Tuesday, 19 June 2007

Virtual Insanity

I don't dare call myself a gamer...I quite like running round and shooting stuff on the TV screen for a bit but I have no patience (to be honest I'm a poor shot. Bizarrely, I get better after a drink though). When I was younger I'd spend hours holed up on the PC, lost in Quake, Doom and Lara Croft (laugh it up, I was a trigger happy young girl, to me the buxom Ms Croft was sooooooooo awesome), munching through game after game. (My dad used to come and watch me play, not in the least bothered that his oddball daughter, usually seen with her head in a book or up a tree somewhere, got so much joy out of blowing the crap out of a virtual world).

Now times have changed. I occassionally dust the old XBox off (gaming progression: Nintendo, Sega, PC, XBox. I can't be arsed to keep up with gaming trends anymore, that's what friends are for) and settle down for a couple of hours of panicky shooting, profuse swearing and personal frustration. It's a giggle but then I gather the doorstop up into my loving arms and put it to bed for another month. I no longer have the desire to play until my eye lids itch and droop or I start throwing the controller around in anger. But I do still have the same taste in games. FPS all the way man (maybe a bit of role play in there - if I'm supervised)...My games are all silly no brainers - Wolfenstein, Doom, Vice City, Half Life etc...and the immediate objective is always the same. Kill stuff. Right now (before it kills you).

I've never played Manhunt. My soul is clean. I remember when it came out here, though and the fury that followed. Then Leicester teenager Stefan Pakeerah was brutally murder by 17 -year-old Warren LeBlanc, a fan of violent films and video games, Manhunt in particular. Despite the police citing robbery as LaBlanc's motive the dead boy's parents, along with much of the media and middle England, believed LaBlanc was imitating the heavy content and gruesome gameplay of Manhunt. Quite possibly. "Violent games must be banned", came the cry. I can remember proping up a pint and having quite an animated discussion with friends about the issue. "Leave gamers alone" was the response, "just cos we like a bit of gore doesn't make us all axe murderors". So the game was a bit sick and scary, it was a critical and popular success and there was no crazed killing endemic.

Now that its sequel has been banned from our shores I would like to know what others think. As the first game to be unequivocally chucked out by the British Board of Film Classification in 10 years methinks Manhunt 2 is something special.

BBFC Director David Cooke said: "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.

Against this background, the Board’s carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to Manhunt 2...would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors."

I am no psychologist, I can't say for certain whether or not violent games foster real violence. But I'm no psycho either and I've played violent games (though not the offending article) all my life. I thoroughly understand the risk of such material to impressionable children - all kids play act...But I've always thought that blaming an adult killing on a medium of entertainment is a cop out. I know the difference between reality and the game. I get all pumped and excited and can't wait to butcher some random mutant/Nazi/monster with that controller between my hands. Yet my desires have limits. The thought of seeing whether I could do it in the flesh makes me ill.

I don't doubt the BBFC are making a good decision. The argument runs that surely if the ban stops just one adolescent nutjob from flipping then it's worth it. I agree. It just spoils everyone else's fun. Mind you, it's not like Rockstar needs the revenue.


Jenny! said...

I am an anti-gamer. Not that I think its bad, but I just don't play and don't really get the appeal. The only game I have ever enjoyed playing is Soul Caliber and that is b/c I rock at it! I don't like losing, so gaming is a no-win for me...so I just don't do it!

As for the violence factor. I think that parents need to be held more accountable for what their children are playing and for how long. I think parents need to inform themselves, maybe pick up a gamer mag now and again, to actually know what their kids are playing. I know that parents can't monitor 100% of the time, but at least some involvment would prevent overly violent games from being played by youngsters. I think that media, tv, and games all have a violent message so we can't point fingers at just video games, we need ot look at society and the way it looks to a teenager.

James said...

Hmmm, not having being a gamer since the death of the ZX Spectrum and apart from the odd PC game every now and then these days it's difficult to comment directly on the games you've mentioned.

My only thought is that sometimes with things like this it has to be a balance of risk. It's very easy for people to say you can't put a price on saving a life etc etc. But clearly people effectively do every day. If cars were banned hundreds of lives would be saved each year. How about banning swimming in the sea? or children crossing the road? These examples have a proven link where as the gaming link is tenuous.

Saying that violence for violence sake does seem a little unnecessary. Sometimes I feel like an old man when I tut at some of the explicit content on modern TV.

Em said...

Jenny - absolutely, as I say, I understand the potential impact of violent games on kids and would hope that parents are making sure their kids aren't playing them.

But a game's a game...This is a game that's going to get released across the pond (if its not out already) and elsewhere...but not here...are all game playing british adults sadists? The games are pretty gruesome but for most gamers it's about the skill factor involved...they don't immediately want to go out and start butchering peeps...