Today marks a very miserable day in the supposed evolution of mankind, as the British Board of Film Classification has rejected Rockstar's PS2, PSP and Wii sequel, Manhunt 2, refusing to give it a rating and thus making its supply illegal in the United Kingdom. The game, fully covered and hyped by all major UK games publications, has been deemed an "unjustifiable harm risk" by the social babysitters at the BBFC and as such, a game that many Britons were doubtless looking forward to playing has been denied them.
David Cooke, Director of the BBFC, had this to say for himself:
"Rejecting a work is a very serious action and one which we do not take lightly. Where possible we try to consider cuts or, in the case of games, modifications which remove the material which contravenes the Board's published Guidelines. In the case of Manhunt 2 this has not been possible. Manhunt 2 is distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall 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, in the game."
This is disappointing news and a very sad statement of society that this has happened. The banning of Manhunt 2 marks the first videogame to go unrated since 1997's Carmageddon, a decision that was ultimately overturned thanks to an appeal by the Video Appeals Committee. Hopefully, Rockstar challenges the board's inane and frankly disgusting move to have this game taken away from British gamers.
For the full statement from Cooke and for my frank throughts on the matter, hit the jump.
[Update: It seems the Irish Film Censors Office has decided to go ahead and ban the game as well, claiming that "the level of gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence is unacceptable." Nice to know that Ireland's entertainment is governed by a bunch of immature, oversensitive nannies as well.]
"Rejecting a work is a very serious action and one which we do not take lightly. Where possible we try to consider cuts or, in the case of games, modifications which remove the material which contravenes the Board's published Guidelines. In the case of Manhunt 2 this has not been possible. Manhunt 2 is distinguishable from recent high-end video games by its unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone in an overall 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, in the game.
Although the difference should not be exaggerated the fact of the game's unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying and the sheer lack of alternative pleasures on offer to the gamer, together with the different overall narrative context, contribute towards differentiating this submission from the original Manhunt game. That work was classified '18' in 2003, before the BBFC's recent games research had been undertaken, but was already at the very top end of what the Board judged to be acceptable at that category.
Against this background, the Board's carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to Manhunt 2, on either platform, would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors, within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, and accordingly that its availability, even if statutorily confined to adults, would be unacceptable to the public.
Under the terms of the Video Recordings Act distributors have the right to appeal the Board's decision."
I don't know about any of you, but I find this news depressing beyond all reason. I didn't even like the first Manhunt, but for this game to be banned because a small group of self-important individuals won't let us decide what media we can and cannot handle is just a shocking example of how farcical this country has become.
Hardcore pornography is legal, movies show shocking and deplorable acts time and time again, but because this is a videogame, we in the United Kingdom have suddenly been told we're not allowed to experience it. This is the kind of sickening double standard that an industry that rakes in more money than Hollywood has to deal with and we, the consumers, are the ones who get punished. What will it take for this childish and reactionary prejudice against videogames to end?
To claim that this game is harmful is a statement of purest arrogance. I would optimistically hope that the BBFC actually played this game before banning it - are they harmed in any way, shape or form by what they saw, or believe they saw? Evidently not, if they were mentally capable enough to ban the game, so what right do they have to just assume that everyone else is too weak to handle playing it? That's an insult to adult gamers up and down the country and I choose to take that insult personally. I'm 23 years old and I don't live with mommy anymore, I should be able to make my own decisions about what videogames I can safely play. Or perhaps the BBFC would like to come feed me, dress me and change my diaper while they're at it.
It just fills me with an icy dread that this is merely the beginning. Once an action is taken and succeeds, it becomes consequentially easier for that action to happen again and again. As I stated earlier, I hope Rockstar fights this and I hope Rockstar wins, not just for its own game, but for every game that could potentially fall victim to the whims of a few individuals.
Now if you'll excuse me, I have a game to import.
On principal alone.