So, since Manhunt 2’s release date seems conspicuous by it’s absence from all official Take-Two release schedules, are we to assume that the troubled software house have, albeit temporarily, given in to censorship pressure? This amidst news of a sharp decline in the value of Take-Two shares and a possible delay in GTA IV’s release due to ‘technical challenges’ have contributed to what could be described as a less-than-optimal week for Take-Two, and their investors – you know, those guys in suits with yachts that like money and don’t like video games.
However, the lack of a solid release date (or any news as to Take-Two’s appeal against the BBFC’s ruling) seem to highlight an interesting point made by Take-Two’s Strauss Zelnick in an interview with Dean Takahashi regarding marketing games exclusively at an adult market:
“It’s a concern that we think a different standard may be applied to interactive entertainment than to linear entertainment. Manhunt 2 is set squarely in the horror genre for people over 17. It’s horrifying. We think it is no more graphic than the first Manhunt. Perhaps the only lesson is that one’s expectations aren’t always borne out in these situations.
Personally, I think this raises a valid point – the very fact that retailers refuse to carry titles ESRB-marked as ‘Adult Only’ indicates undue favoritism towards titles intended for a wider audience. Surely this would be akin to retailers refusing to carry videos and DVD’s of adult content such as horror movies, whereas horror games seem to be judged differently – a lucrative market demographic, yet deemed inappropriate for sale alongside titles less ‘horrifying’. It just doesn’t make sense, especially as current trends within and attitudes towards violent movies seem to be relaxing in terms of what is deemed ‘acceptable’. And just who the hell gets to decide what is ‘acceptable’? And for whom?
Is the ‘different standard’ that seemingly applies to interactive as opposed to linear entertainment that Zelnick refers to in the interview a result in the player’s direct involvement in the events that unfold on-screen? One could argue (were one so inclined) that ‘linear’ forms of entertainment could adversely affect individuals prone to violent outbursts, due to the indirect nature of the protagonist’s actions – surely if a player can actively decide what the character can do, this would be a more effective outlet for their darker urges than something where they are forced to merely view such actions, such as violent movies and television shows? The very nature of the BBFC’s decision to ban Manhunt 2 in the UK indicates that they take the view that often repeatedly seeing horrific, violent acts is acceptable whereas interacting and controlling horrific, violent acts is not, with little or no explanation of the basis for their stance on the matter, especially in light of the tragic case of Stefan Pakeerah in which the extent of the first Manhunt game’s involvement in the murder was closely scrutinized. To quote a spokesperson for the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers’ Association that commented on the case;
“We sympathise enormously with the family and parents of Stefan Pakeerah. However, we reject any suggestion or association between the tragic events and the sale of the video game Manhunt. The game in question is classified 18 by the British Board of Film Classification and therefore should not be in the possession of a juvenile. Simply being in someone’s possession does not and should not lead to the conclusion that a game is responsible for these tragic events.“
Personally, I’ll look forward to Manhunt 2’s release date with eager anticipation – not to play it, as I didn’t really care for the first game (a little too violent for my tastes), but as a testament to independent thought and personal responsibility, to show that anyone capable of buying a product ESRB-rated ‘adult only’ is entitled and able to make up their own mind as to what they watch, play, read and think.