Activision's Modern Warfare 2 was heavily criticised by UK religious leaders from across the belief spectrum on BBC One yesterday.
Speaking on morning TV programme The Big Questions – which carried the query: Are Violent Video Games Damaging to Society? – Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders all hit out at the game.
The title has drawn notable controversy for its violent content and infamous ‘airport scene' – in which gamers play the role of a CIA agent, acting undercover as a terrorist.
Chief executive of the London Jewish Forum Alex Goldberg told presenter Nicky Campbell and the studio audience:
Surely this [scene] puts the gamer in the position of being a terrorist? The whole plot here is that it's a military commander – whatever – who doesn't want to blow his cover, so he blows up innocent civilians. We're asking gamers to be put in that situation.
We fudge this issue about children time and time again throughout this debate. Let's face it – it's children playing this game. In the Holy scriptures, when Cain kills Abel, God asks him one question: Are you your brother's keeper? The rest of the bible is an answer to that – and it's a big yes. When I play this game I don't get that answer – I get upset.”
Fazan Mohammed of the British Muslim Forum added:
You can't equate it with watching TV or a movie or reading a book. This is a much more intimate experience. You're mentally playing out the effects of violence. A lot of people make the excuse that this is sport – that it's just entertainment. But Joseph Goebbels – the propaganda minister of Nazi Germany – said his entertainment did more for the German people, in terms of creating the psyche for war and hostility towards others, than the speeches of Adolf Hitler. The idea this is entertainment is not justification whatsoever.”
And the retired Bishop of Hulme, the Rt. Reverend Stephen Lowe – himself a proud fan of World Of Warcraft – said that the airport scene should have been cut out by the BBFC. He commented:
If you are in that role, which is a terrorist in a game killing other people with massive violence coming back at you on the screen, and [you're getting a] thrill from that, I think that's actually sick. We need to sort that out.
I don't think it should be in a game, because gaming for me is not about that sort of process. When I was young, [society was] worried about horror comics – because they were going to pollute the minds of young people and make them violent. This is very different from that; this is taking on the role of a terrorist in a way that relates to the news – what we actually see on our [TV] screens. That is fundamentally different. It somehow says: ‘Maybe this is all right.' It isn't.”
Other critics of the game that appeared on the show included Miranda Suit of anti-obscenity pressure group Mediamarch, who called for better regulation of violent video games.
TV agony aunt Jennifer Trent-Hughes said that witnessing a video of the airport section made her cry.
I felt sick to my stomach and I was frightened,” she said. People are screaming, there's blood splattering all over the screen. It is absolutely awful. I sat there with my son, who's 15, and he was like [covers eyes].”
However, the title was defended by Staffordshire University ‘games design expert' Dr Bobbie Fletcher and Future Publishing's James Binns.
Binns said: You need to see it in the same way you'd see a movie, TV show or book. There are movies, books and TV shows for kids, and there are those for adults. This is an adult piece of entertainment.
We can make all entertainment for children, or we can take proper steps to try and protect children from adult entertainment.”