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31st December   

Comment: Unnecessary...

Brazier's BBFC accountability bill
Link Here  full story: BBFC Parliamentary Accountability...Julian Brazier BBFC Bill

Julian Brazier Regarding Brazier's BBFC Accountability bill, I actually emailed the BBFC about this, asking if they were going to respond and take up issue with him over this.

Whilst they didn't go into detail, saying they would be responding "in due course", I did get the impression that they didn't seem too worried. Letting slip that they didn't think the bill had much support (he has tried this once before after all).

The feelings I've been getting from other forums is that as the BBFC is already accountable to the government under the VRA, and that if the government really wanted to they could simply designate a different censorship body for home video and computer games other than the BBFC, then it is not likely this bill will get through as its unnecessary.

 

22nd December   

Update: Serious Misdirection of the Law...

BBFC get their Judicial Review of the Manhunt decision
Link Here

Manhunt 2 game cover British censors have won the right to fight the UK release of video game Manhunt 2 in the High Court.

A judge accepted the BBFC's argument that the game had been approved for release on a misinterpretation of the law.

The game was banned in June but the Video Appeals Committee said the game could be classified and released.

The BBFC said that the VAC had been guilty of "a very serious misdirection of law" on the question of harm.

The judge said: I have taken into account the high public interest in the possibility of harm to children.

Justice Wyn Williams ruled the Board had an arguable case that should go to a full hearing.

Both sides agreed that the game was not suitable for children, but the BBFC argued that if given a certificate for release, it could still end up in the hands of minors.

The judge also suspended the VAC's decision that the game should be classified, halting any possibility of it going on sale until after the High Court challenge, due to take place before 31 January next year.

The BBFC said it would pay any damages that developer Rockstar might suffer as a result of the stay, if the Board loses its legal challenge.

The Board had warned that if the VAC decision had stood, it would have fundamental implications for all of its decisions, including those about unacceptable levels of violence.

Rockstar Games said that Manhunt 2 was well within the bounds established by other 18+ rated entertainment.

 

22nd December   

Comment: BBFC an Insult to Freedom of Expression...

Letter Re BBFC censorship of Manhunt 2
Link Here

Manhunt 2 game cover Re Judicial Review of Manhunt 2 appeal

So Mr. Justice Hooper's legal judgement back in 2000 means nothing to you people?

Mr Justice Hooper made a legal ruling after a case back in 2000 in which your outright censorship of certain content in R18 videos was appealed, and the BBFC lost that appeal. It was an appeal I attended myself, because for many years I have been interested in the censorship aspect of the work of the BBFC and how it has restricted our rights unnecessarily.

Please remember that Mr Justice Hooper said that a reasonable decision maker could come to the conclusion the Appeals Committee did, regarding the content of R18 videos.

Doesn't this legal precedent also apply in the latest case, involving RockStar Games?

This game may not be your cup of tea, but that is not any reason to stop FREEBORN ADULTS from playing the games they want to play.

I hope Rockstar games TAKE YOU to court for unreasonable restrictions of their right to freedom of expression causing them loss of revenue. Every day this game is not allowed to be released will cost them money, because of piracy etc. You surely aren't so naive as to believe that your BANNING it will actually prevent people who want it getting hold of a copy do you? Probably by piracy, on download sites, which will cost RockStar money, perhaps money which they may seek to recover from you. After all, you are a business yourselves aren't you?

I have just signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to leave you people alone:

I think I made a grave mistake. The BBFC should be disbanded, as an insult to freedom of expression of adults. We don't have people reading our books before we can buy them. Why do we need them to read our videos and play our games?

To keep censoring and banning people's video games is surely the easiest way to ensure the future demise of the BBFC as a censor.

The decision has been made by the VAC. You lost the case. Now you should abide by that decision. The judge in a previous appeal case clearly told you that, when you took it to judicial review before. To abide by the committee's decision rather than anything else, is the law. Mr Justice Hooper told you that, and clarified the position.

You people, along with the politicians who clearly RULE YOU, seem to be more frightened of the likes of John Beyer of Media Watch, and politicians such as Julian Brazier and Keith Vaz who firmly believe in a Spirit in the Sky who no one has ever seen, who rules over us, whilst letting little children starve to death or get horrendous illnesses. They might as well believe in Santa Clause, The Tooth Fairy, or the Easter Bunny, but it is clear they are trying to use their religious beliefs to set the censorship agenda Perhaps they should show real proof of widespread manifest and proportionate harm, which no one has EVER done in these cases.

You people, and the politicians who control you, should be more afraid of the younger generation, who I am sure, given the sentiments expressed in various discussions on this issue, will not tolerate such censorship of their videos and games in times to come.

It isn't 1984 any more. The video material which caused all this censorship in the first place has for the vast majority of cases, now been classified for adult viewing. This shows that the censorship we've had to put up with, , and the role of the BBFC in that, was never needed in the first place. All such censorship really does these days, is to make it difficult or uneconomic for small video producers to enter the market because of the "classification" fees.

Believe it or not, there ARE RARE censorship decisions you have made that I have personally agreed with. BumFights was one of them. Even then I would trade the loss of our freedom of expression in other areas, for such material being allowed, even if I personally don't agree with it. Otherwise where will it end, and who sets the limits? Politicians such as Brazier and Vaz with their clear religious agendas? John Beyer of MediaWatch with his expressed desire to throw people in prison for years on end, just for simple POSSESSION of an R18 video?

No thanks.

What amazes me, is the amount of credence and credibility you appear to give to such people as this, and how you appear to be fearful of them.

With respect,
Shaun

A parent, aged 50 with two children aged 13 and 16

 

20th December   

Unchanging Advice...

Consumer advice added to R18s
Link Here

R18 certificate The BBFC has recently started providing consumer advice for R18s. All that I have looked at so far seem to have the same advice (if advice is provided):

Contains strong images of real sex, or fetish material, intended for sexual stimulation

It doesn't seem to make any difference whether the film contains fetish material or not (or conversely real sex).

 

19th December   

Update: Take Two Responses...

Take Two response to BBFC call for Judicial Review
Link Here

Manhunt 2 game cover Take Two chairman, the fabulously named Strauss Zelnick has made an official statement to the world regarding the British Board of Film Censors' decision to take the Manhunt 2 banning saga to the High Court.

We are disappointed that the BBFC has decided to appeal its own Video Appeals Committee's judgement in favour of an 18-plus certificate for Manhunt 2. We believe the VAC decision was correct and do not understand the BBFC's decision to expend further public resources to censor a game that contains content well within the bounds established by the BBFC's 18-plus ratings certification , says Strauss in an antiseptic statement.

 

18th December   

Update: The Wrong Type of Interpretation...

Game censor asks court to review VAC decision on Manhunt 2
Link Here

Manhunt 2 game cover The BBFC is applying for a judicial review of the decision by the Video Appeals Committee to overturn the Board’s rejection of the video game Manhunt 2. The Board’s challenge also seeks suspension of the Committee’s decision that the game should be classified.

The BBFC is contesting the VAC judgement because in the Board's view, it is based on an approach to harm which is an incorrect interpretation of the Video Recordings Act. The VAC judgement, if allowed to stand, would have fundamental implications with regard to all the Board’s decisions, including those turning upon questions of unacceptable levels of violence. If the VAC’s decision is suspended, then the game will not be classified before the outcome of the Judicial Review.

Background: What is a Judicial Review?

Thanks to Harvey on the Melon Farmers Forum

The answer to that is that it's a High Court Judge, sitting in the Administstrative Court. And if a Judicial Review is allowed, any "interpretation" will be of the LAW as it relates to the PROCESS by which the VAC came to it's judgement in respect of the Manhunt 2 game.

A lawer explains : A Judicial Review is a type of court proceeding in which a judge reviews the lawfulness of a decision or action made by a public body.

In other words, judicial reviews are a challenge to the way in which a decision has been made, rather than the rights and wrongs of the conclusion reached.

It is not really concerned with the conclusions of that process and whether those were 'right', as long as the right procedures have been followed. The court will not substitute what it thinks is the 'correct' decision.

This may mean that the public body will be able to make the same decision again, so long as it does so in a lawful way."

This is exactly the process which the BBFC followed when they tried (and failed) to get a VAC judgement ruled unlawful in the case of R18 in 2000.

Comment: Proof of Harm

Thanks to IanG on the Melon Farmers Forum

The BBFC were found to be WRONG in their 'interpretation' of the law with regard to R18 content. PROOF of HARM was the bottom line according to the High Court ruling.

Similarly, PROOF of HARM will be the bottom line (the letter of the law) with regard to violent games. And I predict the BBFC will loose this battle too because there is NO EVIDENCE to suggest people who play violent games go on to commit violent acts. Indeed, it is those who are not at home playing violent games or watching violent videos, who tend to roam the streets aimlessly looking for 'reespekt' by terrorising little old ladies, or selling hard drugs to kids (or mugging/stabbing/shooting them).

 

15th December   

Legal Games...

Game censors considering High Court review
Link Here

Manhunt 2 game cover The BBFC has warned it will take legal action to stop the release of the Manhunt 2 .

Despite Rockstar winning its right to appeal, the BBFC has said it will go to court to ensure the game never goes on sale.

BBFC spokesperson Sue Clark said: We need to see the judgement papers from the VAC case before we even consider giving Manhunt 2 a rating.

If we spot anything problematic, we may decide to take our case to the High Court as a judicial review, which would lead to Manhunt 2’ s release being frozen in the UK.

Our main concern is to ensure a lawful outcome. It needs to be the right decision within the UK’s legal framework – which will be the right decision in the public interest.”

 

14th December   

No More Spin...

No More Heroes not toned down, just not the strong US version
Link Here  full story: No More Heroes...Europe gets censored version of computer game

No More Heroes The MD of Rising Star Games, Martin Defries, has responded to criticism levelled at the company following the announcement that forthcoming title No More Heroes would be toned down from the US edition.

Defries has told GamesIndustry.biz that those claims are wide of the mark, because the European edition will be identical to the one just released in Japan, localisation notwithstanding.

There are two versions of No More Heroes that are going to be published in the West, he said.

Ours [Europe], which will be drawn down from our parent company, Marvelous Interactive, which is directly from the Japanese iteration of the game, and there will be a version in the US that is a full-on gore, beheadings, dismemberment…and it seems some confusion has come to the fore in the past few days as to which version Rising Star Games will publish.

Why the decision [to add in additional gory detail to the US release] has been made is a difficult one for me to comment on - that's a Ubisoft decision for the North American market.

 

14th December   

Download Stunts...

Jackass 2.5 to premier on download
Link Here

Jackass2.5 download advert Jackass 2.5 , the third in the series of stunt movies featuring Johnny Knoxville and copious amounts of nudity, is to become the first studio-backed feature film to receive its premiere on the web.

Paramount Pictures is hoping that it can open up a new stream of web-based revenue when it makes the one-hour plus film available free of charge on December 19.

Customers will have to watch several 15 or 30-second advertisements before being able to watch the movie, which will be streamed rather than downloaded. Viacom, Paramount's parent company, is also aiming to attract traffic to the jackassworld.com site, which offers archival episodes of the MTV 'Jackass' series from five years ago.

The new film will feature new material, as well as previously unseen outtakes from the second Jackass film.

The film is not rated and the online version will only sold with 'age verification technology' that attempts to ensure viewers are 17 or older.

Movie industry experts said that the film reflected a new desire on the studios' part to embrace the idea of releasing free, ad-supported content - partly as a consequence of their failure to prevent films being circulated on illegal file-sharing sites.

On December 26, the 'download to own' version of film will go on sale on iTunes and Amazon for between $10-15 and a DVD featuring 45 minutes of extras will also be available for $30.

In January other ad-supported streaming sites, such as Joost, will start showing the film, followed by a broader release through the video-on-demand services of cable and satellite networks in February.

 

10th December   

A Manhunt for Success...

Rockstar win Manhunt 2 Appeal
Link Here

Manhunt 2 game cover BBFC Considers Position On Manhunt 2

Following the decision by the Video Appeals Committee to allow the appeal by Rockstar against the BBFC’s rejection of the game by a majority of four to three, David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: The BBFC will carefully study the judgement by the Video Appeals Committee when it becomes available.

The BBFC exercises great vigilance and care in ensuring that all violent games which are submitted to us are correctly classified. Our decisions are based on published guidelines, which are the result of very wide public consultation. The Board also provides very full content information to the public, including parents, about the videogames which it classifies. We recently launched a new website for parents, PBBFC, in addition to the main website and our websites for children and students.

The BBFC twice rejected Manhunt 2 for its focus on varied and cumulative killings. We recognize that rejection is a very serious step, in which the desire of publishers to market their games, and that of gamers to buy them, must be balanced against the public interest, including the full range of possible harm risks to vulnerable individuals and to any children who may be wrongly exposed to such games. Such balancing judgements are inevitably complex and multi-faceted, and are made only after very careful consideration of the contents of a work. We played Manhunt 2 for well over 30 hours prior to our decision.

The Board recognizes that the available research findings on the effects of video games (including positive as well as harmful effects) are varied and contested. But we continue to believe that a broad approach to the possible risks is needed, which goes beyond purely behavioural harm, and which also takes account of other possible effects on the sensibilities and attitudes of individuals.

 

8th December   

No More Heroes...

BBFC win next censorship round in bloodless coup
Link Here  full story: No More Heroes...Europe gets censored version of computer game

No More Heroes I t has been confirmed that the latest and greatest Wii game from Suda 51, No More Heroes , will not have blood in it in the European version.

Rising Star Games, the European publisher of the title, was asked if this was due to the response of the BBFC to Manhunt 2 , the company gave only this one word response, "Maybe."

 

7th December   

Update: Censors Held to Account by Nutters...

Brazier presents his BBFC accountability bill to parliament
Link Here  full story: BBFC Parliamentary Accountability...Julian Brazier BBFC Bill

Julian Brazier Braziers bill was presented Wednesday:

British Board of Film Classification (Accountability to Parliament and Appeals)

Mr. Julian Brazier, supported by Mr. John Gummer, Keith Vaz, Miss Ann Widdecombe, Mr. Jim Hood, Stephen Pound, Mr. John Hayes, Mr. Lindsay Hoyle, Mrs. Nadine Dorries, Jim Dobbin, Mr. David Burrowes and Mr. Greg Hands, presented a Bill to make provision for parliamentary scrutiny of senior appointments to the British Board of Film Classification and of guidelines produced by it; to establish a body with powers to hear appeals against the release of videos and DVDs and the classification of works in prescribed circumstances; to make provision about penalties for the distribution of illegal works; and for connected purposes: And the same was read the First time; and ordered to be read a Second time on Friday 29 February, and to be printed.


Now might be the time to start speaking out against this.

 

6th December   

Update: Taking Brazier Seriously...

ELSPA requests meeting with Brazier
Link Here  full story: BBFC Parliamentary Accountability...Julian Brazier BBFC Bill

Julian Brazier The computer games trade group, Entertainment and Leisure Software Publisher's Association (ELSPA) has responded to a private member's bill presented by Julian Brazier MP.

This Bill highlights the importance of the classification of the visual entertainment industry, ELSPA said in a statement: The correct classification of computer games made for adult consumption - covered by the BBFC - is of the utmost importance to the computer games industry.

ELSPA is requesting a meeting with Brazier to ensure that the bill takes their concerns into account.

 

5th December   

Comment: Brazier Hot Under the Collar...

For the People, our Politicians don't care
Link Here  full story: BBFC Parliamentary Accountability...Julian Brazier BBFC Bill

Julian Brazier Thanks to DarkAngel

Julian Brazier had something like the BBFC Parliamentary Accountability and Appeals Bill planned for a while now...

From 11th July 2006...

Based on article from julianbrazier.com

Julian Brazier, in a letter to Conservative Policy Coordinator Oliver Letwin, has urged that an incoming Conservative Government shall take action on the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). He is concerned that the BBFC is unreliable in preventing scenes of violence from reaching our screens at a suitable rating.

The letter read: In light of David Cameron’s recent comment: “Protection of childhood innocence against premature sexualisation is something worth fighting for I would like to make a submission to policy review. I recently had a look at the annual report of the British Board of Film Classification - I believe that it is time to shake them up. The failure to rate films suitably can lead to the portrayal of topics and themes in a way that may encourage their wider use.

The BBFC is good at controlling scenes of drug use. They allow only scenes of drug use that put a negative spin on recreational drug taking. Their stance on the portrayal of violence is pretty weak, however. Examples are films such as Green Street and The Football Factory , both rated ‘18’ and containing strong violence in the context of a popular past time. The BBFC says of The Football Factory : passed ‘18’ for the strong violence … that featured in its tale of violent men attempting to profit from criminal activities Is this a theme that we want anyone, let alone 18 year olds to be watching? With the hooligan culture already wrecking some British football matches, do we need such films?

I believe in a free country but incitement to violence is unacceptable. House of Wax , a ‘stalk and slash’ film, rated ‘15’, contains occasional moments of strong gore and violence but was limited to a ‘15’ rating due to the formulaic and predictable story, its fantastical setting, and its generally restrained treatment of the violence. Should the fact that it is in a fantastical setting be a reason for keeping any film as a ‘15’? Just because a film is not set in the current world does not mean that 15 and 16 year olds will not attempt to copy dangerous action sequences.

In some cases, previously cut material is being reinstated. For example: American Gothic which was originally cut in 1987; Not of this Earth , 1988; and the 1994 film Dracula’s Widow , all had scenes of sexualised violence reinstated. The reason given was, a lack of sufficient eroticised detail to raise concerns under either the current BBFC Guidelines or contemporary understanding of the relevant research and policy.

The BBFC should be reformed and its guidelines strengthened. In too many cases its censors appear to have been lacking the mettle to deal robustly with the film industry’s nastier output. Only one recent chairman has stood up to the film industry – Andreas Whittam Smith – and he lost some bad cases under the appeal arrangements. Surely there is scope for reform here.

Also.. it seems he's tried this once before, remember the controversy surrounding the film Crash in the late 90's? He tried to do the same thing then, but was dealt a suitable rebuttal by then chief censor James Ferman .

Thanks to IanG:

We are failing
All hope is fading
For our liberal democracy
Do we have Nazis
And religious halfwits
Filling all our Parliamentary seats?

Six hundred 'visions'
But no sound decisions
Just pass a new law every week
Try 'hate' prevention
Ninety day detention
Ban demonstrations and end Free Speech!

Five million spy cams
All up and down the land
But they can't stop kids shooting kids
I thoughthttp://economictimes.indiatimes.come
Nasty Handguns?
Now they blame games and films for all our 'sins'

The banks are empty
Lost all our pennies
In Brown's 'wonder' economy
Looks like its over
In mortgage foreclosure
For all that Sub Prime economic greed

So look ahead guys
And watch the headlines
For their next big knee-jerk thing
It could be Pros. on crack
Or school truants on smack
Whatever, its all just Spin!

Yeah we are sailing
With no bearing
On an ocean made of spin
You know the statute
Is in total disrepute
When Judges can't tell if you broke the thing!

Now where's our Rights gone
From that Constitution?
They were there before the 'Hand of Blair'
Don't we NEED them?
No Rights or Freedoms?
For the People, our Politicians don't care...!

For the People, our Politicians don't care...!
For the People, our Politicians don't care...!



13th November    Jolie Well Shocked...
   
Supporting the hype for Beowulf
Beowulf posterActress Angelina Jolie has said she is surprised her latest movie Beowulf has received a 12A certificate in the UK.

It's remarkable it has the rating it has, she told reporters at its British premiere: It's quite an extraordinary film, and some of it shocked me.

Jolie said it was not graphic for the sake of being graphic. I think it's beautifully done. It's amazing, and very creative.

Jolie said she would not be taking her own children to see the film.

The BBFC explained their decision as follows with spoiler warnings.

Beowulf is a full length animated feature based on the epic Old English heroic poem. The film was classified ‘12A’ for moderate violence and sex references.

The majority of the violence is fantastical, involving Beowulf fighting against various monsters. Although we see the monsters being slain, the violence does not dwell on detail and is firmly set within the narrative context rather than gratuitous. Although blood is sometimes shown, there is no emphasis on injuries or blood and the blood of the monsters in particular is often shown in stylised colours. There is very little human-to-human violence, although at one point a man is torn apart by a monster (shown only in silhouette) and we briefly see his body being flung onto the floor. The fighting and violence is very similar to that found in parts of the LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy (the second and third instalments of which were also classified ‘12A’).

The film also contains a number of moderate sex references. These mostly comprise bawdy, good-humoured singing and boasting about 'wenches'. There is also a discreet seduction scene in which a largely naked woman makes gestures that subtly imply the masturbation of a man. Given the discreet and symbolic nature of the scene this was not felt to contravene the BBFC's Guidelines at '12A' which state that 'Sexual activity may be implied Sex references may reflect what is likely to be familiar to most adolescents but must not go beyond what is suitable for them’.

Beowulf opens in the UK and US on Friday.

 

5th November    Nunchuka Murder...
   
Ferman's "I Told You So"?
Fist of Fury DVDAn 18-year-old man has been charged with the murder of a 15-year-old boy at a Hallowe'en party in Horsham, West Sussex.

The suspected weapon is a set of nunchuks, or two short sticks of wood, metal or fibreglass connected by a chain or rope.

Richard McGarvey Martin was charged with one count of murder and one count of causing actual bodily harm by West Sussex police on Sunday night.

Nunchucks, or nunchaku, are believed to have been invented on the Japanese island of Okinawa before being adopted in China.

They became popular in the West in the 1970s after martial artist Bruce Lee used them in his movies.

They are banned in Germany, Belgium and Spain, but not in Britain. It is, however, illegal to carry them in the UK except for transporting them to and from martial arts training.

 

27th October    The Mild Horror of Dracula...
   
Original Hammer Dracula gets 12A certificate
Dracula DVD cover (US Version)When it was made in 1958, the censors considered the film Dracula so terrifying they refused to allow adults to watch the full, uncut version.

The Hammer film, starring Christopher Lee, was remarkable for its pioneering combination of fantasy, sexuality – and unprecedented gore.

But since then, a lot of blood has flowed under the cinematic bridge. So much so that the movie once deemed too scary for grown-ups has now been passed by Britain's film censors as suitable for children.

In 1958, after the more shocking scenes were cut, Dracula was approved with an X certificate, restricting it to over-16s. It went on to become a huge hit, revitalising the horror genre.

Almost 50 years after the initial controversy it is being re-released in British cinemas with a 12A certificate with an advisory note for parents that it includes "mild" horror.

Harry Potter is probably scarier than Dracula, said Sue Clark, BBFC's head of communications. She said times had changed since the original Hammer films came out: Without being disrespectful, because I thoroughly enjoy them, they are not that scary and they are not actually that gory – I suppose you might describe them as camp.

From the BBFC see full article

Dracula is a classic 1950s British adaptation of Bram Stoker's vampire novel Dracula. It was originally classified 'X' for cinema release in 1958 (meaning that persons under 16 should not be admitted) and was subsequently classified '15' for release on video. In terms of current classification standards it was felt that the film could now be classified at '12A' for cinema re-release for mild bloody horror.

BBFC Guidelines at '12A' state that 'Violence must not dwell on detail. There should be no emphasis on injuries or blood. Sustained moderate threat and menace are permitted'. Although the film contains some sight of blood (most notably when a vampire is killed using a stake), there is no emphasis upon blood and injuries. Furthermore, although the film is atmospheric and generates some sense of threat, this is moderate in nature and distanced by the period setting and by the familiarity of the story, other versions of which have been classified at 'PG'.

 

24th October    Censor-Sensing...
   
BBFC note that Wii's motion sensing hasn't affected censorship so far
Wii gunThe BBFC has gone on record to say that the Manhunt 2's use of the Wii motion-sensing controller had no impact on its decision to ban the game.

Speaking to MCV, the BBFC explained that the use of the Wii's motion-sensing controller - speculated by some to be a reason for encouraging the ban, given that it suggests more interactivity - did not impact the body's decision to stop the game going on sale.

Under certain circumstances and in certain contexts it is possible that motion-sensing devices might have an effect on category decisions, explained Gianni Zamo, senior examiner, but added: It is not a prime consideration for at the moment and has not affected any Wii games we have passed so far.

On the topic of Manhunt, he explained: We certainly didn't single out the Wii version of Manhunt 2 from the PS2 version on the basis that users could stimulate the delivery of a blow more realistically than the hand-controller of the PS2. Indeed, motion-sensing devices are nothing new. Prior to the release of the Wii nobody had ever expressed concern that one could buy peripherals such as pistols or flight/driving controls to add to the game experience.

25th October  Update:  Playing Contextual Word Games...
   
BBFC aren't harder on games than films...but...
Wii gunMCV interviewed Gianni Zamo, a senior examiner at the BBFC

MCV: You are are preparing to review your guidelines for games to help differentiate them from how you rate films. Will this be noticeable when it comes to rating games?

BBFC: We have not reviewed our guidelines on games yet. This will form part of a review of all of the guidelines over the next year. In any event, we are not harsher on games than we are on films though problems generally arise where it can be difficult to make a contextual defence for a game as opposed to a film.

Many game narratives are often fractured and detached from the interactive element of the game, making it difficult to see them as a whole, coherent piece. Trying to understand the context of a 40 plus hour game (even with a storyline) is very different from understanding a 90 minute movie.

MCV: Does the interactivity of violent games mean that their influence differs to violent films?

BBFC: The Board is narrative/context sensitive in its deliberations. Interactivity may have an influence in certain contexts though our recent research seems to suggest that this is not a key issue for most users. Where ‘interactivity’ can be an issue is the question of who the player identifies with.

 

21st October    Promises of Controversy...
   
Times hypes up Cronenberg's Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises posterBritain's film censors are facing controversy over their decision to allow one of the most violent movies of recent years to be screened without any cuts.

Eastern Promises, directed by David Cronenberg, includes scenes said to be so gruesome that, at its British premiere last week, members of the audience gasped and turned away from the screen. But it was awarded an 18 certificate without any cuts because BBFC has introduced a policy of not removing violence from films, except in a few cases, such as explicit scenes of rape.

The board has become so liberal towards violence that some of its former leaders are said to be concerned. It is now out of step with public opinion, said Mike Bor, the BBFC’s chief examiner from 1983 to 2000.

The sequences in Eastern Promises, which centres on the Russian mafia in London, include one in which a knife is twisted repeatedly and gleefully into a man’s eye and two showing victims having their throats cut in graphic detail.

Andreas Whittam Smith, a former president of the BBFC, said he had not seen Eastern Promises but that when he ran the board, from 1998 to 2002, he had used an “unofficial test” to decide on cuts: If I thought this was the type of film that was likely to make people leave the cinema, or even make them have to look away for quite a while, then I would question why the scene should be left in.

This weekend, the BBFC stood by its decision. Scenes that make people turn away are part of the fun of going to movies, a spokesman said. The board added: These days we are not here to cut; we are here to provide information and let people then make up their minds . . . People also have expectations of what a Cronenberg film is.

Eastern Promises, starring Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts goes on general release next weekend, after its premiere at the London Film Festival.

From the BBFC

EASTER PROMISES is a mystery thriller set against a backdrop of London’s organised crime fraternity. It was passed ‘18’ for strong bloody violence.

The BBFC’s Guidelines at ‘15’ state that ‘violence may be strong but may not dwell on the infliction of pain or injury’. In EASTERN PROMISES there are three key scenes of extremely visceral violence, two images of throats being slit and one of a man's eye being viciously and repeatedly stabbed. These images focus on the actual process of violence in bloody detail and with a clear element of sadism which goes beyond what is suitable at ‘15’ but is suitable for adults at ‘18’.

EASTERN PROMISES also contains frequent use of strong language, a single sex scene which lacks strong detail and references to the rape of an underage girl. Finally the film makes reference to the forced use of heroin on an underage teenage girl brought into England with others to work as prostitutes for criminal gangs.

Review from Amazon US

I found A History of Violence to be a good movie, but Eastern Promises is crafted into something even better. The acting by Viggo Mortensen is outstanding, even Oscar worthy, while Naomi Watts and Armin Mueller-Stahl lend good work as well.

The movie is just the right length at about 1 hour and 45 minutes. It doesn't feel rushed or too long.

The movie is gory and brutal, but not nearly as violent as I expected going in. If you liked A History of Violence or mob films in general, this film should land on your best of 2007 list.


22nd October  Update: Increasingly Lax and Ineffective...
   
Beyer Recommends: Eastern Promises

Eastern Promises posterJohn Beyer, of Mediawatch-UK, said the board should be sacked for failing to show leadership at a time when street violence is spiralling.

The BBFC has become increasingly lax and ineffective and is completely out of touch with public opinion, he told the Mail.

It needs to be replaced with another body which will show more responsibility on the issue of violence.

Despite the latest statistics in gun and knife crime showing that the problems of violence are at an all-time high, the BBFC refuses to take action.


This culture of violence that the BBFC has engendered has got to come to an end.

There is no question that the BBFC has set about changing and lowering standards over time with more violence and sexual content being put out for an ever younger audience.


He claimed that in the past three years board members had become a law unto themselves.

 

19th September 2007   Restricting the powers of the BBFC...

 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
to ban videogames

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Restrict the powers of the BBFC with regard to the banning of videogames.

or see http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/Manhunt2/

The BBFC have recently refused to rate the videogame "Manhunt 2". As such, 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 videogames they want to play. We all understand that this game is extremely violent and unsuitable for children. As such an 18 rating should have been applied.

Update: Result

The petition closed with 3006 signatures and received the following government response:

The British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) considers all works - whether film, video or game - submitted to it against a set of guidelines (available on its website - www.bbfc.co.uk). The guidelines take into account the law and also public opinion. This means that the guidelines can and do change periodically, reflecting changing public opinion.

The BBFC considered Manhunt 2 and concluded that, within the current guidelines, it could not be given a classification. The BBFC takes its responsibilities very seriously and it uses its powers to reject works extremely rarely. Details can be found on its website.

There is an appeals procedure which the game's producers are apparently pursuing.

The Government is satisfied with the BBFC's procedure and with the provisions for appeal, and will not be intervening in this process.

The Government has recently announced a review aimed at helping parents ensure that their children are protected from exposure to inappropriate material in games. This is not intended to restrict the choice of material available to adults.

 

20th June   British Board of Game Censors...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
British & Irish Censors reject video game Manhunt 2

From the BBFC see full article

The BBFC has rejected the video game Manhunt 2. This means that it cannot be legally supplied anywhere in the UK. The game was submitted in both a PS2 and a Nintendo Wii version. The decision was taken by the Director and the Presidential Team of Sir Quentin Thomas, Lord Taylor of Warwick and Janet Lewis-Jones.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said: 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.

Although the difference should not be exaggerated the fact of the game’s unrelenting focus on stalking and brutal slaying and the sheer lack of alternative pleasures on offer to the gamer, together with the different overall narrative context, contribute towards differentiating this submission from the original Manhunt game. That work was classified ‘18’ in 2003, before the BBFC’s recent games research had been undertaken, but was already at the very top end of what the Board judged to be acceptable at that category.

Against this background, the Board’s carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to Manhunt 2, on either platform, would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors, within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, and accordingly that its availability, even if statutorily confined to adults, would be unacceptable to the public.

No Political Influence

From GamesIndustry.biz see full article

The BBFC has stated that there was no political influence in the decision to ban Rockstar's Manhunt 2

The original Manhunt caused a media frenzy following release when it was unfairly linked by the press to the murder of teenager Stefan Pakeerah.

However, the BBFC's Sue Clark has told GamesIndustry.biz that past incidents have not influenced the decision to deny the sequel to UK consumers.

That had nothing to do with this decision, absolutely not, said Clark: We are independent of government and independent of the industry and we reached this decision based on our guidelines and our concerns and not on any other basis at all.

Recent research by the BBFC showed that negative press surrounding controversial games actually encourages sales. A UK ban of Manhunt 2 would not be able to stop dedicated consumers importing copies on release.

Banned in Ireland

From Irish Examiner.com

Ireland has joined the UK in banning the violent video game Manhunt 2.

The Irish Film Censors Office (IFCO) said it contained gross acts of violence, making it the first video game to be banned in the State: A prohibition order has been made by IFCO in relation to the video game Manhunt 2. The Order was made under Sec 7 (1) (b) of the Video Recordings Act 1989 which refers to acts of gross violence or cruelty (including mutilation and torture).

IFCO recognises that in certain films, DVDs and video games, strong graphic violence may be a justifiable element within the overall context of the work. However, in the case of Manhunt 2, IFCO believes that there is no such context, and the level of gross, unrelenting and gratuitous violence is unacceptable.

Rockstar Games today said that it “emphatically disagrees” with the decision to ban Manhunt 2 from stores in the UK.

The subject matter of 'Manhunt 2' is in line with other mainstream entertainment choices for adult consumers, the company said, stressing that the game is aimed at over-18s and not children: Manhunt 2 is an entertainment experience for fans of psychological thrillers and horror. The subject matter of this game is in line with other mainstream entertainment choices for adult consumers.

The statement added: We respect those who have different opinions about the horror genre and video games as a whole, but we hope they will also consider the opinions of the adult gamers for whom this product is intended.

We believe all products should be rated to allow the public to make informed choices about the media and art they wish to consume.

The company will consider over the next few days whether or not to launch an appeal, a spokesman said.

Rated 'Adults Only' in USA

From Games Dog see full article

The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) has given Manhunt 2 an AO rating, the highest rating which will severely restrict its sale in the U.S.

The problems arise from the fact that the major U.S retailers do not stock games with an AO rating.

Although this is only an initial rating, giving the publishers Take Two a chance to modify the game, it is difficult to see what can be done to mollify the censors.

A Take-Two representative commented: Manhunt 2 was created for mature audiences and we strongly believe it should receive an M (Mature) rating, aligning it with similar content created in other forms of media. We are exploring our options with regard to the rating of Manhunt 2.

Update: Console Censorship

21st June

Both Sony and Nintendo state that they do not allow adult rated games on their systems and so will not allow the release of Manhunt 2


21st June   Comment: Politicians on a Manhunt for Scapegoats...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Shaun comments on the game ban

From a letter by Shaun to his MP

That unelected and totally undemocratic quango, "The British Board Of Film Classification" (C= CENSORS really) has refused a "classification certificate" to the RockStar video game Manhunt 2 which means it cannot be legally sold in the country.

This game was only targeted at adults, not children, and was seeking an "18" rated certificate.

Perhaps they didn't want people to play it, in case they become a future Prime Minister, start illegal wars, and cause the death of 18 year old soldiers and foreign civilians.

Oh the absolute hypocrisy of it all!

It stinks to high heaven.

In any case, who elected the sanctimonious BBFC people for goodness sake ? I know I didn't.

If people let children (younger than 18 years) old play such games, should there not be a duty of care imposed on them not to do that, rather than impose CENSORSHIP AND PROHIBITION ON FREEBORN ADULTS?

I notice that some prisoners are being released. No doubt this is to make way for the new criminals which will be created when New Nanny's "Dangerous Pictures Act" becomes law, which (quite unnecessarily I think) makes some types of pornographic material illegal to posses.

I am ever more conscious that we do not live in any kind of free society and our current politicians are completely responsible for this. More and more people are becoming aware of it too. You should consider this carefully.

Censorship is a tool used by REPRESSIVE GOVERNMENTS around the world, not the custodians of a so called FREE (?) society whose duty it should be, to respect, protect and enhance those freedoms whenever possible.

Human rights anyone?

What a complete joke.

Why do politicians generally love censorship ? Is it because the media offers them wonderful scapegoat they can blame, for society's ills that they can't otherwise do anything about ? Censorship gives them the opportunity to announce: We are doing something about this filth etc. But it doesn't work you know. Countries who really value their citizens right to free choice in the media, generally have far less crime than we do here.

Comment: Confusion Hunt

Another Melon Farmer, JAK, has also posted comments on a MySpace blog

Check out the full article: Confusion Hunt (MySpace registration required)

A Playstation 2/Nintendo Wii game called Manhunt 2 has been banned in the UK by the BBFC. It has also been banned in Ireland by their board of classification.

The game is about a patient of some dodgy medical facility who manages to escape some unethical treatment with the help of another patient. You, playing as the patient, are then hunted by the medical facilities employees who seek to kill you. Your response, goaded on by your saviour, is to turn the tables and kill you tormentors in various unpleasant ways.

The game has two endings - the bad ending if you are very proficient at killing people in horrid ways, or the good ending which is caused by a more vanilla way of burning the enemy off.

The creators of the game had designed the game for a strictly adult audience, the sort of people who enjoy movies like Saw and Hostel.


22nd June   Update: Banned in Italy...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Italian minister also hunts for Euro-wide ban of Manhunt 2

From past experience, Germany, Australia and New Zealand are all likely to ban it too.

From Variety

Rockstar Games is delaying its latest controversial game, Manhunt 2, after it was banned by three European countries and slapped with an adults only "AO" rating in the U.S. that would essentially prevent it from being released.

Italy became the latest European government to ban the title, in which players control an inmate escaping a mental asylum who gruesomely murders guards and other prisoners along the way.

Though it didn't provide further details, Rockstar and parent company Take 2 most likely will try to edit the game in order to garner an M rating in the US and to pass the muster of foreign governments.

As it currently stands, Manhunt 2 could be barred across all of Europe. Italo Communications Minister Paolo Gentiloni said that he has filed a complaint with the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, which will address a potential Europe-wide ban. Gentiloni's office said in a statement that the Brussels-based org has agreed to address whether Manhunt 2 should be allowed on the European market at a meeting on to be attended by Vivianne Reding, the EU commissioner for information, society and media.

Critics have taken particular exception to Manhunt 2's controls on the Wii, arguing that the console's motion-sensing "Wii-mote" allows players to act out grisly murders even more directly than on a standard videogame controller.

 

23rd June  Update: Banned in Switzerland...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
And UK Government to re-examine violent games

There were also rumours that an unnamed source from Rockstar Games said that Rockstar intended to appeal the BBFC decision

Manhunt 2 not distributed in Switzerland

From Sawf News see full article

The Swiss Interactive Entertainment Association (SIEA), which groups leading manufacturers of consoles and software, decided not to distribute Manhunt 2, which is to be launched in Europe in mid-July.

The SIEA said the game: exceeds what is tolerable as regards the representation of violence.

SIEA chief Roger Frei said that in deciding not to distribute Manhunt 2 the industry had shown a sense of responsibility and was no longer prepared to accept just anything, despite respect for artistic freedoms.

The SIEA includes console makers Sony Computer Entertainment, Microsoft and Nintendo, as well as Swiss offshoots of software companies Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Atari and Koch Media.

Questions in the House

Based on an article from GamesIndustry.biz see full article

The nutter MP Keith Vaz raised the issue of Manhunt 2 being banned by the BBFC in Parliamentary questions this week, as well as the withdrawal of PC title Law and Order: Double or Nothing, which contained an image of murdered toddler James Bulger: Will the Leader of the House please tell us when he expects a statement to be made... or when we may have a debate on the social responsibilities of those who make a huge amount of money out of these videogames?

Jack Straw admitted the BBFC falls under his responsibility, and that violence in games is a subject that is likely to be further examined by the UK Government.

We do not see sufficient social responsibility and understanding by the creators and purveyors of such games, commented Straw.

Comment: Sanitised

From JAK

On forums around the web the current fear is that the game will be sanitised. Some people are hoping that the full game will be ported to the PC so that it can be released in the USA as an AO (Adult Only) rated game. At the moment Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony will not allow AO titles to be released on their gaming consoles.

In my own opinion: now I really want to play the game as it was originally intended. I have no desire for a sanitised version so I'm hoping that pirate copies are made available in the UK if the game cannot ever be released here as it was meant to be


30th June  Update: Anti-Game Prejudice...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Roger Bennett voices concerns about BBFC

Maybe also interesting that such coordinating banning of this game coincidently immediately followed a meeting of EU justice ministers in Luxembourg. The meeting was to discuss possible regulation of what they refer to as “killer games.”

From MCV see full article

Roger Bennett, the former director general of UK games regulator ELSPA has told MCV that he hopes the firm understands the long-term implications of supporting the BBFC’s decision to ban Manhunt 2 – and that he believes both the government and BBFC have become heavily influenced by anti-game prejudice.

I hope that ELSPA’s response to the BBFC’s decision not to grant a rating to Manhunt 2 was not made without recognising the long term possible effects of such an action, as pointed out by Stuart Dinsey last week, Bennett told MCV.

It is most interesting to note that the guidelines used in reaching this decision by the BBFC includes the assumed criteria that because games are interactive, they are different to other forms of screen entertainment and should be rated accordingly.

There is no evidence for it to make such a flawed assumption. Games are becoming increasingly and wholly unjustifiably separated from other forms of screen entertainment. It seems to me that the Government and thus the BBFC have become heavily influenced by previous events which in no way have any link to our industry.

 

19th July  Comment: Banned for What?...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Video game detractors should grow up

From The Telegraph see full article by Nick Cowen

When a piece of art or entertainment is the recipient of a ban, one can't help but begin to build up a grisly mental picture of what it holds in store for its audience. Usually, this perception is far worse than the reality.

I fell foul of this before being allowed to play a copy of Manhunt 2, published by Rockstar Games, which was recently judged too gruesome for release by the British Board of Film Certification (BBFC). As I entered a Rockstar HQ's darkened play-area, kitted out with a couple of wide-screen TVs and Nintendo and Sony consoles, I was nervous about the kind of gaming experience I was in for. I expected to be shocked and appalled. Possibly terrified and nauseated.

So is Manhunt 2 as bad as is implied by the BBFC's refusal to grant it a classification? It is a macabre and graphically violent game – even though the graphics aren't photo-realistic. It also differs from its predecessor with a stronger narrative, more fluid controls and players are able to use parts of their environment to dispatch opponents (such as drowning them in a barrel of water). Playing Manhunt 2 is admittedly an exciting and visceral experience.

But overall, one would be hard-pressed to point to a single visual, plot-driven or thematic aspect of the game as proof that it's deserving of an outright ban. Yes, "stalking and brutal slaying" are key game-play features and the action is vicious and violent throughout – but these are criticisms that could easily be aimed at the first Manhunt game, which the BBFC saw fit to release into circulation (albeit with an 18 rating).

There might someday be a game deserving of a full-blown ban, but Manhunt 2 is not that game. In light of the fact that the BBFC cleared its predecessor for public consumption, it's hard to understand their decision to refuse a classification for Manhunt 2 when the game's core elements, (which the BBFC say offer a "sheer lack of alternative pleasures"), remain unchanged from the original.

Why it is necessary to ban games intended for players 18+?

From Game Politics see full article

Rockstar have written to GameIndusty.biz responding to a pro-censorship article, Sick Filth

We are still exploring our options for Manhunt 2, but how does banning our game support the industry or further the development of the medium? …

a ban is a triumph for the industry’s harshest critics, not an act of diplomacy. A ban is only likely to encourage those who believe video games, already the most regulated medium in entertainment history, should be further restricted.

What about games make them deserve special treatment from the authorities? …Yes, we have responsibilities as an industry… Creative industries have always faced harsh political and legal criticism…

We believe in a well-run ratings system. With the best rating system in history and the future of the industry and medium at stake, we don’t understand why it is necessary to effectively ban all games intended for players 18 and older.


25th July   Update: In Take Two Minds...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Manhunt 2 to be released uncensored after cuts?

From The Scotsman see full article

Take Two, the company behind Edinburgh games designers Rockstar North, has vowed to release the controversial game Manhunt 2 uncensored.

Take-Two said it would stand by the title, though it suggested some cuts would be made.

Speaking to shareholders, chairman Strauss Zelman said: We have hundreds of extraordinarily talented people who have worked on this title for three years. Supporting their creative vision and bringing it to consumers as unvarnished as possible is crucial to us. We don't see ourselves in the 'adults only' business.


2nd August   Update: Game On...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Rock Star appeal the BBFC ban

From iTWire see full article

Rockstar Games has confirmed the filing of an official appeal against the BBFC ban of their game Manhunt 2

Two months ago the BBFC rejected the game giving Rockstar six weeks to consider an appeal or reapplication based on cuts made to the game. Sounds like Rockstar want to get Manhunt 2 onto UK store shelves as it is though.

If Rockstar is, or possibly even if not, successful there may be a similar appeal in the US in an attempt to overrule the AO rating given in that market.

 

15th August   Update: Team Play...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Rockstar
boss appeals for unity against BBFC

From MCV UK see full article

Founder and current boss of Rockstar Leeds, Gordon Hall, has warned other video games firms that they should rally behind the developer against the BBFC’s decision to ban Manhunt 2 – or face similar prohibition in the future.

Hall told the magazine Develop that the outlawing of the title was an attack on our industry and has the potential to affect other freedom of expression across the industry: I think the games industry should rally behind us, because there will come a time when we’ll all have an idea that’s a little edgy, and we need to have the freedoms to express it.

We are an adult entertainment industry – we may have started out with child-like technology making games solely for a younger audience, but it’s just not like that anymore. It might take legislature a little while to catch up, but if the industry sticks together hopefully we can change people’s attitudes quicker.


25th August   Update: M for Modified...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Manhunt 2 now rated M and set for US release

From Take 2 Games see full article

Rockstar Games today announced it will release Manhunt 2 in North America on October 31 2007.

This announcement follows the submission of a modified version of Manhunt 2 to the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), who has now rated the title "M" for Mature for ages 17 and older.

In June, Take-Two was compelled to suspend the release of the horror title when the ESRB issued an AO (Adults Only) rating.

Manhunt 2 is important to us, and we're glad it can finally be appreciated as a gaming experience, said Sam Houser, founder and executive producer of Rockstar Games: We love the horror genre. Manhunt 2 is a powerful piece of interactive story telling that is a unique video game experience. We think horror fans will love it.

Along with the Mature rating, the ESRB also assigned the following content descriptors to Manhunt 2: Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Strong Language, Strong Sexual Content and Use of Drugs.


28th August   Update: Manhunt for an Explanation...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
The mystery of the rapid re-rating

From Game Politics see full article

The Manhunt 2 fallout continues as California State Senator Leland Yee (D) issues a call for the ESRB to explain its about-face on Manhunt 2 and backs an earlier demand for a federal investigation into the matter.

Yee, of course, is the architect of California’s 2005 video game law, which was recently declared unconstitutional by a federal judge.

Yee said: Parents can’t trust a rating system that doesn’t even disclose how they come to a particular rating. The ESRB and Rockstar should end this game of secrecy by immediately unveiling what content has been changed to grant the new rating and what correspondence occurred between the ESRB and Rockstar to come to this conclusion. Unfortunately, history shows that we must be quite skeptical of these two entities.

Clearly the ESRB has a conflict of interest in rating these games. I join the [Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood] in urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the process by which Manhunt 2’s rating was downgraded from AO to M.

From Game Politics see full article

Plenty of theories in the blogosphere such as:

Theory 1: The whole things a scam!  Manhunt 2’s content hasn’t changed at all.  Take-Two and the ESRB are in cahoots to placate the industry’s critics.  

Theory 2: Rockstar did something simple but drastic like fading to black during the killings.
 
Theory 3: There was only one kill or sexual situation that earned the game an AO in the first place.  Maybe all Rockstar had to do was remove the testicle trauma or put some underwear on a bordello girl.
 
Theory 4:  Rockstar intentionally put in some truly over the top and obnoxious sex and/or violence that they never intended to have in the game.  It was included solely to have something to cut out when the ESRB balked.


31st August   Update: Being Adult about AO...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Is the commercial ban on adult games doing more harm than good?

All the US achieves by commercially banning adult ratings is that violent content gets forced into M rated games or R rated films.

From Game Politics

The game industry finds itself under a microscope. The issue of sales to children is a big one for critics like Leland Yee and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. And for the Federal Trade Commission, which studies the industry’s marketing practices in relation to kids.

For their part, the console makers don’t want to be accused of licensing porn on a machine that’s sold at Toys’R'Us. The major game publishers are largely public corporations that don’t want to be seen as being in the porn creation business, either.

And it’s not just the Big Three console makers. Even if Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft were willing to license the AO version of Manhunt 2 to run on their systems, major retailers would not stock an adults only game.

The dilemma is steeped in culture, politics, finance and technology but it’s time to start the dialogue.

Surprisingly, State Senator Leland Yee, a frequent critic of the video game industry, agrees with many of these points. Adam Keigwin, one of Yee’s top aides said:

Senator Yee would agree with [Georgia Tech Professor] Ian Bogost that the consoles should allow play of AO rated games.  The parental controls are necessary however. Dr. Yee has always said that the industry has a right to make extremely violent games and to sell them to adults.

His issue has consistently been about protecting children and eliminating their access to the most violent games without their parents’ knowledge.

Another problem with this whole ratings mess is that the ESRB just refuses to use the AO rating for violence despite the descriptor calling for such a rating when there are “graphic depictions of violence.”  If Manhunt doesn’t qualify, what would? 


2nd September   Update: Manhunt for an EU Release...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
No state censorship of games in the Netherlands

Other articles suggest more that the game could be released in the Netherlands rather than suggesting that there will be a release.

From MCV UK see full article

Rockstar’s Manhunt 2 may soon enjoy a bone fide release in Europe – albeit only in Holland.

The Dutch Ministry has declined to intervene in the title’s path to retail in the territory – as it would conflict with current Netherlands law.

In a letter to Parliament, Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin said: The current law is based on the principle that every adult is considered capable of deciding for himself which games he wants to play, unless it contains illegal material.

Deciding on whether children should be allowed to play a game is currently the joint responsibility of parents, the audiovisual industry and the government, he continued. He said that his ministry was now examining whether new laws or policies were needed to better protect the youth.

Hirsch Ballin also pleaded for a unified EU standard for video game ratings.


8th September   Update: Manhunt 2 Uncut...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Hackers release uncut PS2 version

From PS3 see full article

A group of hackers called Team Slonik have posted the uncut version of Manhunt 2 on the internet, and it's now snaking its way through the interwebs via Bittorrent.

It's the PS2 version of the game, furthermore, according to the release notes, this is a beta version of Manhunt 2.

Needless to say, this couldn't have happened at a more sensitive time for the games industry. The past week has seen Gordon Brown and other politicians making several statements about videogames and violence, and the shadow of the ban-hammer is looming over all of us. Having such a controversial title leaking into public domain is going to turn up the heat on everybody concerned, not least of all Rockstar.

Like every other right-minded person, we vehemently disagree with the BBFC's decision to deny Manhunt 2 a certification. But if Team Slonik think they're doing us a favour by leaking it onto the interweb, they're very much mistaken.


13th September   Update: Manhunt 2 Cuts...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
AO and M rated versions compared

From ign.com see full article

ign.com have compared the banned AO version of Manhunt 2 with the recently reclassified M rated version. They detail the changes as follows:

The majority of main gameplay functions are intact, violence, gore and all. If Danny beats a hunter with a mace, the carnage will play out uncensored, and blood will splatter onto the main character's clothes.

But there have been some unfortunate content omissions, too. When we first wrote about Manhunt 2, we referenced a particularly nasty death sequence, in which Danny could use a pair of pliers to literally rip the testicles off a hunter. That murder has been completed removed from the updated build of the game. Not a big deal for us, as it only amounts to one kill out of dozens. Danny can still saw into the heads of enemies, or bludgeon them with a blunt object, or stab them, or use a syringe on them, or even use the environments to take them out.

The biggest and most disappointing change relates to the major death strikes. When Danny sneaks up on an enemy, gamers will be given the option to pick from three different murder animations. In the AO-rated build of Manhunt 2, we could clearly see these over-the-top and horrific animations. In the M-rated version, Rockstar has added both an extreme blur effect and in most cases darkened the graphics so that it is nearly impossible to make any sense of what is going on. Players will be able to see character movement, blood splatters, and sometimes they may catch a glimpse of an identifiable action (for example, Danny jamming nails into the legs of a chair-bound opponent), but mostly it's guesswork - a garbled, motiony mess that's far less satisfying.


8th October   Update: Banhunt 2...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
BBFC ban toned down version of Manhunt 2

From the BBFC

The censors have banned just banned the toned down version of Manhunt 2 which is presumably the M rated version to be released in the US.

The BBFC have issued the following press release:

The BBFC has rejected a revised version of the video game Manhunt 2. This follows the rejection of the original version of the game in June. The distributor had set in motion an appeal to the Video Appeals Committee against that decision, and this was suspended while the revised version was considered for classification.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
We recognise that the distributor has made changes to the game, but we do not consider that these go far enough to address our concerns about the original version. The impact of the revisions on the bleakness and callousness of tone, or the essential nature of the gameplay, is clearly insufficient. There has been a reduction in the visual detail in some of the ‘execution kills’, but in others they retain their original visceral and casually sadistic nature.

We did make suggestions for further changes to the game, but the distributor has chosen not to make them, and as a result we have rejected the game on both platforms. The decision on whether or not an appeal goes ahead lies with the distributor.

 

9th October   Update: The Thrill of the Chase...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
BBFC treats films better than games

From MCV see full article

MCV has learnt that Rockstar has lodged an official appeal with the Video Appeals Committee over Manhunt 2’s ban – the UK body that has the power to overturn the BBFC’s ban.

The publisher notified the VAC yesterday taking almost the full six weeks allowed. A date will now be set for the VAC’s hearing.

Rockstar issued the following press release:

We are continuing to appeal the British Board of Film Classification's (BBFC) decision to deny the edited version of Manhunt 2 an 18+ certificate and thereby ban its release in the United Kingdom.

The changes necessary in order to publish the game in Britain are unacceptable to us and represent a setback for video games.

The BBFC allows adults the freedom to decide for themselves when it comes to horror in movies and we think adults should be similarly allowed to decide for themselves when it comes to horror in video games, such as Manhunt 2.


10th October   Update: Hunting for Manhunt 2...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
Alternative European Sources

The French language release of Manhunt 2 is on 30th November 2007. It is available for pre-order from French Amazon

Meanwhile the Belgian release has seemingly been on sale since July rather suggesting that it is the original uncut version.


12th October   Update: BBFC Set Bleak Tone for Censorship...
 

   
Manhunt 2 game cover
The BBFC has no right to make aesthetic judgements

From Index on Censorship see full article by Padraig Reidy

The BBFC judgment complains of Rockstar's resubmitted version of the game that the impact of the revisions on the bleakness and callousness of tone, or the essential nature of the gameplay, is clearly insufficient.

The first clause here is damning: the tone of the game is held up as a reason for banning: is there any other medium where this would be seen as an adequate reason for censorship?

Should, say, every student's favourite ‘deep’ film, Requiem for a Dream, be cut, because it's a bit dark? Should Hardy's Jude the Obscure be removed from library shelves, lest ladies find themselves cast into a sadness by all that bleakness? It would be hard to find anyone who'd say they should.

The BBFC has clearly gone beyond its remit in even mentioning the tone of the game. It has made an aesthetic criticism, when its only function, if it must function, should be to highlight ethical concerns.


13th October  Update:  BBFC Playing a Poor Game...
   
The BBFC under siege start to sound distinctly bedraggled

Manhunt 2 game coverThe revised, cut-down version of Manhunt 2 that the BBFC banned is now confirmed as the same cut that the ESRB approved for sale in the US.

So while US gamers get to finally play Manhunt 2 this Halloween, gamers in the UK and across Europe have to wait until Rockstar goes through the lengthy, tedious process of having to go to the Video Appeals Committee.

And while Rockstar in the UK is currently stuck in some kind of Kafka-esque nightmare of appealing to nonsensical committees about a horror game which every right-thinking person assumes should never have been banned in the first place, the BBFC has responded to recent criticism from the publisher that it favours movies over games.

A BBFC spokesperson told MCV: We don’t differentiate how harsh we are on DVD or video games – we have a duty to both under the Video Recordings Act.

If we were more tough on games than any other medium, don’t you think we’d be banning far more titles? Manhunt 2 is the second game we have rejected in 23 years. I’d hardly call that draconian.
[Oooh...it's so unfair]

DVD companies don’t complain when we reject their products. The creator of Struggle In Bondage didn’t get up in arms.
[Yes but Struggle in Bondage was only missed by a few, Manhunt is anticipated by thousands, it is more akin to banning a Hollywood blockbuster]

Manhunt 2 went beyond our guidelines w
hen it came to gross violence and we had a public duty to reject it. [Bollox!]


18th October  Update:  Shock Horror!...
   
"Thousands download illegal ultra-violent game"

Manhunt 2 game coverManhunt 2 is a video game so violent it was the first in a decade to be banned in Britain. But a Sky News investigation has discovered that anyone, including young children, can still get hold of the game.

Thousands of gamers are using the internet to get their hands on a video game banned because of its graphic scenes of torture and murder.

Manhunt 2, which features a character who goes on a gruesome killing spree in a mental institution, is the only game to have been banned by British censors in the past 10 years.

The BBFC refused to allow it to go on sale because of its "relentless violence" and "casual sadism".

But the game was leaked onto the web - and anyone with a little technical knowledge [of Google and the word 'BitTorrent'] can download it and play it on a modified games console.

No-one of any age is allowed to play the game, and yet our investigation found thousands of people downloading it.

Gaming expert and journalist Rob Fahey told Sky News: What's disturbing about the game is you play a killer. There's no victim to sympathise with, there's no particularly complex storyline; you simply go around killing people in extraordinarily violent ways... there's no moral framework around it.


23rd October  Comment:  Manhunt for Hypocrisy...
   
Comparing what the BBFC say about films and games

Manhunt 2 game coverWhat’s good for the cinematic goose is not, apparently, okay for the video game gander.

As reported by the Daily Mail, the BBFC, which assigns both film & game ratings in the UK, has adopted a hands-off approach to movie violence.

That’s of interest to GamePolitics readers because it was the same BBFC which banned Manhunt 2 in June.

The BBFC on violent games & Manhunt 2:

Against this background, the Board’s carefully considered view is that to issue a certificate to Manhunt 2 would involve a range of unjustifiable harm risks, to both adults and minors, within the terms of the Video Recordings Act, and accordingly that its availability, even if statutorily confined to adults, would be unacceptable to the public.

The BBFC on violent movies & Eastern Promises:

The 18-certificate movie, which is released this week, includes graphic scenes of throatslitting, child prostitution and a man having an eye gouged out.

A spokesman for the board said it was up to adults to decide what they wanted to watch and that movie-goers were free to look away from the screen.

The BBFC stood by its decision. Scenes that make people turn away are part of the fun of going to movies, a spokesman said. The board added: These days we are not here to cut; we are here to provide information and let people then make up their minds . . . People also have expectations of what a Cronenberg film is.

The BBFC provides clear consumer advice. If the board went about cutting out every scene liable to offend then we would be leaving adults without any choice. Who’s to decide what adults can or can’t watch?

However, the BBFC can apparently decide what adults can or cannot play…


29th October  Update:  Manhunt vs Hostel...
   
BBFC examiner interviewed about Manhunt 2 ban

Manhunt 2 game coverGameSpot interviewed Jim Cliff, a BBFC examiner dealing with video games. It is well worth reading the full interview but here are a couple of relevant questions

GameSpot: How do you defend the decision [to ban Manhunt 2] when faced with the fact that movies like Hostel have been released with 18 certificates?

BBFC: If the majority of Hostel was the same as some of the most violent scenes in it, it's entirely possible it could have been banned. But it's not. Most of the running time isn't violence, that's mainly crammed into a few short scenes. Also, in Hostel you are very much required to identify with the victims more than in most games.

GameSpot: This is only the second game to get banned in the UK and the other one was overturned on appeal. But is this likely? A lot of people are worried that this is kind of a sign of what's to come as games get more realistic, that more and more are going to get banned. Do you think that's going to happen?

BBFC: I think the fact that we've only banned two in 21 years of classifying games is a sign that it's not likely to be a problem. You know we very rarely cut games, we extraordinarily rarely ban them, whereas films and videos occasionally get cut--usually to get the specific age category that the company wants. We used to ban and cut a lot more films than we do now. So I don't think there's any worry that we're going to go the other way on games or back the other way on films.


30th October  Update:  Manhunt vs Hostel in the US...
   
Films and TV are never described as violent shoot 'em ups

Manhunt 2 game coverIt is clear by now that violence in video games is thought more pernicious than comparable violence in more traditional media. Just look at coverage of Halo, the top-selling science-fiction series that is akin to Star Wars in its level of made-up mayhem. In the mainstream media Halo is often described as a violent space epic or a violent shoot-’em-up game. But when was the last time Star Wars was described as George Lucas’s violent space movie? For that matter, when was the last time anyone referred to The Sopranos as a shoot-’em-up television show, which at some level it was?

The answer to both questions is basically never, and that is because American culture has become so inured to violence in linear media that even the most heinous depictions of brutality go almost without comment.

Video games don’t get that pass... [see the
full article]

Nutters Urge Manhunt 2 Boycott

From Google News

Nutters are urging parents not to buy Manhunt 2.

In my opinion, it's the most senselessly violent and offensive thing I've ever watched, said James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that advises parents about television, movies, Internet sites and video games that may be inappropriate for children.

Steyer, who has not seen the version of the game being released this week, was talking about an unrated version that has been circulating free on the Internet since August.

It's disgusting, Steyer said. It's so violent, it struck me personally as pornographic violence.

Halloween Release

The US M Rated censored version is available at US Amazon [who won't deliver to Europe]

Manhunt goes on sale in the US over Halloween rated "mature," appropriate for people 17 and up, for about $28.

Made for the Nintendo Wii, Sony PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 2. Producers at Rockstar Games submitted a cut version of Manhunt 2 that got the "mature" rating in August.

This is a very clear and firm warning to parents that the game is in no way intended for children, the ESRB said in a statement.

Other snippets about the release is that the unrated copy floating around the Internet is a European PAL version that does not run on unmodded US PlayStation 2 consoles.

Similarly the US M Rated version will only run on suitably modded European consoles.

There has been a lot of speculation that Manhunt 2 could be legally sold in the UK via internet download but there is little evidence of any plans to actually do this.


31st October  Update:  Ghastly Nutters...
   
More Manhunt nutters creep out the woodwork on Halloween

Manhunt 2 game coverDr Susan Linn of the Campaign for a Commercial-free Childhood has weighed in on the release Manhunt 2.

In a press release, Linn said:

Tomorrow’s release of Manhunt 2 epitomizes much of what’s wrong with the videogame industry’s current system of self-regulation.

Research clearly demonstrates that playing violent videogames can increase the likelihood of aggressive behavior in children and youth. Yet even as the industry claims it wants to keep its most violent games out of the hands of children, it virulently opposes any legislation that would give teeth to its often unenforced guidelines for sales and marketing of M-rated games.

California State Sen. Leland Yee (D), architect of his state’s contested video game law, has also issued a press release:

Not surprisingly, this game is being released on Halloween. Halloween already presents many safety concerns for parents. With the release of Manhunt 2, parents will now face a new challenge from the purveyors of violence.

It is imperative that parents avoid purchasing this game for their children and always review the video games their children are playing. Ultra-violent, interactive video games such as Manhunt 2 can have negative effects on our children.

Update: More Nutters

2nd November 2007

TV shrink Dr. Phil McGraw & the Parents Television Council have now also had their say against Manhunt 2.

Update: Even More Nutters

3rd November 2007

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has joined the ranks of the Manhunt 2 critics.

Update: Christian Nutters

20th November 2007

Ted Baehr, founder of the Christian Film & Television Commission (CFTC) has joined other critics in calling for Manhunt 2’s Adults Only (AO) rating to be restored.


2nd November  Update:  Hacking out the Cuts...
   
Cut restored to PlayStation Portable version of Manhunt 2

Manhunt 2 game coverA hack has made visible some, but apparently far from all, of the content found in the version of the game rated “Adults Only” by the ESRB.

From a statement sent to GamePolitics:

Multiple edits were made to revise Manhunt 2 for its M-rated version.

Hackers apparently have altered one of those edits to produce an illegally modified version of the game that can only be played on an unauthorized, modified PlayStation Portable handheld system.

Take-Two Chairman Strauss Zelnick said, I stand behind the game and the ESRB ratings process. It is unfortunately the case that no one in the entertainment software industry is immune from hacking. We hope that consumers will not engage in hacking or download illegally modified copies of our games.

Take Two’s spokesman could not speculate as to whether hackers might be able to unlock AO content on the PS2 or Wii versions of the game.


3rd November  Update:  Manhunt 2 Unblurred...
   
ESRB ratings organisation comment on hack

Manhunt 2 game coverPatricia Vance, president of ratings organisation, ESRB, has commented on the Manhunt 2 hack that removed the special effects blurring on the PSP and PS2 version of the game:

Earlier this week we learned about a hack into the code of the PSP and PS2 versions of the game that removes special effects filters that were put in place to obscure certain violent depictions. We have investigated the matter and concluded that unauthorized versions of the game have been released on the Internet along with instructions on how to modify the code to remove the special effects.

Once numerous changes to the game’s code have been made and other unauthorized software programs have been downloaded to the hardware device which circumvent security controls that prevent unauthorized games from being played on that hardware, a player can view unobscured versions of certain violent acts in the game. Contrary to some reports, however, we do not believe these modifications fully restore the product to the version that originally received an AO rating, nor is this a matter of unlocking content.

Our investigation indicates that the game’s publisher disclosed to the ESRB all pertinent content in the authorized Mature-rated version of Manhunt 2 now available in stores, and complied with our guidelines on full disclosure of content.


6th November  Update:  Target Censors...
   
Major US retailer removed Manhunt 2 from its shelves

Manhunt 2 game coverMajor US retailer Target is reported to have removed copies of Rockstar's Manhunt 2 from the shelves in response to the ongoing negative publicity swirling around the game.

Contacts at Target stores have confirmed the circulation of an internal memo calling for the game to be pulled from store shelves. The stores are no longer allowed to sell the game, and managers have been told to refuse to accept shipments of the game if any arrive. Take Two, the game's publisher, has apparently agreed to take back unopened copies of the game.

The move comes not as a result of the game's violence, the sources say, but because of the continuing ucontroversy.

Despite no longer offering the game in stores, Manhunt 2 is still available for order at Target.com. Immediately following the withdrawal of the game, the company's website was modified to state that the game "is not available in stores."


20th November  Update:  Manhunt for the Appeal...
   
Manhunt 2 at the Video Appeals Committee

Manhunt 2 game coverRockstar Games is set to present its plea regarding the ongoing BBFC refusal to classify horror game Manhunt 2 to the Video Appeals Committee next Monday 26th November

It is set to take place at London’s The De Vere Hotel. (is that the the Cavendish at St James?)

Members of the public may attend.


21st November  Update:  Senators Join the Manhunt...
   
Hilary Clinton queries the US ratings board

Manhunt 2 game coverIn what appears to be looming political trouble for the video game industry, four United States senators have signed a letter calling for a “thorough review” of the ESRB rating system.

Senators Hillary Clinton, Joe Lieberman, Evan Bayh and Sam Brownback sent the letter to ESRB president Patricia Vance yesterday. The move was prompted by the furore surrounding the M rating assigned by the ESRB to a revised version of Manhunt 2.

All four senators have been critics of the video game industry in the past. Clinton, of course, is the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. From the letter:

As you know, in June 2007, the British Board of Film Classification refused to rate Rockstar’s Manhunt 2 videogame … stating that it contains ‘unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone. In October 2007, the BBFC again refused to rate a revised Manhunt 2 stating that ‘the impact of the revisions on the bleakness and callousness of tone … is clearly insufficient.

[The ESRB, however,] reduced the revised version’s rating to “Mature,” effectively opening the door to its widespread distribution and its licensing approval by game system manufacturers Sony and Nintendo.

In sum, we ask your consideration of whether it is time to review the robustness, reliability and repeatability of your ratings process, particularly for this genre of ‘ultra-violent’ videogames and advances in game controllers.

 

27th November  Update:  Manhunt 2 On Appeal...
   
Rockstar come out fighting, all guns blazing

Manhunt 2 game coverRockstar has launched its appeal against the BBFC's decision to refuse Manhunt 2 certification, accusing the board of putting its reputation above the interests of gamers.

Geoffrey Robertson, representing Rockstar, began the proceedings at the Video Appeals Committee hearing by claiming the British Board of Film Classification was a misnomer - suggesting it should instead be referred to as the British Board of Videogame Censors.

There's no evidence that playing interactive videogames leads to a propensity to act them out in real life. We wonder why Manhunt 2 has been singled out for special treatment, he stated.

Robertson went on to accuse the BBFC of being simply ignorant of the gaming experience and throwing adjectives with hyperbolic abandon at the game. Their reputation is not at stake; if it were we could show how, over the last century, they've been derided for some of the most stupid decisions in censorship history, he continued. But we're not going to go down that road.

According to statistics presented by Robertson, there are 26.5 million gamers in the UK. Their average age is 28 and the gender split is 45 per cent female, 55 per cent male.

Addressing the panel from the Video Appeals Committee present to hear Rockstar's appeal Robertson said, There you are, seven of you - not one of you has experienced, I'm told by the chairman, computer games, or are a gamer.

At this point one member of the panel interjected, stating, That's not true. Some of us actually have played computer games. It was also confirmed that the panel did play Manhunt 2 in advance of the hearing.

Robertson described as offensive and outrageous the allegation the board makes against adults in this country that they're somehow going to go and shoot or kill as a result of playing Manhunt 2.

Millions of gamers play videogames and no crime has ever been directly attributed to them, with one exception. And in that case,
the murder of British teenager Stefan Pakeerah, it was found that there was no connection.

From Escapist see full article

Tiga CEO Fred Hasson and psychologist Guy Cumberbatch have spoken out in defense of Rockstar at the company's appeal.

Hasson said he stood behind his earlier claims that the BBFC made its decision to ban the game based on articles in the Daily Mail and other publications, saying, I can only come to the conclusion that is the case. Having seen the content of the game, I can't see any other reason why they've done that.

Hasson claimed he was surprised at how tame it is compared to some very graphical scenes I've seen in other games which have received certification. I expected it to be a lot worse... I can't believe this has been singled out as something that is worth banning.

Cumberbatch, who has done extensive research into media violence, said he conducted a survey in which 86 respondents, all of whom had seen at least two 18-rated movies and played two 18-rated videogames, played Manhunt 2 for 15 minutes and also viewed a series of video clips taken from different levels of the game. They were then asked how they felt the game compared to other games and films; 68% said other games on the market were equally violent, while 80% said equally violent films were available. Further, according to Cumberbatch, several respondents indicated that gamers would be "disappointed" with the level of violence in the game.

Certainly no one's going to suggest Manhunt 2 is one of the least violent games around, Cumberbatch said: In my own limited experience of playing Manhunt 2, it's fairly sanitized as a work compared with what you might expect in a film.

The BBFC have their Say

From Euro Gamer see full article

The BBFC has accepted there is no proven link between anti-social behaviour and violent videogames - but said more research is required to conclusively rule any connection out.

Speaking at the appeal hearing yesterday Andrew Caldecott, representing the BBFC, stated: The board's position is that there is insufficient evidence to prove, as a fact, there is a causal connection between violent games and behavioural harm... It's a perfectly fair point, and one which we accept, but it's not by any means a complete answer to the question the [Video Appeals Committee] has to decide.

On the subject of research presented earlier by Rockstar in defence of its argument, Caldecott said: The research certainly achieves the objective of establishing that research does not demonstrate that there is a causal link. But what it certainly does not establish is that there isn't.

He went on to observe that neither side had suggested Manhunt 2 was suitable for people aged under 18 at any point during the hearing. For a young person, this is a disturbing game, it is a shocking game, and there are issues about innocence and matters of that sort in relation to young people. In a Utopian society, you would have effective measures where the over-18s could play what was suitable for them without being cluttered by the fact minors will see them. But you can't make classification decisions without regard to the social prevalence [of games].

Caldecott went on to present the BBFC's response to the argument that videogames should be judged by the same standards as films such as Saw and Hostel. He told the appeals panel, Film is a different medium; it is simply is a different experience. There are ways in which it is perhaps more involving, because you are dealing with absolute reality, with real people, in film. On the other hand, many people watch horror films to some extent from the point of view of the victim, or the point of view of what's going to happen - not with this very distinctive point of view of being the person who's wielding the weapon, and is rewarded for killing in the bloodiest way possible.

Caldecott later suggested that videogames with violent content are more likely to be seen by children than violent films. A videogame is inherently less likely to be strictly supervised, and that is supported by research, he said, adding that violent films are usually watched late at night.

Games and technology develop incrementally… If you take the comparable argument to its extreme, you get a gradual creeping towards ever more graphic violence, but you never draw a line at any particular point.

If you’re not careful you get into a peculiar game of Grandmother’s Footsteps, where everybody’s shuffling forward but Grandma’s never allowed to turn round and say, ‘Stop’… Is there never a point at which you can say, ‘This is unacceptable’?

Turning to Manhunt 2 specifically, Caldecott focused on the nature of the game's violent content. In this particular game, the victims are people. They are not aliens or griffins or Daleks... You see lots of human beings quite mercilessly kicking and punching other human beings as you move through the game.

"It's a frequent theme of level one, which is the only one I've actually played right through. Even when you're not killing someone yourself, you're passing someone who's getting a good beating or having an unpleasant time.


He also pointed to the weapons used in the game as a particular area for concern. They're not magic wands or Excalibur; many of them are everyday objects.

Concluding the hearing, the chairman of the Video Appeals Committee said: This is a very important case and there is an awful lot we must consider. We will work hard at it and get you a decision as soon as possible. A date was not set for the announcement of the decision.

 

20th October  Update: Impossible to Generalise...
   
Audiences and Receptions of Sexual Violence in Contemporary Cinema

Baise Moi DVDThe BBFC have published a research report into Audiences and Receptions of Sexual Violence in Contemporary Cinema. The report was commissioned from Professor Martin Barker of the University of Aberystwyth and is based on new and substantive qualitative research.

In performing its duties as a regulator of the moving image, the BBFC is obliged to balance the right of freedom of expression with the need to protect the public from harm. In the case of ‘video works’, including DVDs, the BBFC has a particular obligation under the Video Recordings Act 1984 (VRA) to have special regard, among other factors, to any harm that may be caused (to viewers or to society) by the manner in which a video work deals with sex, violence, horror, drugs or criminal activity. Scenes of sexual violence inevitably combine two, and sometimes all five, of the potentially harmful elements identified by the VRA and therefore raise particularly difficult issues for the BBFC.

Despite a vast amount of media effects research, absolute ‘proof’ of harm, or of the extent of harm, is elusive, not least because of the ethical and practical difficulties involved. The responsible media regulator must therefore exercise judgement in a manner which takes account of the concerns raised by some research studies, but which also acknowledges the limitations of the research and the rights enshrined in UK law by the Human Rights Acts 1998.

The BBFC’s own large scale public opinion research has consistently shown that a majority of the public believe that adults should be able to choose their own entertainment, within the law. However, this general view often comes with a caveat when sexual violence is considered. In light of this, in 2002, the BBFC commissioned a detailed study of public reaction to six films featuring sexual violence. The results revealed a degree of public concern about adults viewing graphic depictions of sexual violence which contrasted sharply with the attitude to adults viewing graphic depictions of consensual sex or graphic depictions of violence with no sexual context. The 2002 research focussed on the views of a demographically balanced sample in relation to what adults in general should be allowed to view. Respondents were asked to view films which, in normal circumstances, they might never have chosen to view. As such, it revealed the extent of public concern over what impact certain films might have on other people, and relied upon assumptions about how these ‘other people’ might experience or respond to the films. The research did not reveal, or seek to reveal, the actual responses of the people who actively choose to watch such films.

To explore the issue further, the BBFC therefore commissioned qualitative research designed to investigate the ways in which naturally-occurring audiences understand and respond to five films – À Ma Soeur, Baise-Moi, The House on the Edge of the Park, Ichi the Killer, and Irreversible – chosen because the BBFC had been exercised over their inclusion of scenes of sexual violence. The central issues for the project were to find ways to explore: how audiences’ understanding and response to the films were affected by the existence of different versions of the films, and the impact of the cuts required for four of the films; how audiences use the idea of ‘context’ as they make sense of the scenes of sexual violence; and how in particular audiences who respond positively to the films are understanding these scenes.

The report published today makes extremely interesting reading and underlines the complexity of the issue. The research was not designed to offer simple policy solutions to the BBFC and has, quite rightly, studiously avoided doing so. Nevertheless, the research offers some clear and valuable insights into the ways in which real audiences understand and respond to scenes of sexual violence in contemporary cinema and the BBFC is currently considering the implications of its findings for future classification decisions.

Key findings from the report

1. In the main, responses to the five films are distinct from each other. There are few overlaps of audiences and judgements. Within our data we can find little evidence of an interest in screened sexual violence per se. There are three exceptions to this: (a) a ‘bad taste’ interest, whose primary drive is towards a very public delight in the offensive and possibly illicit; (b) an anti-censorship interest, whose primary challenge is against anyone taking the right to judgements away from the individual; and (c) a ‘BDSM’ special interest group, whose members seek out materials which may contribute to sexual interests based around consensually enacted fantasies.

2. Other than these, the differences in kinds of attention shown to the five films are to be found in the following main features: (a) into what vernacular genres they are placed, or against which they are measured; (b) where and within what rules of exchange debate tends to take place; (c) how moments of screened sexual violence are viewed, explained and related to contexts

3. A vital factor in determining responses to screened sexual violence is the kinds of context within which it is understood. Our research reveals that ‘context’ has a number of distinct meanings for audiences.

4 For the most positive among our audiences, on all five films (but especially for À Ma Soeur and Baise-Moi), in crucial scenes “seeing” events is not the primary element of their responses. Rather, tensions among and between seeing, hearing, physically responding, knowing and imagining constitute the basis of their understanding and response.

5. There are considerable tensions surrounding the issue of finding screen representations of sexual violence “arousing”. This is understood to be a ‘forbidden zone’. Yet there is strong evidence within our study (a) that many – both men and women – do find some such scenes arousing, but (b) that this can associate with greater condemnation of the violence because the arousal heightens awareness and involvement, and thus imaginative participation in the implications of the scene.

6. Overwhelmingly, Embracing and Refusing respondents find different kinds of
meanings in the films, as a result of relating to them differently.

[There are then key findings for each of the 5 films]

Whilst avoiding trying to suggest any policy-responses, we draw attention to three issues which have particularly struck us:

  • the public position of the BBFC, and its perceived membership of a ‘respectable’ class which threatens the legitimate interests of counter-cultural film enthusiasts
  • the issue of the BBFC’s implicit models of the audience contained within its judgements about different films, whose evidential base may not be available for scrutiny
  • the problem of the release of versions which do not acknowledge that they have been cut.

 

13th October  Update: No Lust for Cuts...
   
BBFC pass Lust, Caution uncut 18 for a cinema release

Lust Caution posterThe UK's BBFC have now passed the cinema release 18 uncut with the following comment:

Lust, Caution is a subtitled period drama in Mandarin, set in Japanese-occupied China, about a young woman who works with the resistance to help assassinate a top collaborator with the Japanese. It was classified '18' for three scenes of strong sex, in which we see considerable detail, including various sexual positions and some crotch detail. Furthermore, in the first scene, it is not made clear whether the woman is consenting to sex or not.

The film also contains a lengthy scene in which a group of students kill a collaborator. He is repeatedly stabbed with a knife but does not die, and his shirt becomes increasingly blood-stained. He is eventually killed by one of the students who breaks his neck.

 

2nd October   Extended Consumer Advice...
 


Parents BBFC logoLaunch of the new Parents BBFC website

Press release from the BBFC

Parents will find making decisions about which films and video games are suitable for their children much easier from today, as the BBFC launches a new website specifically for parents and guardians. Parents BBFC – www.pbbfc.co.uk – provides detailed information about the content of ‘U’, ‘PG’ and ‘12A’ films and all video games classified by the BBFC, and why they got the classification they did.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:
By providing parents with more information about the content of films and video games they will be in a better position to make informed choices about what their children watch and play. This is particularly relevant in the area of video games, where not all parents are as technology literate as their children. We have included all games, including ‘18’ rated games, on the site because we know that parents come under a lot of pressure to buy the latest big selling title. So now when they are told by their offspring that ‘it’s only a game’, particularly if it’s rated ‘18’, they can look at the new website and see what the game contains and why it got the rating it did.

The well known and understood Consumer Advice – the short sentence about a film’s contents seen on posters, advertising and packaging – has proved both popular and helpful, but by its very nature cannot provide the sort of detailed information which parents would find useful. For each film the site will provide information about why the film got the classification it did, a synopsis of the plot, significant plot lines and how they might affect young children. This is particularly important when deciding whether to take a child younger than 12 to a ‘12A’ film, or whether the elements which moved a film from ‘U’ to ‘PG’ might be too much for a very young child. This website will take the guess work out of the family outing to the cinema and open up the world of video games for those who don’t know their PSP from their Wii.

Update: Extended Consumer Advice

An example of the new extended consumer advice:

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men is a third person perspective shoot-'em-up, where the gamer plays Kane, a wronged husband out for revenge and partnered with the unpredictable Lynch. The game contains strong bloody violence.

The violence is incessant and rather realistic. The object of the game is to shoot as many enemies as possible, levels often unable to be unlocked until all the cops are down. The player-character is able to shoot innocents and it is possible to carry on shooting once a body is felled. Various guns are available, from pistols to sniper rifles and these result in varying degrees of accuracy and injury. Though there is no real detail in the injury, there are significant blood spurts and realistic splashes of blood and gore on walls, floors etc.

As well as strong violence, the game contains strong language and drug references.

 

23rd September   Games Banning Service...
 


BBFC logoBBFC arrange seminar to explain game censorship process

Based on an article from GamesIndustry.biz see full article

Following the recent attention given to the BBFC censorship process over the Manhunt 2 ban, the organisation has announced a seminar explaining how they go about banning games.

The BBFC is aware of the increased production costs of next generation video game development and the tight deadlines which all developers and publishers face. The classification process needs to be as efficient as possible, the BBFC said.

Our seminar, Classifying Games at the BBFC, will explain how the process works. It will cover the legal framework for games regulation, how classification decisions are reached and the practicalities of the job. The seminar aims to promote a better understanding of the BBFC and equip the games industry with everything needed to take best advantage of the service.

Classifying Games at the BBFC will be held on October 30 at 3 Soho Square in London.

 

19th September   Hot Coffee Mass Effect...
 


Mass Effect game coverBBFC details controversial scene

From Aeropause see full article
Mass Effect is released on 23rd Nov 2007 according to UK Amazon

The BBFC seem to have come to the rescue of US gamers wanting to know about a much discussed lesbian hot coffee scene in a game called Mass Effect.

The BBFC kindly published a detailed explanation of their 12 rating:

Mass Effect is a role playing game and shooter set in the future in space. The player controls either a male or female American soldier through a long and involved story line, making choices along the way. The game has been classified at '12' for moderate violence and one sex scene.

The violence is undetailed and takes place in a futuristic setting. The single sex scene is brief and undetailed, although there is breast nudity in one version of the scene. The sex scene is triggered by the player making a series of choices about becoming more than friends with a colleague. If playing as a male character the scene can take place between him and a human woman or a humanoid female alien. If playing as a female character the scene can take place between her and a male human or a female humanoid alien.

The game also contains use of the word 'bastard' and at least one aggressive use of the word 'bitch'. Both of which are acceptable under BBFC Guidelines at '12'.

Surely the 12 rating will put paid to any controversial hype surrounding this game.

 

10th September   Geared up for Caution...
 


Gears of WarBBFC caution contributes to games ratings being ignored

From CVG see full article

David Braben created the notable game, Elite, and now heads a game company, Frontier Developments.

He was asked in an interview: What's your view on violence in games and do you think too many contain X-rated material to cynically appeal to a teenage audience?

I think at the root of this problem is that there's still an expectation among parents that ESRB/PEGI/BBFC ratings can be ignored - possibly based on their experience of games when they were younger. Also, there have been a few games that have strange ratings like Gears of War (18). That does not make sense to me. Why is it not a 15? Okay, there are some slightly gruesome bodies hanging up in the first section of the game, but this is no more than you'd expect in a 15 film like Alien Vs Predator or The Terminator films.

This means that when a more genuine 18 comes along, parents assume it is no worse than Gears of War, and is perhaps why Manhunt 2 was banned, as they felt they could not give it the same rating as Gears.

We do need a strong, consistent rating system, where 18 really means 18, and is enforced, and then it may be more acceptable to make such games, or to bring in an additional rating which are only sold in very restricted places.

Update: Tournament Caution

From WCG 2007

A news page for the World Cyber Games reveals that 16-17 year old players were originally to be allowed to enter a Gears of War tournament. This was apparently OKed by the BBFC presumably as the games weren't being supplied to the teenagers.

But a later news item suggested that Microsoft UK had intervened and insisted that the tournament be restricted to 18 year olds or over.

 

1st September   Fighting Back Against Cameron...
 


David CameronBBFC respond to Cameron's Fight Back plans

From MCV see full article

The BBFC has refuted David Cameron’s call for a review of its guidelines – and has been backed by the Government.

The Conservative Party leader this week revealed the Tories’ new ‘mini-manifesto’ on ‘Britain’s crisis’, entitled: It’s Time to Fight Back.

The dossier calls for an examination of the BBFC’s ‘regulatory framework’, in order to ensure that violence and misogyny are not directly promoted to young people.

But BBFC spokesperson Sue Clark told MCV: BBFC classification is based on what the public deems acceptable. We feel confident that we have public consent on how we deal with issues such as gun and knife crime.

And the Labour Government has also come out in defence of the BBFC. A DCMS spokesman told MCV: We have a strict enforcement code for people who supply ‘18’ or ‘15’ rated games to children. Adults can make their own decisions which games to play, as they can which films to watch.

 

7th July   Bart Naked...
 


Simpsons the Movie posterNaked skateboarding Bart Simpson passed PG

From The Times

Good news for children of all ages: The Simpsons Movie has been awarded a PG certificate, despite a full-frontal image of a naked, skateboarding Bart.

The most disturbing image involves Bart eagerly accepting Homer’s dare to skateboard at high speed to Krusty Burger, stark naked. After a series of fortuitous cover-ups, there is a fleeting glimpse of the ten-year-old’s modest, but distinctly yellow, manhood.

Fortunately for the producers, Fox, the BBFC has taken a liberal approach. A spokeswoman said: Natural nudity with no sexual content is acceptable in PG films. She added: It will sail over most children’s heads. The Simpsons is really for grown-ups isn’t it? The film was passed PG for mild language, innuendo and comic violence.

 

26th June   R Transformed to 12A...
 


Transformers posterBBFC comment on their 12A for Transformers

From SciFi.com

Transformers was originally lined up for a US R rating but Steven Spielberg appealed the decision and got a PG-13 instead.

Perhaps it is related to the US experience but the BBFC have made a statement about their decision to award the film an uncut 12A,

Note Comment from Shia LaBeouf deleted, see update below

From the BBFC

Transformers is a science fiction action film, based on the 1980’s animated television series and toy franchise. It has been classified 12A for moderate action violence. BBFC Guidelines at 12A state that violence must not dwell on detail and that there should be no emphasis on injuries or blood. This includes many battle scenes between warring robots, which whilst being intense, place an emphasis on spectacle rather than detail. For example, a fight scene in which two robots rip each other apart features no human casualties and is played out in a fantasy context. The violence featured is similar to that found in other recent 12A action films, such as Spiderman III.

Transformers also features infrequent mild sex references and language. The sex references – in keeping with BBFC 12A Guidelines – do not go beyond what is suitable for adolescents and deal with a boy’s parents enquiring if their son has been masturbating. The language is also infrequent and is mild to moderate (‘shit’, ‘pissed’ and ‘bitch’). The film also includes one mild drug reference that is comic in tone and neither instructional or glamorous.

Update: Oops Misquote

Thanks to James

Transformers was never a R rating. Shia LaBeouf later admitted that he got mixed up between 2 movies he is in, Transformers, and Disturbia which was reduced on appeal from R to PG13 (and has always been a 15 in the UK)

 

24th June   Hard News...
 

   
R18 certificatePress get wind of BBFC download certificates

From The Telegraph see full article
See also details of the BBFC scheme

Cinema-style ratings are to be introduced on the internet in an attempt to protect children from hardcore pornography and graphic violence.

The BBFC wants the most explicit online material to carry a new version of the R18 certificate which normally only applies to material bought in sex shops or screened in specially licensed cinemas.

The new online R18 ratings, subject of a pilot scheme now being run by the board, could be introduced as early as next month if, as expected, the Government backs the scheme. It will be the first time that a British watchdog has tried to regulate access to internet material.

The system, which is backed by the sex industry, would see porn available for download or streaming clearly labelled as being unsuitable for children. Access to such material would be via a "landing page" which would contain clear warnings, be free of sexual images and require users to verify their age.

Details of the scheme are contained in correspondence between the film board and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, obtained by The Sunday Telegraph under the Freedom of Information Act.

In March, David Cooke, the board's director, wrote to Phil Clapp, who leads the department's creative industries division, saying that the board believed the scheme will allow UK customers to avoid inadvertently being exposed to material which may be illegal and/or harmful.

But John Beyer, the director of Mediawatch UK, said the system was "utterly useless" as people would still be able to access the material: A lot of children have their own money and bank accounts and so it's not a problem for teenagers to download 18-rated films.


25th June   Update: Online R18s...
 

   
R18 certificateBBFC statement about download certificates

From a recent BBFC release introducing the 2006 annual report
See also details of the BBFC scheme

The BBFC is working closely with the film industry to develop a means of classifying films which will be available to download via the internet. An industry/BBFC working party has come up with plans which will enable consumers to have access to the same BBFC category information and Consumer Advice as they currently enjoy with cinema films and DVDs, at point of online hire or sale.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said in the BBFC 2006 Annual Report:

The BBFC is not seeking an open-ended regulatory role on the internet; the focus here is on material which would previously have been delivered in physical film or DVD format. We are keen to show that the BBFC is prepared to be open-minded and imaginative in responding to the challenges and opportunities of new media.

The response of the industry to this initiative has been extremely positive. We are currently working on a pilot scheme with several key industry players, covering the family entertainment end of the market through to the adult industry. We are also talking to the games industry about the possibility of classifying some online games. Recent research carried out for us showed that 84 per cent of people would like to see the BBFC classifications applied to films downloaded via the internet and this rose to 91 per cent of parents. This is not surprising when one considers that many downloads are likely to be offered on a ‘download to burn’ basis by which the consumer ends up with a DVD just like the one being sold on the high street. As well as the known and trusted classification category symbols, downloaded films will come with an online version of the BBFC’s ‘black card’, which is so much a part of the cinema going experience.

This co-regulatory approach is very much in line with the latest version of the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive, covering online media services. The BBFC is also a member of the Cross-Industry Audiovisual Content Information Group, an Ofcom backed initiative aimed at establishing common principles for the labelling of online content.

 

23rd June   BBFC High on Weed...
 

   
Weeds Season 2 DVD coverDVD extra for Weeds Season 2 banned

From the BBFC see full article

The BBFC have banned a 5 minute DVD extra on Season 2 of the 2005 US comedy Weeds

The BBFC explained themselves as follows:

Cream of the Crop is a 5 minute DVD extra for the US TV show Weeds. It consists of a segment, filmed in the style of a cookery programme, in which a member of the cast introduces the viewer to his top 5 varieties of marijuana. He extols the virtues of each variety in terms of its flavour and effects and encourages viewers to obtain and partake in marijuana.

Although the Board accepts that the work is played with a certain degree of knowing humour, it is clear that the lack of any other content or context means that the likely effect of the work, taken as a whole, is to promote and encourage the use of illegal drugs. The Board’s Guidelines state that No work taken as a whole may promote or encourage the use of illegal drugs

 

14th June   Comment: British Board of Film Censors...
 

   
Andreas Whittam Smith
Chief censor calls a censor a censor

From Alan
See also the Independent article:

I got today's Independent because of the attack in Blair's speech and was particularly interested by a passing remark in an article about the matter by Andreas Whittam Smith. Whittam Smith was, of course, the founding editor of the "Indy" and later went on to be be President of the BBFC. I was struck by his honesty, in that he referred to himself as "chief censor". So much for the Orwellian renaming of the board as the British Board of Film Classification!

I'd have no objection to a board of "classification". But "Classification" without which a film cannot legally be sold, given or loaned is blatant censorship... now acknowledged as such by the former chief censor.

 

10th June   Law Students...
 

   
Uk STudent House DVD cover
Alarmed by a public display of sexual repression

Thanks to Stu

A couple of interesting snippets from the BBFC are revealed by the BBFC cuts page for UK Student House 12.

The first is that cuts are now hidden away from the initial page view as a spoiler alert. A further click is required to get further details.

3s of cuts were required for the R18 rated hardcore version. The BBFC said: Cut required to sight of woman fondling bare breasts in clear sight of public, to obtain an 'R18' in line with commonlaw on indecent exposure.

The comments reveal that: The distributor of the work, Darker Enterprises, appealed to the independent Video Appeals Committee against the BBFC's decision to require a cut to be made to this work as a condition of classification. However, Darker Enterprises withdrew from the appeal before representations were put before the Committee.

I am only guessing, but maybe Darker Enterprises were contending that public nudity should be governed by the most recent law:

2003 Sexual Offences Act - Section 66 : Exposure

(1) A person commits an offence if-
(a) he intentionally exposes his genitals, and
(b) he intends that someone will see them and be caused alarm or distress.

Clearly fondling breasts, presumably without causing distress, is hardy like to qualify as an offence.

I am guessing that our repression loving authorities have now reverted to some long lost 'commonlaw' that probably bans anything to do with sex and nudity. I wonder where one gets to read about such antiquated law on the internet.

 

9th June   Lynched by the BBFC...
 

   
Hanging from the bridgeLynching and execution documentary censored

Thanks to Stu

Real Outlaws is a documentary by Peter Crystal from Revolver Entertainment. It seems to have made and impact with the censors as it has been cut with the following BBFC comment:

An earlier version of this work was submitted to the BBFC and compulsory cuts were required to remove gratuitous and detailed images of a public execution and a violent lynching. These cuts were required...on the grounds that such images may cause harm by encouraging the development of callous attitudes among members of the likely audience.

This earlier version of the work was subsequently withdrawn from the classification process by its distributor. The present version, which has been re-edited throughout, was pre-cut prior to submission to remove those elements to which the BBFC had requested cuts.

It surely raises some interesting censorship questions because lynch mobs are surely enjoying a resurgence within some religious communities. It does not seem to take  much to whip people up into a frenzy...but surely it would take a little more than a mere video. It takes a lifetime to get people to believe that other people speak for god and that these self appointed mouthpieces should be followed however inhumane the cause.

 

8th May   BBFC Overrated...
 

   
Spiderman 3 DVDSpiderman 3 rating criticised

Based on an article from Functinpix see full article

The BBFC have come under criticism from the British Society Of Cinematographers for the 12A certification it awarded to the latest Spiderman 3 movie.

Fans and that the film does not warrant a 12A certification. The movie was awarded a PG-13 in the US.

The BBFC refused to comment but an insider said that the board deliberated only briefly on the movie and that the board of film censors may have been influenced by the studios. But really they should have been more lenient with it’s classification say fans. They argue that at no point in the film is there any material unsuitable for under 12’s.

Marvel Studios, the makers of the Spiderman trilogy, say that the BBFC have got the certification of the third Spiderman movie spot on.

The debate continues and the issue will be raised at the British Film Council meeting next week.

 

7th May   A Penny's Worth...
 

   
bbfc logo
Penny Averill moves on

From the Hollywood Reporter see full article

Penny Averill, most recently deputy director of the BBFC, has joined industry body Women in Film and TV as its new chief executive, the organization said Friday.

Averill succeeds Jane Cussons at the promotional and lobby body and will take up the reins this month, reporting to Women in Film chair Sophie Balhetchet.

Before joining the BBFC, Averill's career included stints as head of compliance for UKTV, the joint venture between BBC and Flextech and spells in film acquisition and TV programming.

 

28th April   Update: This is England...
 

   
This is England posterand the censors are 'idiotic'

From the BBC see full article

Other councils are now understood to have followed Bristol's lead to overrule film censors and allow under-18s to see the new Shane Meadows film This Is England.

The BBFC had given the film an 18 certificate because it contained a scene of racist violence.

Although local authorities have the power to set their own classifications, this is only done on rare occasions.

A Bristol councillor who sat on the committee which imposed a 15 certificate called the BBFC's 18 verdict was "idiotic". Councillor Ron Stone said: It was a unanimous decision of the committee that there was nothing we saw in the film which was any worse than you would see probably on Channel 4 or one of the main TV channels at peak-time viewing.

We felt it was idiotic that what is basically a very good film and very well made, on a difficult but social issue, should be prevented from being seen by the audience it was targeted at. I think the censors actually are wrong in giving it an 18 certificate.


The film stars newcomer Thomas Turgoose as a lonely schoolboy whose soldier father was killed in the Falklands War. He is taken under the wing of an older gang which is true to the original skinhead movement, influenced by the ska and reggae movements. But the gang falls under the influence of a National Front supporter recently released from prison, and the film climaxes in a race attack.

Other councils across the UK are now understood to be following Bristol's lead include the local authority in Grimsby, Turgoose's home town.

The BBFC said it was a "borderline" 15/18 rated film but had been given the higher classification because of the race attack scene and its accompanying language.

What we are concerned about is young people seeing this in a context where they are not in a position to discuss the issues, and where it may come across as more attractive than offensive, said a spokeswoman. It is not a common occurrence for local authorities to set their own classifications, but they are certainly within their rights to do so.

Update: Video

The film has now also been passed 18 for vide (uncut)

 

18th April   Playing Games...
 

   
Manhunt video gameBBFC publishes research re playing video games

From the BBFC see also BBFC Video Games Report [pdf]

Video games tend to polarise opinions in a way that other entertainment media do not. People who do not play them cannot understand their attraction and that lack of understanding can lead to some games being demonised. While there is research designed to show the short term physical reactions of video games players, there is very little information about why people play video games and what impact they think playing games has on them. The BBFC today published the results of a research project involving video games players ranging from children as young as seven through to players in their early 40s; parents of young games players; games industry representatives; and games reviewers.

The research set out to gain insights into a number of issues including:

  • the attractions of playing video games
  • what impact games players think playing has on them and their behaviour
  • whether the interactivity element of games alters the experience
  • what players think about the violence in some games
  • how they choose which games to play
  • what parents think about video games.

The key findings of the research were:

  • that children begin playing games at an increasingly early age, but that the overall age of games players is getting older
  • there is a sharp divide between male and female games players in their taste in games and how long they spend playing
  • female games players tend to prefer ‘strategic life simulation’ games like The Sims and puzzle games and spend less time playing than their male counterparts
  • male players favour first ‘person shooter’ and sports games and are much more likely to become deeply absorbed in the play
  • younger games players are influenced to play particular games by peer pressure and word of mouth, but negative press coverage for a game will significantly increase its take up
  • people play games to escape from every day life and to escape to a world of adventure without risk which is under the control of the gamer, unlike the real world
  • games provide a sense of achievement and are active, unlike television and films which are passive. However, games are better at developing action than building character and as such gamers tend to care less about the storyline than making progress in the game
  • gamers appear to forget they are playing games less readily than film goers forget they are watching a film because they have to participate in the game for it to proceed. They appear to non-games players to be engrossed in what they are doing, but, they are concentrating on making progress, and are unlikely to be emotionally involved
  • gamers claim that playing games is mentally stimulating and that playing develops hand eye coordination
  • violence in games, in the sense of eliminating obstacles, is built into the structure of some games and is necessary to progress through the game. It contributes to the tension because gamers are not just shooting, they are vulnerable to being shot and most gamers are concentrating on their own survival rather than the damage they are inflicting on the characters in the game. While there is an appeal in being able to be violent without being vulnerable to the consequences which similar actions in real life would create, gamers are aware that they are playing a game and that it is not real life
  • gamers are aware that violence in games is an issue and younger players find some of the violence upsetting, particularly in games rated for adults. There is also concern that in some games wickedness prevails over innocence. However, most gamers are not seriously concerned about violence in games because they think that the violence on television and in films is more upsetting and more real
  • gamers are virtually unanimous in rejecting the suggestion that video games encourage people to be violent in real life or that they have become desensitised. They see no evidence in themselves or their friends who play games that they have become more violent in real life. As one participant said: I no more feel that I have actually scored a goal than I do that I have actually killed someone. I know it’s not real. The emphasis is on achievement.
  • non-games playing parents are concerned about the amount of time their children, particularly boys, spend playing games and would prefer that they were outside in the fresh air. However, they are more concerned about the ‘stranger-danger’ of internet chat rooms. While the violence in games surprises them and concerns some of them, they are confident that their children are well balanced enough to not be influenced by playing violent games
  • while parents agree that there should be regulation of games some are happy to give their children adult games because they are “only games”.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said:

The BBFC classified just under three hundred video games last year. Most games in the UK are classified under a pan-European voluntary system, but those with adult content are required to come to us. We take this part of our responsibilities under the Video Recordings Act very seriously. Our examiners actually play the games for up to five hours, assessing all levels of the games and considering all the key issues. Players and the parents of young players can be sure that all aspects of the game have been taken into account before reaching a classification. We require key issues to be flagged and aids such as cheat codes to be supplied to us. We take context into account, and examine works in a way which is as thorough and penetrating as anywhere in the world.

The element of interactivity in games carries some weight when we are considering a video game. We were particularly interested to see that this research suggests that, far from having a potentially negative impact on the reaction of the player, the very fact that they have to interact with the game seems to keep them more firmly rooted in reality. People who do not play games raise concerns about their engrossing nature, assuming that players are also emotionally engrossed. This research suggests the opposite; a range of factors seems to make them less emotionally involving than film or television. The adversaries which players have to eliminate have no personality and so are not real and their destruction is therefore not real, regardless of how violent that destruction might be. This firm grasp on reality seems to extend to younger players, but this is no reason to allow them access to adult rated games, as they themselves often admit that they find the violence in games like Manhunt very upsetting. Parents should not treat video games in the same way they would board games. We will continue to examine very carefully those games which come to us, to flag any concerns we have and, if necessary, to use our statutory powers.

There is no question that video games are an important form of entertainment for an ever increasing number of people. As the technology improves the games will become more and more realistic and it is important that games are properly rated to protect younger players from the games with adult content, which the BBFC does. This research provides some valuable insights into why people play video games and what effect they think playing has on themselves and friends. It has also highlighted parental attitudes to video games. We hope that it will provide some food for thought for the industry, and everyone who has an interest in the impact of games and we will be taking the research outcomes into account as we review our games classification policies over the coming months.


21st April   Update: Playing Games with Policy...
 

   
Manhunt video gameBBFC
review policies on video games

From the MCV see full article
see also BBFC Video Games Report [pdf]

The BBFC is set to alter its system of deciding on age ratings after new extensive research into video games showed that interactivity could actually limit the effect of violence on gamers.

The BBFC currently uses the same set of parameters for rating both movies and games, but this week’s report has led the body to a new understanding of key differences between the two mediums.

We’re looking to review our games classification policy in the next few months – and that’s one of the reasons for this research, BBFC spokesperson Sue Clark told MCV.

We have traditionally taken the view that because a game is interactive, by definition we need to be more careful. But when you watch a film you actually have less control than when you play games. It’s easier for you to lose that sense of reality.

One of the key conclusions of this report is that interactivity actually helps players distance reality from adult experiences in games.

 

 

27th February   BBFC Grow Up...
 

   
Teenage problems book coverAnd allow the use of the word 'teen'

Interesting to note that the BBFC have recently passed a couple of hardcore R18s with the word 'teen' in the title. Up until now they have cut such references with the occasional weird comment about being concerned with under age sex.

Eg in the film retitled Beauty Express 5, the BBFC said:A cut is required to remove 'Teeny' from the title and title frame to accord with BBFC policy and the 'harm' provision of the Video recordings Act. Under BBFC policy no title will be passed which suggest that the content is concerned with under-age sex.

Given that the majority of teen years (16,17,18,19) are above the age of consent and all the actors in a film can presumably be proven over 18, then there hardly seems to be an obvious reason for disallowing the term.

There is nothing illegal in (unpaid) sex with 16 and 17 year olds outside of relationships with a duty of care. Surely the film makers are not allowed to use 16 and 17 year old actors because paid sex is considered illegal at this age.  But given that the films actually feature 18+ actors and the DVD cover features actual footage from the film then it would seem quite a leap of faith to suggest that such a film is somehow encouraging viewers to want sex with 15 year olds.

The first two films spotted with 'teen' in the title are Stranded Teens passed in October 2006 and Teens in Tight Jeans passed in February 2007


28th March   Update: Teenage Angst...
 

   
Teenage problems book cover
BBFC publish expect consultation results

From the BBFC
See Teen References in R18 works - 2006.pdf

The BBFC have published the results of an expert consultation on the subject of teen references in R18 works

In the conclusion it states that

Significant harm issues:

  1. Violence, degradation, abusive language and activity including coercion and isolation of the “target”
  2. Child accurate scripts and actions
  3. Abuser accurate scripts and actions
  4. Accurate childhood props, play and clothes, promoting a connection between children and sexual activity
  5. Exploitation of power differentials (notably a much older man with a younger woman)
  6. Age references for first sex below 13
  7. Age references for secondary sexual development e.g. of breasts below 13

Of no significant concern:

  1. Titles with the word teen which do not suggest sexual forwardness on the part of the teens
  2. Play which even with props or child like clothes is consenting and adult in nature.
  3. Age references close to the age of consent or with no other persons referenced

And hence films with teen in the title are now sensibly allowed

 

2nd March   Exploiting the Gullible...
 

The general synod in session

Jeez guys, give the gays a break.
There's plenty of others to blame


Believers in nonsense unsurprisingly spout nonsense about the BBFC

I agree though with: "standards of human behaviour are being fatally eroded by constant subjection to suggestions and images promoting the exploitation of other human beings"...ie religion

From the Daily Mail

The Church of England yesterday warned that the spread of hard-core sex and violence in films is "fatally eroding" standards of behaviour.

It questioned the increasingly liberal decisions by film censors and accused them of allowing wider and younger audiences to see pornography and violence.

The Church called for new thinking about the effects of negative and degrading images on public safety.

The attempt to put pressure on film censors and broadcasters at the Church's parliament, the General Synod, follows efforts by senior bishops to defend marriage and to do more to uphold Christian beliefs. The Synod heard that "standards of human behaviour are being fatally eroded by constant subjection to suggestions and images promoting the exploitation of other human beings".

Church leaders named a series of films, including Destricted, 9 Songs, Baise-Moi, and Intimacy, which they said had been allowed a wide adult audience by being granted 18 certificates, but which in the past would have been restricted under R18 certificates to being shown in private clubs and to being sold on DVD in sex shops.

They blamed the BBFC for allowing such material to reach general audiences.

The Rev Richard Moy said: There have been numerous cases where defence barristers have asked judges to consider in mitigation that the defendant's actions were influenced by watching pornography. And yet the BBFC is making pornography easier to access by giving hardcore material 18 certificates. And material which previously would have been classified 18 is now being classified 15. And material previously classified as 15 is now classified as 12. How can we ask children and young people to behave in a socially responsible way if, through the media, we celebrate and revel in exploitation and abuse?

The Synod voted unanimously to condemn the exploitation of the humiliation of human beings for public entertainment.

A previous president at the BBFC, Andreas Whittam-Smith, who passed two of the criticised films - Baise-Moi and Intimacy, is now a senior Church official in charge of the its financial wing. He told the Synod that the films, however they were marred by their sexually explicit content, they had something to say. He said regulators felt bound to reflect what they believe is the public mood and added: It is only the Church's teaching . . . which can have an influence and change things.

 

25th February   This is Censorial England...
 

   
This is England posterBBFC award 18 to film targeted at youngsters

From The Guardian

This year's finest British film cannot be seen by its target audience, or many of its young stars, after being given a 18 certificate by the British censors. Shane Meadows' This is England, which is released in April, is the story of a young boy seduced into a world of skinhead racial violence during the early Eighties. The film is based on the director's own experiences.

News of the certification came as the film was about to play to a packed cinema of schoolchildren at a Glasgow film festival last week. Organisers were forced to cancel the screening.

Producer Mark Herbert said: The entire point of the film is a positive one, to show the dangers of bullying, peer pressure and racism to young people. Now with this 18 certificate, we can't do it.'

The BBFC have objected to a scene in which the gang attacks an Asian newsagent, calling him a 'Paki cunt', and to a scene involving menacing violence against a mixed-race boy. We have strong indications that violence when accompanied by vicious racist language is something the public find very hard to accept, says BBFC spokeswoman Sue Clark. We also felt that while the film deals with racism in very subtle and complex ways, it might give out the wrong message to an impressionable audience.

Meadows refused to make any cuts to his film in order to achieve the 15 certificate: This is the film I wanted to make and it's had a great reception at festivals, where it has won awards from young audiences. It seems to speak to them in particular. There's no need for cuts.

Meadows and Herbert have demanded a meeting with the censors and are still hopeful they can persuade them to lower the barrier.

 

19th February   Sitting Pretty...
 

   
Pretty Baby DVD coverPretty Baby passed uncut

Good to see that Pretty Baby has been passed uncut again for today's DVD release.

Given the current hyper-sensitivity with anything connecting children and sexuality, it is good that the the naked 12 year old Brooke Shields hasn't become another worrying trigger for a 4am police visit.

 

23rd January   British Board of Internet Censors...
 

   
R18 logoBBFC move into the censorship of Internet video

From Strictly Broadband posting on the Beer and Bollocks webmasters forum
Also see notes from NOC Meeting on a similar subject

I had a meeting with the BBFC last week to discuss their plans, and get their views on where the law is going. Note that the BBFC don't set the law, but they need to interpret it. Below are the points that came out of the meeting, most of them known already to some degree. A follow-up meeting will be held next week to look in more detail at how they intend to enforce the use of their online certificates specifically for streaming content.

  • The BBFC will shortly (well before the end of this year) be introducing a VoD certificate. This will be issued free of charge to companies that submit content for distribution on DVD/video. It will cover downloads for sure, and possibly streaming. The certificate will allow companies to display BBFC certificate logos on their web sites.
     
  • For companies that do not certificate for the time being, the BBFC will soon be publishing a set of guidelines for adult web companies laying out in more details what they do/don't consider legal content. I see this as a good step forward, as it will allow adult webmasters a clearer view of what may be likely to get them prosecuted under the OPA.
     
  • Certification will for now be voluntary for online use.
     
  • Online certificates will have three parts:
    1. A visible logo to display online
    2. A video "card" to put at the start of a certificated video
    3. A paper certificate to file away
     
  • The BBFC will be making content submission possible online - currently you need to submit on physical media.
     
  • By 2010, the UK will have to sign up to the EU's Television Without Frontiers framework - this means that laws will be introduced to regulate online content - my interpretation of this is that within a couple of years, all adult content online will fall within regulation.
     
  • The BBFC expect that their certification of online content will be a key part in enforcing the new legislation.
     
  • People within the BBFC scheme will be fairly well protected from prosecution - those outside the scheme have no protection.
     
  • In the longer term, the BBFC are investigating content labelling schemes, especially for adult material - this will be technically similar to existing ICRA content labelling.
     
  • The timescales are fluid, but will be forced by the implementation of the EU legislation.
     
  • I raised the specific issue of watersports; many webmasters are unaware that this is illegal in the UK. the BBFC have no role in deciding what is classed as obscene, they are simply guided by the police. I was informed that the police have made prosecutions of web sites for this content - the problem being that webmasters tend to plead guilty to avoid a prison sentence, and so the guideline hasn't been challenged in court.

 

22nd January   A Worrying Trend...
 

   
BBFC now censor 25% of adult rated videos

Spotted by Calidoniaguy on The Melon Farmers Forum

A worrying trend of increasing censorship by the BBFC?

Official censorship figures from the BBFC, for video works

  18 cert
% cut
R18 cert
% Cut
2002 10.5 15.4
2003 11.4 18.4
2004 15.2 20.6
2005 17.6 23.2
2006 25.4 24.1

Remember, these figures are artificially low due to the fact that the BBFC do not require distributors to declare whether they have censored works prior to submission. Also, it does not show how much has been cut – e.g. the multi-award winning “Pirates” had 1 hour 34 minutes censored from it!!!

 

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