« Home | Shake the bottle, wake the taste! » | The doctrine of pseudo-strength. » | There be gold in them thar canoes... » | Amerikkka. » | Not a relinquishing of control. » | Scum-watch: Glorious hypocrisy over Maxine Carr. » | From lyrical to physical. » | Scum-watch: More thieving migrants and an eulogy f... » | No nukes? Oh, time to invade then. » | One down, one to go. » 

Monday, December 10, 2007 

The witch hunt over Manhunt is over. For now.

Some very welcome news which seems to have slipped completely under the radar:

The Video Appeals Committee (VAC) announced today the outcome of the appeal by Rockstar against the BBFC’s decision to reject a modified version of the video game, Manhunt 2. The appeal has been successful with the VAC deciding four votes to three in favour of Rockstar.

For those late to the party, the BBFC previously rejected, i.e. banned, Manhunt 2, where you play as a character who escapes from an insane asylum and are able to choose how to "execute" your victims. If you want to read the whole typically convoluted storyline, it's on the Wikipedia page.

As unpleasant a game as Manhunt 2 seems (although hardly any of those actually killed in the games are "innocents", as opposed to how you can slaughter wantonly in Grand Theft Auto for example, even if it attracts the attention of the police), the decision to ban it outright more than smacked of an organisation fearing the wrath of both politicians and the Daily Mail more than out of any real justifiable concerns about its content and effects on those playing it. The original Manhunt was blamed, both by the Mail and by the mother of Stefan Pakeerah for her son's death at the hands of Warren Leblanc, despite a complete failure on the behalf of either to come with up even circumstantial evidence which would suggest he was influenced by the game. On the contrary, the actual evidence presented at his trial suggested that Leblanc's only motive was robbery, with both the police and judge in agreement. To make matters just that little bit more shambolic and laughable, the game itself was found in Pakeerah's bedroom, not Leblanc's, although Pakeerah's mother argued Leblanc had lent it to him, but that still rather undermined her argument for restricting games from adults when she couldn't control what her own son was playing. When some stores subsequently removed it from the shelves, the sales elsewhere predictably went up.

The decision to refuse the game a certificate has also came at a time when exceptionally gory horror films have once again been in the ascendancy, without any of them being subjected to even cuts, and quite rightly so. The argument against the games is made that in films you aren't controlling the person doing the slaying, while in games that you are, although even this has become blurred when films like the Devil's Rejects feature serial-killers as anti-heroes, but the very research recently commissioned by the BBFC found that gamers almost unanimously rejected any link between games and real-life violence, with all of them getting involved in the game role and finding film violence to be far removed from that which takes place in games, even with the huge graphical advances in recent years.

More than anything, the BBFC's own guidelines declare that at 18 "concerns will not normally override the wish that adults should be free to chose their own entertainment." The original Manhunt and the entire series of Grand Theft Auto games have all been passed at 18 without any cuts. The simple fact ought to be that when a game or film is rated as an 18 the concerns about the effects on children, although they should be considered, ought to be a more minor factor than that of the chilling effects of cutting some of its content or banning it outright. It shouldn't be the responsibility of the BBFC or indeed the makers of the game if it gets into the hands of children; the retailers and parents themselves, who are often badgered into buying age restricted games by their children in the first place, are the ones who ought to be held accountable.

It should also be remembered that the reform of the BBFC in the 80s was down to the moral panic over video nasties, a debacle which is now rightly looked back upon with dismay and bemusement. It took almost two decades before the censorship regime in this country finally came into line with our more enlightened European and American cousins, although countries such as Germany are still cautious, while the American MPAA
has rightly came in for trenchant criticism, especially over the NC-17 certificate and how most theatres won't show films that receive that classification. Films there can however be released "unrated" on DVD without any need for them to be classified. Even now hardcore pornography, despite being available in abundance on the internet, is still shut off behind the closed, dimly lit windows of sex shops, whilst it is often cut to ribbons by the BBFC over some of its more dubious content.

It was in fact the appeal to the Video Appeals Committee by two distributors of hardcore back in 1999 which finally led to its legalisation after the committee found in their favour. Their decision this time round in favour of Manhunt 2 is to be applauded, and although the BBFC is "considering its position", it seems that it will have to allow the modified, "censored" version to be sold with an 18 certificate. The backlash, which will doubtless come once the decision has been noticed, will most likely be fierce, but the VAC has undoubtedly today struck a blow against both censorship and the last rump of the "moral majority".

The biggest losers might be gamers themselves caught up in the hype. The reviews have been mostly mixed, with one being particularly withering:

The kills are censored. The graphics are five years old. The story sucks. The gameplay is full of glitches, and there is no payoff in the endings, just an excuse to make a sequel. Why did we care about this game again?

The BBFC didn't even martyr a good game, which the Grand Theft Autos unanimously are.

Labels: , , , , ,

Share |

Great post, had to reference it in my comments on the result. This is an issue that has very much not gone away and unfortunately hasn't got enough people worried yet.

Things may be going to get worse, it appears that the TV news media have discovered this new gaming trend whereby people (read children) can compete against complete strangers and even be able to converse with them. Shock horror in turns out some of these strangers can be extremely rude online.

Ban them all, ban them, ban them!

Post a Comment

Links to this post

Create a Link

About

  • This is septicisle
profile

Links

    blogspot stats
    Subscribe

     Subscribe in a reader

Archives

Powered by Blogger
and Blogger Templates