Manhunt 2
 Computer game proves controversial
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10th December
2007
  

A Manhunt for Success...

Rockstar win Manhunt 2 Appeal

Manhunt 2 game cover BBFC Considers Position On Manhunt 2

Following the decision by the Video Appeals Committee to allow the appeal by Rockstar against the BBFC’s rejection of the game by a majority of four to three, David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: The BBFC will carefully study the judgement by the Video Appeals Committee when it becomes available.

The BBFC exercises great vigilance and care in ensuring that all violent games which are submitted to us are correctly classified. Our decisions are based on published guidelines, which are the result of very wide public consultation. The Board also provides very full content information to the public, including parents, about the videogames which it classifies. We recently launched a new website for parents, PBBFC, in addition to the main website and our websites for children and students.

The BBFC twice rejected Manhunt 2 for its focus on varied and cumulative killings. We recognize that rejection is a very serious step, in which the desire of publishers to market their games, and that of gamers to buy them, must be balanced against the public interest, including the full range of possible harm risks to vulnerable individuals and to any children who may be wrongly exposed to such games. Such balancing judgements are inevitably complex and multi-faceted, and are made only after very careful consideration of the contents of a work. We played Manhunt 2 for well over 30 hours prior to our decision.

The Board recognizes that the available research findings on the effects of video games (including positive as well as harmful effects) are varied and contested. But we continue to believe that a broad approach to the possible risks is needed, which goes beyond purely behavioural harm, and which also takes account of other possible effects on the sensibilities and attitudes of individuals.

 

15th December
2007
  

Legal Games...

Game censors considering High Court review

Manhunt 2 game cover The BBFC has warned it will take legal action to stop the release of the Manhunt 2 .

Despite Rockstar winning its right to appeal, the BBFC has said it will go to court to ensure the game never goes on sale.

BBFC spokesperson Sue Clark said: We need to see the judgement papers from the VAC case before we even consider giving Manhunt 2 a rating.

If we spot anything problematic, we may decide to take our case to the High Court as a judicial review, which would lead to Manhunt 2’ s release being frozen in the UK.

Our main concern is to ensure a lawful outcome. It needs to be the right decision within the UK’s legal framework – which will be the right decision in the public interest.”

 

18th December
2007
  

Update: The Wrong Type of Interpretation...

Game censor asks court to review VAC decision on Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 game cover The BBFC is applying for a judicial review of the decision by the Video Appeals Committee to overturn the Board’s rejection of the video game Manhunt 2. The Board’s challenge also seeks suspension of the Committee’s decision that the game should be classified.

The BBFC is contesting the VAC judgement because in the Board's view, it is based on an approach to harm which is an incorrect interpretation of the Video Recordings Act. The VAC judgement, if allowed to stand, would have fundamental implications with regard to all the Board’s decisions, including those turning upon questions of unacceptable levels of violence. If the VAC’s decision is suspended, then the game will not be classified before the outcome of the Judicial Review.

Background: What is a Judicial Review?

Thanks to Harvey on the Melon Farmers Forum

The answer to that is that it's a High Court Judge, sitting in the Administstrative Court. And if a Judicial Review is allowed, any "interpretation" will be of the LAW as it relates to the PROCESS by which the VAC came to it's judgement in respect of the Manhunt 2 game.

A lawer explains : A Judicial Review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

In other words, judicial reviews are a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached.

It is not really concerned with the conclusions of that process and whether those were 'right', as long as the right procedures have been followed. The court will not substitute what it thinks is the 'correct' decision.

This may mean that the public body will be able to make the same decision again, so long as it does so in a lawful way."

This is exactly the process which the BBFC followed when they tried (and failed) to get a VAC judgement ruled unlawful in the case of R18 in 2000.

Comment: Proof of Harm

Thanks to IanG on the Melon Farmers Forum

The BBFC were found to be WRONG in their 'interpretation' of the law with regard to R18 content. PROOF of HARM was the bottom line according to the High Court ruling.

Similarly, PROOF of HARM will be the bottom line (the letter of the law) with regard to violent games. And I predict the BBFC will loose this battle too because there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest people who play violent games go on to commit violent acts. Indeed, it is those who are not at home playing violent games or watching violent videos, who tend to roam the streets aimlessly looking for 'reespekt' by terrorising little old ladies, or selling hard drugs to kids (or mugging/stabbing/shooting them).

 

19th December
2007
  

Update: Take Two Responses...

Take Two response to BBFC call for Judicial Review

Manhunt 2 game cover Take Two chairman, the fabulously named Strauss Zelnick has made an official statement to the world regarding the British Board of Film Censors' decision to take the Manhunt 2 banning saga to the High Court.

We are disappointed that the BBFC has decided to appeal its own Video Appeals Committee's judgement in favour of an 18-plus certificate for Manhunt 2. We believe the VAC decision was correct and do not understand the BBFC's decision to expend further public resources to censor a game that contains content well within the bounds established by the BBFC's 18-plus ratings certification , says Strauss in an antiseptic statement.

 

22nd December
2007
  

Comment: BBFC an Insult to Freedom of Expression...

Letter Re BBFC censorship of Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 game cover Re Judicial Review of Manhunt 2 appeal

So Mr. Justice Hooper's legal judgement back in 2000 means nothing to you people?

Mr Justice Hooper made a legal ruling after a case back in 2000 in which your outright censorship of certain content in R18 videos was appealed, and the BBFC lost that appeal. It was an appeal I attended myself, because for many years I have been interested in the censorship aspect of the work of the BBFC and how it has restricted our rights unnecessarily.

Please remember that Mr Justice Hooper said that a reasonable decision maker could come to the conclusion the Appeals Committee did, regarding the content of R18 videos.

Doesn't this legal precedent also apply in the latest case, involving RockStar Games?

This game may not be your cup of tea, but that is not any reason to stop FREEBORN ADULTS from playing the games they want to play.

I hope Rockstar games TAKE YOU to court for unreasonable restrictions of their right to freedom of expression causing them loss of revenue. Every day this game is not allowed to be released will cost them money, because of piracy etc. You surely aren't so naive as to believe that your BANNING it will actually prevent people who want it getting hold of a copy do you? Probably by piracy, on download sites, which will cost RockStar money, perhaps money which they may seek to recover from you. After all, you are a business yourselves aren't you?

I have just signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to leave you people alone:

I think I made a grave mistake. The BBFC should be disbanded, as an insult to freedom of expression of adults. We don't have people reading our books before we can buy them. Why do we need them to read our videos and play our games?

To keep censoring and banning people's video games is surely the easiest way to ensure the future demise of the BBFC as a censor.

The decision has been made by the VAC. You lost the case. Now you should abide by that decision. The judge in a previous appeal case clearly told you that, when you took it to judicial review before. To abide by the committee's decision rather than anything else, is the law. Mr Justice Hooper told you that, and clarified the position.

You people, along with the politicians who clearly RULE YOU, seem to be more frightened of the likes of John Beyer of Media Watch, and politicians such as Julian Brazier and Keith Vaz who firmly believe in a Spirit in the Sky who no one has ever seen, who rules over us, whilst letting little children starve to death or get horrendous illnesses. They might as well believe in Santa Clause, The Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny, but it is clear they are trying to use their religious beliefs to set the censorship agenda Perhaps they should show real proof of widespread manifest and proportionate harm, which no one has EVER done in these cases.

You people, and the politicians who control you, should be more afraid of the younger generation, who I am sure, given the sentiments expressed in various discussions on this issue, will not tolerate such censorship of their videos and games in times to come.

It isn't 1984 any more. The video material which caused all this censorship in the first place has for the vast majority of cases, now been classified for adult viewing. This shows that the censorship we've had to put up with, , and the role of the BBFC in that, was never needed in the first place. All such censorship really does these days, is to make it difficult or uneconomic for small video producers to enter the market because of the "classification" fees.

Believe it or not, there ARE RARE censorship decisions you have made that I have personally agreed with. BumFights was one of them. Even then I would trade the loss of our freedom of expression in other areas, for such material being allowed, even if I personally don't agree with it. Otherwise where will it end, and who sets the limits? Politicians such as Brazier and Vaz with their clear religious agendas? John Beyer of MediaWatch with his expressed desire to throw people in prison for years on end, just for simple POSSESSION of an R18 video?

No thanks.

What amazes me, is the amount of credence and credibility you appear to give to such people as this, and how you appear to be fearful of them.

With respect,
Shaun

A parent, aged 50 with two children aged 13 and 16

 

22nd December
2007
  

Update: Serious Misdirection of the Law...

BBFC get their Judicial Review of the Manhunt decision

Manhunt 2 game cover British censors have won the right to fight the UK release of video game Manhunt 2 in the High Court.

A judge accepted the BBFC's argument that the game had been approved for release on a misinterpretation of the law.

The game was banned in June but the Video Appeals Committee said the game could be classified and released.

The BBFC said that the VAC had been guilty of "a very serious misdirection of law" on the question of harm.

The judge said: I have taken into account the high public interest in the possibility of harm to children.

Justice Wyn Williams ruled the Board had an arguable case that should go to a full hearing.

Both sides agreed that the game was not suitable for children, but the BBFC argued that if given a certificate for release, it could still end up in the hands of minors.

The judge also suspended the VAC's decision that the game should be classified, halting any possibility of it going on sale until after the High Court challenge, due to take place before 31 January next year.

The BBFC said it would pay any damages that developer Rockstar might suffer as a result of the stay, if the Board loses its legal challenge.

The Board had warned that if the VAC decision had stood, it would have fundamental implications for all of its decisions, including those about unacceptable levels of violence.

Rockstar Games said that Manhunt 2 was well within the bounds established by other 18+ rated entertainment.

 

3rd January
2008
  

Offsite: Video games in 2007...

Preposterous decision to ban Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 game cover Even when the controversy of video game violence reared its head surrounding the BBFC's banning of Manhunt 2 this summer, it only served to reinforce how mature game content has become.

In this instance, it also showed how out of the touch with the consumer market the authorities actually are.

In light of the fact that a re-cut version of the game has been released in the United States, the steadfast refusal of the BBFC to grant Manhunt 2 a UK release seems more like sabre rattling than anything else.

Having played the game, I personally find their decision to be preposterous.

Read full article

 

25th January
2008
  

Update: VAC Appeal Quoshed...

Freedom of expression denied to adults less the children play Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 game cover In an all-day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, the Honourable Mr Justice Mitting sided with the BBFC's argument that the Video Appeals committee (VAC) had erred when considering whether Manhunt 2 could be considered harmful to minors who viewed it.

Whereas the VAC interpreted this as "actual harm," the BBFC and Mitting believed it should be taken in a broader scope of "potential harm and risk of harm." The BBFC also argued that the VAC based its decision on whether or not the game would have a "devastating effect on society," and argued that this "harm threshold" was too high.

Rockstar argued that due to the human right to expression, the game should never have been banned in the first place, and that even if Mitting found that the law had been misinterpreted, he should let the VAC's decision stand. Mitting responded by saying he did not feel qualified to make such a decision on the case, having not been involved in it since the beginning, but told the VAC that it should bear this criteria in mind when making their new decision.

During the proceedings, it also emerged that there are several stages to the decision made by the VAC in cases such as this. The first is whether the material is question is criminal (for example, containing child pornography), and Manhunt 2 was ruled to not contain anything of this nature.

The second decision is whether it will cause harm to adults, and once more, it was found that the game was not likely to do this. The third point was whether or not it was likely to be viewed by minors, and in response to that criteria, Rockstar argued that the BBFC's certification worked and that children were unlikely to have access to the game. However, the VAC ruled this was not the case because children were likely to have access.

The fourth decision was whether or not harm would be caused to minors if they viewed or played the game, and the vote was 4-3 in deciding that it would not. All members of the VAC admitted that it had been a very difficult case.

After quashing the VAC's decision, Mitting explained, In the circumstances, it seems to me the only just method of ending this. He stipulated that the same seven members of the VAC must now reconvene and make a new decision based on the guidelines he laid down in the courtroom today. It is understood that this is likely to happen within the next two weeks, which would in theory put an end to the protracted legal drama.

 

26th January
2008
  

Update: British Board of Games Censors...

Rockstar rightfully unimpressed by the court judgement

Manhunt 2 game cover Rockstar is not wholly impressed by the High Court judgement, and expressed their feelings on the matter in a statement issued to the press:

"We believe the VAC decision was correct and do not understand the court's decision to expend further public resources to censor a game that contains content well within the bounds established by the BBFC's 18-plus ratings certification,"

 

5th February
2008
  

Update: Manhunt for Justification...

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Irish poll supports ban of Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 game cover An opinion poll carried out for the Irish censor's office shows overwhelming support for the decision to ban a controversial computer game.

The research found that 80% of respondents thought the office was right to ban the Manhunt 2 game last year, because of the extreme violence portrayed in it. 16% disagreed with the move and 4% had no opinion.

1000 people over 15 years were surveyed for the poll, which examines the public perception of the work carried out by the IFCO.

Censor John Kelleher says the results show people support the view that computer games have a greater impact on those who play them than films or DVDs.

The findings come ahead of a debate in UCC tonight about whether violent games should be more strictly regulated.

Kelleher points out that in his five years in the job, some 7,000 computer games have been released and only one has been banned. He says that while the results of the poll are encouraging from the point of view of the decision to ban Manhunt 2 , he does not see them as a licence to ban other titles.

 

15th February
2008
  

Offsite: On the Trail of Manhunt 2...

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BBC News speculate about Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 game cover Manhunt 2 is the most controversial video game in history. Banned last June by the British Board of Film Classification, it is at the centre of a legal row that is defining what is and what is not acceptable in video games. But what makes this game so objectionable?

...

Copies of the game can be bought on eBay from US sellers. But in order to play it I had to visit the developer's London offices in person and be shown the US copy of the title.

Before playing the game I sat through two of the most violent films of recent years - Saw and its sequel.

After about two hours playing Manhunt 2 , it is impossible to argue with the BBFC's assessment that the game is unremittingly bleak and callous.

But the violence is stylised - and not particularly real. The deaths play out as mini-scenes reminiscent of action in the current crop of horror movies that are doing so well at the box office, such as Hostel , Cabin Fever and the two titles I had watched.

And the amount of killing in the game is no greater than in any number of titles that have been released in the last 12 months - from Call of Duty 4 to Bioshock .

...

There is currently a voluntary system, called PEGI, which sits alongside BBFC ratings in the UK. Dr Tanya Byron, who is conducting a review of video games and their impact on children, is believed to favour PEGI replacing the BBFC.

One game developer told BBC News that he believed the Manhunt 2 controversy was "the BBFC trying to prove it has teeth in an attempt to avoid being pushed out of the way in favour of PEGI".

...Read the full article

 

24th February
2008
  

Diary: VAC Re-Appeal on 11th March...

Meanwhile get Manhunt 2 via eBay

Manhunt 2 game cover The VAC is due to begin reconsidering its Manhunt 2 decision on March 11

Censors are trying to ban a violent video game, but flouting the law is easy.

A few clicks of a mouse was all it took to buy one of the most unpleasant, gruesome video games that has ever been released.

It is so grim that the title has been banned by the BBFC, despite which it's readily available to purchase on the internet. I found it on eBay for £32 including delivery.

For what it's worth, the game is dreadful, with bad graphics, jittery camera work and simplistic gameplay. However, the unrelenting, sadistic violence and the fact that it is so easy to buy (despite it currently being illegal to sell the game in the UK), raises disturbing questions about the process by which video games are classified.

Last month a High Court judge ordered the VAC to rethink its verdict on the premise that the committee had misinterpreted the law. The VAC is due to begin reconsidering on March 11, but there's no guarantee it will change its mind. If it sticks by its decision, you can expect to see Manhunt 2 on sale legally shortly afterwards.

 

15th March
2008
  

Update: Entirely Unsuitable for the BBFC...

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Manhunt 2 given 18 certificate after success at reconvened appeal

Manhunt 2 game cover The cut M rated version has been passed uncut after a successful appeal to the reconvened Video Appeals Committee:

The BBFC issued the following press release:

The Video Appeals Committee announced that the result of their reconsideration of the Manhunt 2 appeal remains that the appeal against the rejection of the work by the BBFC is upheld.

The Board’s decision to refuse a certificate to Manhunt 2 was successfully challenged on appeal to the Video Appeals Committee. The Board challenged the VAC’s decision by way of Judicial Review before the High Court, which quashed the decision on grounds of errors of law. The VAC has now reconsidered the appeal in the light of the High Court’s directions on the law but has decided, again by a majority of four to three, to allow the appeal on the basis that Manhunt 2 should be given an ‘18’ certificate.

In the light of legal advice the Board does not believe the VAC’s judgement provides a realistic basis for a further challenge to its decision and has accordingly issued an ‘18’ certificate.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: As I have said previously, we never take rejection decisions lightly, and they always involve a complex balance of considerations. We twice rejected Manhunt 2, and then pursued a judicial review challenge, because we considered, after exceptionally thorough examination, that it posed a real potential harm risk. However, the Video Appeals Committee has again exercised its independent scrutiny. It is now clear, in the light of this decision, and our legal advice, that we have no alternative but to issue an ‘18’ certificate to the game.

The BBFC also provided a statement about the 18 certificate:

MANHUNT 2 is a violent action game based on a psychological-horror theme. The player takes on the role of Daniel Lamb, a seemingly disturbed patient in a mental facility, who escapes from the institution in an effort to discover who he really is. As he progresses through various environments collecting clues and information about his identity, he is confronted by numerous thugs employed by "The Project"; a secretive experimental organisation, whom he must either evade or kill in order to ensure his own survival.

MANHUNT 2 has been classified '18' for very strong bloody and sadistic violence, which takes the form of stealth executions. In order to successfully despatch a target, the player-character must creep up behind the victim quietly and kill before he is discovered. The killings are achieved through a number of common items such as syringes, glass shards, pens, crowbars, spades, power-saws, clubs, baseball bats, axes, pliers and, later on in the game, firearms. Each killing is graphically portrayed as a brief video scene where weapons are seen to impact on various parts of the victim's body coupled to realistic sound effects and blood spurts. The cumulative effect of these killings creates a very strong impression of almost continuous violence and horror which is too strong to be contained at any category below '18'. The game is entirely unsuitable for anyone below this age.

Rockstar Pleased

See full article from GamesIndustry.biz

Rockstar is now working towards a new release date for the title in the UK.

We are pleased that the VAC has reaffirmed its decision recognizing that Manhunt 2 is well within the bounds established by other 18-plus rated entertainment, a company statement read.

The version of the game to be released in the UK has been confirmed as the cut version currently available in the US under a Mature rating - the version which was rejected by the BBFC the second time around.

A Rockstar spokesperson told GamesIndustry.biz that due to the news of the VAC's decision only breaking earlier today, no official decision had yet been made on a release date, but discussions were expected to take place shortly.

Government Staying Out of It

See full article from GamesIndustry.biz

The UK government's Department for Culture, Media and Sport has told GamesIndustry.biz that it has no plans at the moment to intervene in the planned release of Manhunt 2 in the UK.

"The classification of Manhunt 2 is a matter for the BBFC and the Video Appeals Committee," said a spokesperson, after today's news that the VAC had reaffirmed its decision to back Rockstar in an appeal over the BBFC's refusal to certify the game.

"It is important to note that there is no conclusive evidence of any link between playing computer games and violent behaviour in real life," the spokesperson continued. "Our concern is to make sure that inappropriate material is kept away from children.

 

16th April
2008
  

Offsite: BBFC Less Harmless...

BBFC feel justified in censoring at lesser levels of harm

Manhunt 2 game cover MCV have interviewed David Cooke, Director of the BBFC about the Manhunt 2 appeal.

Most of the interview is about the trials and tribulations of rating Manhunt 2 and then being challenged via the Video Appeals Committee.

But one rather worrying statement stands out. The BBFC now feel that the test of 'harm' is not set so high as the BBFC once thought.

David Cooke said:

"We actually got a fairly substantial benefit from the Manhunt episode. We went to the High Court, and it clarified the harm test – actually a benefit that flies across a whole range of games and film. It all gets quite technical, but for instance, it said it was not necessary for us to show devastating effect, which was what the arguments had said previously. So we've ended up with a clearer legal definition of that test than we had before the case started".

Sounds as if the BBFC will now think they can be justified in censoring at lesser levels of harm.

...Read the full interview

 

4th October
2008
  

Update: Manhunt Begins...

Manhunt 2 finally set for release on 31st October

Rockstar finally gets to release Manhunt 2 (Wii, PSP) in the UK. UK gamers can expect the game to hit shelves on October 31.

This is the cut version of the game that was released in North America exactly a year ago.

The “original” version of Manhunt 2 first submitted to the BBFC is still banned.

Hackers later managed to find a code that will partially lift the game's censorship. Wonder if Rockstar was able to close that 'loophole' for the UK release.

 

2nd November
2009
  

Update: Adults Only...

Uncut Manhunt 2 set for release on PC in North America

Rockstar Games Manhunt 2 PS2 If you're still wondering two years after the game's release exactly what the Adults Only version of Manhunt 2 would have looked like, you'll finally have your chance to see it on Tuesday. The Adults Only (AO) rated version of Rockstar's Manhunt 2 will be released for the PC via download through Direct2Drive for $29.95 on 6th November.

This release is limited to Mexico, US, & Canada