Manhunt II and the value of persistence

Manhunt II logo, via Rockstar Games website.The Manhunt II saga is probably finally over in the UK (hat tip: Daithí­ off-blog), but perhaps there is one further stage left in Ireland.

As readers of this blog will know, last June the Irish Film Censor’s Office (IFCO), exercised its power to ban Rockstar Games’ Manhunt II, following the lead of many other countries’ authorities, including the UK’s BBFC (see here and here) earlier the same month. When an edited version was submitted, the BBFC reaffirmed their decision in October, but the the BBFC’s Video Appeals Committee (VAC) allowed Rockstar’s appeal in December. In turn, the BBFC appealed this decision to the High Court, which allowed the case to go ahead and then held in January 2008 that the VAC had misinterpreted the relevant legislation and had to consider the issue again (see R (on the application of the British Board of Film Classification) v Video Appeals Committee QBD (Admin) (Mr Justice Mitting) (24 January 2008)). And so the matter returned to the VAC, which this week reaffirmed its earlier decision to allow the game to be released.

(For a sample of the press coverage, see BBC | Guardian here and here | PA | Telegraph here and here| Times Online | Wired; of the inevitably massive blog coverage, the following is the most useful: AppScout | dot.life (BBC) | crunchgear | David Russell | Escapist | Game Politics | Game Shadow | gax | gi | International Jet Trash | kotaku | overclock3d | new level gaming | psxextreme | Shane Greer | Stuff.tv | that videogame blog | Tim Almond).

Several of the blogs carry a statement from the BBFC (which does not seem to be on the BBFC website) which suggests that is acceding to the VAC decision only with very bad grace:

In the light of legal advice the board does not believe the VAC’s judgment provides a realistic basis for a further challenge to its decision and has accordingly issued an ‘18’ certificate.

And the Guardian summed the matter up with the following quote:

Lawrence Abramson, a partner at Harbottle & Lewis who represented Rockstar in the case, said that the entire censorship system needed to be rethought to take account of the video games industry.

“The system works in films, but the gameplaying experience is different,” he told the Guardian.

The game is assessed here here by the BBC, and here by the Telegraph; and the news that it is now to be released in the UK will probably make Electronic Arts even more determined in their attempts take over Rockstar’s parent company Take Two (see dot.life interview with EA boss John Riccitello). If EA are as persistent in this as Rockstar were in their battle to have Manhunt II released in the UK, then the takeover will doubtless be successful.

There may yet be one further stage to the saga, here in Ireland. So far as I am aware, it seems that there was no appeal of the June decision, but perhaps Rockstar will now submit to the edited version that was ultiamtely successful before the VAC. I won’t be buying a copy, but I don’t see that my disapprobation is a sufficient reason to prevent its release, and – though it is a difficult call for them – I don’t think that of the BBFC or should be either.

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