No evidence connecting games and violence, says BBFC

Board defends Manhunt decision.

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 also argued that games could not be effectively compared with films because of the nature of the technology they use. "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'?

"If there is a point, the question then becomes much more difficult: where do you draw it?"

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.

"You don't come home from work, have your tea and watch Saw 3. Games are played at all times of the day when children are about in the house."

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 appeals panel declined Caldecott's offer of a walkthrough of Manhunt 2. He confirmed the panel had played four levels and said all its members are "quite content we really have got a grip on what this is all about".

He added, "We have taken on-board the point that playing and watching a videogame are two different things.

"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."

The Video Appeals Committee has yet to set a date for the results of the hearing.

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