gamesindustry.biz Editor on Rockstar: Juvenile, Shameful, Irresponsible

June 23, 2007 -
In the wake of this week's controversy, it's clear that Manhunt 2's unprecedented level of violence has raised concerns even among some veteran game journalists. Hence Rob Fahey's pull-no-punches editorial in gamesindustry.biz:
This isn't a case of knee-jerk reaction to the controversy surrounding the first game... Besides which, the [British Board of Film Classification] doesn't succumb to knee-jerk reactions... Time and time again, the BBFC has shown that it understands and respects videogames.

In other words, with Manhunt 2, Rockstar has crossed the line - and crossed it at a full tilt run...  this is judgement of a classification board which has happily classified Hostel and Saw, and indeed, the first Manhunt game.

This is killing, maiming and torturing for the sake of it; this may, in fact, be the game which lives up to the shrill claims of the conservative wing that games are "murder simulators".

In making such a game Rockstar has been juvenile, shameful and irresponsible. The right of creators to push the boundaries of media and society must be balanced out against a simple sense of social responsibility - something with Rockstar seems to entirely lack.

Comments

For the most part I agree with this article. Keep in mind that no one, well not us or the writer anyway, is advocating censorship. What's being said is something I've mentioned a few times, which is simply this; just because you have the right to do a thing, in no way makes it the right thing to do.

Lets be honest here. R* and TT were making Manhunt 2 purely for the controversy, knowing full well the reaction that such a game would evoke. That's not responsible and its not mature by any definition. Its simply an attempt to stir up yet another hornets' nest and we for sure don't need that after all the bad press the gaming community has gotten over the years.

Once again, the only argument presented here is: "T3h BBFC sez it's wrong!!!11!" Well, duh. I know what they said and what their PERSONAL thoughts on the game are.

What I want to know is, what made them come to that decision? What was specifically in the game that nullifies its free speech protections? This isn't merely a rhetorical question. I want to know.

From the comments of most who have come out in support of the BBFC, it seems all of them have no problem with taking the BBFC at their word without researching their claims any further. This is the same thing the mainstream media does with Jack Thompson and the like. We shouldn't be doing that ourselves.

"You will find it useful to read our press release regarding our decision on
MANHUNT 2. This is also available on our main website under the section
entitled 'news', and then 'press'. The release is dated 19 June 2007.

You should be aware that HOSTEL 2 does not contain "actual violence" but a series of highly choreographed scenes involving actors, clever editing and expensive special effects. Our classification of the film would be quite
different if it did."

Well what the F*(K do you think video games are? They're certainly not real!

Jesus Christ on a jumping pogo stick!!!! I thought Europeans were supposed to be enlightened, intelligent individuals.

All this is proving is that you're a bigger of Nancyboys than the States are.

Well done gamesindustry.biz! Way to stand up for facism.

C*nts!

@bayushisan

I'm with you on the Manhunt 2 thing BUT it did seem to me like the writer of the article was saying that government censorship was O.K. I am probably wrong though.

Thing that confuses me is what Jack Straw said in Parliament yesterday to Vaz seems to go against the GGFC's statement that they are not influenced by Government opinion....

" As Home Secretary, I had responsibility for the British Board of Film Classification, which covered such videos and games. My right hon. Friend raises a very important issue, and I think that the concern he expresses is shared across the House.

We do not see sufficient social responsibility and understanding by the creators and purveyors of such games. I will of course ensure that my hon. Friend the Minister is made fully aware of my right hon. Friend’s concerns."

I've always been firmly of the opinion that the BBFC is independant, they themselves say so, that Government has no say over their policies. From the wording of that statement, it makes me wonder.

I also disagree with the editor, and does he not realize Rockstar usually makes games just for mature audiences?

What kind of bullshit is this? Even "fellow" gamers turn their back on the industry by saying such shit. I haven't see everything that there is to see in the game, obviously, but I can assure you the violence in movies like Hostel are far more realistic than Manhunt 2 could ever be, and those movie have no reason behind the murder of people either other then some rich sick assholes paying to slaughter people. That's it! We don't even know what the story to Manhunt 2 is yet, and they condemn it and say you only kill for the sake of killing. Well, how the hell are we supposed know that when they don't even have much info on the game? They just say it's extremely violent and that's it.

Why is it okay for other forms of media to do shit like this, but in video games it irresponsible and shameful, etc.? And people in the gaming industry just lay down and take it all without saying much in it's defence. They've made movies of 9/11 and everyone's acted like they were okay. But if you made a video game about it, that was respectable they'd still attack it. There is always a double standard going on, and it's pissing me off.

If Manhunt 2 isn't you sort of thing, fine. Don't play it. Don't buy it. Ignore it. But why is that because this is unacceptable to some it can be pretty much banned outright even when it's obviously not meant for anyone under the age of 17 or 18?

The editor of this article from gamebiz is a disgrace to the industry and so is everyone like minded for even thinking it's okay to ban the game.

He says that the killers kill "for the sake of it"... aren't they FORCED to kill?

Anyone who wants to sign a good petition (1000 + names) use the link below.

http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/manhunt2

thank you

I partially agree with the editor here. Artistic merit is in the eye of beholder. He doesn't seem to be arguing it's ok to ban it because of lack of merit, but he does seem to be saying it's not a big deal. I wish that Sony & Nintendo were a bit more open-minded, but it's their right not to be if they think it would be bad for business or they just don't want to. Government bans and effective bans like in Germany where you technically can sell it, but are not allow to inform consumers of its existance must be fought no matter what is targeted because once it's established the the government is the arbiter and enforcer of artistic merit, anything is fair game.

We do need to ask ourselves: Where do we draw the line if not here? If we're going to consider a game featuring castrating opponents with one's bare hands acceptable — this is important — what isn't acceptable?

Is V-Tech Massacre acceptable? Would it be more acceptable if Rockstar bought the rights to it and put out a version with better graphics? How about if they changed the names around and called it Z-Tech Massacre instead? Are those Nazi-made games about killing Jewish people fine too?

I personally think that we ought to pick our battles. Games like this just make us all look bad, especially when we jump so quickly to defend them. And what do they do for us? Name one positive thing that came out of Hot Coffee. Just one. Even if you're fully against censorship of any kind, you have to admit that, on a practical level, throwing Hot Coffee into the game, just for its own sake, did the entire industry immeasurable harm without the slightest shred of good to go with it.

Pushing the envelope just for the sake of pushing the envelope isn't enough. Anyone can do that. You can always make something more violent or cruel. But if you're going to do that, have a point. Have more substance there than just violence for the sake of violence. GTA had violence aplenty, but it also had a revolutionary new style of gameplay. Manhunt had violence, and also had...more violence.

Rockstar's top brass have a reputation throughout the industry for being world class assholes, and what they're doing here is the industry's equivalent of trolling; acting like asses and stirring up trouble just to get attention. Really, at this point, the only difference between the Manhunt developers and Ryan Lambourn is that the Manhunt developers have jobs.

Ryan: Since it is illegal to sell games without a BBFC rating, refusing classification does ban it.

Wow, ya'll are finally understanding that video games can be "murder simulators." I predicted six months ago that Manhunt 2 would not be released, and I was leading the charge to make sure that occurred.

I am delighted. I am vindicated. I am right again.

Jack Thompson, Attorney and You're Not

no, not giving it a rating isn't technically banning it, I read somethign on this a while ago. Its something boards have been known to use so they don't "ban" something and thus don't look as bad as they are

@Jack Thompson

Speaking of world class assholes... :p

When did you show up?

I see no difference in the imagery of countless of slasher movies and horror flicks and the level of "slash" seen in videogames.

If you respect movies with such high level of gore, then you should allow videogames as well.
Rockstar is not obliged to anything in that matter. Making a horrormovie can be done, but a slasher game can't ?

Censorship is still censorship and this editor lost the plot. He should be ashamed of himself, considering that the same freedom of speech issue is adament for journalists and editors alike.

What f***ing social responsibility?

Why is it that video games need to be "socially responsible" while movies or music don't?

Why is it that a game journalist is writing this garbage?

It's idiocy. I may not like, buy or appreciate Manhunt 2, but to call on the developer to show social responsibility is ridiculous.

Why would they need to do that?

I hope not because by not doing that they'll reflect badly on the video game industry as whole. That would just be such a bullshit reason I can't even fathom anyone other than people with external agendas making that argument seriously. Why would anyone working within the industry even think this way? It's like condemning music, because Marilyn Manson is a "devil worshipper".

If the author is saying that because he feels like that's what everyone should do, not just video game developers, then I'm seriously questioning his perspective on things. It's just a video game, not an instructional video on how to kill people.

Either way, the author of that opinion piece is blowing smoke out of his ass.

'I am delighted. I am vindicated. I am right again.'

Trans: Woohoo, I made 3000 predictions and one came true!

Anyway, that's not Jack, no Press Release.

Its stupid though, we the consumers should make our minds for ourselves. Just like we do with life. We don't have people forcing us to do things. Sure the law tries to regulate and it does get broken as an example in comparison, but if this thing never gets produced for UK then its not even like taht because we don't get a choice! We have free speech - give us our game!

come to think of it, whats always struck me is why has no one REALLY persistently gone after the chainsaw-on-the-end-of-your-gun Gears of War?

I thought dennis screened comments and had Jack IP banned to prevent this sort of crap form happning again...

We have free speech - give us our game!

There are plenty of better games out there already, Nick. Nobody needs this one. Least of all the game industry; they've got enough to put up with already, and the last thing anyone needs is for Rockstar to be throwing gasoline on the fire like this.

Grombar, the point is while we can draw a line of what is acceptable, no one should have the power to draw the line as to what is allowed beyond their own platforms and stores. Open platforms and marketplaces like Windows I really have nothing good to say about V-Tech Massacre, but if there were some move to legally stop it from being distributed for objectionability (as opposed to copyright) I would defend it.

In short, anything goes. You don't have to like it. You don't have to buy it. You don't have to carry it in your store on on your platform, but no one gets to tell anyone else what they are allowed to like or buy from others.

@Ryan

Then why are horrormovies not scutinized for their lack of social responsibility ?

Goverments should not be allowed to draw any line toward artistic freedom, their job is protecting artistic freedom. That's the REAL social responsibility.
You may not like it, but then don't buy it.

See, what confuses people is the difference between (1) freedom of expression, and (2) freedom from the consequences of that expression. The first one, you have; the second, you don't.

In other words, you can walk up a gang, call them all names, and double-dare them to shoot you, but if they oblige, don't bother crying about free speech on the way to the hospital.

Likewise, if Rockstar wants to spend its money on a game that's designed to provoke people, people will get provoked, and they'll respond. Nintendo has no obligation to host that game on their machine, any more than you or I would be obligated to let a drunken, violent asshole join your house party.

What some people want is freedom without the responsibility that comes with that freedom. The responsibility for one's actions; people don't like that part, so they want to imagine that they're "free" of it.

Doesn't work that way.

Ryan, so technically the BBFC didn't ban it. The UK government banned it based on the BBFC's decision. That doesn't make it any less banned. What's your point? You seem to be trying to rebut something no one is actually saying.

"Then why are horrormovies not scutinized for their lack of social responsibility?"

Because the movie industry works consistently to defend itself against such bullshit, and the video game industry doesn't. Instead the video game industry goes out of its way to kiss ass trying to avoid a fight they should've had a LONG time ago.

Grow some balls. That goes double for Gameindustry.biz and ESA.

Jack, if that is you (and I doubt it since Dennis permabanned you) know this, those of us that do support the decision of the ESRB do so not because we agree with you, but because the decision was arrived at soley by them and not due to any pressure from you or other groups. This was a business decision. You have long criticized the ESRB for not doing their job ever since Hot Coffe. Well now they've done it, and without your input I might add.

Secondly, the difference between games like GTA and Bully was that often there were choices as to what you did or did not want to do. If you wanted to kill cops in GTA, you could do that, but it wasn't necessary to win the game and is in fact counter-productive. If anything, you want to AVOID killing cops so as not attract attention to yourself so you can finish the missions you have been assigned.

Furthermore, we have something called a sense of humor; something which you utterly lack. Both GTA and Bully have something called satire and social commentary, which gave what violence there was a point. Something which the Manhunt games do not do.

Finally, we already know that your real goal is to ban all violent video games regardless. You just simply use the "protect the children" smokescreen to hide it as any good religious fanatic would. The only thing that would be really agreed upon here is that this was a game that didn't need to be made and that Rockstar crossed the line. However, while you advocate censorship with your demagoguery, we have always advocated that the industry police itself without outside pressure. What happened this week for the most part was the way it SHOULD be done, not yours.

Just be happy the decision and shut the hell up, asshole.

@grombar:

Your comparison is moot. Considering this is not a person insulting a murderous gang, but a company that release a piece of media with images that may or may not be excepted by others. It is not the same.

If made a painting of a bloodgore fest, people may get provoked. But they still are not allowed to destroy that painting.
If you don't like it, then don't. The painter does not have the responsibility to make a painting that everyone likes.

@Pixelantes Anonymous

The only way to win the fight you're talking about, in the public eye, is to prove that games have real merit.

Games like Manhunt 2, which get all the attention, because that's what they're designed to do, run completely counter to that.

Rockstar isn't doing anyone any favors here. It's hurting the entire industry more than you know.

People seem to be largely past each other. Some peopel are talking about whether anyone should have the power to ban things whereas others are talking about the right to condemn things, which aren't really the same at all.

@DoggySpew

Three years ago, a fan of Fred Phelps, named Bart McQueary, went to a restaurant where a girl who died of AIDS used to work. He brought a sign that proclaimed that God hated the girl, and that she was burning in hell. Her friends took his sign and smashed it.

He sued them for destroying his sign.

Who was in the right?

@grombar

Games already have merit, because it is a piece of media. And media should be protected by politicians, or at least ignored.
Like I said before, Rockstar does not have responsibility to make something everyone likes. Heck, they don't even have a responsibility to make a game that ANYONE likes

Grambar: Why does anyone have to be in the right? People certainly don't have the right to destroy the property of others, but they also don't have the right to trespass so if he'd been told to leave, he was also wrong.

Or to use your murderous gang example, if someone gets stabbed for mouthing off to street toughs, does that mean that they are right to stab such a person because they should have seen it coming?

@grombar again (I wish there was an edit button)

The man was in its right to sue, because his freedom was impaired.
On the other hand, the friends and family could've gone to court and sueing him for slander. They still had not the right to destroy his sign.

This is like the same comparison you did with someone insulting a gang.

Rockstar did not openly insult people. No actual insults were made. Insulting people and make a controversial piece of media are 2 different things. But both are still freedom of speech issues.

But yes, it is complicated.

@ Jack Thompson

Go fuck yourself pal. Hiding behind your self righteous bullshit.

@Rob

Don't feed the troll.

Games already have merit, because it is a piece of media.

Just being a piece of media doesn't give anything merit, DoggySpew. Bart McQueary's sign was a piece of media. A Klansman's burning cross is a piece of media. The vilest, most illegal porn you could ever conceive is still a piece of media.

What we need to prove is that games are better than that. And again, Rockstar is doing the opposite of helping. Has been for years.

If someone gets stabbed for mouthing off to street toughs, does that mean that they are right to stab such a person because they should have seen it coming?

Was the alligator at that Chinese zoo "right" for eating the stupid kid who climbed over its fence and kept poking it with a stick? There's right and wrong, and then there are natural consequences for one's actions.

If you go out of your way to deliberately provoke people, you cannot cry and play the victim after they react.

"Rockstar did not openly insult people. No actual insults were made."

They're insulting the gamers intelligence by making a game like that.

@DoggySpew

You really think he was right to sue? Over his cardboard sign about a dead girl burning in hell?

This is how Fred Phelps makes his money. He uses the most revolting — but still technically legal — methods imaginable to provoke people (his latest trick is telling the families of dead soldiers that their children are in hell), then angering them until they get into positions where he can sue them.

Do you really think that's okay?

@Grombar: Alligators don't have moral obligations. People and governments, which are made of people, do. I will say Rockstar is in the wrong here, not for any social reason, but because they were under contract to not get an AO rating and then apparently made no effort not to get one. It's not like Sony & Nintendo just sprung this on them. On the other hand, the situation in the UK wasn't the result of any agreement Rockstar entered into, but imposed from above, making it wrong.

Well, the UK's always been stricter with censorship, and not just on games. They have a long history of banning or editing horror films, in particular; there's a list they call "video nasties" of movies they've banned.

Not saying they're right or wrong; that's just how they do things over there.

@grombar

I beg to differ. Granted, in the US, something works different then here.
I don't know who Bart McQueary is, but whatever sign he made, it still got merrit. Heck, even those bastard sons of bitches of the KKK's cross burning got merit (and is actually allowed in the US, BECAUSE OF FREEDOM OF SPEECH).

Illegal porn however is the exception, but it still has merit as media. But not as illegal porn (because that is illegal).
Violence, however is not illegal in media.

Oh, and do not compare the actions of a non-sapient being of that of a human being. That's comparing apples with coconuts.

@Ryan why do games have any obligation to have merit? Who is the ultimate arbiter of that merit?

@Grombar, yes. You are deliberately ignoring the difference between somethign between rights in the legal sense and being right in the sense of being laudable. The short version is your obligations don't end because someone pisses you off. Fred Phelps may be a jerk, but if isn't infringing on any of your rights, then he should be allowed to do so.

@Ryan:

I notice you say games are worse than movies because of the interactivity. Perhaps you missed the BBFC statement that it was the interactivity that made them less of a problem than movies?

The Hostel 2 comment doesn't make any sense when they just released the other statement recently. spin spin spin.

@grombar on Phelps.

It is not okay, but it still was in his right. And that's the point.
Whatever one says or on makes, no one has the right to take away his/her speech.

That there will be consequences does not matter, because those consequence can never be the taking away of speech.

I'm curious, DoggySpew: What exactly is your definition of "merit"?

Ace: Why should he be allowed to do so? Because he isn't technically breaking any laws? Would changing the law suddenly make what he does no longer okay? Would something extreme and reprehensible suddenly be okay if it were made legal?

@Lard
“You will find it useful to read our press release regarding our decision on
MANHUNT 2. This is also available on our main website under the section
entitled ‘news’, and then ‘press’. The release is dated 19 June 2007.

You should be aware that HOSTEL 2 does not contain “actual violence” but a series of highly choreographed scenes involving actors, clever editing and expensive special effects. Our classification of the film would be quite
different if it did.”

oh god, please don't tell me that is actually what the BBFC said about Hostel2 being ok and Manhunt2 not being ok... that is seriously messed up. How the hell is computer generated characters getting harmed considered "actual violence"?! seriously that is absolutely nothing actual about it, it doesn't even look real. Hell, compared between the too, Hostel is actually worse seeing as, despite the lack of "actual violence", the use of live actors and modern day special effects make the violence seem as close to real as you can possibly get; where as the violence in any video game to date still looks fake since it still involves 3d animation, which has yet to reach up to match real life in terms of appearance...

@Ryan

"Also, with the BBFC at least, it isn’t games CAN’T do it (as I’ve said on a previous news story, they passed the first with an 18 no problems, no outcry, and again are usually in support of games being considered adult entertainment). One major difference between films and games that nullifies that argument is that games are interactive. YOU are performing the kills (on Wii, quite literally). You are not an uncomfortable observer like in hostel or saw, but a happy participant, which is where things change dramatically."

Actually, the "games are interactive" arguement, isn't one that really nulliffies the arguement as clearly as you may think... According to one of the BBFC's OWN studies....

"Gamers appear to forget they are playing games less readily than film goers forget they are watching a film because they have to participate in the game for it to proceed. They appear to non-games players to be engrossed in what they are doing, but, they are concentrating on making progress, and are unlikely to be emotionally involved;

Violence in games, in the sense of eliminating obstacles, is built into the structure of some games and is necessary to progress through the game. It contributes to the tension because gamers are not just shooting, they are vulnerable to being shot and most gamers are concentrating on their own survival rather than the damage they are inflicting on the characters in the game. While there is an appeal in being able to be violent without being vulnerable to the consequences which similar actions in real life would create, gamers are aware that they are playing a game and that it is not real life;

Gamers are virtually unanimous in rejecting the suggestion that video games encourage people to be violent in real life or that they have become desensitised. They see no evidence in themselves or their friends who play games that they have become more violent in real life. As one participant said: "I no more feel that I have actually scored a goal than I do that I have actually killed someone. I know it's not real. The emphasis is on achievement.

We were particularly interested to see that this research suggests that, far from having a potentially negative impact on the reaction of the player, the very fact that they have to interact with the game seems to keep them more firmly rooted in reality. People who do not play games raise concerns about their engrossing nature, assuming that players are also emotionally engrossed. This research suggests the opposite; a range of factors seems to make them less emotionally involving than film or television. The adversaries which players have to eliminate have no personality and so are not real and their destruction is therefore not real, regardless of how violent that destruction might be. This firm grasp on reality seems to extend to younger players."

in short, Simply saying games are interactive and therefore must be treated worse than films is something that is should be in serious question... cause from what it sounds like, violent movies may very well be the wrose of the too mediums in that reguard... Hell, i know i've noticed myself to be much more effected mentally when watching a film more so when ever playing a video game. Crying, laughing, cringing in fear, etc, are all things i do more often when watching a film than when playing a video game.

@grombar

Merit as in "has value". But since we are talking about free speech here, speech itself has value because it is protected. It may differ in "merit" (for instance, Nazi speech is off no merit for the jews, but of great merit for the Neo-Nazi's).

Videogames have merit because they are speech. Manhunt 2 has merit because of that.

Freedom of speech has never been absolute, DoggySpew. The classic example is that it's illegal to falsely yell "Fire!" in a crowded theater, because that usually ends with someone getting trampled. You can't make death threats; GameLife's Andrew Rosenblum was arrested a few months ago for threatening to murder an ex-girlfriend and her family. You can't overtly incite people to commit crimes, whether that's convincing a mob to torch a building or hiring a hitman. You can't lie under oath. And so on.

Here's another example: In Rwanda, just before the mid-90s genocide, a popular radio station called RTLM started bombarding its listeners with hate messages against the Tutsi tribe. When the Hutus started slaughtering the Tutsis, RTLM encouraged them, providing the killers with encouragement, instructions and directions. The U.S. considered jamming the radio waves, but decided not to — so as not to obstruct their freedom of speech.

And that goes to show you: Sometimes, too much tolerance can do just as much damage as too little. What it takes to make the right call is human discretion, not absolutes.
 
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