Tuesday, June 19, 2007

UK bans Manhunt video game

The UK has banned Rockstar's new video game, Manhunt 2. I never played the original Manhunt... it didn't even sound interesting, I need a bit more plot than what was advertised for Manhunt to become interested in a game.

However, I did play Carmaggedon II for a while, which I enjoyed thoroughly, and I just learned that Carmaggedon was banned in the UK, France, Austria and Brazil. In Carmaggedon II you had to run pedestrians over in order to add time to your counter, given enough time, you could win the race. Killing people wasn't even your goal, it was solely instrumental to your goal, which is pretty depraved, come to think of it.

The American Library Associations has historically been opposed to censorship and this is embodied explicitly in their librarian code of ethics.

There are times where censorship seems reasonable to me, such as information on producing pipe bombs, silencers, or home-made napalm.

But video games and comic books generally seem less dangerous to me and more like escapism.

I am interested in how far the government should go to regulate what we see, hear, and play and how one draws the line in a principled fashion.

The Stoics warned that emotion can act as false reason and on issues like this, I think that warning is especially valid.

For instance, the uproar over Janet Jackson's nipple shield being exposed during the Superbowl was totally wacky.

In the midst of all of this testosterone-laden violence (that is openly worshipped by our society) citizens go crazy over a momentary breast display.

I think one of the significant problems with American society is the lack of venues for people to learn about healthy attitudes towards sex and violence. I don't think those venues exist because as a society we don't have any consensus on what's healthy and what's not.

The Virginia Tech shooter focused our national attention on the lack of adequate mental health resources in this country. Counseling seems like a good thing, but we have trouble even determining the baseline of what's appropriate and what is not.

Given our morbid fascination with violence and our prurient interest in sexuality, who is to decide what is beyond the pale?

Aren't these decisions inherently subjective and almost impossible to objectively justify?

Does that mean we should abandon the policy and develop a libertarian outlook?

I don't think so. I think the rating system that is in use now for video games is generally a good idea.

It (in theory) keeps adult materials out of the hands of children and gives guidance to parents.

But I am very suspicious of moves to ban content from adults. If I want to indulge in some mindless violence or sordid sexuality in the privacy of my own home, I think the government should stay out of it for the most part.

I think that a public policy threat from a video game would have to be incredibly compelling to justify keeping content from adults.

No comments: