Friday, June 22, 2007

Manhunt 2 - can there be too much violence?

Rockstar, makers of the Grand Theft Auto series of games, and having been in numerous disputes over the extensive violence in their games finally managed to make a game that is so violent that you won't be able to buy it in many places: Manhunt 2. NGamer reviewed it and called it "indisputably the most gruesome videogame we've ever played on any platform". As a result the BBFC and Irish Film Censor's Office have given the game a rating that makes it illegal to sell Manhunt 2 in the UK or Ireland. In the USA the game received an Adults Only rating from the ESRB. As many retailers refuse to sell AO rated games, publisher Take Two "temporarily suspended" the release of the game.

That of course led to some comments on censorship, argueing that Manhunt 2 is a form of art or free speech and shouldn't be censored. Well, first of all, at least in the USA it *wasn't* censored. The game most certainly deserved to be labeled "adults only", and that label is not a form of censorship. You can't blame Walmart or other retailers to not sell AO games. The first amendment of the US constitution does protect porn as art and free speech, but doesn't force Walmart to sell porn. If due to it's AO rating the sales are expected to be lower and the publisher prefers to shelve it, that is a business decision, and not censorship.

It would be better if the law in other countries would be similar, that adults could play Manhunt 2 if they wanted, but it wouldn't be sold in places kids are likely to hang out. You know how it goes, inattentive parents, or kid asking his older brother, and suddenly a 12-year old is applying a virtual chainsaw to a virtual human being. Of course that doesn't turn the kid into a real Jack the Ripper. But how could it not leave some psychological scar? I'm all for keeping overly violent games out of the hands of children. And if that means I have to jump through some extra hoops to get a game I want, so be it.

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