'Casually sadistic' video game banned in UK

A sequel to violent video game 'Manhunt' has been banned in Britain, it was announced today.

A sequel to violent video game 'Manhunt' has been banned in Britain, it was announced today.

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rejected 'Manhunt 2' on the grounds of its "casual sadism" and "unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying".

The game "constantly encourages visceral killing", it said.

The BBFC's ruling means the game cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK.

It is the first video game to be refused a classification since 1997.

David Cooke, director of the BBFC, said: "Rejecting a work is a very serious action and one which we do not take lightly. Where possible we try to consider cuts or, in the case of games, modifications which remove the material which contravenes the Board's published guidelines.

"In the case of 'Manhunt 2', this has not been possible.

"'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."

The original 'Manhunt' game was given an 18 classification in 2003 and was "at the very top end of what the Board judged to be acceptable at that category", he said.

"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," Cooke explained.

"Against this background, the Board's carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to 'Manhunt 2', on either platform, would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks to both adults and minors within the terms of the Video Recordings Act."

'Manhunt 2', for PS2 and Nintendo Wii consoles, is made by Rockstar Games.

The company has six weeks to submit an appeal.

The last game to be refused classification was 'Carmageddon' in 1997. The BBFC's decision was overturned on appeal.

The original 'Manhunt' game caused huge controversy and was blamed for the murder of a 14-year-old schoolboy.

Stefan Pakeerah was stabbed and beaten to death in Leicester in February 2004.

His parents believe the killer, Warren LeBlanc, 17, was inspired by the game.

Police and lawyers involved in the trial said there was no evidence that 'Manhunt' had played a part in the murder.

Stefan's mother, Giselle Pakeerah, had condemned the sequel, branding the gaming industry "morally irresponsible".

Mrs Pakeerah said today that she was "absolutely elated" that the game had been banned.

"We have been campaigning against these games for a long time and the BBFC made the right decision," she said.

"I think it sends a message that we do have standards and we are not an amoral society. Why don't these companies invest their energies into creating material that is helpful to society?

"'Manhunt' represents a genre of games that are not, in my view and the views of many other people, fit for public consumption. The imagery they depict is of human suffering and violence. It is brutality for brutality's sake."

The Entertainment Leisure Software Publishers Association (Elspa) represents the computer and video games industry.

Elspa director-general Paul Jackson said: "A decision from the BBFC such as this demonstrates that we have a games ratings system in the UK that is effective. It shows it works and works well. Any decision the BBFC takes, it takes on the basis of its remit to rate on-screen entertainment.

"The games industry is a creative phenomenon that produces all kinds of games across all kinds of genres that appeal to all kinds of people across the country, young and old, male and female. The important thing to know is that all games are rated according to age suitability, with over 70% of games being available to all ages over three years."

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