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

The New York Human Rights Commission also demanded that Rockstar removed the phrase "Kill Haitians" from the game, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said Rockstar and Take-Two Interactive would be investigated for alleged human rights violations.

Although the videogame maker agreed to make changes in future copies of the game, it also noted that Grand Theft Auto: Vice City is rated "M" - not intended for sale to people under age 17.

"Contrary to what some may believe, it must be recognized that video games have evolved as an adult medium, not unlike literature, movies and music," Rockstar Games said in its statement.

"The fact that the game is popular does not mean that it will encourage players to act out hatred or violence against any group or persons in the 'real world.' Certainly, this is not our intent, nor is it the effect of the game."

"Grand Theft Auto: Vice City" was released in October 2002, and at the time, critics complained about the game's violence, sexuality, and language.

The game's players perform different missions for a mob boss in the fictional Vice City, including murdering the pizza delivery boy, picking up and murdering prostitutes, and killing a businessman with a golf club at a driving range, according to one review.

Rockstar Games has defended the game by comparing it to literature, movies, music and other forms of entertainment. "We have strived to create a video game experience with a certain degree of realism, which we believe is our right," the company said in its Tuesday press release.

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