I find myself in a rather unique position as I've played Manhunt 2 and I really don't like it that much. However, having mulled over this now for a while, I vehemently disagree with the BBFC's decision to refuse certification.
The reason I don't like the game so much is not because of the violence, but because I'm not really so much a fan of the horror genre. I rarely watch horror movies and the brief (incredibly gruesome) clips I've seen of Saw III and Hostel II were enough for me. I have less inclination to see those movies than I do to play through Manhunt 2.
However, I strongly believe we need to communicate to the games industry that we should be rallying round and supporting Rockstar in any attempts the company might make to have the BBFC's decision overturned by the Video Appeals Committee. I also think that ELSPA's move to take sides and agree with the BBFC's position was, while not very surprising, deeply misjudged.
Manhunt 2 should clearly have an 18-rating and not be sold to minors. Most adult gamers and people in the games industry I've spoken to are pretty much agreed on this. Most, in private, are also pretty shocked by the erosion of civil liberties that the BBFC (and now in the US, the ESRB) effectively banning the game represents. However, many, for whatever reasons, are less happy to voice these opinions in public.
Here is the bottom line. I have played Manhunt 2 and I don't really like it. I won't be recommending it to friends (and certainly not to younger family members). But I can see that it works as a game and that fans of the horror genre will get some enjoyment out of it.
As responsible adult gamers and as an industry we need to work with and encourage ELSPA, PEGI and the BBFC to better educate parents (and retailers) about age-ratings and improving the ways in which they enforces and police sales of 18-rated games in particular.
So let's help ELSPA prove to renegade retailers that selling 18-rated games to minors is against the law. Clearly no adult gamer in their right mind wants to see a child or a young teenager playing Manhunt 2. Just as no adult horror movie fan would want to see a child watching Saw III or Hostel II.
If I found out that somebody had sold Manhunt 2 to my 11-year-old nephew (who, of course, desperately wants to play it now after all the recent adverse publicity) then I would be tempted to smash the shop owners' face in. And I'm a pacifist. Even though I've played Manhunt 2.
Perhaps my new-found anger is a result of me being exposed to this morally destructive game. I doubt it. It's more to do with our industry's apparent refusal to recognise that the banning of Manhunt 2 sets a dangerous precedent for our future freedoms as gamers and indeed as game-creators. I may disagree with what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it” goes the popular quote.
I urge everybody to log on to the Prime Minister's website and sign the online petition. It sums up the argument neatly: The BBFC have recently refused to rate the videogame Manhunt 2. Adults in this country will never be allowed to play this game. Adults should be allowed to make their own decisions with regard to what video games they want to play.”
Sign up here.