NEWS - Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Manhunt Blamed For Murder

The videogames industry once again found itself amidst a battle of controversy, with RockStar Games Manhunt featuring heavily across UK national news and cited as being the main reason behind a recent tragic killing. In what was described as a “vicious and prolonged” attack, Stefan Pakeerah (14) was murdered after being lured to a park by Warren LeBlanc (17), who reports claim was “jealous” of Stefan’s personality. The attack is said to closely mirror the events of RockStar’s Manhunt, after a copy of the title was found in Warren’s bedroom and seized by police for evidence. The parents of Stefan called for a ban on such titles, with experts stating the link between violent entertainment and brutal murders, claiming that such titles “blur distinctions between fantasy & reality”. A spokesman for the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers' Association (ELSPA) said in a statement released to the press: "We sympathise enormously with the family and parents of Stefan Pakeerah. However, we reject any suggestion or association between the tragic events and the sale of the video game Manhunt. The game in question is classified 18 by the British Board of Film Classification and therefore should not be in the possession of a juvenile. Simply being in someone's possession does not and should not lead to the conclusion that a game is responsible for these tragic events." Judge Michael Stokes QC said Leblanc had carried out "a brutal, cold-blooded murder" and could expect a life sentence. Whilst this tragic event is hard to imagine let alone even understand, it does highlight a number of issues that the videogames industry needs to address and sadly the continued impression amongst a wider populace that videogames are still for kids. As everybody should know Manhunt has been certified an ‘18’ in the UK by the BBFC, which categorically states that nobody under that age should be able to purchase it let alone play it. This is vitally important, and whilst not necessarily the fault of the industry, it’s surely in its interest to ensure these restrictions are enforced. Whilst the parents of Stefan called for a ban on such titles after commenting on its influence to “kids”, we once again must surely look at the structure in place to punish those who sell such titles to under-age customers. It’s a cliché to pull out the “freedom of speech” argument, however it seems strange that violent videogames continue to dominate controversial headlines when similarly violent themed films and movie pass by without the same levels of attention – you can be pretty sure that GTA: San Andreas will attract a similar level of outrage upon its release! Surely it is time for the wider population to recognise that games are no longer the sole domain of “kids”; I’m sure I’m not the only person who was playing videogames in the 80s and still enjoys it now, whilst sales show that the “mature” videogame appeals strongly amongst such a demographic – much in the same way that films such as Tarintino’s Kill Bill do. Whilst it’s hard to say what impact such a ban would have on the population, we can’t help but feel that this is a sad reminder of the state of modern society – perhaps it’s time to cure the problems instead of the symptoms


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