Michael B. Duff

Lubbock's answer to a question no one asked

Duff: Violent video games too hot for Britain

Duff: Violent video games too hot for Britain

Have you ever wanted to hack someone up with an ax? Or bludgeon them to death with a sledgehammer? Well, now you can.

Rockstar Games has made a game called Manhunt 2. Gamers who’ve had their fill of fantasy and science fiction can step into the shoes of a mass-murdering psychopath and wreak havoc across a virtual landscape.

Manhunt 2 has just been banned in Britain, and the British Board of Film Classification’s statement on the matter is a masterpiece of modern English.

BBFC director David Cooke said, “Manhunt 2 is distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in a game context which constantly encourages visceral killing with exceptionally little alleviation or distancing. There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed and encouraged.”

I am generally against censorship, but Cooke’s justification is so eloquent, it almost won me over.

If you’ve never heard of Rockstar Games, you may have heard of its previous products: a little something called Grand Theft Auto, a video game series in which you steal cars, kill cops and recharge your game stats by having sex with prostitutes.

It’s tough to make excuses for games like this, but if free speech was easy, we wouldn’t need laws for it. I have to go back to my constant theme of freedom vs. responsibility. The digital world is granting us all kinds of new freedom, and increased levels of freedom require a heightened sense of personal responsibility. We have to take extraordinary steps to protect our kids, and we have to take extraordinary steps to protect ourselves, as we face the temptations of anonymity and the spectre of game addiction.

A number of online game retailers said they would refuse to sell Manhunt 2, even if it was legal to sell in Britain.

I’m not going to make a slippery slope argument; I’m just going to ask the questions. Should adults have the freedom to play whatever games they want? Should adults be forced to live in a childproof society?

American consumers face a choice now. We can be grownups and take responsibility for our own choices, or we can turn it over to the government and let Uncle Sam make children of us all.

Written by Michael B. Duff

July 6, 2007 at 14:58

Posted in Columns, Games

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