British Courts Still Targeting Manhunt Game

Dennis Faas's picture

Rockstar Games have failed in yet another bid to get the controversial Manhunt 2 video game on British shelves. A High Court judge has ruled that the game must go back to an appeals committee for a fresh evaluation.

The game was first banned in the United Kingdom last June when the British Board of Film Classifications (BBFC), which gives movie-style age ratings to video games, refused to give it a rating. This meant it could not legally be sold, the first such ban in 10 years. (Source:

At the time, the BBFC's director said the game's focus on violent killings was too strong. "There is sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which these killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game." The decision followed a 2004 murder in which the victim's parents blamed the original Manhunt game for inciting the killer. Police denied this claim and said robbery was the motive. (Source:

After the initial ban, Rockstar lodged an appeal with the Video Appeals Committee (VAC), arguing that other games with similar content had been approved. This appeal was successful.

However, the BBFC then went to the High Court to challenge the VAC decision. The High Court is Britain's second most senior court and deals with cases where the parties dispute the meaning of the law rather than the facts of the case. The BBFC argued that VAC had incorrectly interpreted the laws on video violence. (Source:

This week's ruling means the VAC will have to look again at the game, this time under much stricter guidelines. The main dispute is whether games that are clearly unsuitable for children should be banned if they are so violent that they could cause serious harm if they were to find their way into children's hands.

The irony of these repeated court cases is that technology could make the legal rulings irrelevant. If the game continues to be banned, it's possible Rockstar could simply distribute it as a download, which isn't covered by British laws. Chances are children would find it much easier to lie about their age online than in a retail store.

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