Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Manhunt 2: Banned.

I'm sure some of you have heard by now that Manhunt 2, the game developed by Rockstar, has been banned by the BBFC. It's only the second game to be banned, the first being Carmageddon a decade ago.

It's a ludicrous decision.

If you're going to ban a violent video game, then you might as well ban films that show extreme violence like, for example, the Saw trilogy. Or any with gratuitous sex of violence - I'm looking at you, Mr Tarantino. Or any books with graphic passages in them. Or music that talks about violent, bloody topics - hello My Chemical Romance and Rammstein.

The BBFC have claimed that the ban on Manhunt 2 is not because of any political pressure that surrounded the first game and the furore after it was implicated - and then absolved of any responsibility whatsoever - by the judge in the case of murdered teenager Stefan Pakeerah. The media has made the game a huge scapegoat despite it not being involved, and they also seem to have, rather conveniently, forgotten that it was the murdered boy - who was 14 years old, four years under the '18' classification the game was given - being the owner of the title, not the murderer, as was first claimed. For the latest video game attack, the parents of the murdered boy have been wheeled out again, claiming that they are 'absolutely elated' over the ban.

So, let's get this straight. They're fantastic, responsible parents - so responsible, in fact, that they allowed their 14-year old son to own an 18-rated game. Their son was killed which, I accept, is a tragic event. And then, stumbling for any sort of blame, they find a violent video game. None of the boys should have been playing it, his murderer being only 17, but then make out that their son was the innocent party here. I think not.

This latest controversy is reminiscent, in some ways, of the recent fuss over Resistance: Fall of Man, which angered Manchester Cathedral by using the interior of the building - a public place, no less! - in the game. The stories didn't mention, except in quotes from the publisher, Sony, witheringly included to provide a falsified sense of journalistic impartiality, that the building is, in fact, treated as a place of safety within the game and it can't have anything to do with the recent spate of shootings in the city because, as well as it being in development way before the violence escalated, it was set in a) an alternate universe, b) 50 years ago and c) the enemies were aliens, not angry young men.

Both these incidents have been covered extensively by the BBC, and both of them have, in gloriously obvious examples of how not to be a good journalist, failed to provide equal arguments. This is not new for the BBC, either, in a week when a major report on them found them to be lacking impartiality in their coverage. For an organisation that is supposed to remain impartial, the supposed bastion of British news and journalistic quality, it is intriguing how they manage to report both of these events from an almost-blanket 'anti-gaming' pedestal. The only indication of a differing opinion on the BBC has been, in both cases I have seen, from the users: a poll that asked if Manhunt 2 should have been banned, in which 60% of people voted for it to remain on sale (and now, by total coincidence, this has been replaced by another poll, asking 'Do you think computers games have gone too far?' as a sort of witch-hunting rallying cry to the ignorant classes of the country, and a topic on Have Your Say, where many people have come out in support of the game. Certainly, more than have condemned it.

So, I guess this boils down to a question of free speech. Should the game be allowed to be released in this country? Of course it should be. The BBFC rates games and films for a reason - if it has an 18 classification then, it should be assumed, it is not meant for people below this age. Once it has been rated and released, it's up to the retailers and the consumers - and this includes parents who should do more research before blindly buying games for their offspring, as 'I didn't know what it was about' is no excuse - to make decisions based on their ability to think rationally. We take it for granted that if there's a film at the cinema that we don't want to see - or know that we wouldn't be able to see - then we won't see it. Of course, the system is completely undermined if parents are going to flaunt the advisory guidelines and broadcast unsuitable material to their children. The same people who come out and wonder why their children are behaving innappriopriately. If they're exposed to things that are not suitable for them - be it films, music, games, books, or tv - then it'll have an effect. That's what the ratings are there for.

Not to be used as a political or moral standpoint by ill-informed politicians and bitter parents who can't face up to reality or the ability of the people of this country (and indeed, others where the game will inevitably be banned) to make their own choices. It's also not good when so-called respectable news outlets start reporting on an industry - one that earns more money in Britain than the film trade and, despite being younger, is an important part of our modern cultural heritage - as one that needs to be buttoned-down, driven underground and cut-off because of the so called 'threat' it poses to society that is, in fact, no more potentially harmful than other entertainment mediums.

The article about how video games are being used to train brains, educate army personnel and doctors, instruct teenage students to write creatively and improve co-ordination, reflexes and mental agility will be saved for another day, possibly when gaming is unfairly and indiscriminately attacked by shoddy journalism that gives way to the frightened, Daily Mail reading masses.

Rant over. What does everyone think? Please post a comment with your opinions.


Sarkins said...

LOL! Brilliant xD But.. are you ever going to give the BBC a break? xD

Guy Maile said...

Well reasoned, informed and eloquent argument Mike. Well done. Think you've blown it for a job with the Ministry for Propaganda... er, I mean the BBC, though ;o) Peace, Guy x

Jessi said...

That's funny, I hadn't read your entry yet (just the title) and when I got home I watched the news and they actually reported on the game as well, all about government controversy and banning it etc. I can clearly see where your frustration with the BBC and idiotic parents comes from.

Aside from any of the politics about it, this game sounds retarded and disgusting -__-

Mike said...

Thanks for all your comments! Sarkins, I'll give the BBC a break when they impress me. I suppose I should do an entry about the good work they do rather than just moaning about the bad stuff. Thanks for the comment Guy, it's definitely an honour to have you visiting my website, glad you enjoyed the article. I suppose I may have blown my chances with the BBC but I have a different job i'm going for atm so fingers crossed I don't have to write a retraction, eh? :p take care! And thanks Jessi (or Jessica, as you called yourself the other day!) weird that they're reporting on all this in Canada as well as over here. I guess that it's good publicity for the game, in a way, because it'll become so notorious that it'll sell well - a.k.a Grand Theft Auto and Canis Canem Edit - because people will still be able to import it etc easily enough. It's quite a gruesome game. But nGamer magazine gave it 92%. So it can't be all bad. Thanks for the comments everyone!