Once again, stuffy old people are afraid to count on free adults to distinguish for themselves the bold line between fictitious entertainment and really-real life. Low-resolution slaughterfest and high-profile hype-machine Manhunt 2 (slated for release on PS2, Wii, and PSP) is receiving the royal cold-shoulder from ratings boards across the globe, being banned so far in Ireland and the United Kingdom, and awarded the scarlet letters “AO” in the US. I’m sure the mania isn’t settled yet. Read on for the disheartening details of worldwide stupidity and my carefully formed, ojective rebuttal.
Yesterday, the British Board of Film Classification rejected Manhunt 2, refusing to rate the game and effectively making it illegal to sell in the United Kingdom. This is the first game in 10 years, since 1997’s Carmageddon, to be banned in the UK (A court appeal eventually overturned Carmageddon‘s ban). Here’s director of the BBFC, David Cooke’s thoughts on the subject:
“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.”
Shortly thereafter the Irish Film Censors Office (whom I assume to be Ireland-based) followed suit in banning the game, asserting “the level of gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence is unacceptable.”
We lucky citizens of the United States, who love nothing more than picking raw, human flesh from between our teeth and stabbing virtual innocents with our Wiimotes, are in luck. We get the game, but with the distribution-crippling “Adults Only” rating, handed down from Mt. Sinai by the ESRB. What this means to those of us over 18 is that major retailers like Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, etc. will likely refuse to carry the game, and we may have trouble getting our hands on the X-rated contraband.
It’s important to note movies like The Hills Have Eyes and Hostel when considering the “M” versus “AO” ratings in a video game. “M” is effectively an “R”‘-rating for a video game, while “AO” is an “X” or “NC-17”-rating. The two movies I’ve mentioned contain pornographic sadism, strong violence, realistic gore, rape in front of children, murder of parents in front of children, murder of children, torture with power tools, torture by realized threat of death, murder, casual sexual attitudes, nudity, drug and alcohol abuse, profanity, dismemberment, and I don’t remember what else. Both of these were given “R” ratings (“M” game equivalent) and shown in reputable theaters across the nation, yet somehow the ESRB sees fit to give Manhunt 2 a rating equivalent to that of hardcore pornography, the most frowned-upon taboo of moralistically self-opressed Americans. As far as I know, this game contains sadistic violence. I’m willing to accept that, and I agree it should be kept out of the hands of young children, but COME ON, PEOPLE! The real world needs to get real.
On a vaguely related note: It looks like all the controversy-skirting that Nintendo did in the 90’s, removing the blood from Mortal Kombat and all, is long past. If they wanted to present the Wii as an adult platform, I guess they’ve done it! I can’t wait for Mario Party: Hentai Orgy!