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The Last of Us developers rush to remove phone sex numbers from game

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(Credit: Sony)

Even in the aftermath of a post-apocalyptic plague, porn finds a way to survive.

The developers behind Sony's critical and commercial hit The Last of Us are scrambling to scrub a pair of phone numbers from the game that, if dialed in the real world, connects players to a functioning phone sex line.

The numbers, which are advertised as 'Pest Control' in various in-game magazines and posters, were thought to be a fake since they start with “555,” a prefix widely used in film and television. Gamers figured the numbers were Easter eggs and tried calling them, assuming they'd be connected to some sort of game-related message hatched up by developer Naughty Dog.

Instead, Naughty Dog lived up to its name, as the numbers connected callers to a very real -- and very graphic -- phone sex operation.

"That was an artist's mistake," creative director Neil Druckmann told Kotaku. "What happened was, they put some phone numbers in the game and then they thought they could just change the area code to 555, then it's invalid because it's what they do in movies. But I guess that doesn't work when you have a 1-800 in front of it.”

This isn't the first time sex has inadvertently slipped into a game. In 2005, Take-Two and Rockstar Games weathered a storm of controversy when a hidden mod within Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas was uncovered. That mod -- Hot Coffee -- became a lightning rod for politicians and the industry.

The mod was originally a part of the game, according to the book Jacked: The Outlaw Story of Grand Theft Auto, but was scrubbed because of fears retailers wouldn't stock the game.

Also in 2004, the trivia title The Guy Game was recalled when it was discovered that one of the women who exposed her breasts in the game's full-motion video segments was only 17 at the time, prompting a temporary restraining order prohibiting Microsoft, Sony, and others from selling any game that contained the girl's image, voice, and name.

The Last of Us, fortunately, isn’t likely to face anywhere near that kind of backlash.

"We're now working to take it out," Druckmann said. "It was just an honest mistake."

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