Graphic sexual content that appears in a popular videogame is giving family advocates a new reason to be offended.

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Graphic sexual content that appears in a popular videogame is giving family advocates a new reason to be offended.

In the sex-and-violence-themed game "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas," the main character tries to avenge the murder of his mother in the gang-ridden streets of his hometown -- and picks up women along the way.

The sexual content, which fills in what publisher RockStar Games left to the imagination in the versions sold in stores, was either "unlocked" by game enthusiasts who discovered it in Rockstar's code, or introduced by inventive third-party hackers.

That content has irked the National Institute on the Media and the Family, a Minneapolis-based group that issued a nationwide parental alert July 8 denouncing the game and its creator.

"While San Andreas is already full of violent behavior and sexual themes, the pornographic sex scenes push it over the edge," David Walsh, the group's founder, said.

The sex scene in GTA3, as the game is commonly known, was allegedly unleashed by a game enthusiast from the Netherlands. The author claims his game modification ("mod"), called "hot coffee," is merely a small download that allows the player to access sexual content that exists in off-the-shelf copies of the game from New York-based Rockstar Games.

Associated Press sent e-mails to the author of the mod for comment, but there was no immediate response from him or the co-author.

Admittedly, "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas" is already one of the more violent and lurid games on the market. It's full of speeding cars, gangs and gunplay, and "girlfriends" who invariably meet on the street wearing skimpy clothing.

After downloading and installing the patch, a new world opens up, according to the author of the game modification patch, in which "the girlfriends will now be completely nude," according to a short text document included with the patch.

Screenshots of the new content show a male and female character engaged in various graphic sexual positions in a nondescript room.

Walsh said the "hot coffee" scenes are pornography by anyone's definition, and called on Rockstar to "come clean" on whether they programmed the scenes into the game.

"This is about kids," Walsh said. "Can you imagine the impact of 13, 14 and 15 year old boys literally enacting this scene?"

The real question is, did the ingenious gamer simply unlock something Rockstar Games had hoped to keep hidden, or did the author of the modification merely introduce new content that the game publisher bears no responsible for?

It depends who you ask.

Rockstar Games issued a statement July 8, confirming the regulatory Entertainment Software Ratings Board was investigating the alleged sex hack.

"We thoroughly support the work of the ESRB, and believe that it has an exemplary record of rating games and promoting understanding of videogame content," the company said. "We also feel confident that the investigation will uphold the original rating of the game, as the work of the mod community is beyond the scope of either publishers or the ESRB."

This was as much of a denial as Rockstar Games would offer. When asked directly whether Rockstar was responsible for the illicit content, company spokesman Rodney Walker refused to answer.

Game designers have long tucked away hidden elements in their works, some meant to be found and others not. Several magazines routinely post codes that can be entered during game play with the controllers or a keyboard that allow the player to jump to various levels, maintain endless amounts of ammo in first-person-shooter games, or go into "God mode," where the main character becomes invincible.

One of the more curious hidden gems came in a game called SimCopter. A nefarious programmer designed some extra code in the game which allowed an in-the-know player to tap a sequence of buttons to reveal scantily-clad men kissing each other.