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Wii UK Roundtable - Manhunt 2
James Hobbs, Jonathan Westlake & Calum Bennett

Do you agree with the BBFC's decision to refuse to classify Manhunt 2?


The BBFC are, despite what some quarters of the internet community seem to be expounding, not some kind of facist censorship organisation. Certainly in the past it could be a rgued that their role was far more politically motivated than it is now: socialist films such as the seminal 'Battleship Potemkin' were refused classification for a number of years because of fears that the messages conveyed within the film would instigate some kind of uprising amongst the common folk of Britain. Battleship Potemkin, and films like it, depict a type of perceived subversion that the BBFC historically was incredibly wary of.

Times have changed, however, and this is what leads me to believe that they should not be unduly hounded for the decision to refuse Manhunt 2 classification. It's incredibly important to remember that very few people have actually played the finished title so far, and amongst those people are the BBFC – it's very easy to dismiss the ruling as 'over the top' if you haven't actually experienced the game yourself. More to the point, the BBFC was and continues to be a bastion of public morality – their role is to classify material based on content and the resulting effect on “viewers... and society.” It is well within their remit to refuse classification to a title such as Manhunt 2 if they believe that “their treatment is likely to encourage harm to viewers or, through their behaviour, to society.” It is clearly stated within their guidelines that, before rejecting a work, they will “attempt to deal with films... by making cuts or requiring the addition of warning captions.” Obviously this might not be practical within the confines of a game, but rejection is effectively a last resort. Furthermore, the BBFC have to consider the game within the context of the law – a title like Manhunt 2, which reportedly contains scenes of graphic violence, torture, sadism, and death, could well be found as breaching obscenity laws in court, making it improper for the BBFC to classify it.

Rockstar aren't stupid. They would have been well aware that the content of a game like Manhunt 2 would likely cause massive amounts of consternation, particularly as the first Manhunt game was described by the BBFC as being at the “top end” of acceptability.” Whilst one of the many pertinent arguments currently circulating is that Adults should be able to purchase whatever they see fit, the BBFC is not obliged to merely consider the fact that only Adults will be viewing the game. It might be wrong, but underage gamers playing titles like this is a prevalent problem, and this is something that the BBFC set out as a concern in their press release. More to the point, Adults don't have any right whatsoever to play or watch anything that breaches criminal law. I'm not saying that Manhunt 2 does, as I haven't played it, but in my humble opinion rejection is not something that the BBFC take lightly – that is definitely something worth considering. Many 'arthouse' films have a predeliction for content such as violence, sadism, and sex – it's the context that the BBFC views as most important.

With any luck we'll be getting our hands on Manhunt 2 in it's current form in the next few weeks, so stay tuned for a report.

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Jonathan W

It's difficult to come to an informed opinion about the banning of this game without actually witnessing first hand what the content of the game is like. If the game is as terrible as the ratings board make out, well that's what these ratings boards are for and yes, they were right to ban it from sale in the UK – that's their job. Rockstar North are going to live with pushing their luck too far and will now have to see how many other countries follow suit before either appealing or toning the game down.

In some respects it is hard for me to understand how the board came to this decision as no game I've played, no matter how controversial, has ever come close to having a negative effect on me. The simple matter that it is an unrealistic representation completely detaches me from the sort of effects/risks the board described in their justification. In comparison, I have seen a number of films rated 18 that have really shaken me up to the point where I had sleepless nights for days on end (I'm not sure I should be confessing to this!). Clearly I have not seen what this game has to offer, but I find it hard to believe that it not only matches the most horrific cinematography available but exceeds it. The interaction element of the game must play a part in this rating decision, and to this extent the Wii is a victim of its own innovation. I'd wager that if a film was made of someone playing it through then that would get past the censors without hitch.

Another theory is that this ruling could have been a politically driven, with pressure from lobbyists forcing the BBFC's hand slightly. If this scenario is true, it could open the floodgates for more lobbying from conservative groups for any entertainment media and we could end up with widespread censorship. This is probably unlikely as I get the impression that the board was proud of only ever banning two games in ten years and don't want to censor if they can help it.

On a personal note, I'm extremely disappointed by this ruling. This is not directed at the ratings board (they had their job to do and I'm trusting it was for the right reasons) or the developers (you never know the limits of what you can get away with until you push them), but I'm annoyed that a game I was looking forward to is unlikely to ever become available on a PAL Wii at all, unless it is heavily censored.

One final thought; if they think it's fit for Americans who have more than their fair share of psychopaths and a dubious right to bear arms, then I'd like to think it was ok for us too. Have the British censors got it right or have the American censors got it wrong?

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The BBFC refusing to give Manhunt a rating is just dreadful. Censorship really has gone too far. Granted, the game does seem to be full of violence and gore, but people have the right to make the games they want, much in the same way as people should be allowed to create the films they want. Usually when a film is full of violence they have to edit scenes in order for it to comply with regulations. However, it appears that the problem isn't necessarily with the amount of gore and violence in the game but rather in the concept. Having not played the original, I'm going on what I've heard from previews, but there appears to be a large amount of stalking victims before murdering them. This is probably the part that's annoying censors most, especially with the high amount of violent crimes we keep hearing about on the news.

While I totally disagree that games cause violence, it can't be denied that games like Manhunt are giving the industry a bad name, albeit due to the misinformed press. If the non-gaming press would actually do proper research into games, then the public's perception of the industry may be better. I can remember the whole fuss about the original Manhunt and several GTA games. People who didn't have the first clue about games would see these horribly biased reports and suddenly become totally against gaming. I can recall many parents talking to the people in game shops about the contents of games as they were concerned with violence. Fair enough you may think, but when it's to such a high extent as what was the case then it's a pretty bad images for the industry to uphold with many being convinced that all games turn people into evil serial killers. However, in films it's something of a different story. Parents often allow their children to watch violent films, often rated 18 without second thought. There's no reason why games should be any different in this respect.

I am thoroughly peeved off at the news. Not only is it a bad day for the industry, a good day for Jack Thompson (who thought we'd ever see the day...), but I was also rather looking forward to playing the game. There's been little of interest to me on Wii since launch and Manhunt would have most definitely got me back into playing my Wii again. However, it's not all lost. Rockstar have six weeks to appeal and I expect they'll be doing a lot to get this game out, what with development costs and such. If they are able to get the game released then they'll have got plenty of free advertising in the process. It may not necessarily be good for the industry, but the simple fact is that controversy sells.

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