Rockstar and the BBFC make their respective cases to the Video Appeals Committee.
As reported by GamesIndustry.biz, the first day of the Video Appeals Committee hearing on the case of the British Board of Film Classification’s banning of Manhunt 2 saw Rockstar’s representation explicitly question the motives behind that decision.
In making Rockstar’s case on Monday, Geoffrey Robinson asserted that "there is no evidence that playing interactive video games leads to a propensity to act them out in real life" and "we wonder why Manhunt 2 has been singled out for special treatment." Furthering his argument, Robinson accused the BBFC of being "simply ignorant of the gaming experience" and directly charged the body with imposing the ban "not because of any likelihood it will harm gamers, but the likelihood it will harm the reputation of the BBFC."
Expert testimony was utilised in an attempt to substantiate Rockstar’s case, specifically that of psychologist Guy Cumberbatch and Fred Hasson, president of the game developers representative body, Tiga. Hasson remarked to the panel that he was "surprised at how tame [Manhunt 2] is compared to some very graphical scenes…in other games which have received certification", and stood by prior comments apparently accusing the BBFC of reaching its decision based on media coverage of the game rather than on its content alone.
Cumberbatch presented to the panel findings from a survey he conducted regarding the public’s perception of the intensity of violence found in Manhunt 2. 68% were found to consider the content of other games equally as violent as that of Manhunt 2, while 80% perceived that there are equally violent films available. The psychologist personally concluded that "[Manhunt 2 is] fairly sanitised as a work compared with what you might expect in a film."
While conceding that there has not been demonstrated a causal link between playing video games with violent content and the conduct of physical violence, the BBFC defended its decision by making a significant distinction between video games and other media. The board’s representative Andrew Caldecott argued that while film may be the more involving medium in one sense due to its greater visual realism, video games can provide "this very distinctive point of view of being the person wielding the weapon, and is rewarded for killing in the bloodiest way possible."
In addition to addressing the nature of video games as a medium, the BBFC representation specified the realism of Manhunt 2’s violent content as a crucial factor in refusing the game certification: "the victims are people... you see lots of human beings quite mercilessly kicking and punching other human beings as you move through the game." The ban was also justified on practical grounds as Caldecott acknowledged the effect of video games’ "social prevalence" on the board’s decision. He stated that research finds videogames are "inherently less likely to be strictly supervised" than films and subsequently would more commonly be seen by minors.
Having made their respective cases the two sides now await the ruling of the Video Appeals Committee, which concluded the hearing without setting a date for its results.