A short treatise on the banning of violent video games in the UK.

Breaking: Manhunt 2 Banned In UK

From the article:

Today, the British Board of Film Classification, the UK’s independent regulator of film, video and gaming, announced that it has rejected both the PS2 and Wii version of Manhunt 2. Manhunt 2 was developed by Rockstar Games and is the sequel to Manhunt, a game that was banned in several different countries and linked to the murder of a 14 year-old boy. With this announced ruling, Manhunt 2 cannot legally be sold anywhere in the United Kingdom. This is the first game to be rejected since Carmageddon in 1997. We just got off the phone with BBFC’s Sue Clark, who said, “We took a lot of time in examining Manhunt 2. Banning is not something we take lightly.” She added that the regulatory board examines video games closer than its counterparts aboard.

No matter what you think about the Manhunt games, or Rockstar as a company, you have to admit that censorship of any kind of flies in the face of that most important (in my opinion, and that of the author’s of the Constitution) facet of a free society: freedom of expression.

Yes, Manhunt 2 and its predecessor are violent, gory and wholly inappropriate for children. I’m not suggesting that we make these games readily available to children. In fact, I wouldn’t be opposed to putting particularly offensive games in a special store or section of a store accessible only with a valid ID, like other materials that a lot of people find objectionable. And yes, some kids will get at them, just like you found your parents’ porn collection when you were a kid. If you don’t want the risk of your kids finding and playing these types of games, don’t keep them in the house, and make sure their friends’ parents don’t keep them in the house. But, you can’t protect children from every little thing every moment of every day, short of keeping them locked up inside.

I’m not suggesting that we legalize all kinds of offensive media. I’m not suggesting that child or animal pornography are appropriate for anyone. There are obvious victims in those types of media: children and animals don’t have the capacity to understand what’s going on or to truly say “no.” There are all kinds of media (movies, music, video games, etc.) that depict events that are obviously direct violation of the laws already established. Those media should be distributed with a great deal of discretion, but not banned outright.

But I challenge you to find a real victim in the Manhunt games, when the player is an able-minded adult. Yes, murder is essentially the object of these games. Yes, the killings are over-the-top executions. It’s not my cup of tea, either. But I don’t have to play the game or watch anyone else play the game if I don’t want to, and neither do you. Remember, it’s not any of your business what the adults next door do behind closed doors, whether it’s BDSM or playing violent video games, so long as it isn’t impinging upon your rights or the rights of others. If you’re offended purely by the fact that material that offends you is available, then you should probably turn the sensitivity knob down a couple of notches. Or move to China.

As a legal adult in a (presumably) free society you should be able to choose what media you wish to consume without governmental interference. Banning media, no matter how inappropriate (with the above exceptions), violates the right to free expression. The government is now deciding what is appropriate for you to view, that you’re too ignorant to be able to decide for yourself. I feel that’s a level of control that a government should never have over its people.

The regulatory body even points out that it’s not just about protecting the children, which, by the way, isn’t a valid argument anyway. Video games aren’t just for kids, folks, and they haven’t been for a while now. I despise the idea that any government would insult their adult (allowed to fight in wars, buy porn, and get pissed whenever they want so long as they don’t drive home) constituents by implying they aren’t intelligent enough to make a judgment call about what media to consume. If you’re a citizen of any government that allows this (which, I guess is just about all of them), and you’re not insulted by the fact that your government is treating you like a child, well, I guess there’s no hope for you.


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June 2007
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