The Needles

The Needles
Pushing Back

Andy Chalk | 29 Jan 2008 17:00
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Rockstar Games and the BBFC continued their not-quite-epic struggle over the future of Manhunt 2 in the U.K. last week, battling over the fate of a game the rest of the world cares very little about. Manhunt 2 attracted pre-release attention primarily as a result of morbid curiosity, as gamers wondered just how far Rockstar would go with its follow-up to the infamous Manhunt, but as it turned out, most of us will never know. The company chose to emasculate the game to accommodate the ESRB and other agencies, leaving even those few countries that indicated they would accept the game as-is with a watered-down version of the developer's original vision. But in the U.K., gamers can't even get that small slice of satisfaction: The BBFC decided the edited version was still inappropriate for release and took the decision seriously enough that following a successful challenge by Rockstar to the country's Video Appeals Committee, it continued to fight, launching and winning its own appeal against the appeal, forcing the VAC to hear arguments again. Throughout it all, the game has remained off the shelves.

Most observers expect that recent victory to be the last stop on the Manhunt 2 Train Ride to Nowhere. It is very likely the VAC will reconsider its decision and rule against Manhunt 2, and just as unlikely that Rockstar will be allowed to appeal the matter further. Both sides have been willing to go to the mat over the game, but at this point the advantage has shifted decidedly to the censors.

A lot of gamers don't seem to care. The prevailing attitude is Manhunt 2 barely rises above half-assed anyway, so it's not as though our tea-drinking brethren are missing out on much. One recent forum post read, "The BBFC just saved a whole lot of Brits from spending their hard earned quids on this shite game." I suppose it's easy to be cavalier about censorship when it's applied to something you dislike or just don't care about, but the game's quality is absolutely irrelevant. I don't care how crappy Manhunt 2 is (and it's not like it's the worst thing you'll ever play), there is a tremendous gulf between whether a person should play it and whether that person should be allowed to play it.

But what's often overlooked is that the ban isn't about the game so much as it is about gamers themselves. Consider the fact that recent BBFC decisions have made it legal for people to purchase and watch movies including Fetish Fucks, Club 69 Revisited: Filthy Fun in the Sun, 3PW: The Right to Remain Violent, Sub-Asslickers, Real Young Lesbians Volume One and The Ultimate Fighter 5, among many others and without even mentioning the obvious mainstream targets like the Saw franchise. All the raw, uncorked sex and violence that I can handle, both imaginary and real, at the tips of my fingers - as long as it's not contained in videogames.

Why? Violent and pornographic movies are fine because they're intended for adults. Videogames with violent or sexual content, on the other hand - and we're not even approaching the level of either that can be found in everyday movie releases - apparently are not; the obvious implication being that even after all these years, videogames are still "for kids."

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