Opinion: Thinking Manhunt 2 should be banned DOESN'T make you a reactionary idiot

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stu-mugshot2.jpgStuart Dredge writes…

The British Board of Film Classification’s recent decision to Manhunt 2 banned in the UK for “sustained and cumulative casual sadism””>refuse a certificate for Manhunt 2 – thus banning it from sale in the UK – has caused a predictably huge uproar among gamers and the mainstream media.

It’s outrageous censorship! The BBFC are clueless old farts who don’t ‘get’ games! If the film Hostel 2 gets an ’18’ certificate, then it’s discrimination not to give one to Manhunt 2 too! And so on.

But y’know what? Maybe Manhunt 2 deserves to be banned. Does saying that make me a card-carrying religious extremist hell-bent on castrating the games industry? Well, no.

I should get a few things straight. I haven’t played Manhunt 2, like many of the people who’ve weighed into the debate. But unlike them, I’m not going to foist my opinion on you about whether it should be banned or not. I don’t know.

manhunt2-column.jpgBut the important thing is this: it’s a legitimate debate. Games have grown up immeasurably in the last two decades, to the point where they can and should be considered as proper popular culture / art (Which? that’s a heated discussion in its own right) alongside books, films, music and Damien Hurst’s latest expensive wheeze.

You can’t have it both ways though. Censorship, for better or worse, is part of the deal. Check out the BBFC’s reasoning behind its decision, which is about as far from clueless old fartdom as you can get. It’s long, but worth reading again nonetheless.

“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,” said BBFC director David Cooke. “There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game.

“Although the difference should not be exaggerated the fact of the game’s unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying and the sheer lack of alternative pleasures on offer to the gamer, together with the different overall narrative context, contribute towards differentiating this submission from the original Manhunt game.”

That’s not reactionary logic. The BBFC has compared Manhunt 2 to its peers, and they’re talking about stuff like “tone” and “narrative context”. That’s a far cry from the hackneyed ‘Well, it might turn children into serial killers’ argument favoured by the anti-games lobby. Our modern proper grown-up games are facing proper, grown-up certification, just like films do.

Censors’ do get decisions wrong, and their standards shift over time. But all too often, gamers and elements within the games industry seem to expect a free pass when they encounter any official resistance to games’ boundary-pushing. “You can’t censor my game, because you don’t understand it”.

Well, bollocks, frankly. Maybe the reason Manhunt 2 has been banned is because they DO understand it. Maybe there is a line between acceptable and unacceptable violence in a game. You might not think the BBFC is the organisation to do it, but many of the arguments against Manhunt 2’s ban seem to boil down to the notion that nobody has the right to censor games except the developers themselves. And that’s just ridiculous.

There is a corking debate to be had comparing Manhunt 2 to films like Hostel 2, and whether the former is intrinsically worse because you control the killer, rather than the latter, where you just wallow in someone else doing the slaughtering (with added creepily moralistic subtext).

But the point is, it’s a debate. Censorship and certification isn’t an iron boot stomping on game developers’ creativity. It’s confirmation that games matter. Many of the people shouting about the Manhunt 2 ban are as blinkered as the right-wing anti-games lobbyists they claim to despise.

Related posts
Manhunt 2 fallout continues
Opinion: Manhunt 2’s not going to hurt anyone, you idiots
Manhunt 2 banned in the UK for “sustained and cumulative casual sadism”

Stuart Dredge

3 comments

  • Good article,well written.The ultimate censor is a good parent. If the kids parents are doing they’re job then all of this censorship would be a non issue. I think most gamers are smart enough to separate reality from gaming.Although I will never walk down a street again without first looking for “cover” thanks css.If a child or an adult plays these violent video games and then proceeds to go out and shoot his neighbor,.If they do that,Then gaming is the least of they’re worries.But generally censors in both the United States and United Kingdom appear to be stogy old men who never even touched a computer or game console. Good read keep em’ coming

  • “nearly every game that has already been released or has to be released had better be removed from the shelves, because every game influences people in some way”

    Absolutely. Playing Viva Pinata made me wanna whack sweet filled donkey effigies with a stick. Ban this sick filth!

    Seriously though, there’s no guarantee that kids can’t get access to games they shouldn’t be playing/seeing.
    I’ve often been asked by kids in games shops to buy adult-rated games for them (I refuse of course) and I suspect this happens a lot. Never mind parental responsibility – I doubt their parents even know they have them.

  • well fair enough they say that everyone’s opinion matters and im not saying yours is wrong, but here is what i think.

    If this game is to be banned, then nearly every game that has already been released or has to be released had better be removed from the shelves, because every game influences people in some way, for instance War games what happens there ehhhh you have to shoot other people effectivly killing them, blowing them up ect, Racing games encouraging people to drive at ridiculous speeds, fighting games …need i say more but just for good measure horror games? yeah i think that is good enough….

    im not here to tell you dont listen to this guy and listen to me because this is the way he feels about it where as i belive that we ADULTS should have the decision as to if we want to play this game or not, We ADULTS should be able to walk into a shop and go “Oh here is that new game manhunt 2, i wonder if it is any good? i think il buy it and try it out and if i dont like it then i shall return it” or even how about walking into the same shop and going “Oh there is manhunt 2, i want to play this but i wont get a minutes peace to play it with my 3 year old running around”

    but again im not here to influence anyone im just wanting to get my point across

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