NEWS - Thursday, July 29, 2004

Manhunt Pulled From Shelves In UK

Once again, a Rockstar title is at the center of a flurry of controversy. Various news sources reported today that UK electronics retailer Dixons has pulled Manhunt from shelves in response to the game’s alleged influence in a recent killing. In a UK court yesterday, 17 year old Warren Leblanc pleaded guilty to murdering of 14 year old Stefan Pakeerah. According to reports, Leblanc brutally killed Pakeerah using a claw hammer and knife. Leblanc was apparently "obsessed" with Manhunt. Given ongoing concern over the connection between video game violence and real-world crimes, Leblanc’s interest in Rockstar’s admittedly brutal game is quickly taking the spotlight. Whether the game inspired the killing is questionable, however, given that prosecutors allege Leblanc had intended to rob Pakeerah for a drug-related debt. While the British and world media will now be focused on whether a video game can inspire real violence, British game trade body ELPSA was quick to point out that the game had been appropriately rated "18" by British Board of Film Classification, and should never have been in the hands of a 17 year old. The ELSPA spokesman also rejects any association between Manhunt and the murder. We contacted Rockstar Games for comment on the situation, and received the following statement: We would like to extend our sympathies to the Pakeerah family. We reject any suggestion or association between the tragic events and the sale of Manhunt. There is a clear certification structure in place and Manhunt was clearly classified as 18 by the British Board of Film Classification and should not be in the possession of a juvenile. Rockstar Games is a leading publisher of interactive entertainment geared towards mature audiences and markets its games responsibly, targeting advertising and marketing only to adult consumers ages 18 and older. Rockstar Games submits every game for certification to the British Board of Film Certification and clearly marks the game with the BBFC-approved rating. We have always appreciated Dixons as a retail partner and we fully respect their actions. We are naturally very surprised and disappointed that any retailer would choose to pull any game. Of course, Rockstar is familiar with controversy, as their Grand Theft Auto titles have long been used as an example of violent and objectionable video games. At the same time, the series is an undeniable critical and commercial success, with the next chapter, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas one of the most anticipated titles of 2004.


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