Paul Jackson, Director General of ELSPA has released a statement supporting the BBFC's ever so slightly draconian treatment of Manhunt 2, in which he states:
Hit the jump for an analysis.
A decision from the BBFC such as this demonstrates that we have a games ratings system in the UK that is effective. It shows it works and works well. Any decision the BBFC takes, it takes on the basis of its remit to rate on screen entertainment.
The games industry is a creative phenomenon that produces all kinds of games across all kinds of genres that appeal to all kinds of people across the country, young and old, male and female. The important thing to know is that all games are rated according to age suitability, with over 70 per cent of games being available to all ages over three years.
While it's disappointing that the association set up to represent the British gaming industry seems to be rolling over so happily on this issue, what's even more eyebrow-raising is how Jackson chooses to justify his stance. We have here a situation in which a piece of entertainment directed towards the adult market has been banned instead of rated accordingly for that market, and that surely can't show faith in an "effective" system.
Does it really speak volumes for a ratings system if the BBFC doesn't seem to respect it enough to actually use it, and instead chooses to sidestep it and throw out an outright ban? In this media-savvy age in which gaming has grown far beyond the old perception of being a kids' amusement and matured into an eclectic and all-encompassing entertainment medium, appropriate, responsibly enforced age ratings are only right and correct. However they are rendered not worth a damn if a self-imposed elite such as the BBFC is allowed to overrule their use.
ELSPA is supposed to protect the interests of the industry, with ratings as a major priority. To allow the system it's so proud of to be so easily brushed aside by a sanctimonious and secretive Big Brother organisation is akin to handing over its lunch money to the school bully and admitting it was wrong to try to keep it. As Mr. Jackson states in his second paragraph, games are for every demographic now, and as such, ratings are an important part of the business, as is the case for the movie industry.
What is distasteful about that paragraph however, is the way in which Jackson feels the need to justify that truth with a disclaimer that most games still get a universal rating. The games industry is a creative phenomenon, but it may not always stay that way if its guardians act so apologetically in regards to controversial and boundary-pushing material. With the best will in the world, his statement that "games are rated according to age suitability" is an absolute fallacy in light of this week's events. If that were true, we'd have Manhunt 2 accepted as an extreme adult title and given a fitting adult rating. As it is, we're told that as adult gamers with freedom of choice and personal critical faculties, we can't be trusted, as apparently we're not adult enough. And that just makes a mockery of the whole rating system.
There is a glimmer of hope however, in the fact that while ELSPA may not be choosing to fight the decision, Jackson has at least questioned the wording of the BBFC's statement.
I would say that I was surprised at some of the language the BBFC used when they reported on the matter, but we'll be talking to them about that separately.
That can only be a good thing, as while the prospect is unlikely, that talk could go some way in at least making the BBFC speak more specifically about its problems with Manhunt 2. So far, everything we've had has been incredibly abstract and uniformly uninformative.
But as he prepares to head over there, Jackson would do well to take a piece of advice from a comment he himself made to GamesIndustry.biz.
With any truly cultural industry, the creativity within that industry will always push the boundaries. It's what creative people do, and that's excellent.
Yes it is excellent. So think carefully about just why it's excellent before you start being apologetic this time Mr. Jackson