Roger Bennett, former director general of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), has criticized the decision of the BBFC to ban Manhunt 2 in the U.K.
Beginning by commenting on the question of state control over what adults can and cannot watch or play, Bennett expresses concern over the potentially detrimental long-term effects the decision will have on the videogame industry. He also makes note of the fact that due to their nature, games are typically rated differently than other forms of video entertainment. "It is most interesting to note that the guidelines used in reaching this decision by the BBFC includes the assumed criteria that because games are interactive, they are different to other forms of screen entertainment and should be rated accordingly," he said.
"There is no evidence for it to make such a flawed assumption and concerns should be apparent that through pressure from Government, games are becoming increasingly and wholly unjustifiably separated from other forms of screen entertainment."
He goes on to question the motives and incentives of those rating the games, as well as the information upon which they base their decisions, saying, "the Government and thus the BBFC have become heavily influenced by previous events which in no way have any link to our industry," and that those who claim these links do exist do so "without a shred of knowledge or fact" to back them up. Finally, he concludes in a particularly bold fashion, saying that Manhunt 2 may be recognized as a "creative cultural icon" at some point in the future, in the same fashion that many other banned pieces of work have become popular with the passage of time.
Established in 1989, the ELSPA was set up to handle industry issues such as promotion, conference and seminar operation, research and content ratings. Although its content rating system was supplanted in 2003 by the Pan-European Games Information body (PEGI), it continues to function as an influential voice in the U.K. game industry, generating sales charts and research information, reviewing proposed legislation and promoting anti-piracy initiatives.
The full text of Bennett's statement is available here.