In one of the more bizarre things to happen this week, NSW Police Minister Troy Grant has gone on national television to complain about a seven year old mod for Grand Theft Auto 4.
The minister, who starred in the Channel Seven evening news last night, complained that a mod (written by "underground computer geeks", according to journalist Mike Duffy) that adds NSW Police vehicles and officers into the game was "peverse".
"The game that I've seen, where they've arrested somebody, and then shoot them, that doesn't happen, that's peverse," the minister said. "There's a fear that this desensitises people to the real risk the police face and I find it offensive," he added.
The footage of the game shown off last night, which was reproduced for the online version of the story, was taken from a nearly two year old video from Aussie YouTuber radcliffegames. It's a mod used by a clan called "NSW Police Gaming" and Emergency Australia GTA 4 Mods before that, both of which were communities built around the idea of roleplaying as emergency services personnel in GTA Online.
Channel Seven's report started with GTA 4 footage uploaded by radcliffegames, but also included footage of mods for GTA V. The core gameplay is based on a mod called LSPD First Response, which turns GTA V into a law enforcement sim that lets players conduct high speed pursuits, traffic stops, and more.
The reaction online from gamers was one of bemusement, especially when Channel Seven followed up with a segment earlier this morning that described the mod as a "black market version" and a "hack" that "allows gamers to attack NSW police".
A member of the Emergency Australia mod community told Kotaku Australia that the mod was created by more than 30 GTA fans from around the world. "It's a harmless mod designed for those enthusiastic about emergency services based in Australia who would like to role play it out as officers, firefighters and medical personnel performing good deeds," Gaz, who wished to be identified by their online name due to their occupation, said.
"Over the years individual polices officers have actually helped with the mod getting to where it is by showing support and providing reference pictures and encouraging the creation of the mod because they supported the harmless effects that it has, and as well as that it inspired kids to think of a career in the emergency services field. It put emergency services members in a positive light and gave kids somewhat an insight into our emergency services and encourage and inspired them to want to join them when they were older."
I reached out to the NSW Police Force to get clarification on what action they might take against GTA, Rockstar or the makers of the mods involved. A NSW Police Force spokesperson replied via email saying "this could constitute offences under state and federal laws", but didn't provide any specifics. I also flicked an email to Rockstar asking for their perspective on the situation, but hadn't heard back at the time of writing.
Gaz noted that some of the emergency services modding community were "current serving officers within Australian law enforcement agencies", and serving NSW Police Force officers had praised the mod after playing it. He added that he didn't know of anyone in the modding community that was contacted by the NSW Police force, the Police Minister's office, or Channel Seven prior to the report being aired.